When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Modesty, humility, and self-control trump self-promotion
When dealing with a culture where self-promotion culture is nonexistent, and modesty, humility, and self-control are valued more in the workplace, creating a space for putting yourself, the individual, on a pedestal, goes entirely against the current. In fact, Harvard Business Review published a few articles about the topic of self-promotion in workplaces where self-promotion is foreign.
These articles highlight the importance of tuning your communication, patience, and ultimately compromise. The fact is, the Western concept of self-promotion in the Chinese setting creates a sense of inauthenticity, distrust, and only weaken you and your peers’ Guanxi.
To work hard, study well, and develop your relationships, to have strong advocates for you behind-the-scenes, are your avenues to success.
When looking at the Chinese cultural environment, LinkedIn and the Chinese workplace stand in polar opposition .
Guanxi dominates job-seeking avenues
While having your parents ask their college friend’s brother-in-law about openings in their company might seem strange in the West, in China, reaching out to your secondary or tertiary network is a regular occurrence.
This speaks to the concept of Guanxi, 关系, which could be literally interpreted as relationships, or network. While it’s undeniable that your network and relationships with people are critically important anywhere in the world, Guanxi has much deeper and intimate connotations.
As China has had a much less robust governing and legal system until recently, Chinese people relied on and still rely on developing Guanxi as the most direct means to ensure safety, responsibility, and at its core, trust.
When it comes to job-seeking functions, Guanxi dictates the vast majority of opportunities. While universities, especially for students in tech, have started to hold career fairs and on-campus recruiting, most students rely on their parents to put them in touch with the best opportunities. Especially as family holds a much larger context and significance in Chinese culture, Guanxi, more often than not, is the avenue to career advancement.
In today’s China, where career development and advancement is a behind-the-scenes affair, joining a platform to publicly declare your job-seeking status can be more a path to being looked down upon, than a key to open doors.