Shanghai is a great city for professional development. With a variety of work opportunities to explore in almost every sphere, the city is the number one destination for young professionals in China, and that includes expats.
The concept of ‘guanxi’
Once in China, you will probably be hearing a lot about the importance of ‘guanxi’. Fundamentally, ‘guanxi’ are mutually beneficial relationships ‘ and the practice of forming such relationships is common in most business environments. However, guanxi play a far more critical role in China than they would do in most western countries ‘ and this means that there is also typically much more work put into forming them.
Meals are a traditional way of bonding in China, and you should expect a lot of dinner and lunch invitations ‘ plus, be ready to be on the inviting side yourself.
Thus, a meeting in a boardroom would traditionally be followed by a dinner or, on occasion, even a lavish banquet or an elegant tea session. These relationships often tend to be deeper and presuppose a stronger commitment: from money lending to helping one score an interview for the desired position.
How to build a professional network
In China, social and professional relationships are often more closely intertwined than in the West. As mentioned above, ‘guanxi’ is very much a social or personal network as it is a professional one and building individual connections will be just as important as bonding on a professional level.
If you are new to the city and have no acquaintance to help get you started, there are still quite a few options for developing your network from scratch.
Professional social media
Even though several social media platforms are banned in the country (including Facebook, Instagram, etc.) ‘ Linkedin is a powerful tool when connecting to potential employers and recruiters. Make sure to keep your experience and other information up to date on your page and change your location to Shanghai so that your profile shows up in related searches.
With that, staying active on local social media is just as important. Currently, WeChat is China’s number one communication platform ‘ both socially and professionally. It is, thus, a good idea to get familiar with the app and join available professional and business groups.
Conferences, exhibitions, and trade shows
Shanghai is China’s business and commercial centre and, thus, a frequent host of local and international professional events. You are sure to find useful gatherings in your line of work in the city ‘ and they can serve as excellent platforms for meeting new people in the same field. Some of the most significant events taking place in the city annually include CES Asia (technology), IWF Shanghai (health & fitness), Bauma China (construction and materials), East China Import and Export Commodity Fair, and others.
Shanghai Job Fair (held annually) is also a good networking event to keep in your calendar.
Mixers and after-work events
There are plenty of more informal professional events in Shanghai organised by locals as well as expats. Taking the time to attend these can prove to be a useful tool for building connections.
If you are already working or studying in Shanghai, try attending some of the after-hour events. Going to dinner with your colleagues or having lunch with fellow students can prove to be a great way to get to know more about them, strengthen existing connections and, perhaps, make new ones.