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Go East, Young Man

It’s not every day your CEO takes you out for lunch. Nor is it every day you meet the Consulate-General, work on a live advert for MacDonald’s, or contact and meet CFOs at investment banks with the hope of lining up a multi-million dollar IPO listing contract. Neither is it every day that you do an internship in Shanghai or Beijing.

Internship: the word is on the lips of many a university student. Barely a generation ago, the word meant virtually nothing. In fact, the concept is so new that the Swedish don’t even have a word for it yet – and that’s from the country that brought the world IKEA, H&M and Volvo.

Nowadays, the word internship is everywhere.  However, the state of the global economy has brought an unforeseen thinning of domestic opportunities for students and graduates. As a case in point, according to Law Gazzette, there are 1000 applications for 70 student internship positions with law firm Addleshaw Goddard – a firm not even considered to be within the “Magic Circle” group.

In recent years, competition for domestic internships and jobs has been utterly fierce, and as a result students and graduates are looking abroad for opportunities. One such country these young heads are turning to is China, the country many commentators are describing as ‘exciting’, ‘dynamic’ and the crucially important to understand, culturally, economically and politically. Such will be China’s dominance in the near future that we will all be doing business there. Knowledge of China, and its business and cultural environments will therefore be a much sought after quality amongst employers. The number of students and graduates looking to gain such experience is consequently on the rise – something that does not surprise Laura Joyce, the UK General Manager for China consultancy and recruitment specialists, CRCC Asia.

CRCC Asia’s pioneering China Internship Program has been designed to act as a stepping stone to allow all participants to go on and successfully launch their chosen careers at home, in China, or elsewhere. CRCC Asia have led the way from the beginning, and remain the UK’s leading provider, helping 1500 students and graduates to experience such opportunities this year alone. “Internships have been going global for the past few years” said Laura. “This is by no means a bad thing, nor is it unexpected. The growing trend has been driven by students and graduates looking to combine travel with ‘stand out from the crowd’ professional work experience. For this, the obvious place to go is China.”

Suzanne Woodman, a 2011 CRCC Asia intern now working at Towers Watson as an Investment Analyst, echoes such thoughts saying of her experiences that “interning in China proved to be an invaluable experience as it gave me the opportunity to gain an insight into the vibrant culture and business life in China. It also makes a great talking point especially at interviews, as people are very much interested in hearing about your first hand experience of such a dynamic business environment.”

With Chinese companies prizing Western education, photocopying is the last thing the intern is asked to do; they are usually given a greater level of responsibility in their professional work experience than they could hope to have in the UK. “You are definitely thrown in at the deep end,” exclaimed Marketing and Advertising student Hannah Clark who interned in the Beijing office of an international communications agency, “but that makes for a great experience and you learn a lot in a short time.”

The opportunities available to young graduates in China are plentiful for those that venture East. CRCC Asia are proud that 30% of their interns are offered a full-time position in China after their internship. The internship experiences many have had caused CRCC Asia alumni to re-think their career trajectory. Since her internship in China, Emma Whenham – now a trainee solicitor at a “Magic Circle” London Law Firm – told CRCC Asia that “as a result of my experiences, I have been inspired to take secondment opportunities in China with my current firm and to focus my career towards Asia in the long-term.”

With such fierce competition for internships in the UK, and the East able to provide the opportunities students want, the old adage “go west, young man” may well need to be rethought.

For further information on CRCC Asia’s China Internship Program, please visit www.crccasia.com/internships

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