Postcard from Beijing... no 13

Just the job?

Once upon a time, young Beijingers graduated from university to become teachers, bankers, doctors, lawyers and the like. Not so in 2011 – as a story published in China Daily earlier this week made clear.

Young people – not only in Beijing but all around the world – were told that a university education would guarantee them a job in their chosen discipline but, as the recession hit and the traditional job market became increasingly saturated, the reality has proved very different.

Ambitious to get ahead, Beijing’s graduates have turned to niche jobs and the capital is now home to property inspectors (people who visit homes to inspect the air quality, heating and sewage systems, gas pipes and window glasses), public nutritionists (a new profession approved by the Ministry of Human resources and Social Security and the Occupational Skill Testing Authority Center), video conference hosts, luxury personal shoppers, fork lift truck drivers, helicopter flying instructors and, my favourite, professional pet trainers – which involves travelling to people’s apartments to train their dogs. But wait there’s more… wackier ‘new’ professions include dish order assistants (yes really) for those who never know what to order in a restaurant!

Don’t believe me? Just check out job portal, Zhaopin, where you’ll find a whole host of jobs that don't seem like they should exist, but do, advertised for all to see (and apply for). You might laugh but chances are it’s more at the cash rich clients who are demanding such services than at the job holders and seekers themselves who – in my mind – should be congratulated for ‘thinking outside of the box’ in challenging times.

For the fact is that I know of scores of recent graduates back home in Britain who sent off their CVs and waited for the job offers to flood in – offers that never came – before signing on the dole, sinking into a state of depression, sitting around the house all day and waiting for an employer to ring and say ‘you’re hired!’ Which rarely, given the economic doom and gloom in the UK, ever happens. And in the cut throat world of employment hunting, the absolute worst thing you can do is nothing. Rather, your present activities – regardless of whether they are relevant to the job you ultimately want or not (property inspector Zhang Lei has a bachelor’s degree in architecture but is yet to design a building) – can be your greatest tool. Not only do they help pay the bills but they fill up the empty space on your CV and, perhaps most importantly, demonstrate resourcefulness and a get up and go attitude – something that, by all accounts, Beijing’s niche job workers have in spades.

The unemployed graduates back home would do well to take a leaf out of Beijingers’ books and wake up and realise that jobs don’t just land in your lap. If we want to be out there earning it (and spending it), we need to consider every opportunity. Who knows? There might be an interesting, high paying niche job out there, which could just turn out to be a job you love.