Out of the tiger's mouth and into the wolf's den
Getting fired and hired in China's ruthless job market
March and April are known as China’s hiring season, or ‘golden March, silver April’, 金三银四 jīnsān yínsì, in Chinese.
But as we learned last week, China’s Internet giants have been laying off tens of thousands of employees since the beginning of March.
At a time when ambitious young professionals and graduates would normally be looking for better roles, China’s job market is under pressure (Sina, Chinese):
From the cold winter in the education sector since the implementation of the ‘Double Reduction Policy’, to the wave of layoffs in the Internet sector, and with the massive fall in China stocks since March, the job market in China, like the stock markets, has been on a roller coaster ride.
MaiMai 脉脉 is China’s main career and social-networking platform. Top discussion topics at the moment are all about hiring season:
Alibaba’s layoffs are called ‘delivering talent into society’, and Bilibili layoffs are described as ‘graduations’. Many users on Maimai jokingly say that China’s ‘hiring season’ should be called its ‘graduation season’.
But there are still opportunities. One area of growth is Chinese tech firms going global, or 出海 chū hǎi. Companies like Tencent and Tik Tok are hiring aggressively for overseas roles.
‘Going global’ has become one of the few areas that companies continue to invest in. Some users have told us that we shouldn’t be fooled by how bad things are for the tech firms in China; overseas these companies are still hiring like crazy.
So this week we follow conversations about getting fired and then hired in China’s tech sector.
Use this link to claim a one-month free trial of the membership to access the audio newsletter, additional reading, downloads, the full archive and more:
***In the recommendations section at the end you can put your name forward for a free language coaching session.
1. The Favourite Five
leverage, take advantage of
秦浩把自己能匹配上的岗位都投了一遍，并将能用到的内推人脉“薅”了一遍 - Qin Hao sent in CV for any roles that med his abilities. He also used all his contacts to help with referrals.
Note: 薅 hāo normally means get a good discount or deal, here it’s used to mean use for your own benefit (first discussed in 6 November newsletter last year)
滑铁卢 huá tiě lú
Waterloo moment, total failure
在出海早期，由于海外基建不成熟，电商渗透率低，海外用户没有网购习惯以及支付信任差等因素，大多数的出海公司都遭遇过滑铁卢 - In the early days of going overseas, due to the immature overseas infrastructure, low e-commerce penetration rate, lack of online shopping habits of overseas users and low trust in online payments, most of the overseas companies were met with failure.
Background: a reference to the battle fo Waterloo. It’s evolved into Chinese Internet slang to mean ‘total failure’. First discussed in 25 December newsletter last year.
管中窥豹 guǎnzhōng kuībào
seeing a leopard through a tube; seeing only a part of the whole; or inferring the whole from only seeing a part (meaning depends on context)
招聘虽然只是大厂出海的冰山一角，但已经足够让用户管中窥豹 - Although hiring is just seen as the tip of the iceberg for big tech firms going overseas, it’s enough for users to get the idea of what’s going on.
Note: often said in combination with the more common idiom, 可见一斑 kějiàn yībān, meaning being able to visualise the whole through only seeing a small part.
折戟沉沙 zhé jǐ chén shā
a broken halberd sinking into the sand; suffer a crushing defeat
快手沉沙折戟的原因，在一定程度上也是很多互联网公司出海屡屡不利的因由：快手盲目复制了国内互联网发展早期「烧钱换流量」的策略，但是却忽视了国际化过程中必不可少的「用户教育」和「内容搭建」- The reason why Kuaishou suffered a crushing defeat in the US was, to a certain extent, similar to why many Chinese Internet companies have repeatedly failed as they go global: Kuaishou blindly copied its domestic strategy of 'burning cash in exchange for web traffic', but it overlooked the essential part of going global, which is to educate users and to build the right content.
Recommendation: read more about the dramatic story behind this idiom in SupChina’s phrase of the week
刚离虎口，又入狼窝 gāng lí hǔkǒu yòu rù láng wō
straight from the tiger’s mouth, and into the wolf’s den
今年找工作难的是，不知道下一个工作到底适不适合自己，怕“刚离虎口又入狼窝” - The most difficult thing about looking for a new job this year is that it’s unclear if new opportunities are going to suit me. I’m worried I’ll be going from one bad situation to one that’s pretty much as bad.
Note: similar in meaning to the English idiom, out of the fire and into the frying pan.
2. Consuming the Conversation
- lost; withered
别看眼下大厂看起来“蔫”了， 它们却在海外“招兵买马” - Although it looks like the big tech firms are suffering, they are hiring like crazy for overseas roles.
Note: 招兵买马 zhāobīng mǎimǎ - hiring soldiers and buying horses (first discussed on 22 January this year)
- throwing money away
这款曾经被快手给予厚望的短视频社交产品，从重金撒钱快速冲上北美下载榜第一 - This video sharing platform that Kuaishou had high hopes in hitting the top of the downloads charts in the US after heavy investment.
失宠 shī chǒng
- fall out of favour
以往，头顶大厂光环的人不但薪资溢价高，还可能是公司间争夺的对象，现在也失宠了 - Employees at the big tech firms once not only enjoyed high salaries, but were also the focus of fierce hiring competition between the companies. But now these people have lost their appeal.
Note: 溢价 yì jià - means to come at a premium or high price
炮灰 pào huī
- cannon fodder, collateral damage
互联网大厂很难有新机会，进小公司做项目担心成炮灰 - It’s hard to find new opportunities in the big companies any more. And in the small companies people are worried about the uncertainty of companies failing and them losing their jobs.
人马 rén mǎ
- people and horses; the team
简单来说，就是原班人马为主，海外招聘为辅 - Putting it simply, they tend to use the original team with support staff hired locally.
