Like teenagers anywhere else, Beijing teens want their own money to spend and save. However, the chances of getting a part-time job here are pretty low if you don’t speak Mandarin. But some students have found ways to make it work anyway. Recently, I talked with two Grade 10 classmates (both 16) from the Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) about their part-time jobs and how they manage their money.
First, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Cate Hooton: My name is Cate Hooton and I’m Australian. My part-time job is babysitting and I’ve lived in Beijing for two and a half years.
Missa Nguyen: My name is Missa Nguyen and I am from Vietnam. I work as a dog walker and I have been in Beijing for four years.
What motivated you to acquire a job?
CH: First of all, the need for money. Second, to gain experience that I can put on resumes and that will help me later in life.
MN: I was motivated by my cousin. She told me she had wanted to visit a friend in Italy for a while but she did not have enough money to do so. Therefore, she decided to find a job when she was 16. She worked eight hours every day during the summer to save money for a ticket. By the end of the summer, she was able to buy herself a ticket to Italy.
Could you describe the process you went through to find your job?
CH: Well, I didn’t really apply for a job. I found it mainly through my mum because I babysit her friend’s kids. So the process was basically just meeting them and showing them how I would look after their kids.
MN: My job was not very hard to find because I know the employer; she was my teacher in ninth grade. At that time, she was looking for people who could take care of her dogs. She preferred people who lived close to the Indigo area and I did.
Describe the challenges you faced as a non-Mandarin speaking teenager trying to find a job in Beijing.
CH: There weren’t many challenges for me because the families I look after are typically Australian, so that eliminated the language barrier.
MN: I don’t speak Mandarin fluently, therefore people did not want to hire me.
What are your work hours?
CH: Usually, I work once every two weeks but its really depends on the parents and when they want to go out without their kids. I mostly work on Saturdays or Fridays from around 6pm to midnight.
MN: Usually I work once or twice a week for about an hour.
How much do you get paid?
CH: It really varies depending on how long the parents aren’t home, but my going rate is about RMB 50 per hour.
MN: The cost for an hour is RMB 60.
What are the benefits of having a job in Beijing as a teenager?
CH: Personally, I think the experience of having a job this young is beneficial for the future, even if it’s just a small part-time job.
MN: I think it’s great that I’m making money on my own and not depending on my parents.
What are the difficulties of having a job in Beijing?
CH: Time. Having to factor in school hours, homework hours, family hours, and now working hours takes a lot out of my own free time. But I guess it is worth it in the end and there’s no real bad thing about it. As for not speaking Mandarin, for me it’s not an issue but I can see how that would be a big disadvantage if I had to babysit local Chinese kids.
MN: Communication is a difficulty. It’s very difficult to communicate with people when we don’t share a common language. I definitely faced this problem until my teacher hired me.
What do you love most about your job?
CH: The money, of course. And it’s also fun to spend time with kids because it’s all just fun and games. You don’t really have to dress up for an office or try to make a good impression.
MN: I love that I have the ability to work independently and take care of dogs.
Would you recommend other teenagers to search for employment in Beijing?
CH: Yes, the experience and earning your own money is really great. And it’s not too hard; you can find connections through your parents and local community.
MN: Yes, if you know people through which you can get a job without the disadvantage of a language barrier then having a job would be a good experience.
Nikita Gupta is currently an intern at beijingkids. Nikita moved to Beijing two years ago from Seattle, Washington. She is a grade 10 student at Western Academy of Beijing. She is passionate about writing and loves to read and play guitar.
Photo: Courtesy of skirtpr (Flickr)