Online social networks are changing Chinese professional culture—simply sending out resumes to get a job is inadequate. Compared to Americans, young Chinese spend more time networking and leverage social sites to find jobs. Recruiters are active participants in this trend. As a Shanghai-based employer says: “I don’t even call people anymore.” Instead of waiting for resumes that may contain dull business mug-shots, employers look at applicants’ social profiles, chatting to ones they find interesting and learn about their business and leisure time and maybe, if lucky, get a rough idea of their personality.
Over the past couple decades, we have been told over and over again that the most important sources for job information are weak ties—in other words, acquaintances. But now we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of the tools and platforms available to us. It’s more information than we can ever take in, and we have a vast number of connections with people—connections that are often very vague and shallow. So knowing how to make the most of online networks has become increasingly difficult, even as it has become more important.
Today, we pack more computing power in our pocket than it took to get to the moon, and we can send a message to anyone in the world in less than a second. We’re overloaded with information, and as a consequence, many of us feel more anxious, more distracted and less productive. Why? “Unlike computers, we do not have limitless storage nor do we have unlimited time”, writes Julia Hobsbawm in her book Fully Connected. As a social network analyst, she says that people today are struggling with over-connectedness and are searching for meaning. People need to look more closely at what she calls “social health”.
Some introverts dread small talk and trying to get to know strangers. But like it or not, networking is necessary. Research has found that regions with higher numbers of contacts per capita were more resilient to economic shocks during the Great Recession. Today, as we embrace all the advances in communication–with more online discussion and less face time–questions over the efficiency of online networking are being raised. Yet the trend is irreversible, and what we need to do is find out a useful role for this new way of networking .
After several decades when most Western governments inclined toward freer and more global trade, the mood seems to be changing. In the US, the presidential candidates have agreed on little but the need to keep a closer eye on trade agreements. In the United Kingdom, the new Prime minister, Theresa May, seems determined to fulfill the British public’s wish to leave the European Union, despite the fact that the pound sterling sank recently to a 168-year low. Skepticism over trade deals seems likely to remain a stubborn presence in most of the mature economies, so what should Chinese companies do to react?
Since early 2015, 47 Chinese companies have received combined offers of $43 billion in funding from private equity houses and Chinese internet giants to delist from American exchanges and make a run for the domestic stock markets. So far 14 of them have delisted and none of them have managed to complete the journey and re-emerge on a Chinese exchange. The sudden desire to rush for the exit represents a swift reversal of a quarter-of a-century flow of Chinese companies to the West. It is the result of two factors: poor performance of many Chinese companies on western exchanges, and the much higher valuations that companies can command in China.
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