Thursday, January 14, 2016

Interning at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center

As the Career Counselor at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC), I have the opportunity to speak with employers about their hiring needs and practices. A consistent sentiment expressed is that the competition for entry-level positions across all fields is greater than ever. There was a time when foreign nationals who spoke Chinese but had no prior work experience were competitive for many positions. Those days are gone. Today, entry-level employees interested in working in China must couple strong Chinese language skills with relevant experience and desirable skills. Considering this landscape, students are faced with an inevitable challenge: how do you acquire experience in a field if every position seems to require that you’ve had prior experience?

Perhaps the most practical solution is to do an internship. Before considering whether to intern the first thing you must do is assess whether an opportunity is, in fact, an internship or whether it is simply titled as such to make it attractive to students. Internships are not simply part-time or volunteer work. Instead, internships are “a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with the practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.”[i]

As this definition illustrates, internships are inherently symbiotic. For the intern, it gives you experience and the opportunity to develop relationships with people who may prove to be mentors, references, and future colleagues. For the internship provider, it provides access to young talent that can be an asset in the workplace and who may transition from intern to a full-time hire.

At the HNC, many students build experience by interning in China. With China’s increasing importance on a global stage, foreign nationals in China are offered many interesting opportunities to gain experience through internships. This intercession period we have students interning in Management Consulting, Energy, Economic Research, Political Risk Consulting, Education, Tourism, and Government, to name a few. While their experiences will undoubtedly be unique, each will have the chance to learn about an aspect of China’s dynamic development. Additionally, each will have the chance to try a career path without committing to it full-time. I have worked with many students who thought they wanted to pursue a career in a field only to learn while interning that the profession ultimately wasn’t suitable. This allows you to reassess your career path and ultimately puts you closer to finding a career that fits following graduation.

If you ultimately decide that interning in China is something you’re interested in doing, please note that there is a series of steps you’ll need to complete in order to legally intern. Students studying in China are legally prohibited from interning unless they have received permission from the local Public Security Bureau. This permission comes in the form of an addendum in the remarks section on your residence permit. To obtain this permission, there are several steps involved including you receiving an offer letter from an employer, a copy of their valid business license, and a letter of support from the HNC. While it may sound complicated, it’s actually relatively easy and I frequently work with HNC students on this process. If you decide to come to the HNC and you want to inquire further about this process, I‘ll be available to walk you through the steps. Regardless of your career decision, I would encourage you to supplement your classroom education with experience as an intern to help prepare you for your career.

 Written by Robbie Shields, HNC Career Counselor     

[i]Position Statement: U.S. Internships; A Definition and Criteria to Assess Opportunities and Determine the Implications for Compensation, National Association of Colleges and Employers (July 2011)