Don’t listen to your parents: about internships

‘I’ve got an offer for an internship, I’m not sure if I should take it’, you will ask. You’ve called or emailed your parents back home to ask for advice, because you are young and fresh into the Real World and are not sure what to do about any one aspect of your life. This is fine and normal.

Parents being parents, will advise you: ‘yes, go on you should take it, it will look good on your CV and shows willing’, because parents (bless them) live in something of a dreamworld, in which optimism and hard-work are still pillars of ‘what they think they should teach their children’. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

The advice itself, however, is wrong. In Shanghai.

In Shanghai, an internship may not be the best thing for you.

Note that I am saying may, because (1) there are ‘real’ internships out there – these pay at least 5000 RMB a month and have other real benefits, and (2) there will be someone out there who thinks that I am protesting his or her very own company internship, because childish people always take things personally.


Most internships are tricky, near-slave-labour deals that are offered by companies that want to get people to do stuff for free.

And therein lies the issue. In Shanghai, it is not difficult to earn money, either for a specific skill, or even without one.

If you have any skill at all, then you should be able to blag and manoeuvre yourself into a paying position.

Finding work in Shanghai is very often a case of meeting enough people here, and then finding the right person that co-incidentally is looking for the skills that you have. You should read more about this in the ‘meeting people’ section in the tag-cloud on the right.

And, note that the simple act of ‘meeting people’ itself will in no way guarantee any form of job or such. You just need to be yourself, be smart and decent and you can make things work for you.

The other aspect to the issue of earning money here is that even without a skill, you can teach English. I’m not criticising anyone that teaches English – far from it!

But the simple fact is that teaching English in Shanghai with a payment of at the very least 15,000 RMB a month full-time is a real possibility for people who do not even have specific TEFL certificates or such.

The only reason why this could be a problem for some people is if they don’t want to tell random strangers that they meet on Yongkang Road that they ‘teach English’, because it has a stigma for those lacking in confidence, and those who dream of having a business card with a name and job title on it, no matter the job may be worse or for less money.

It shouldn’t be any stigma, if it is the smartest thing to do. And moreover, you don’t need to define yourself by that one job – you can still spend other time doing the ‘real’ and ‘good’ things that are on your mind, be it charity volunteering or somehow setting up something else for yourself in Shanghai.

The reality of some internships

In some, you will be working for a company — a commercial enterprise that does everything it does in order to make money — and helping them make money by providing your time and skills.

To do this for free, simply on the blind hope that ‘random future employer’ actually reads your CV and then values your internship, is a long-shot.

Other opportunities

For all the time that you are slogging it away in an office, surrounded by people that are doing the same amount of work as you (or less) and getting paid for it, you could be volunteering with a real charity in China.

This is just one possibility and remember, this is a devil’s advocate look at the situation

Again, this isn’t persuading anyone to do anything, but certainly more consideration should be taken if ever taking an unpaid role, because you may be used just so that someone else can make more real money from your work, and then spend that money drinking on Yongkang Road while they feel like the entrepreneurial King or Queen that you wish to feel like.


Tags: , , ,

Categories: Expat Life, Work


Foreigner in Shanghai


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: