The MBA degree in China is on the rise.
According to GMAC’s latest Application Trends Survey, 92% of China-based MBA programs reported a growth in applications in 2017—that’s compared to only 32% of full-time MBA programs in the United States.
At Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), China’s top independent business school, applications from both domestic and international candidates are up.
For internationals in particular, finding a job in China remains a tricky proposition. At first sight, China can appear like a quagmire of ancient cultural norms, impenetrable social networks, and hierarchies.
Yet China is constantly on the move. New innovation means new demand for talent. Breaking into a career in China has become more commonplace. And you don’t need to know the language to do it.
How can you get an MBA job in China? BusinessBecause caught up with CKGSB MBA director Alan Chen and Professor Ou-Yang Hui, distinguished chair professor of finance and associate dean of the CKGSB MBA, to find out.
1. Get to know Guanxi
Sending out tons of CVs, blindly applying for jobs online, cold-calling HR directors—forget about it! In China, Guanxi—an emphasis on personal connections—is key.
Friends come first, and you need to act quickly to build the close personal relationships that will benefit your career. That’s where going to business school can help. A graduate from a trusted business school is looked on favorably by employers in China.
“It’s a unique culture,” Alan explains. “Employers see thousands of resumes, but the trust-factor is low. Employers reach out to us and say: ‘We’ve received these resumes. What do you know about these candidates?’”
2. Build your network
Build the network and the job opportunities will come. Nowhere is that adage more relevant than in China.
If you want to build an elite professional network in China, Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business is among the best places to do it. More than half of CKGSB’s alumni are at CEO or chairman level. Collectively, they lead one‐fifth of China’s most valuable brands and shape more than $1 trillion in annual revenue.
And, during the 14-month CKGSB MBA program, students are paired with executive level alumni mentors from an industry of their choice.
“We limit the class size so we can take care of students on an individual basis,” Alan explains. “This is their program; their experience. Students have to get out of their comfort zone; to learn and to leverage what we have to offer.”
3. Connect with employers
At CKGSB, building a network and connecting with employers go hand in hand. That means attending industry events, lecture series, startup meets, and connecting with those elite-level alums.
Professor Ou-Yang Hui—who served as a managing director at UBS, Lehman, and Nomura before joining the school—says CKGSB’s biggest strength lies in its close links with industry. Alibaba founder Jack Ma is a CKGSB alum, while former CKGSB professors head up Alibaba strategy teams.
“We’ve revamped the curriculum this year to meet the demands of employers in China,” says Hui.
4. Tap into the latest tech trends
For 2018, CKGSB has overhauled its MBA program to focus on technology, launching a host of new MBA electives in fintech and artificial intelligence.
On the CKGSB MBA’s new blockchain elective, students will go deep into the technical—learning from business school professors, engineering professors, and real-life practitioners, and visiting big companies like Bank of China—to explore how blockchain is actually used in the financial sector.
Why the change? Because that’s what MBA employers are look for, Hui explains. “Even in traditional industries, employers want candidates to know about fintech and blockchain,” he says. “They don’t just want students with a basic understanding of what blockchain is; they want students with an understanding of the technology itself.”
5. Speak the language
Do you need to speak Mandarin to land a job in China? No. Does it help? Yes.
Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business hosts complimentary Chinese business language classes for international MBA students. But there are plenty of successful MBA grads working in China who can’t speak fluent Chinese.
Understanding Chinese culture is probably more important—big multinationals in China are often after candidates with knowledge of both East and West, but knowledge of the language is not a pre-requisite. Plus, today, more and more professional Chinese speak English.