Finding your dream job in Shanghai is like a Game of chess

How to find your dream job in Shanghai

How to find your dream job in Shanghai

I will provide you with a step by step guide on how to land your dream job in Shanghai, even when you do not speak a word of Chinese.

Many people think it is impossible to work in China when you do not speak a word of Chinese; let alone find your dream job. However, I begged to differ…twice; and it was not the kind of dream work entitled “Come teach English in China”.

contract for my dream job in Shanghai

My employment contract after landing my first dream job in Shanghai

When I landed in China in my wife’s luggage, my pressing concern was to find a job I would be good at. That meant a career where I manage and create products, evolve on a global stage and make good money. Unfortunately for me, the ears upon which my request originally fell only had two avenues for me. Try and teach English in China and the other one “You need to speak Chinese”. Still, I held very dear to one line of conduct until it paid off. At first it did not amaze me, but when I consider the fact that most foreigners who work in China are either cushioned by a company that sent them there as an expat, or, teach English in various schools; I realised that landing my dream job twice was an achievement. Want to know my secret? Carry on reading!

2. The Walls of China

There are many walls that can prevent you from landing your dream job in Shanghai

Don’t let the walls prevent you from landing your dream job in Shanghai

When I first went out and try to find a job in the field of marketing, I was told, even by people who did not speak the language, that unfortunately the openings for which they were looking for required someone who spoke Chinese. 

3. The Wrong Way

Whenever you look for a job where you bring great values; aside from the opposition you will encounter with regard to your language skill; there will be a tendency for people to lead you to lower level job as a way to start.

3.1. Lower level job as a start

One of the most popular job of such is to teach English in China. People with good intentions mean that by if you get the occupation, you might crawl your way to an opportunity that might open a door to the possibility of what you are looking for. As you can gather from all these “maybe, might be, could be”; this tactic is wrong for two reasons. 

3.1.1. You spend valuable time on something that does not add benefits to your skills 

It actually impacts your future chances as you will look like you have no ambitions. Especially if you are qualified and you occupied good jobs previously. At some points an interviewer will look at your cv and will want to know what did you do when you were in China. And if your answer displays a lack of motivation or ambition you would have seriously damaged your prospects. Afterall there are many people who teach English in China as a simple way out of joblessness.

3.1.2. You become tied-up to an occupation that divert you away from your objective 

You will still need to prepare all the materials for this current job. Inevitably, you might get discouraged and quit your ambition all together. This is very easy to fall into. I was told numerable amount of time “You won’t get a job of this kind here” or “We all learn Chinese” (which meant no foreigners truly learn Chinese).

3.2. Networking Events

I did go to many networking events and it did not work. Yet I will also list network as a right approach when you go after your dream job. The reason why it did not work is that most of the people who were in these events were themselves looking for opportunities. Be it sales opportunities or job. All in all, the decision makers, the ones who give a green light, never showed up to these events. These big shots are too big to be harassed by people who will beg them for opportunities. Yet you can still meet individuals who can give you valuable tip in networking events. On few occasions I was introduced to a door of hope. Unfortunately, like a bad soufflé, disillusions followed suit. 

3.3. Friends, family and fools

In business they are the first providers of much needed cash. So, they could also be for job opportunities. Through my in laws I met few people who had a acquittances or were in positions of power. However, either their industries were too far fetch from my abilities or the connection (关系as it is so much revered in china) led to a dead end. 

3.4. Approaching head hunters

A fourth route led me to approach head hunters and leave a polished cv with them. Head hunters are an interesting kind. They tend to hunt for you whenever you are not active on the market, yet ignore or snob you if you are in pursuit. Head-hunters are a good resource if you are widely occupied, or have discovered their secret. 

3.5. Desperate tactics

A fifth route, that looked like desperation, was to send my cv left and right to any advertisements that remotely fitted my profile. A bit like going after a mate just because you are lonely. Needless to say, this one does not work. Just like for the first route, it can have devastating effects. Indeed, to go wild is already a sign of desperation. Even if I believe despair is positive, it’s too sharp of an edge, and one has to be careful with how it is handled. 

4. Back to the Drawing Board

After many weeks and month of frustrations, of days out in the rain, or on the roof top of some elegant buildings, where I felt out of place; I decided something needed to change in my strategy. Right about that time I had fallen upon this controversial book called “The Secret“. I did not understand most of what the book talked about, but it provided me with a fresh way of thinking that I decided to use since no formulas had worked so far.

4.1. The secret


One of my key take away from this book was that I needed to know what I wanted. And if that’s all I got from this book it was worth it. Instead of chasing a job that fitted my profile, I decided instead to create in my head the dream job I wanted and act as if I already had this job. So, I took many days to gather what would make me truly satisfied in the dream job I wanted. Then I sorted out what I did not want as part of this job. This process is akin to an internal cleansing, because we realise why a lot of things happen to us in life. A self-analysis is critical if we want to move in the right direction. Without it we end-up like a dog in chase of his tail.

