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Graduates Now More Practical in Job Search
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Due to increasing employment pressures, China's university graduates are now taking a more practical and rational approach to finding that all-important first job. General services, urban administrative management and funeral industry positions, which most first-time job hunters used to shun, are growing in popularity because of competitive salaries, welfare benefits and promotion prospects, according to a Xinhua News Agency report on October 10.

Xiao Cao, a graduate of Shanghai Normal University who majored in biological sciences, went through a series of unsuccessful job interviews before finally deciding on becoming an "Ayi" at the university. "Ayi" is the Chinese term for a person, usually a woman, who is contracted to clean. Xiao Cao's daily work includes cleaning the dormitories, going on security patrol, student registration, and managing equipment maintenance. She is also in charge of organizing university publicity and social activities.

"I was hired because of my university experience. I used to be on the committee of the Communist Youth League and also served as assistant to the dormitory manager," Xiao Cao said, adding, "Dormitory management is my favorite aspect of the job and I am happy working with students."

Like Xiao Cao, four other graduates, with majors in administrative management, biology and chemistry, were employed by the General Service Group at Tongji University earlier this year. The group apparently has an established career development system in place. For example, the system provides free training for staff in management and skills development. Moreover, the promotion opportunities offered by the group are no different from those in large state-owned or private enterprises.

The funeral industry, a sector previously ignored by graduates, is becoming increasingly popular not least because of its competitive salaries and generous welfare benefits. "The monthly salary for a university graduate is between 5,000 and 8,000 yuan (US$633-1,012)," according to a Beijing funeral parlor employee.

Jiao Jin, who recently returned from Germany, now works in a funeral parlor in east Beijing suburb. According to Jiao, this is her first job. "I hoped to find a job in a foreign-funded or privately run Chinese company. I tried my best; surfing the Internet, sending résumés and going to job centers frequently. But it is not easy finding the ideal job. Still I hate to have to rely on my parents, so after weighing the pros and cons, I finally decided on this job in the funeral parlor."

According to Xinhua, Beijing's funeral industry has plans to employ five or six university graduates this year. Since publishing recruitment information on the Internet, the industry has received more than 500 résumés from students from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Nankai University and Renmin University of China, a quarter of the applications from postgraduates.

In Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, a funeral service center organized an event earlier this year, which attracted 178 university graduates who were vying for just 23 positions. "Interest was so low in the 1970s and 80s that we had to go to remote rural areas to recruit workers," according to a director of the center. "We didn't have any university graduates until 1999. But now, one vacancy attracts more than 20 applications. This is why we introduced an entrance test this year. The test comprises an oral and written exam."

Sociologists explain that university students have become more practical and rational in their job search. Key considerations for them are income, welfare, promotion and career development opportunities.

Yu Hai, a professor in social development and public policy from Fudan University, said that it is not at all surprising that university graduates are now more open to the so-called grassroots jobs. It reflects the severe employment challenges facing China as well as a change in mindset that "university graduates equal elites".

Gu Jun, a professor of sociology also from Fudan, said that "maintaining a low profile" when seeking a job is the best option for university graduates. Grassroots jobs seem not to be worth mentioning, but they have great development potential. He said: "Under the current crunch employment circumstances, university graduates must open their minds to options and have a clear idea of their future development goals.

"Starting with a basic-level job that is suitable in most respects, one can still achieve his or her goal step by step."

( by Li Jingrong October 12, 2006)

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