Home Opinion ACT Column What Job-hunting Experiences Have Returned International Students Encountered?

What Job-hunting Experiences Have Returned International Students Encountered?

On Douban, a user posted: “Is it normal for a graduate student to return home with a salary of 6,000 yuan?”

The user introduced that out of the 30 job applications he submitted, he only participated in 3 interviews: game advertising optimizer, overseas market operation specialist, cross-border e-commerce advertising management. The salary for all of these positions ranged from 5,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan. The followers of this page seemed to be puzzled about this statement. 

Compared to the investment in the economy and time spent on studying abroad, many returning graduates feel that the results are disappointing. 

“Studying abroad is no longer closely related to high salaries.” Wang Zhiqi, the head of a job-seeking agency for Chinese and British international students, calculated an account for reporters. For the cost of studying in the UK for a one-year master’s degree, the tuition fee alone is about 200,000 yuan and the overall cost is approximately 400,000 yuan a year.

“The salary for an entry audit position at one of four major accounting firms in China is approximately 120,000 yuan. Working at any of the four major accounting firms in China is one of the best jobs that returnees can find.” Wang Zhiqi said.

In 2021, the 12th issue of Journal of East China Normal University (Educational Science Edition) published the article, “Research on the Influencing Factors of the Employment Quality of New Generation Returnees.” This article concluded that a higher degree of education leads to a higher income. However, compared to the average starting salaries of all graduates from domestic colleges and universities in 2019, the starting salaries of returnee graduates with undergraduate, masters, and doctorate degrees were 3,512 yuan, 2,944 yuan, and 1,244 yuan higher respectively, showing a downward trend.

Shen Wenqin, associate professor of Peking University, stated, “If it is purely economic returns, the cost-effectiveness of studying abroad is decreasing. However, the effect of studying abroad on personal growth and character shaping cannot be measured in money.”

“When comparing the total cost of studying abroad with the wages of returning international students at the initial stage of employment, it is not appropriate to conclude how long it will take to restore loss from studying abroad. The focus of studying abroad should not be about compensation after returning,” Chen Yuan voices. Chen Yuan attended an international high school in Zhejiang. The administrator of this school states that nearly 100 students choose to study abroad every year.

The salary of young people is not static, and often increases with the number of working years. The beneficiaries of equity and bonus incentives in some large private enterprises are younger workers, including returnees. Chen Yuan’s international high school also recruits many job seekers with experience studying abroad. “Take my experience of recruiting as an example. Education is just a stepping stone, and it really depends on performance after becoming employed.”

“There is a very obvious trend,” Chen Yuan said frankly. “Compared with domestic university graduates, there is not much of a difference in the salary of returning international students. Unless they are in foreign companies or domestic companies with relatively internationalized private enterprises, having a background in studying abroad is not very advantageous. Moreover, compared with previous years, the recruitment pace of these large private enterprises has slowed down.”

“There is another factor that is often overlooked.” Shen Wenqin reminded reporters that most students studying abroad come from urban families. When they choose employment, they mainly focus on big cities. The competition for good jobs in big cities is usually the most intense.

Returning students are also faced with a problem – the time of graduation does not match the time of domestic hiring and recruiting.  Returning students miss the time window of employment, resulting in fewer job opportunities and longer job search time.

Wang Zhiqi gave an example: “British one-year master’s students enrolled in September 2021 are expected to graduate between November 2022 and January 2023. By the time you complete your studies at the end of 2022 and return to China, you may miss the golden period of domestic autumn recruitment.”

Therefore, returning international students should establish a correct concept of domestic employment and focus on personal development and the development of their social positions. They can set their sights on central and western regions or second and third-tier cities.  At the same time, the “new generation returnees” who have learned expertise can broaden their employment horizons and engage in new technology and product research as well as development in new fields, such as legal finance, new medical medicine, cultural media, and computer information technology. 

Songzi Li/Managing Editor


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