Related News

Home » Feature

Job snobs- Grads turn up their noses, turn down jobs

Despite the worsening jobs market, quite a few university grads are turning up their noses at rolling up their sleeves, leaving an office or working in the suburbs. Yao Minji toils on the tale.

Liu Dong, 23, has tried five jobs in the past year and none has been right for him, even in a tight job market. He has two more offers but doesn't intend to take them.

"I'm not an especially difficult person, but those jobs just don't suit me. I felt frustrated in those positions," says the student of Chinese literature who graduated last year from Shanghai University.

He sent out hundreds of resumes, says the only child who lives with his parents. He quit all five that he tried.

Liu is not alone. Jobs go a-begging, primarily in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing.

Despite the tight job market in the economic downturn, many new graduates or grads from last year turn down jobs that do not meet their expectations. Some require them to leave comfortable Shanghai and work in the suburbs, some are non-desk jobs that they (and their parents) consider beneath them. None pays the high salaries they have come to consider their due.

"They just want a comfortable job and pleasant lifestyle without thinking about why and how they can achieve it," says Gu Xiaoming, professor of history and culture at Fudan University.

"Rapid economic transformation and a highly developed society have made it possible for young people to insist on these values, since they don't have to support a family the way the old generation used to."

He says young people's reluctance to work is the result of rapid social transformation and says a new work ethic should be cultivated. Young people should believe, he says, "that work is beautiful."

But back to our tale of young Mr Liu.

His five brief jobs and job trainings included salesman of daily necessities, like toothpaste and sanitary pads, for a Fortune 500 company in Songjiang District; insurance agent for a small company in Shanghai; head of a small pharmacy in Hunan Province for a Shanghai-based state-owned company; assistant to manager in Zhejiang Province for a large toy maker; and receptionist for a Tokyo-based trading firm in Shanghai.

He fled two hours after arriving at the store selling personal care items "because it was just too embarrassing." Selling insurance was too tiring and income depended on his sales. He attended training for the pharmacy and toy maker but his parents forbade him from working far from home - despite the fact that both companies promised to transfer him back to Shanghai, with a promotion, in just one year.

Living standard

His longest tenure was three months as a receptionist and he says, "I was almost bored to death. I had to quit before I killed myself."

Each job paid from 2,400 yuan (US$350) to 4,000 yuan per month, but salary didn't matter since he lives at home and doesn't have to support himself. His parents don't push him.

"We are living at a time when the living standard has improved rapidly. Many people live increasingly more luxurious lives, which affects students too," says professor Gu.

The financial crisis and economic downturn caused dramatic contraction in China's job market. University graduates in 2009, and those from last year, face daunting prospects. Their situation is much discussed in the media.

This year, around 158,000 young people are expected to graduate from universities, colleges and vocational schools in Shanghai.

Only 70 percent of them are expected to find work, sign up for overseas studies, be accepted into graduate school or start their own business by the end of this month, according to Wang Xiping, director of the student affairs division of the Shanghai Education Commission.

The corresponding figure for last year was 77 percent.

By the end of May, only 48 percent of graduating seniors in Shanghai had signed a labor contract, according to Beijing-based HR research and consulting company, MyCOS HR Digital Information Co Ltd. That figure is higher than other cities - it's 40 percent in Beijing and 42 percent in Chongqing - but it still casts a shadow.

It's hard to get an accurate picture from statistics.

"We don't know which fields they entered and these students could sign up and quit in a week, or work for their friends and relatives," says 25-year-old Robert Shen, who is studying for his master's degree in sociology at Beijing University. He will graduate in a few days.

Shen has been actively searching for jobs since last November in both Beijing and Shanghai. Since he didn't land one, he lowered his expectations and looked at small companies. "They all turned me down without even seeing a resume," says the Shanghai native.

So the budding sociologist decided to study the situation of university grads looking for work. He was disappointed in the lack of statistics and carried out extensive interviews with students in Shanghai, Beijing and other cities.

About graduates turning down jobs, Shen says, "I can't say it's a big phenomenon, but I've run into a lot of situations like this during my interviews."

Many Shanghai or Beijing students are not willing to go off to other places, or to factories, even for just a short period, he says. They won't even work for a Fortune 500 company out of town. Out-of-town students have more initiative, but they too want to stay in cities, says Shen.

"It's a structural problem that statistics don't show," says Shen.

Many Shanghai students are too spoiled to work, says Felix Wang who has been trying to hire grads at his small creative advertising agency.

"We don't want any native Shanghai students from a first-tier university," says Wang who knows first-hand the frustrations of recruiting for a small company.

The 28-year-old creative director says he has been trying to hire two designers since last November, thinking many would naturally lower their salary requirements.

"I just wanted two designers, fresh design majors, diligent and nice," says Wang. "But look at me - six months later, I've got nobody."

It was great at first.

Wang received more than 100 resumes within a week after positions were posted last November. They selected 30 for the first-round interview, but only 20 showed up. Fifteen were chosen for the second round, but only 10 of them showed up, half of them late.

He called two to start working right away and put four on the wait list. Of the six, "only one showed up and she fled in three days without any explanation. She didn't show up on the fourth day and hung up on us when we called."

Ridiculous rates

It's just a regular advertising company, he says. "It's not like we are all monsters working here. It is a tough job, but isn't that what they should expect? Everyone wants to live comfortably, but that isn't realistic," says Wang.

He complains that the candidates "proposed ridiculous rates and had other requirements." Wang has been a creative director for four years and earns 12,000 yuan a month. He considers the monthly salary of 3,000-3,500 yuan quite reasonable for a starting designer.

More than half asked for more than 5,000, indicating that was the industry standard, and three of them wanted 20,000 and a separate office.

"I really wanted to shout at them, 'Even I don't make that much'!" says Wang who was outraged.

"How do they have the gall to demand that, keep hanging around with no job and reject a reasonable offer during a financial crisis like this?"

It's not just small companies like Wang's that have problems. Some multinationals that once were magnets are disappointed in the quality of applicants.

"We were surprised many excellent students turned down our offer involving training in the suburbs," says Lisa Zeng, who has worked in human resources for six years in a Fortune 500 food and beverage company.

Facing the financial crisis, her company reduced this year's recruitment quota and raised the standards. It also hoped to take advantage of the downturn to stock up on talent.

The company requires new recruits to go through a one-year training and rotate positions among suburban factories, frontline sales and administrative positions.

"This training used to be an option," says Zeng, "and those in the program were usually promoted faster because they were more familiar with all aspects of the company and more efficient in their work."

This year, the training was made mandatory but recruits were promised a salary increase after the one year.

"But we were surprised that many excellent students turned our offer down or tried to bargain with us for a lower salary in exchange for not going to training at all," she says.

They thought they should go straight to the front office.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend