When it comes to getting real-world work experience in China, labor laws for young people are strict and viable options are limited. But that’s not to say there isn’t anything available.
One example of a potential young person employer is the neighborhood corner store. Though you might need to have a close relationship with the proprietor, over the years I’ve seen underage workers ringing up customers or sweeping dust from the stoops on numerous occasions. Here they would have the opportunity to learn about building a brand strategy, basic math, and even doing inventory. It could be a great place to start off, though there’s the risk of developing unhealthy eating habits through easy access to junk food. This would definitely happen to me if I was only an arm’s length away from Doritos or Magnum bars for any significant amount of time. So this job is not perfect.
If this option isn’t your bag of chips, then you can try the restaurant industry. This is also a cash-under-the-table sort of scenario, and you would need to have a solid contact in the restaurant business to get your teenager working. With this part-time gig, your child would get plenty of free time between filling up the vinegar jars to just sit at empty tables playing Candy Crush. Customer service experience is neither required nor even preferred at many restaurants in this city. It might conflict with the rigors of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum if they’re working the night shift, but at least they’ll be given healthier food options than those provided at many school cafeterias.
Neither of the first two options, unfortunately, would look solid on a college application, when that time rolls around. For this, your child would likely need to go corporate and spend their working hours slinging coffee, fighting uncooperative copy machines, and maybe even picking up dry cleaning for the boss man. They might also suffer verbal abuse getting hurled at them if any of these tasks are not done to perfection, which might subsequently scare them for life from ever wanting an office job again. Unlikely, yes, but also possible. I will neither confirm or deny whether this is the reason I never went into investment banking.
If none of these interest to you, we at beijingkids are always seeking young talented writers to work with. We love giving students the opportunity to be published in the magazine or in the blog, writing about things that truly interest them or that benefit the expat community. Not only could your child’s collaboration with us result in building up their Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) hours, which we hear can be a demanding requirement for IB, but it will also teach them how to convey their inner voice to the written page, which is a skill that many adults don’t possess…
This is the second year we’ve let students take over for an issue, and we are once again delighted with the results. It has been an immense pleasure getting to know everyone involved (even if a lot of the communication consists of emails begging for a final draft or high-res photos). Don’t think for one minute that the beijingkids team does this once a year so that we can get a month off from writing. This requires a lot of work and planning from every person involved.
Through giving young people the opportunity to experience the entire process of pitching, building, and eventually conquering a story, we feel like they will step away with a greater ability to tell a story or communicate their ideas, and this is something they will be able to put to use for their entire lives in almost any occupation. That’s our goal, and we hope that all of the participating students enjoyed this process and will continue to contribute in the future. For more info on how to get involved feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Photo: Fang Yifei
This article appeared on p3 of the beijingkids September 2018 Teen Takeover issue