Jobs scarce, students looking overseas

With the U.S. job market slumping, some USC students are turning to the possibility of international careers — especially in China, with its dynamic market and booming economy.

The Zhongwen Club, in partnership with the USC Career Planning and Placement Center, is hosting an event today called “From Los Angeles to Beijing: Launching Your Career in China.” The event is a response to the growing interest in working abroad and aims to expose students to the opportunities available in the rapidly expanding Chinese job market.

“It’s getting harder to find jobs in the United States,” said Cleopatra Wise, president of the Zhongwen Club and a senior majoring in international relations and East Asian languages and cultures. “We thought having a professional event that would be open to the whole USC student body would be a good way to inform them about the opportunities in China.”

Clayton Dube, associate director of the U.S.-China Institute, said although there is no concrete data on the number of Americans who go to find jobs in China, evidence suggests the trend is on the rise.

“There’s considerable evidence that Americans, especially young Americans, are going to China to learn about China, to learn about themselves and to explore career opportunities,” Dube said.

Dube lived and worked in China in the 1980s. At the time, there was little enthusiasm among Americans for working in China, but he says interest has grown.

“One of the reasons why China is so attractive is that it is growing rapidly,” Dube said. “Many people are using this moment when there are few opportunities in the United States to try their luck in China.”

At the event, professionals with experience in a variety of fields — including economics, finance and education — will provide insight into China’s job market. They will address issues such as the cities and industries with the greatest demand for foreigners and what companies look for in American graduates.

“What we want [students] to walk away with is having a basic knowledge of what it’s like to work in China and knowing if China is a good move for them to start their careers because China honestly isn’t for everyone,” Wise said.

Hannah Watanabe-Rocco, a senior majoring in cinema, said she would consider looking for a job abroad because studying abroad in United Kingdom last fall made her want to experience other places.

“After going abroad now, I just want to see more of the world and explore more of the world,” Watanabe-Rocco said. “Another part of why I would consider going abroad is because I will take a job wherever I can get one because there are not very many opportunities here right now.”

Yewande Odetunde, a junior majoring in business administration and a participant in the Marshall School of Business’s Learning about International Commerce Program, which gives students the chance to explore the job market abroad for 10 days, said she would also consider working abroad after graduating.

She said she thinks working abroad would be beneficial to her because she is considering working for a multinational firm. Such experience, she said, would help her to better understand the cultures of customers and consequently to tailor products to them.

“Having a product that’s known around the world, you need to understand what [people’s] thought process is when using or thinking about using your product,” Odetunde said. “I want whatever career path I have to allow me the opportunity to communicate and interact internationally.”

Even with demand for foreign professionals with expertise in China, Dube said there are no guarantees for finding work. Doing well in China, he said, requires patience to learn the cultural customs and business practices, and depends on one’s willingness and flexibility to adapt to a new environment.

“China can be very challenging and it can be frustrating, but, if you are open-minded and adventurous, you will probably be able to find an opportunity,” Dube said.

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