Working 5 to 9

Saturday, 7 March 2009

In many an expat’s home country, teens are keen to begin their working life quite early – usually through odd jobs or part time roles that pad out the pocket money. Beginning work in this way not only gives young people valuable work experience, it also teaches them commitment and responsibility, and enhances their social and networking skills. The cash flow injection is a nice bonus, too.

Working in China, however, may be a little tricky for many teens. Language issues are not the only barrier – the logistics of working for Chinese companies may not suit many expats, and the battle for work in this town is clearly dominated by the masses of Chinese graduates seeking work after school or university. Then there’s the ayi barrier – many jobs normally filled by teens are absorbed by this ubiquitous and multi-skilled house manager.

So. How can ex-pat teens join the workforce here in Beijing without complications or treading on ayi’s toes? Here are some ideas.

Offer your babysitting services to family, friends and neighbors; speaking the same language as your charges is enormously helpful and little kids love to be entertained by teens. It would be very helpful to be trained in first aid. Check with your local clinic about classes.

Are you a maths whiz or piano virtuoso? Ask around school or advertise your services at the local shops. Be sure to write out a résumé of your skills and provide references.

If you are the physical type, you may be able to get seasonal work coaching kids in your chosen sport. There are many expat sporting organizations around Beijing – or wherever you happen to live.

Pet sitting or dog walking
Ask friends, family and neighbors if they need help with their pet. Especially great for kids missing their own pets at home.

Computer services
Perhaps you have computer software or programming abilities? Check with the many online websites that offer roles to young people. Make sure your parents check any opportunities thoroughly before you start work. You could also approach online information sites about writing work.

Summer Camps
Consider becoming a summer camp counselor. Many organizations are beginning to offer camps outside summer as well. Perfect timing for when kids are off school.

Creative types
If you’re a little crafty, consider making or baking cool items for sale at expat bazaars over the festive season. Donate part of your profits to charity.

Become a Gofer
Check with your school, your building complex, your parent’s workplace, to see if you could help out on weekends or complete simple tasks from home. Ask your local Embassy if it ever has odd jobs for local expat teens. These come up occasionally.

If all else fails, volunteer! Although it may not be paid work, the experience you can gain is enormous, not to mention the feel-good factor.

First published on the beijingkids website.

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