My Placement Year in China 2020

This year has been tough for most people, including placement students. Sadly some were not able to continue their placements when the pandemic struck, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t achieve a great deal and develop their knowledge and skills.

One student who was able to continue working was BA Business & Management student, Junyi Xiao. Junyi is currently working at Lincoln Associates, a recruitment agency in China. Here is his story about what happened when the Covid-19 crisis hit…

The virus didn’t influence my work life at first, the “social distancing” policy was announced at the beginning of the Chinese New Year Holiday. Everyone was expecting the crisis would be over by the end of the holiday, however, the pandemic hadn’t been ceased. On the 14th of February, we started to work from home.

Lincoln is a recruitment agency for senior or executive positions.  Normally we would not only contact a person for one position, but also try to build an intimate relationship with them because a talent today could be a client tomorrow, and vice versa. To achieve the goal, we will meet a talent multiple times in person. But during the crisis, this is impossible. 

To solve the problem, we used video meetings instead. Microsoft Teams was selected. However, it wasn’t a popular option in China (Cisco and Skype are more popular). Some funny incidents happened: one of my talent’s face was blurred by the Microsoft Team for the entire meeting. To avoid this kind of incident happening again, I wrote very detailed instructions to guide the talent on how to use Teams. The result was positive: our talents were happy with the instruction, which left them a good first impression of me and Lincoln. The video meetings were also going well: People were happy to see someone from professional, exchange ideas about the current situation and future career paths during the crisis. It is not as ideal as a face-to-face meeting, but it worked well.

“One of my talent’s face was blurred by the Microsoft Team for the entire meeting…”

Talking to people is one of the main parts of the daily routine for me as a recruitment consultant.  But during the period, I needed to expand a claim and a positive attitude to my talents. Most of my talents are salespeople and plant managers, they are the groups the pandemic affected the most, when I called them, almost every one of them had a negative prediction for the job market in upcoming months. They were more open to talk, but less willing to change their job.

I comforted my talents by sharing our client’s countermeasures with them, as well as a plan against the virus and upcoming recession. Employees will work remotely and get free protection; one of my clients believes it is the best chance for recruitment so they opened more positions.  This gave them another view and I got good feedback and useful inside information from my talents. Besides they were surprised by the fact that we were still thinking of them during the shutdown. The relationship Lincoln is pursing was built even faster and more efficiently than normal.

“I got good feedback and useful inside information from my talents…”

We worked remotely for 15 days. I feel more efficient working at home: I saved time and energy spent on commuting, so I had a better work-life balance.  

There are two main differences between the remote working life and normal working life. One is: We spent more time talking to one talent. The reasons are talents had more time and willingness to talk than normal. Also, we needed to spend more time on “ice TT-bread” and “warm talk” with one talent before “business conversation”.

The second difference is: Internally we launched more training sessions. It was good to have these during the time because it made me feel we are still working together, and improves our professional skills.

We went back to normal working life on 1st March.  Nothing particularly changed for granted. However, we are required to wear a mask all the time, so the employer provides a free mask per day. People are still holding back when comes the face-to-face meetings, but in the recent 2 weeks the number reached to a half pre-crisis level, showing a good sign.

One unexpected and surprising backlash is, most of the international companies are suffering the influence of the pandemic which they didn’t have during the shutdown, leading to global cost-down strategy. We lost some assignments because of this. The reason is, during the shutdown in China, their headquarters were running normally. Now the whole world is suffering from Covid-19, and shutdown is taking place in most of the world. The MNCs in China need to support their headquarters and other subsidiaries out of China with extra resources.

Junyi Xiao

BA Business & Management student, Henley Business School