Imagine standing on the banks of the Huangpu River and gazing at the Bund – Shanghai’s famous waterfront which has been the symbol of the city for centuries – while grasping your lunch in one hand and a camera in the other.
This could be your summer internship.
Life after university and career prospects are usually one of the top priorities for those in their early twenties, especially for students.Applying for a stack of internships, however, where you’ll most likely be forced to regurgitate copy and make tea is hardly one for the memory books.
Luckily the world of work experience has become more interesting with many people flitting overseas to give their CVs a much needed boost. Internships are often seen as the only way to get into your chosen field of work, and for many industries, like journalism, they usually are. So why not soak up a new culture while learning business skills?
Places like China, the world’s second largest economy, are being recognised for their economic and entrepreneurial advantages for the next generation of business moguls, and so it’s a popular destination for young professionals.
Michael Manley, an alumnus of the University of Sheffield, completed a two month internship through CRCC Asia as a research consultant at a company called Fitco Consulting, although the company decided to keep him on and he ended up working there for a further four months. He currently works for David Lloyd as a sales consultant.
“I have developed a much better business sense than I did previously due to working on such a wide variety of projects,” says Michael, “I feel that compared to my peers in my current role I am much more capable of adapting to new circumstances and have a better appreciation for the wider needs of the business.
“After I came home, my experiences in Shanghai were almost exclusively what I was asked about in job interviews – interviewers were so impressed by the fact that I was able to live independently there that it glossed over a few weaker points in my CV.”
That’s not to say that living in an entirely new culture is easy sailing, as Michael points out.
“Living in Shanghai you have to deal with so many unbelievably stressful situations, and you have to learn to express yourself so clearly that a job interview becomes easy. Living in an international community like we did, you learn to communicate clearly with different kinds of people without using local , national or even continental expressions – try telling an Indonesian girl the time is 20 to two and check the look on her face.
“You develop the skill to clearly make yourself understood without losing expression or the tone with which you are trying to say something.”
The recent UK graduate careers survey showed that over half of employers asked said that they wanted to hire graduates who had completed previous work experience.
The research conducted during December 2012 said that “Many recruiters explained that irrespective of the academic results that a graduate had achieved, it would be very hard for an applicant to demonstrate the skills and competencies that organisations looks for if they hadn’t had any prior work experience at all.”
Just five per cent of the top graduate employers said that it was very likely they would give a graduate with no work experience a job offer, so if ever you needed an incentive to spend your summer wisely, then it’s really just been spelt out for you.
CRCC Asia are the leading providers in graduate internships, on its board is Luise Schafer, who was recently awarded an OBE by the Queen for services to British business in China, while the board has over 50 years of combined China expertise.
“According to the British Council, 79 per cent of employers see global awareness as more important than a relevant degree,” Mark Pettitt, government and relations manager at the company, says, “Conversely, a recent Yougov poll demonstrated that only 48 per cent of students believed an international outlook would benefit their work prospects.
“Typically in China, interns are treated as a permanent member of the team and we work with all of our partner companies in Beijing and Shanghai to ensure that they are treated as such. Our partner companies select their interns, meaning that they will go there knowing that they will be working on projects and tasks as set aside by their host company.
“This has the benefit of ensuring that they will both have responsibility and achieve – something that is crucial in a CV and in improving an individual’s employability.
“30 per cent of our participants are offered a permanent position by their host company, and 89 per cent of our alumni who were seeking graduate level work directly after completing our programme, successfully did so within three months of returning home.”
Internships with CRCC Asia typically last from one to three months in either Shanghai or Beijing and in a number of sectors, from accounting to architecture and from marketing to museum management.
The application procedure is fairly simple; send your CV (which must be no more than two pages long) to the team, they’ll review it and – if successful – you’ll be invited to a telephone interview.
Last year, CRCC Asia received 9,000 applicants, of which 1,500 were placed in China with internships – in total they have an alumni network of over 3,000.
Being able to speak Mandarin isn’t essential but it will help enhance your application – as will any second language. The program fee also includes Mandarin lessons for beginners once you are in China.
The cultural differences in China are important to appreciate when living and working there – for example, it’s essential that you build guanxi with your fellow businessmen and women. Guanxi loosely translates to relationships and is used to form opportunities and favours, therefore understanding this idea is crucial should you want to be successful.
Michael sums up his time in China: “It’s definitely been a life changing experience and although difficult at times, I cannot stress how much fun I had and how grateful I am for making some of the friendships I did.
“I made lifelong friendships with people I ordinarily would not dream of talking to. In my 6 months since the program I have met up with friends from Australia, Korea, Uganda, Norway as well as the UK.
“Personally, without sounding too clichéd, I have learnt to definitely never judge a book by its cover, and that with a little bit of effort you can find that you have something in common with everyone.”
For more information on the internships and to apply, go to www.crccasia.com