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Build a Successful Career in China: Personal Qualities You Need to Have

There’s no doubt that China has turned from a source country to a destination country in terms of employment. While many Chinese have left to the countries like the U.S. in search for better life and more opportunities, China still somehow manages to keep its employment rates stable. 

If you look at the number of employed people in China from 2007 to 2017, you’ll see that there were no considerable fluctuations:

the number of employed people in China from 2007 to 2017

Image credit: Statista

On the contrary, the numbers continue growing, while the unemployment rate in China remains somewhat stable at 4%. These stats support the fact that the job market in China is largely supported by the migrants that come to this country for work. 

A desirable destination for the foreign workforce

The Chinese job market is getting more and more attractive to foreigners, as China has become one of the key players in world economics. It’s no longer a third-world country in terms of profits and economic growth, with 6.9% annual change in GDP growth and 12.24 trillion USD GDP (as of 2017):

Article continues after jobs recommendation

Image credit: Google/The World Bank

Thus, more and more foreigners get interested in benefiting from China’s economic growth and building a successful career in China. There are more than 600,000 migrants in China, with the top countries including:

  • South Korea – 21%;
  • United States – 12%;
  • Japan – 11%
  • Myanmar – 7%;
  • Vietnam – 6%. 

Changing the law

With an increasing flow of migrants, China is committed to making changes in current immigration policies and law. Brookings report that China has little experience dealing with immigration and the regulation of transnational migrants. 

They claim that the Rules for Foreigner Administration, a document that regulates immigration in China, is mainly focused on short-term visits, thus being ineffective for long-term visits or permanent transnational migrants. 

These issues are currently being amended by the Chinese government, including the changes in immigration policies and the increase in issued green cards, the number of which has been previously very limited. Chinese government understands the benefits the country gets from the increased flow of working immigrants. 

The results of their dedication are incredible: China managed to change their migration policy by rolling out new fast-track five and ten-year visas for the foreigners, reports South China Morning Post

Thus, more and more employees are interested in hiring foreign professionals that bring their unique experience and knowledge to their new workplace. 

Nevertheless coming to this country for work is rather challenging for the immigrants in terms of work ethic and workplace peculiarities, not to mention to build a successful career in China. Although Chinese employers are interested in hiring foreign talent, not everyone can get a job at a Chinese company. An employee should possess a certain set of skills and (what’s sometimes even more important) personal qualities to land a desirable job in China

And while skills differ from a job to a job, there are some personal qualities that Chinese employers value the most. 

What are they?

Let’s find out. 

1. Punctuality

If you have a strong resume and an impeccable job experience, if you are prone to being late from time to time, you lose a point at getting a chance to work in a Chinese company. 

Punctuality is an important quality for the employees in China. Today Translations in their article about doing business in China mention that being late is a serious offense in the Chinese business culture. You are not required to arrive an hour early but at least 15 minutes earlier would suffice. 

In business, many companies in China have norms and regulations in terms of punishing unpunctual employees. If you are regularly late for work or for meetings, some companies may even force you to pay a fine.

Why are the Chinese so concerned about punctuality?

It’s all about the Chinese culture and its foundations. The whole Chinese business philosophy is built on the principles of Confucianism traditions. This means that no employee should arrive to work or to a meeting later than their boss. Moreover, being unpunctual is considered very disrespectful not only towards your boss but towards your co-workers as well. 

So, if you have a habit of being a bit late everywhere you go, start getting rid of this habit as soon as possible. 

Use your strong diplomatic qualities to build up a successful career in China

2. Diplomatic Qualities

If you want to build a successful career in China, you need strong diplomatic qualities. What is meant by that pair of words? Let’s see. 

Chinese people are quite careful about negative statements. Ming-Jer Chen in his book Inside Chinese Business underlines that Chinese often avoid voicing strong negative opinions and prefer to paraphrase them. Negative answers are considered impolite, so phrases like “I’ll consider it”, “I should give it more thought” or “maybe” are good alternatives for a plain “no”. 

Similarly, Chinese tend to diminish the seriousness of a problem, so by saying “That’s not a big issue” they often mean quite the opposite. This is explained by the fact that in the business world Chinese don’t like to get attached to the problem emotionally. Every problem has a solution, and the Chinese don’t rush when making a decision. That’s why they often go beyond deadlines when it comes to solving a certain issue. 

As you can see, the Chinese have a very diplomatic approach to doing business. They value employees that have these qualities as well. That’s why, if you want to start a successful career in China, highlight your diplomatic qualities in your resume. 

