When in China, one quickly learns that despite all the rules, there are no rules.
The only thing that could hold you back is yourself. If you look past China’s often silly attempts at control and regulation and past your own perceived barriers, you may quickly find success. Yes, at this point, it’s so early that I’m definitely looking at things with rose-tinted glasses. I’m sure these very barriers do cause frustrations that end up limiting opportunities.
But this past week in China, I’ve witnessed the truth in what they say about how quickly you can rise in your career. Last year while studying in Shanghai, a panel of expats told us that a promotion in China takes a mere fraction of the time that it would take in the States.
The opportunity is indeed enormous. For expats, that is.
Interestingly enough, I’m not so sure that opportunity is the same for locals. I’m working alongside people who have been at the company for many years, something that’s increasingly less common in the U.S. Of the people I’ve met, all but one told me that they’ve been working there at least five years, with the most being 30. He’s the GM.
But that one person who has not worked for so many years was my hair and makeup artist today (yes, I somehow managed to fake my way into being a news anchor. On my second day. But more on that later). She had worked for a year, took several years off to travel in Asia and the U.S., and returned recently. Compared to everyone else I’d talked to, her path piqued my interest. I had so many questions for her but withheld asking how she could afford to travel like that and why she returned—I guess the most important ones.
Still, it was nice to meet a local who didn’t seem to feel trapped by a job. Maybe her boldness is like that of expats, who by definition must be bold to have moved to a less developed area. I like to think my boldness brought me to where I am today.
Today, I faked my way to being a news anchor. With hair, makeup, fake eyelashes—everything I’m not used to. It’s even more incredible because this is technically my second full day as an “intern,” and I’m not even officially starting until September.
I use “intern” loosely, because I’m literally doing most of the work, from copy editing to voice recording to screening in front of a camera and teleprompter.
Can you imagine someone with no broadcast experience stepping in front of a camera to read the news on day two in the U.S.?! Even on year two. Or better yet, do bad voice recordings that they would actually use on day one. What is life?
But that’s the opportunity in China for me that I’m seizing without hesitation. Yes, the nerves and inevitable mistakes are real, but how else will you advance if not from learning from your mistakes and overcoming fears?
So while it’s easy to feel restricted in a country like China, it’s not at all impossible to do what you want. Or in my case, things I never dreamed of doing but are invaluable.