Note: usually not used on its own, as in this sentence, with 原班
干货 gān huò
- ‘dry product’, key take-away, critical point
要想从海外捞一杯羹，还是要有干货——只有同时具备这三点，才有站住脚的机会——对当地人的了解 + 实时更新的打法 + 出其不意的创新 - In order to gain a share of the market overseas, you have to have a compelling offer. This means having the following three characteristics in order to gain a foothold: understand the locals + continually update your approach + spectacular innovation.
挑大梁 tiāo dà liáng
- take on a big role; take the lead
他发现自己身处职业尴尬期，“不愿意做很基础的执行工作，又无法真正去大厂挑大梁” - He realised that he was in an awkward stage in his career, ‘not willing to do really basic tasks, but also not able to take on real responsibility’.
职业锚 zhíyè máo
- career anchor, core competency
在职场的不同阶段，职场人要始终围绕自己的“职业锚”进行积累和打磨，这其中涉及到本职技能、延伸技能和人脉积累 - At different stages of the career, professionals need to focus on building their core competencies by accumulating knowledge and resources, and refining their skills. This includes their occupational skills, extended skills and networks.
香饽饽 xiāng bō bo
- sweet pastry; someone or something popular
海外岗成招聘季的“香饽饽”？- Have overseas roles become the most sought after of the hiring season?
洪流滚滚 hóngliú gǔngǔn
- developing rapidly
互联网的发展如洪流滚滚向前，你我都被裹挟在其中 - With the rapid development of the Internet industry, people like you and I have been caught up in it.
Related: 势如破竹 shìrú pòzhú - aggressive or rapid development (discussed on 7 August last year)
甚嚣尘上 shènxiāo chénshàng
- widespread gossip or speculation about something (negative)
大厂的「收缩战略」却显而易见——从去年第三季度财报大厂集体哭穷，到年后裁员的声音甚嚣尘上 - The strategy of big tech companies contracting their workforces is clear to see. Since last year when their Q3 reports were published, the performance has been very bad. And after Chinese New Year the news of layoffs was everywhere.
乱中求稳 luànzhōng qiúwěn
- seeking stability in chaos
她认为，对自己保持信心是最重要的，要“乱中求稳” - She believes that the most important thing is to stay confident, and be able to stay calm during this time of instability.
Note: an adaptation of the idiom 乱中取静 luàn zhōng qǔ jìng - finding peace in chaos
风平浪静 fēngpíng làngjìng
- calm with nothing much happening
职场的安全感从来不是因为你一直在风平浪静的水域里游泳，而是要在风暴到来之前，练就在不同水域游泳的硬核能力 - A sense of security in your career does not come from staying in your comfort zone, and swimming in safe waters; it comes from preparing yourself for whatever challenges may come up - having the hard skills to swim in any kind of water.
Note: 波涛汹涌 bōtāo xiōngyǒng - roaring waves, choppy - lots happening (opposite meaning)
一应百应 yīyīng bǎiyìng
- one size fits all
出海不是一帆风顺的，国内互联网的那套打法也不算一应百应的，最典型的反面案例就是快手 - It’s not a smooth process entering international markets. And the approach to winning in the China market is not necessarily the right way to do things overseas. The best example of that is Kuaishou in the US.
Note: similar in meaning to 一刀切 yīdāoqiē, also translated as ‘one size fits all’. Although the latter is used in a critical way, whereas 一应百应 can be used positively.
以不变应万变 yǐ bù biàn yìng wàn biàn
- cope with changing events by sticking to the same principle
经过此次最冷“金三银四”，不少HR和求职者意识到，职场没有神话，变化才是永恒，拥有“以不变应万变”的思维，才是职场人破局的关键 - After this slowest hiring season, many HR professionals and job applicants have realised there is no mythical way to always win. Change is the constant, and the critical way to succeed is by sticking to the same principles no matter what changes come your way.
高维打低维 gāo wéi dǎ dī wéi
- a high-level strategy to solve a low-level problem
进军广阔的低渗透率的海外市场，对国内的互联网大厂来说，是典型的高维打低维，符合孙正义的「时间机器理论」- Chinese Internet companies entering the huge but low penetration overseas markets is a classic example using a high-level strategy to address a easy problem. This fits with the approach of the ‘Time Machine Theory’ of Masayoshi Son.
Related: 降维打击 jiàng wéi dǎjí - similar meaning to above
This week’s vocab, example sentences, print-outs and downloads are all available in the member site. This week’s audio newsletter is already live - with added reading practice, and a fantastic Du Mu poem.
Use this link to claim a one-month free trial of the membership to access the audio newsletter archive and give the full membership experience a go:
Grab a free language coaching session
Are you struggling with taking your Chinese language skills to the next level? Stuck in the latest ‘plateaux’? Can’t get your head around long sentences or tones? Frustrated with working with your teacher?
Perhaps I can help…
I’m thinking about starting to offer language coaching sessions. So I thought I’d do a few freebees to see how it goes.
If you’re interested, and you think I might be able to help, please fill in your details in this short survey.
It takes less than two minutes to complete.
The coaching session will be totally free of charge, 1-1 via Zoom, around 30-45 minutes long, and an opportunity for me to understand your learning challenges and hopefully offer some helpful tips.
I have limited time so can only take on five sessions. Ideally your level should be at intermediate and above.
The deadline for filling out the form is end of the day Monday 11 April.
Look forward to hearing from you!
Finally, don’t forget this week’s and all previous vocab are already uploaded onto Hack Chinese.
That’s it for this week.
ps - if you enjoyed this newsletter please do share with your networks and on your social channels!