A Summer in Shanghai

Guest Post by: Catherine Yin is a Junior studying Finance and Human Resource Management while also on the Chinese CISB track. This Fall, Catherine is participating in an exchange at the Peking University Guanghua School of Management.

Interning in one of the biggest cities in China is certainly an unforgettable experience – for reference, I am a finance and HR management option and interned at a PR firm. PR is something that’s generally regarded negatively in the United States, a backstage operation that only gets attention when things go drastically wrong for a company. However, I have discovered that there is so much more to the job than one would think – and it’s actually quite interesting, albeit very busy. The interpretation of PR in China spans more than just emergency service; it also covers marketing, branding, and consulting services.

Within the short span of one month, I worked on projects for UNIQLO, Old Navy, luggage brand TUMI, Finnish rainwear Reima, NIKE x Alipay collaboration, and designer brands Corto Moltedo and Kering Eyewear. Every project assignment varies greatly from one another which means work is never boring. From seasonal fashion show planning, to finding celebrity endorsers, to first-step international market entry planning, to translating website and media content for release, each project has been a new learning experience. While there are general deadlines in place to move long-term projects along the timeline, there is very little day-to-day structure. I may be working on nothing for an entire day and suddenly be given an assignment at 6:00 pm that’s due the next morning. Working overtime is common to the point where you celebrate any day that you’re able to leave the office on-time.  For official employees, there was even greater freedom – you could arrive at the office at any time, as long as you complete a nine-hour workday. Most people showed up at 10:30 or 11:00 am and stayed until 7:30 or 8:00 pm.

Employee benefits were also extremely generous – every other Friday afternoon, the company would host an afternoon meal, or offer a massage event. On the first Monday of every month, coffee and breakfast would be provided.  Group leaders and managers could get reimbursement for cab transportation to and from the office every day. These are perks that I imagined only large firms could afford to offer. Hence, what came as a surprise was the extremely high turnover rate at the company – which I found out is just due to the nature of the job. The industry as a whole has a low retention rate. Within my first two weeks of working three employees quit and left. By the end of my 10-week internship, I had witnessed the departure of 9 employees, and the onboarding of 7 newcomers. HR seemed to be the smallest, yet busiest, department in the company, conducting interviews and exit interviews every day. 

From this experience, the differences in working environment and coworker interaction in China were much smaller than originally anticipated – we always hear that in different countries and firms, there would be large amounts of cultural differences, which I was fully prepared to encounter. A component of this is the company itself – younger, smaller, still-growing and lacking the restraints that you would encounter in some other corporations and industries. This internship, allowed me to immerse myself in a different professional environment, have a dedicated hands-on learning experience, build lasting connections, and gain insight on business operations in a foreign country. Interning abroad is definitely a valuable experience that I would highly recommend to every business student – you get to travel, have delicious eats, and build your resume all at once! What’s there not to like?