Quinny Chan is associate director at Michael Page Hong Kong.
What job could I do with fluent Putonghua skills?
As an American who has been working in Hong Kong for nearly 10 years, I’ve long been fascinated by Chinese culture and even started Mandarin lessons a year ago. I’ve reached a point where I am deciding whether to keep doing it as a hobby, or really dive into learning the language with an aim to it being a part of my professional life in the next couple of years. What sort of jobs could a non-Cantonese-speaking Westerner who speaks fluent Mandarin do in Hong Kong?
For dynamic people like yourself who are willing to adapt to new cultures, there are a lot of possible options in the professional space. The first step I would recommend is for you to assess your key skill sets, work experience and expertise. This will be a good gauge of your strengths and how you can better market yourself.
You might also consider candidly evaluating your current Mandarin skills. Taking Mandarin classes in Hong Kong might not be sufficient if you want to reach a proficient level. This is because in Hong Kong, the main languages used are still primarily English and Cantonese, so there are limited opportunities to practice.
If you are determined to master the language, you can consider relocating to mainland China for a period of time. There you can truly immerse yourself in Chinese culture and be surrounded by more native Mandarin speakers.
If you can polish up your Mandarin proficiency, you can be a very good bridge between Chinese and Western corporate cultures. A number of global firms who want to expand their businesses to China often establish themselves in Hong Kong first. Someone like you, with unique experience in both cultures combined with bilingual abilities, could be a valuable asset to a lot of businesses.
On the flip side, Chinese conglomerates are rapidly expanding their overseas footprint. At the moment, a lot of Chinese enterprises are going global and they are looking for someone to represent them in the international market. This is another good opportunity to join a Chinese company and support their expansion plans. This will require a high level of spoken and literacy skills in Mandarin.
In addition, you will also need to be aware of the cultural difference and ready to adapt to a new style of communication and problem-solving. This can be a challenge for some, or a really interesting experience for others. This is entirely dependent on your career aspiration, attitude, and appetite to learn and develop effective communication skills.
Alternatively, you can also look outside the corporate world and set up your own consultancy by leveraging your professional knowledge and business network. For instance, expats wanting to settle down in China will require professional advice on things like business etiquette, adapting to a new culture and communication skills. Another option is to partner with corporations on translation and training projects which are relevant to your expertise.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as What job could I do with fluent Putonghua skills?