5. The Right Way to get the right job in Shanghai

Vision, Focus, Be ready for success

5.1. Have a clear vision of what you want

Once I was clear about the definition and scope of this dream job in Shanghai (in my case I wanted to be a Global Product and Sales Director in Charge of New Product Development), I started to visualise more and more what this job be and feel like. I created scenarios where I pretended I was in office, and instructed the directions I wanted things to take. From the first point came this second one. 

5.2. Be also clear about what you don’t want

As you can gather, just from this activity, point 3 and 5 of The wrong way mentioned above can be eliminated. 

5.3. Do not follow the crowd 

Everyone aspiration is unique. You must shut down all options that remotely resemble giving up on your dream or spending time uselessly. 

5.4. Be proactive

It is not all to have a vision about what you want, what you don’t want and the fact that you will not do like everyone else.  You need to take actions. Only then will your actions be valuable since they are guided by a focused mindset.

5.5. Target few companies

The fifth point is to target 5 or 6 companies you would like to work with, build a water tight case and contact them.
There are many international companies established in China and from my own experience I found the Chambers of commerce in China to be of better quality than in places abroad. For example, they provide paper or online contact lists of senior people in the company’s organisation. That includes CEO, Managing directors and Owners sometimes. Of course, if you have one contact details, it’s easier to get the detail of the person you want like to talk too.
Prepare a strong case for these target companies. That not only implies you do your research on the company (everyone expects this), but create a value proposition for them. In essence match your skills to a proposal you can make, that show monetary values for the company. 

One of the biggest signs what you are after is getting near, is the disappointing setbacks you will suffer prior to the success.

5.6. Build a water tight case

In all likeliness you will be the only one to have done such work ; and when an opportunity becomes available the company will remember you. I found that if you have a clear vision and you take the actions I mentioned earlier, magic tends to happen. For my first dream job in Shanghai I created a value proposal to the company I had targeted. Unbeknown to me, the company had just hired a new CEO who wanted to shake things out. So, when the owner of the business got my details and passed it down to the CEO a meeting was set-up rapidly. Before I went to that meeting, I had prepared again a new case in my defence. It tilted toward what I spotted as weaknesses in the company’s current status. I was clearly able to identify gaps in the company to fix.  

5.6.1. Good chambers of commerce 

To find your dream job in Shanghai you can approach vibrants chambers of commerce such as the AmericanGermanFrenchBritishBenelux. They hold events separately and also jointly.

5.7. The Bigger the Disappointment… The Better

Some of the people who will read this post might think “This won’t work for me”. And guess what? It won’t. Like the genie said “Your wish is my desire”. So, don’t think that way. Instead, exaggerate even more your wishes and be the most precise you can be. One of the biggest signs you will get what you are after; is that you will probably face very disappointing setbacks. The kind that will make you think “I thought I would get this opportunity”. I can only say, this is a sign that what you want is coming. And it will be better than the one that fell off. I know because I met such setbacks the two times I looked for my dream job; particularly the second one.  

5.7.1. The big disappointment 

I had spent so many times in front of the mirror to rehearse the dream interview, with the questions, the atmosphere, the settings, the coffee smell and even down to specific words the interviewers would use. When I got a job interview that fell off after I passed 4 steps I was disheartened. It was a Chinese company that conducted four series of interview with me on the phone or on line. The last stage was a skype call with the CEO. Few seconds after this guy saw me, I knew from his facial expression that I would not get the job. I probably did not fit what they had thought a French should look like. I was really pissed off since it had happened to me before. Yet, few weeks later I was contacted by another company. 

5.8. Trust Yourself

When I met these people, every single steps felt like “deja vue” scenarios. The first interviews in Chinese, the personality tests etc…At some point, six guys, including the CEO, conducted the last stage interview. As I disposed of their questions one after the other, the CEO said something specific that was in line with what I had rehearsed in front of the mirror for many many weeks. I had added to my visualisation exercise phrases like “Where have you been Jimmy?” “We have been looking for someone like you for ages”. It was truly mind blowing to hear the words uttered. 

This happened after big setbacks. These hiccups are there to tell you “You are near your goal”. Imagine you did not take any actions; you would not have any rebuttal at all. The key is to keep digging; the gold mine is not far

6. You can Find your Dream job in Shanghai – Key Take Aways

Vision, Focus, Be ready for success

As you can see it is possible to find a dream job in Shanghai that does not include “teach English” in its headline. Most of the key points which will help you get that dream job in Shanghai are relatively generic. They can be applied in many countries, and I actually applied them in many countries; since I landed great jobs in places like UK, China etc even if I am not native in these countries. The key point is to be the driver. Driver of your life, your dreams and your ambitions. 
So, the key takeaways if you want to find a dream work in China:

Have a clear vision of what you want
Be also clear about what you don’t want
Do not follow the crowd 
Be proactive
Target few companies 
Build a water tight case 
The Bigger the Disappointment The Better
Trust Yourself

Someone reaching the top of a mountain - it's possible to get your dream job in shanghai

You can reach your dream

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Vision, Focus, Be ready for success

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