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August 14, 2009

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Hong Kong students grasp mainland chances

MAK Kam Fung, a sophomore from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, is very satisfied with his working days at the China Life Insurance Co after he just finished a six-week internship in Shanghai.

The energetic and optimistic young quantitative finance major is excited about finding himself well-prepared for career possibilities on the Chinese mainland.

"Working on the mainland is a challenging task for many Hong Kong students, not only because of the language barrier, but also of the working culture and social environment," Mak says.

"However, gaining practical working experiences in Shanghai enables me to have a competitive advantage in job hunting and career development," he says. "It is almost a must for us, the new generation in Hong Kong, to learn more about the mainland."

Mak worked as a student trainee at the company. His major responsibility was to assist his supervisors in updating the database, conducting analysis and drawing conclusions.

However, his biggest challenge was a research report on Shanghai's insurance market.

"It was my first time participating in such big research which involves millions of data and information. Since I was not very familiar with the local insurance market, it took a great effort to catch up with those professional terms and the impulse of the market," Mak says.

"Nevertheless, by the time I completed the research, I had gained a deep insight into the insurance market in Shanghai, which is also my biggest achievement during the internship," he says.

Mak didn't find it difficult to adapt to life in Shanghai. The two places had a lot in common - lots of shopping malls, coffee shops and convenience stores - the same convenient lifestyle.

Mak says he was amazed at the number of new buildings under construction on both sides of the Huangpu River. He enjoyed walking along the old streets and strolling around People's Square.

Mak is one of 150-odd Hong Kong students who joined the "New Youth New World" 2009 Summer Internship Program organized by the Hong Kong United Youth Association, New World Development Co Ltd, the China Young Leaders Foundation and more than 10 other organizations.

It is a program for Hong Kong students to explore and gain valuable working experience in mainland cities such as Beijing, Dalian and Shanghai.

The participants, besides working in state-owned or Hong Kong-based corporations, also visited government departments, popular corporations and scenic spots.

"CEO Exchange Day," where students meet successful entrepreneurs and professionals, was one of the core activities. Through seminars and talks, students were able to learn from others' experiences.

"The financial tsunami indeed brings much difficulty in job hunting for fresh graduates in Hong Kong. There has been an increase in the youth unemployment rate," says Cheng Chi Kong, executive director of New World Development Co Ltd. "However, opportunities always come with a crisis. Fresh graduates, during this hard time, have to grasp every opportunity of learning and experience to enhance their competitiveness."

There are differences in having an internship in Hong Kong and on the mainland, Cheng says. The biggest one is the cultural difference.

Cultural difference

In terms of management and communication, a Western style is implemented in Hong Kong companies while a traditional one is the norm at mainland companies. People on the mainland enjoy building up relationships with counterparts while people in Hong Kong would rather be results-oriented.

"Different cultures in different regions do have their pros and cons," Cheng says. "Interns have to respect the culture in every region and learn to adapt."

Chu Wai Kit, a sophomore from the Chinese University of Hong Kong majoring in economics, found the biggest challenge during his internship at New World Department Store China Ltd's Shanghai headquarters is the local culture and the dialect.

"I love Shanghai because of the local culture and its fast-developing momentum. Shanghai is much larger than Hong Kong in terms of land and has more old buildings," Chu says. "I want to have my own business on the mainland. Knowing more about our motherland can benefit me in developing my business in the future. I want to make friends here and know more about the local culture."

The enterprises take the students seriously and treat them as valuable assets.

Take New World Development for example. A comprehensive training program is offered for every intern to assist them in adapting quickly to the new environment.

At New World Department Store's Shanghai headquarters, 20 internship posts were available in various departments such as marketing.

The interns got to handle projects in which they would have to meet clients, and would also be assigned to work as frontline sales staff.

"The interns are outstanding university students in Hong Kong. Their creative thinking always brings much insight to our colleagues," Cheng says. "Not only do the interns learn from our colleagues, but the colleagues also learn from them."

Ng Nga Wun is a senior student majoring in business administration and law at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at the Alpha Law Firm as a summer intern where she was involved in different areas of law, including dealing with commercial banking and property.

But what pleased her most was the opportunity to meet Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng and other government officials.

"It was really exciting to chat with government officials and exchange our views about the development of the city," Ng says. "I was highly impressed by the kindness and open-mindedness of the mayor. Even though it was just an hour-long meeting, we knew more about Shanghai and its future development. In fact, I never dreamed that I would have had such a 'heart-to-heart' talk with the mayor."

With a better understanding of the business world and the legal system on the Chinese mainland through living and working in Shanghai, Ng had her horizons broadened and formed insights toward her future career development.

Cheng, executive director of New World Development Co Ltd, advises fresh graduates to identify their value, strengths and weaknesses.

"Companies would like to hire those who can add value to the company, and someone who knows who he or she is," Cheng says. "Never look down on every job you are offered. Do not expect to get hold of your dream job at your very first attempt.

"When you have tried nothing, you never know what is good for you and what suits you best. Grasp every opportunity you have," Cheng concludes.


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