By Zhang Yan
Increasingly maturing internet technology and urban residents’ growing demand for diversiform and specialized services in China in recent years have fostered a variety of new occupations that many people never would have imagined. These new and emerging professions not only create more opportunities in the job market, but also evidence the country’s great economic vigor and social creativity.
“I am a pet nutritionist and believe that pets need to eat healthy just like pet owners do,” declared Zhang Fuchen, a Beijing Foreign Studies University graduate who worked in a large state-owned enterprise before starting his own business in the pet industry. An animal lover since childhood, Zhang believes every owner wants to do their best to take care of their pets. He saw the opportunity when he observed how many people were willing to spend time and money on pets and how much difficulty they were having buying high-quality pet food in the Chinese market. After an intensive research of various pet food products, Zhang launched his own brand, “Pasture NZ.”
Pet nutritionists, vacation property consultants, e-sports coaches, child discipline instructors, sports therapists, fashion consultants, shared bikes maintainers, fashion models for online shops, trip planners and customized information editors are all among the titles that have emerged in the last two or three years in China as a result of consumers’ increasing demands for highly differentiated and personalized services.
“First you need to identify where your residency will be registered and where your personal records are kept after graduation,” advises Chen Lei to one of her clients. “If your employer helps solve these two problems, then you can sign a tripartite employment agreement. If not, you may consider a pre-employment contract or a twoway employment agreement.” Chen is a career consultant specializing in employment issues concerning recent graduates. She is running a workshop that has earned a good reputation among recent graduates in Beijing. Her shop also provides training courses such as mock interviews. “At first I was just answering students’ questions about job hunting and employment policies for graduates out of the goodness of my heart,” Chen revealed. “Then I realized the great market potential in this area, so now I work as a full-time career consultant.” She also admitted that starting a business brought hard times, but also a sense of fulfillment.
According to Long Yonghong, deputy director of the Institute of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Renmin University of China, the way the young generation in China sees career development is changing as new occupations spring up due to the development of a new economy in the country. “Economic transition requires new growth drivers and new business models, which nurtures a variety of new professions,” noted Long in an interview. “This is actually a good phenomenon because it gives people more diverse choices when they look for a job.”
Common assumptions would hold that new and emerging professions are insecure and hardly provide decent salaries. However, this is not the case.
Han Xiaoqing is a travel aficionado working as an online trip planner to provide solutions to travel-related issues ranging from route planning to hotel booking. Han is optimistic about her future income from this job. “With this type of customized service becoming more and more popular, trip planners like me will earn higher wages in the long run while continuing to enjoy flexible working hours,” she explained.
For many young women in China, becoming a fashion model for online shops is alluring. The advent of social media has helped a group of pretty girls attract sufficient attention on the internet. By posting pictures of themselves with fashionable clothing and distinctive makeup, they have won a large number of followers on such platforms as Weibo and WeChat. These internet celebrities, or wanghong in Chinese, then use their influence on social media to generate profits by hawking products on Taobao.com, China’s largest online shopping website.
He Xiaoxin was a salesclerk in a convenience shop before she became a fashion model for online shops. “I’m a newcomer to the business,” admitted He. “An old schoolmate recommended this job to me. She told me she could earn as much as tens of thousands of yuan a day, which made me very eager to become a wanghong.” Statistics show an average of 5,000 webcasts per day on Taobao.com and that a model tries on as many as 100 different suits of clothes a day during top sales season. Over 40 percent of viewers will visit the shops mentioned on a live webcast. According to 2018 Report on New Professions Practitioners in China, due to large market demand, the income of people who are engaged in new and emerging jobs has increased steadily and surpassed that of average whitecollar workers.
Old vs. New
For the younger generation in contemporary China, salary and security are no longer decisive factors in job hunting, but sometimes they are still confined by traditional ideas. Many young people who aspire for a new profession find family support hard to come by.
Liu Xuan was hired by a video production company as a content planner after graduation at a salary of over 10,000 yuan (US$1,480) a month, but he was still unable to earn recognition from his parents. “They believe working for a private company is not secure and urged me to take exams for civil service,” Liu complained. “My parents don’t know anything about the mobile internet and career paths in this industry, and they still cling to old-fashioned ideas about employment, so I just don’t know how to persuade them.”
The younger generation born after 1995 has started their careers as new blood in the workplace with a refreshing change of mentality. A recent survey showed that the most attractive occupations for this group of young people are internet influencer, voice actor, makeup artist, video game tester and role-playing game player, drastically different from the “ideal jobs” labeled by their parents such as civil servant, school teacher and state-owned enterprise worker. According to the survey, 46 percent of the interviewees born after 1995 wanted to start their own business in internet-related sectors such as cross-border e-commerce and We media, most of whom were graduates from Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
Driven by a strong sense of identity, practitioners in new and emerging occupations usually have a clear plan for their career development. The 2018 Report on New Professions Practitioners in China showed that 65.7 percent of the respondents engaged in new occupations expect to “grow into an industry leader or veteran,” while only 1.13 percent want to try something new. Passion, fun and freedom have become keywords for the younger generation in choosing a career path.
“Raising a child is like cultivating a plant,” commented Xu Li, a former media professional now employed as a child discipline instructor for families in crisis. “Different seeds will grow into different shapes and produce different flowers, and every child needs to be educated by a different approach.” She claims to have chosen the job out of pure love.
“The ongoing consumption upgrade in China features a transformation of the service industry from meeting customers’ basic, simple and common needs to satisfying their advanced, diverse and personalized requirements,” said Lu Ming, director of Center for China Development Studies at Fudan University. “The constantly growing internet economy has become a cradle for new professions, as the industry undergoes profound changes towards better quality, optimized structure and diversified growth drivers.”