On December 12, Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS) students attended the first “Developing Your Career in China” event organized by the International Student Union (ISU). Students had the opportunity to hear from General Secretary of the Chile Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, Ms. Alejandra Jara. The organization promotes friendship, investment, and trade between Chile and China.
In addition to her duties in the Chile Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce , she currently acts as the Associate and Director of the Gambe Group, an international company with offices in Chile, USA., China, and Vietnam. It is a company with 10 years of experience dedicated to providing import solutions from China to all of America. Also, she is mentor at the Startup Chile incubator, where she provides advice and support to specific enterprises that need commercial or supply solutions from China.
It was a highly anticipated event. The classroom at PHBS was nearly full with exchange and full-time students from different parts of Europe, North and Latin America, Asia, and Africa.
There was great anticipation to hear from a distinguished entrepreneur who also has experience working for international firms in China, like Ms. Jara. Brandon Stefano, first year student of Management and ISU committee member, was moderator. Students prepared several questions in advance which were presented by the moderator. As the session advanced, the moderator also took questions from the audience which kept the event interesting and dynamic. Afterwards, Brandon commented, “ The level of interactivity that was present during the discussion really brought out many interesting and unique topics and perspective that foreigners in China are passionate about. ”
Although there was a variety of subjects being discussed, international students currently studying in China shared these three main concerns:
- I want to work or start a business in China, but where to start?
- How is the work life / startup world in China?
- Where can I make more international connections with and within China?
Ms. Jara addressed these questions in a sharp and accessible way. She shared her experience from the starting point of her adventure in China when she decided to study a Master of Architecture at Chongqing University. Her home country, Chile, had just undergone a devastating earthquake when she received a scholarship, and she had to take an important decision, she thought to herself – “Is this my opportunity?”
She took the chance. Back then, she was the only international student in her university. One immediate difficulty was that she could only speak very limited Chinese, not to mention the local dialect of Chongqing.
After living and working for 8 years in China, Ms. Jara developed invaluable experience and connections in different fields, such as marketing, international commerce, entrepreneurship, project management and public relations. By 2018, the Chilean Ministry of Interior granted her a business travel card as the 6076 Businesswoman of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and more than 20 countries have also granted her the honor of visiting their countries for business reasons without a visa.
Given her remarkable experience, students inquired about necessary abilities to succeed in China, Ms. Jara responded:
“You need to stay humble, respectful and be patient. We are the guests here in China, and things are done completely different here than what we are used to. There are three key aspects to develop for your personal growth:
- Public Speaking,
- Empathy / Ability to connect, and
- Closing: You need to know how to sell.”
Students were truly inspired to hear Ms. Jara’s story, she managed to convey her message effectively because most of us now face what she has direct experience with. An hour and a half passed by smoothly and thus, the evening concluded with the following question being answered:
What advice would you give to students seeking opportunities in China?
“Well guys, you are doing it great! The only fact that you are here in China, so far from your countries, allowing yourself to experience the unknown, being brave and working to understand the language and the culture speaks very good of yourselves. Allow yourself to try new things, make new friends and stay well connected. University is important, but you need to take advantage of the city you are in now, Shenzhen is the focus point of tech in the world and the passion for innovation and opportunities thrive this city. You have to manage to go to classes, study and pass your exams, do sports, have a boyfriend/girlfriend, go party, travel, and call your Mom at the same time! – But this is the time to do it!”
This was the first “Developing Your Career in China” event organized by the ISU. Many students at PHBS are interested in internship opportunities and remaining in China after they graduate. José Shin, first year management student and ISU committee member, said this is what lead him to reach out to fellow Spanish speaker Ms. Jara: “One of the objectives of ISU is to offer knowledge and job opportunities to the PHBS international students, this purpose led me to meet Alejandra through LinkedIn. What caught my attention about her profile was that she is an Entrepreneur and developed her career here in China. Sharing Spanish as our mother tongue helped us form a good relationship.”
Seeing the great turnout and engagement during the event was a strong indicator that there is enthusiasm to have many more career development talks in the future. Jackson Collantes, ISU President, said, “Since early this year, ISU has set a goal of building more channels to connect students with the job market.” In the future they hope to have more similar events. As Jackson put it, “We aim to invite members from other international organizations and business who can share with us their experiences with us.”
After such great advice, students took pictures with Ms. Jara and the event came to an end. Moderator Brandon Stefano reflected, “Alejandra’s unique insight towards building a career in China helps us picture how we will pursue our path after graduation. It was a memorable seminar and a discussion with many takeaways for those who attended.”
By Dany Bonfil