The Chonnam National University (CNU) Press and Broadcasting Center has planned to cover the stories of overseas alumni to give them a sense of belonging and pride in their university, and to inspire CNU students to explore career paths beyond the country. A special coverage team visited China and had a chance to meet with several CNU alumni living in Shanghai from January 2 to 6, 2019. – Ed.
In the globalized world, overall businesses need to widen their capabilities by employing personnel with international skills including foreign language proficiency and knowledge about other countries’ culture. Globalization of economies has created opportunities to work abroad and resulted in many people venturing into working in foreign countries. According to economic indexes, China is the ‘blue ocean’ for the job-seekers. Several CNU alumni with their global capabilities have also successfully settled in Shanghai. The Chonnam Tribune listened to their stories about their work experience in China and listened to the advice that they wanted to give to their juniors.
|▲ (From left) Na Seong-su (’83, School of Polymer Science and Engineering), Kim Ga-young, Song Gyun-seok, Yu Jeong-wan (’90, Dept. of Clothing and Textiles), and Lee Yeon-seung from the CNU Alumni Association in Shanghai
Seeking for Opportunities
The CNU alumni that the Chonnam Tribune met all had different reasons and goals for moving to China. “I had a yearning for Chinese culture and a brighter future in China. It made me come to China,” said Lee Yeon-seung ('99, Dept. of Chinese Language and Literature), the chairman of the CNU Alumni Association in Shanghai. He had quit his previous job in Korea and restarted his career in the field of international trading in China.
Song Gyun-seok ('83, Dept. of Accounting), who was a former expatriate staff of a Korean conglomerate, is conducting his own business in China. “I was not responsible for the main business affairs of the branch. I decided to settle in China and started my own business with what I learned as a manager in the overseas branch,” he mentioned.
Meanwhile, Kim Ga-young ('11, Dept. of Chinese Language and Literature) started her career as an intern at a company in Shanghai. After the internship, she was employed at the Shanghai branch of a multinational logistics company. She stated, “Living and landing a job in Shanghai was one of my goals I set when I was studying in China as an exchange student.”
Basic Qualifications for Jobs
Most jobs in China that exclude expatriates in branches of foreign companies are types of local employment. Foreign graduates in the country tend to work at a foreign-affiliated company or deal with international affairs at companies or organizations. The CNU alumni commented that both English and Chinese proficiencies are essential because many firms require applicants to have these capabilities. Especially, Kim emphasized Chinese capability, giving an example of a boss who was a foreigner and could barely speak Chinese. The English level of the members of the team was not good enough to understand the boss. It prevented smooth communication with their boss to share progress on their work. The subordinates needed to do their work within their discretion by themselves in particular instances, excluding their boss. “Hearing this story, I found out that communicating in a local language is very important.”
On the other hand, depending on the occupational category, English is often used more than the local language. Wu Jia’nan ('13, Dept. of English Language and Literature), one of the Chinese students who studied at CNU, has been working as a store manager at a foreign-affiliated clothing company. She noted, “In the case of a clothing design department, all staff members use only English, not Chinese.”
Advice to Juniors
Song who has the longest experience of working with local employees underlined that understanding the culture and history of China is necessary if students want to get a job in the country. “Their knowledge may help future job landers deal with the cultural differences and communication problems they might have with local employees,” he added. In addition to that, Kim suggested that advanced English and Chinese abilities would be essential for job seekers. High scores of TOEIC and HSK are needed. She also said, “I have kept updating my resume and cover letters in case I would not have enough time to prepare for those whenever I need them.”
Wu gave some advice, “Students have to clearly judge the current situation and future scenarios of the growing companies,” and added that many businesses, especially in industries such as electronics, mechanics and life-style medicine, are growing fast thanks to the huge market of China.
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
Pros and cons exist when people consider migration to get a job abroad. When situated in an unfamiliar environment, they could be anxious and depressed but develop their ability trying to adapt to the new situation. Living in a metropolitan city such as Shanghai could also make people widen their perspective and get insight about the world. Kim, however, mentioned that locally engaged employees might be payed less compared to expatriates, but wages for locally employed staff are rapidly increasing these days,” she added. Not being able to stay close to one’s family and friends is another demerit. Kim suggested to students to stay alone as an exchange student studying overseas for a relatively short period of time. It would help students understand the regional culture in other countries and decide whether they can stay alone or not.
As Wu pointed out, young people nowadays tend to pull back from entering society. However, it is worth emphasizing the importance of challenging oneself with societal experiences. Their future and career would improve more when they rise to the challenge and take an adventure to a bigger world beyond this country. Listening to real experiences and advice from CNU alumni, students might be able to set up adventurous but realistic career goals to find their niche in China.
Job Training Program in China
As more and more students consider finding jobs overseas, CNU has been walking in step with this trend. From January 15 to 19, it operated a job training program in Shanghai, China. Most of the attendees were Chinese students who considered starting their career back in their home country. They visited the Gwangju and Jeonnam Representative Office and overseas branches of Korean companies in Shanghai. One of the attendees of the program, Chen Huanhuan (Senior, Dept. of English Language and Literature) said that the program was indeed a great help for the attendees. She noted that “I could also participate in interviews with the companies I prefer, with the help of the Gwangju and Jeonnam Representative Office.” It also gave students an opportunity to meet some alumni who have been working for the companies that the students visited.
By Lee Yun-joo, Editor-in-Chief