As a foreigner in China, the one question you will most likely be asked by curious Chinese fans will be, "Are you an English teacher?” The reason being, most foreigners in China are only able to find jobs teaching English.
However, there are several unconventional ways to get a non-teaching job in China and ironically one of the easiest ways is to start out teaching English. You might ask, why start out as a teacher when you're looking for a non-teaching job? Well, it provides you with the perfect inroad to your future career. Here's how to do it. Select a Chinese company that is a key player in your desired industry. After confirming with your Gi2C Group contact that your favorite company is not currently looking for professional interns see if their Chinese staff need assistance improving their business or oral English. Sell yourself to the company by knowing who their target market is and showing them the importance of their staff being bi-lingual or tri-lingual in order to reach that market. (Hint: while you're teaching your new colleagues, make sure to keep notes about the differences between Chinese culture and your own. It will come in handy later.) Learn how to communicate, understand and thrive in their particular company culture.
After working with the company for a few months, you will begin to figure out the basics of their business and hopefully have made good relationships within the company. In China, nothing is more important than having good connections! When the time is right, approach a manager in the department you'd like to work in and see if they are hiring. If they're not, start out doing any role or task that might be available. Every company needs eager and hard working employees and if you continue going above and beyond what you were originally hired to do, management is bound to notice and want you to be on their team.
Another unconventional way to get your dream job in China is to become famous. Sounds difficult, right? Not really. Non-Asian looking foreigners tend to stand out quite a bit in China, especially in the smaller cities. Use this to your advantage. Start off by getting connected to the most popular Chinese social media such as Wechat, Weibo, RenRen, or QQ and post a flurry of entertaining videos or pictures on a regular basis. Don't worry about not being able to write in Chinese, most Chinese people can read English and everyone can "read" pictures and funny behavior. Go offline and perform live for people on the street or in other various places that allow you to do so. If your dream job is to be an actor, singer, or dancer then act out famous Chinese movies. Sing famous Chinese songs. Dance to famous Chinese music by yourself or with your local grandma dancing troupe (you can find them at your nearest park or intersection between 7-9pm). Seeing a foreigner connecting to something that you are very familiar with spikes your curiosity, does it not? Chinese people love to watch foreigners being goofy. Actually, regardless of nationality, we all love to watch people being goofy! So get out there, be bold, be silly and get famous. Before long, you'll have Chinese agents calling you every day with gigs all over China.
The last unconventional way to get a non-teaching job in China is to create your own job by opening your own business in China. You may want to start small by selling things from your home country on taobao.com. Or go big and set up a brick and mortar office in a busy part of town, ideally with a trustworthy Chinese partner to save you a lot of headache. Regardless, of how you do it, understand that starting and running a business in China will require patience, patience and a truckload of more patience. In addition to patience, you'll need luck, an optimistic attitude and good connections. (FYI, since we're talking about unconventional methods, you can actually buy your "guanxi" aka connections in China!) There's lots of good info out there on how to start your own business in China, but don't stop there. Find foreign-owned businesses in the Chinese city you live in and talk to them in person. Ask them what they did wrong or wished they had done. Learn from their mistakes and successes. If you're brave enough to start your own business in China, asking a complete stranger for advice should be a piece of cake. Besides, most China expats love sharing their China stories with other expats!
If these unconventional ways of getting a non-teaching job in China aren't for you, look into what China internships are available in your area. More often than not, an internship in China opens up the door to an interesting and unconventional life in China. If you don't end up staying in China, at the very least, you'll walk away from your time in China with great stories, a different perspective on life and new skills and ideas that will last a lifetime.