Interview | ISU Leaders on Planning the International Business Fair 2021

Between March 24 and April 24, the International Student Union (ISU) and Peking University HSBC Business School (PHBS) have teamed up to host the International Business Fair (IBF) 2021. The IBF is a series of events targeted towards PHBS international students and the companies looking to draw from this talent pool.

Through weekly online events and a website (https://phbs-ibf-2021.yolasite.com/), the IBF has become a valuable platform, giving current students opportunities to learn about the job market, hear from alumni and career development experts and connect with companies regarding internship and job opportunities.  

As the first event of its kind for the school, making the initial spark of an idea come to life was a huge challenge.

We connected with the leadership team of the ISU to talk about their vision and planning for the IBF and got their takeaways from the event. The leadership team includes ISU president Brandon Stefano, a 2nd year Management student from Indonesia; ISU vice-president Kirti Krishan, a 2nd year Management student from India; and José Shin, 2nd year Management student from Guatemala. 

They shared great insights which may help you on your own job hunt now or in the future.

What were your roles?
ISU president Brandon Stefano

Brandon My main role in setting up the IBF was to conceptualize the format of the event. How the fair is going to take place, how will we arrange the interaction between students and companies and basically the overall layout of what the event is going to be like. Furthermore, my other role was being the bridge between the ISU and the International Office. Garnering support from PKUSZ and PHBS is crucial for the success of this event and luckily we were able to get support.

ISU vice-president Kirti Krishan

Kirti: Being the external VP, the major part was bringing all the important stakeholders outside of the regular ecosystem onboard with the idea. And then benefiting from them in getting connected to companies looking to hire and offer webinars and coaching opportunities for students.

Moreover, there were specific roles, setting up the website, chalking out the logistics and flow of getting a company onboard, digging out lists of the companies from online resources. I had the wonderful team from the ISU external department, who were the great executors of all the external team needed to pull off.

ISU vice-president José Shin

José: After all the recruiters were in a Wechat group, my job was contacting them personally to inform them how the IBF would work, what type of information the students were looking for. Additionally, I compiled all the student CVs into one document and sent it to them for future job offers.  I was also very happy with the work of the internal department.  We worked as a team to share the information of the new events and design the posters.

What were you trying to accomplish with this job fair?

Brandon: Simply put. We want to let international students know that it is possible to start a career in China. Morale has been extremely low ever since COVID. As a student body for int’l students, it’s only right to give them this chance. We’ve all worked hard for our degree and we deserve this.

Kirti: It was always about a fair ask from day 1, that after coming to a different country and in a different market you give up and compromise on a lot of things, and so you need to get back a value when you end that process. I was very sure that, if there would be a particular system missing from a place I am part of, I would involve myself in it and make one, which can benefit everyone. And that was purely the job fair, I came to a growing economy for high class knowledge, connections and opportunities, and I tried to get all of them even when things are super adverse.

José: ISU had the objective of making a job fair for international students since it was founded. The only problem was getting administrative support for the association and also the members lacked the connections to make such a big event possible. Luckily, this year the new ISU members had experience studying in China and developed a strong network. Together with the support of the International Office, the ISU was able to host the first IBF.

Were companies receptive when you reached out?

Brandon: Some were skeptical in the beginning. They’ve never heard of the ISU and our legitimacy is questioned. They also questioned the enthusiasm that our students have towards the IBF. But thankfully, after the kick-off event our partners are able to see the true potential and hunger that our students have.

Kirti: It is difficult to get an organisation onboard with something really not part of their mainstream business operations. And when it’s all online, and not a great situation for businesses it’s more than tough actually. So we choose to keep things simple and easy for the companies.

We reached out to companies who have recently been funded or have a great international population and got them onboard with a legit official process. Even the mail we sent, we clearly talked about exact steps, with a proper schedule which helped them decide on things quickly and tell the decision.

José: Kirti was the one in charge of this. The international community in China is willing to help, once you communicate your ideas clearly.

Any results you have seen yet?

Brandon: Multiple applications have been sent to the participating partners. That in my eyes is already more result than I can ever hope for.

Kirti: The career development system is in place now, I guess.

José: The support from Prof. Young Joon Park and Mao Na have been important to get the ISU more attention. It has also been easier to host more events as both parties are in constant communication.

What have you learned about the job market?

Brandon: The job market is all about perspective. The job market today has always been pictured as tough, unforgiving and, simply put, punishing. But the fact is that when you dig deep enough there is still opportunity waiting for you to pounce on. There have been industries that have in fact grown during the pandemic and these industries are actively expanding. Meaning it really depends on which side of the coin you’re looking to find a job.

Kirti: Personally, It was always about the skills. If you have a particular skill and if that skill is super important for any form of business, it will always get you hiring opportunities. I always validated my profile on how HIRABLE I am regardless of the situations, economy or culture.

José: The job market in China is very big, the important thing is to search for the positions that fit your skills. Getting to know headhunters personally is also very helpful, as they can recommend you to apply to the right job offers. Being able to speak Mandarin is a very valuable skill, it can really help you during your job search and also during your studies in Shenzhen.

How does having China experience impact your career outlook?

Brandon: It provides an additional perspective. For people in my community, working in Western countries has always been the Plan A for those willing to bid their fortunes overseas. But now, the Chinese experience have shown me that China is as much a Plan A as any other Western countries out there, or dare I say better.

Kirti: China experience got me connected to people who have actually hustled in life not just for jobs but even for studies. And that’s what is the biggest impact in career outlook. Learn, hustle and get things done.

José: It has a very big impact for me. I wanted to change my career, and after learning the basics of doing business I think I’m ready to pursue my career doing International business, and maybe one day introduce Guatemalan products in China.

How does being part of the PKU community enable opportunities for you?

Brandon:  For those that are looking to work in China, the benefit is definitely there. I’ve personally connected with a couple of alumni of PKU to help me in job referrals. Although no position is ever guaranteed regardless of the connection, but being part of the PKU community granted me that opportunity to even step in the front door.

Kirti: People take you seriously, they reply to you and at least offer you a chance to hear your elevator pitch, be it about jobs, business ideas or a general strategy.

José: Studying in PKU is a great achievement as it is one of the top universities of China. It has allowed me to meet people from all around the world, and hopefully it can also find me a full time job in China.

Have your thoughts changed about your future career?

Brandon: Nothing has changed, my career goals have remained the same. It’s still about being involved in tech and I’m sure nothing will change that.

Kirti: No, I have always liked working ‘in’, ‘for’ and ‘creating’ startups and that’s what I am doing. I love solving problems and there are a ton of those lying out in the world.

José: No, the China experience has helped me confirm that I’m on the right track.

Read our overview of the IBF 2021 Kickoff Event here

by Nathan Faber


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