Building a Career: Now and Then

Panel shares stories of rising up the ranks with young professionals

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The Young Professionals Committee brought together an all-star lineup of community leaders to talk about building a meaningful career in China Dec.10 at the Haworth Showroom in Parkview Green. On the panel were Piper Stover, managing director of United Technologies and incoming AmCham China governor; William Zarit, the former minister for commercial affairs at the US Embassy and another incoming governor; and Jeremy Goldkorn, founder and managing director of Danwei as well as the cohost of the popular current affairs podcast Sinica.

Although the panelists work in different fields and moved to China at different points in time, they all shared the experience of establishing their careers as expatriates in China. Part of the discussion focused on the difference between building a career in China today compared to when the panelists were coming up through the ranks. While it was in some ways easier to be an expat in the “early days” since demand for skilled people far outstripped supply, it was difficult to build meaningful relationships with locals. The panelists explained that Chinese people of 20 or 30 years ago were extremely cautious when dealing with outsiders, and that this, combined with the large income gap between expats and their local colleagues, made it tough to find common ground. In today’s more developed China, young expats face increased competition from locals. However, this also draws the two groups closer together, allowing for deeper relationships to flourish. And ultimately, the panel argued, young professionals who have learned to operate in China and bridge this gap will have a significant advantage in the workplace for years to come.