3. Politeness

This quality is one of the pillars of Chinese business culture. There are some differences of politeness in English and Chinese, and most of the rules overlap. For example, there’s high respect for privacy in both cultures. However, when it comes to doing business, Chinese choose to approach it with even greater politeness than any other countries (probably with the exception of Japanese and Korean). 

Based on the same Confucian principles of hierarchy, it’s essential to show respect and express politeness toward those who stand above you. Moreover, treating your colleagues with respect is as much required as respecting your boss. Politeness is a crucial personal quality for those who want to build a successful career in China. There, it’s not just a personal quality, it’s an essential approach you need to exercise on a daily basis. 

4. Self-Control

Among the don’ts in Chinese offices is the habit to be overly expressive. Chinese don’t often show too many emotions when it comes to business affairs. It’s essential for the Chinese business culture to approach affairs with a cold mind and rationality. 

“Self-control not only means that you shouldn’t be overly expressive with your gestures, but also that you should carefully think what you’re about to say” – says Pauline J. Zimmerman, HR Manager at Flatfy who has been working in China for the last 7 years. She continues:

“Chinese don’t like to take rushed decisions and they prefer to take as much time as possible. Probably, that’s why it’s hard to get a definitive answer right away. But it’s all about self-control actually. This personal quality is very much valued and if you want to build a successful career in China, this quality will get you there.“

5. Interest in Technological Development

The world of technology doesn’t stand still, and China benefits from it more than any other country. It’s essential that if you want to build a successful career in China and pretty much any other country in the world, you have to show the initiative to learn about cutting-edge technology and the desire to implement it to help the business grow. 

In an interview to Global Times, Madeleine Leine, an immigrant from Indonesia that works as an event manager at the Chinese company JingJobs, said:

“Chinese employers are more than interested in hiring more “tech-savvy” employees, who are ready to grow with the company. China is very interested in investing more in technological development, thus they need strong tech minds to bring their plans to life.”

For a foreigner looking for a career in China, it’s exceptionally important to have an interest in technology. You may even be asked about your knowledge of technology during the interview. Chinese think that in the modern world there’s no excuse to not be interested in technological development, so make it your strong suit. 

6. Adaptive Thinking

In the modern business environment, you need to learn how to quickly react and adapt to fast-changing circumstances. Adaptive thinking is especially valuable for those seeking job opportunities in the international business. This quality allows you to quickly make important decisions and, by observing the members of a group, analyze their values and their train of thought. 

The role of adaptive thinking for a successful career has been supported by various studies. Kelly Y. Senter and Austin McClelland, Sr. in their articleTop Ten Workplace Skills for Future Organizationspoint out that change has become a norm in the modern business world, and adaptive learning and thinking are the most crucial personal qualities to achieve success, especially if a job has a lot to do with financial situations and sales. 

But it’s not only the financial sector jobs that require employees with adaptive thinking. Pretty much every job you apply for on the international level requires having this quality. 

Adaptive thinking in the eyes of a Chinese employer also means having cultural competence and being able to immerse quickly into the foreign culture. This is one of the basic personal qualities one must possess if interested in building a successful career in China. 

7. Emotional Intelligence

In today’s HR world, you can hear that the term “EQ” is more talked about than “IQ”. That’s true: a person can be outstandingly smart, but if they lack emotional intelligence, they won’t be able to become an integral part of an international team of employees. 

What is emotional intelligence? What does it include? CIPHR with the reference to a psychologist Daniel Goleman, names the following constituents of EQ:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to recognize and understand your emotions and what has caused them;
  • Self-regulation – the ability to control your moods and emotions;
  • Internal motivation (self-motivation) – a desire to pursue personal goals for the sake of self-fulfillment rather than any kind of physical reward;
  • Empathy – the ability to recognize and understand motivation, moods, actions, and emotions of others and treat them with respect;
  • Social skills – the ability to build networks and manage relationships. 

All these personal qualities are crucial for building a successful career in China as well. Chinese value the emotional part of building the network and doing business very much. Emotional intelligence in the eyes of a Chinese employer is among the top qualities they look in an employee. So if you want to build a successful career in China, make sure you dedicate yourself to strengthening your EQ. 

Final Words

Chinese culture is very peculiar and not much like any other culture in the world. Chinese see business world in their own way, and as a foreigner, you might be very surprised at how different their work ethic is. If you plan to land a job and build a career in China, make sure that you work on these personal qualities. Having them will give you an advantage over any other potential employee.

Thanks for reading til the end. Special thanks to Ryan Pell for providing such an informative piece of content.

Ryan Pell is a writer and passionate blogger. He likes sharing his thoughts and tricks with the readers. Currently he works as the real estate agent at https://hu.flatfy.com. Feel free to contact him on Twitter!

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