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Language barrier
Question :

Hi Career Doc,

I am currently in my penultimate year in HKU and would like to seek some advice about my career path! Having studied in an international school from primary to secondary education, my Chinese (esp my reading and writing) is extremely poor. I am looking into grad jobs already but realize how important Chinese has become. (Truly regret it now!) Do you think taking a year off, upon grad, to study in China?? Any advice would greatly help! Thank you!

Posted by Joanne on Thursday, 10 May 2012

Comments :

Sidney Yuen - Career Doctor

Posted Wednesday 11th July 2012 10:04:00 PM


Dear Joanne There is no doubt that having the competency in the Chinese language will be advantageous in launching a job unless you do not have anything to do with China. I heard a speaker at one of the analysts’ meetings recently, he said, if you don’t have a China strategy; you don’t have a strategy. This statement underpins the importance of doing business in China. With your case, there are a number of options; you can take a year off, to study in China or you can find a job that would give you opportunity to practice your Chinese. Some other ideas for your to consider are; mingle more with your Chinese friends, volunteer on projects which require reading and writing Chinese, find a mentor who can give you coaching on the Chinese culture and spend time to travel to various cities in China, nurture a daily habit of reading Chinese newspaper etc.. However, the most important of all, like anything else, you must have the interest on the subject, or you won’t be good at it. Having said that, I am not saying this is a silver bullet. You may be good at writing, reading and speaking Chinese fluently, this may still get you nowhere if you do not have the skills, knowledge and attitude required to perform on the job that you applied. I would suggest that you take a holistic look at what you would like to do upon your graduation. What type of work would excite you? What are your goals and motivation? How would you stand out from the crowd? And try to answer this question in less than 30 seconds: Why should they hire you? Remember, the interviewer is not really interested in you, she is interested on how you could help them. So be brief and get their attention right away as you don’t usually get a second chance. Your body language, the way you dress and speak, the words you use will be critical to success in launching your first job. Good luck!


Posted Saturday 19th May 2012 10:04:00 PM


I have just returned to Hong Kong for a few weeks now, after finishing my degree abroad. I'm facing the exact same problem! Job hunting - just keep turning up vacancy after vacancy that requires competency in the Chinese language. Otherwise great job fits seem wasted by not meeting that criteria ... I'm currently learning Cantonese on my own, while looking for handful of opportunities that do come up.