Internships unlock China's great wall
Many people are fascinated by the huge potential of the mainland market. Simon Kan Chun-man is one of them, and so he decided to do a two-month internship in Shanghai during the summer of 2011.
Majoring in China business as a final-year student at City University of Hong Kong (CityU), Kan embraced the chance to learn and work on the mainland. 'As an old saying goes, seeing the world is better than only studying the books. So, for the sake of better understanding the real situation, especially the business culture, I chose to take an internship on the mainland,' he says.
Kan was an intern at the Ruihua group, an environmental protection business. There he worked in the technology and sales departments.
'During the first month, I was with the technology department, learning about the development of electric cars. In the second month, I learned about the sales and marketing processes of green products,' Kan says. 'I did internal staff presentations to show them what I had learned. I cannot say I contributed much to the company, but the experience was an eye-opener.'
Adjusting to living and working on the mainland can be hard for Hong Kong people, but with keen support from CityU and mainland colleagues, Kan found the transition fairly smooth.
'The school helped us rent a place to live near the office and colleagues were very willing to show us around and help us fit in. Mainland companies have special welfare policies that are seldom found in Hong Kong firms.
'For example, the company canteen provides free lunches for staff, and on a hot day with the temperature above 35 degree Celsius, the company will offer ice-cream or soft-drinks to help staff cool off. I can't imagine companies in Hong Kong doing something like that,' he says.
Kan is confident that his mainland experience can help him develop his career. 'Many different business sectors have connections on the mainland, or are trying to build connections. It is an up-and-coming market, for sure. My experience showed my determination to work on the mainland, which I think is an advantage in job hunting. In fact, working long-term on the mainland is something I want to pursue,' he says.
Kan adds that the experience was a perfect chance for him to brush up his Putonghua. 'Now I have no worries if the job interview is conducted in Putonghua,' he says.
Dr Julie Li, associate professor and leader of the bachelor of business administration in China business programme at CityU, agrees that students should value mainland internships to prepare for the future.
'The university has run mainland university intern programmes for years. In the past two years, we have sent 10 students annually as interns on the mainland,' she says.
'Many opportunities are offered by alumni and through teaching faculty networks. Banking and finance jobs are the hottest picks among students, and Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing are the most popular destinations.'
Li advises students to thoroughly research their target city and company before signing up.