International Careers – Working in China

Interested in working abroad either during your degree or after graduating? Then attending the Global Careers Series should be top of your to-do list! The Global Careers Series has been created to help you discover the variety of international careers that exist. Our first session of this academic year focused on careers in China; if you missed the event, here’s everything you need to know…

The Global Careers Series: China panel was made up of a diverse panel with a breadth of experience of working in China including:

  • Kerry Brown, Director of the Lau China Institute and Professor of Chinese Studies, King’s College London
  • Shaun Butcher, UK University Partnerships & Marketing Manager at CRCC Asia
  • Clare Harding, European Partnerships Manager at InternChina
  • Daniel Taub , Head of China Careers at KCL Asia Careers Society
  • James Tunningley, Trade Policy Adviser, South and South-East Asia at Department for International Trade.

The panelists all shared the story of how they came to work in China and it’s clear that there is no set path of how to start your international career. From holidays spent teaching in summer schools, teaching English in Bangladesh, working as a Language Assistant with the British Council to learning Mandarin at school and studying Chinese studies at University – there are many ways to get your first taste of what a career abroad could be like.

But what are the things you need to know about working in and developing a career in China?

1Firstly, language skills are very important! Across the panel everyone agreed that basic mandarin is a must. Even if you don’t know much, make the effort to learn the basics either prior to or whilst you are in China – it can provide you with insight into the culture and country. There are lots of great resources online to help you with this and you can also enrol in a Mandarin course at the Modern Language Centre at King’s which caters for all levels.

It’s also useful to have lived experience in China – or any country that you’re considering moving to. You may have gained this through a global internship, when on holiday, a study abroad placement or perhaps you’ve lived there before. But keep in mind that China is wonderfully diverse, every city and province is different! Your experience will be different to a friend or colleagues’ and will depend on what you do and where you go everybody’s journey will be different.

When working in China who you know is just as important as what you know. Every encounter has the potential to be a future business opportunity. Picking up a phone to talk to a client or colleague is the way to communicate in China, emails don’t work in the same way in the work place so be prepared to meet face to face to build a rapport. Strong relationships are important to being successful not only when working in China, but for any career.


Employees are seen as an extension of the manager’s family and with that comes high expectations and office/team culture can come across as less collaborative than in the UK. But don’t be put off! Experiencing different working cultures gives you an opportunity to work with different colleagues in different ways. It could mean having more responsibility and ownership over the work you do. The hierarchical relationship in companies can feel more obvious when working in China but it’s important to see this – and other cultural differences both in and outside of the work place as a challenge that will strengthen you as an individual and provide a wealth of experience.


Banking, teaching, tech, marketing – the diversity of opportunities is immense – if you say “yes”. Keep an open mind, in China sometimes things/opportunities will find you just as you’ll find them.

Working, living and experience a new country will change you – and that is not a bad thing! Part of having a global mind-set – and working in an international setting – is engaging with a different culture, embracing it and learning from it. Be open for change and to be changed. Try new foods, learn the language, travel the depth and breadth of the country, meet new people and explore. Find and discover your own path.

More information on working and living in China can be found here:

Visit the Global Careers Series events page for more information.