There was a moment back there, in between endlessly trolling the job boards and ironing my suit for the umpteenth time, when I thought I was crazy for quitting my comfortable teaching job and coming back to Shanghai without anything lined up. My prospects seemed bleak and I was relying on savings and extorting students in random tutoring gigs to get by. Now that I've been working at a new job for about a month now (yay!), I have a little more perspective.
Like job searching anywhere in the world, in Shanghai the job hunt required time and determination. I looked for 2 months, sent out about 50 resumes, went to 12 interviews, received 3 job offers, and finally secured my current position. Phew! Below are some things I learned along the way.
Navigating Online Job Boards
I narrowed down the job boards that I checked regularly to the few that I could rely on for legitimate job leads.
eChinacities is probably the most widely used English language job board in Shanghai. There are consistently new jobs posted and the categorization of jobs by type (for example "sales and marketing" or "writing and editing") make it easy to search. Generally you're required to submit your resume through an online form, but it's immediately emailed to the potential employer.
Shanghai Expat also has consistently good job postings. Watch out for the sponsored listings at the beginning. As you scroll through listings, it may seem that there aren't very many new postings. If you keep scrolling, you'll find that the unsponsored postings begin after the oldest sponsored posting.
Though it doesn't have as many listings as eChinacities or Shanghai Expat, Creativehunt does have quality job listings for positions in creative fields.
It's difficult to browse and annoying to submit a resume through their interface, but enjoyshanghai boasts many job ads.
Other job boards that were sometimes helpful include Shanghai craigslist, ChinaHot.com, and matchdragon.com.
Searching Directly on Company Websites
As I was searching through job boards, I often found positions that weren't quite a good fit but sounded like they were with promising companies. It was always worth going to the company's website to see if it was offering other positions.
I also found other ways of finding foreign companies who were more likely to hire a foreigner like me. I looked up companies associated with the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai and went directly to their websites. I also talked to friends in sales positions in Shanghai who had foreign clients. They couldn't offer an introduction, but they were able to clue me in to companies in Shanghai I might be interested in.
Highlighting "Important" Information in My Cover Letter
You always hear that the cover letter is your make or break moment in any application. Sure, I'll take it. But I actually found that the most important information to highlight in my cover letter was that I was female and spoke English. The former was because my name (Camden) is gender neutral and potential employers got confused when they called me. I demonstrated this by signing my name with a Ms. The latter was because speaking English fluently was one of my most marketable assets in the Shanghai job market. I demonstrated this by not writing a crappy cover letter.
I worried that my post-university job history seemed erratic and without focs: 2 years working in the States and 1 year teaching English in China. I tried to think through some long-winded justifications to offer employers. Ultimately I just told the truth. I worked in the States but wanted to live abroad. I took the teaching job for fun. Ultimately I loved Shanghai but didn't love teaching. The end.
Resumes, Resumes, Resumes
What my job hunt really came down to was numbers. I sent out about 50 resumes and got 3 job offers. That's a 6% success rate. I mean, that's pretty low. If hadn't sent out as many resumes as I did, I wouldn't have been able to choose between jobs.
Despite those low moments (cursing cab drivers getting lost on the way to interviews, not being able to figure out how to type in English on a Chinese computer during a written test, being told that I look like I should be able to speak Chinese), the biggest high is having found a positon that's a perfect fit. It was all worth it!