Find an Internship in Asia — The Ultimate Guide

While still at University I landed a dream internship in Asia. In 6 steps I will share how you can also have the most memorable experience of your life.

During a sweaty summer morning, with one suitcase at hand, I found myself standing in the middle of a hyper busy intersection in Beijing. I flew 6,500 miles from Toronto. Lost, tired and sleep deprived. The journey started when a nice stranger suggested I hop on local transportation to get to my hotel from the airport.

“It will be cheaper than taking a taxi. Don’t worry just remember “Insert Crazy Chinese Characters here” and get off. You will find your way.” — Friendly Chinese-British dude I met on the airplane.

“Chaoyangmen”….”Chaoyangmen”…I kept repeating to myself.

Finally, I got off with the hotel address scribbled on a piece of paper.

The address didn’t have a floor number.

“Excuse me…which floor is the hotel on?” — I started asking every single Chinese person that I saw. No one knew English.

I took out my pen. On a piece of paper I drew a building. Windows. Floors.

Waving my hands in front of people passing by, I showed them the paper.

Finally, someone took my pen and wrote “25”.

This was a start to the craziest and most interesting chapter of my life. And I encourage you, to live through this kind of experience too.

Find an internship abroad. Go work somewhere you don’t understand the language or the culture. Not only will you learn skills, but you will also discover the world and people.

Here are 6 steps to finding the perfect summer internship in Asia.

1. Look for growing companies on industry blogs

The biggest hurdle to finding an internship in Asia is lack of knowledge about the region, the companies headquartered there and exactly what you want to do. So before you do your research ask yourself:

“What kind of companies, start-ups or not-for-profits am I interested in working for?”

“What industries and problems fascinate me?”

“What kind of things do I actually want to work on during the summer?”

“Which companies can provide an awesome learning opportunity?”

Reading business, start-ups and tech blogs can help you get a good grasp on the companies that are growing and need help. After a quick search I found — China’s Top 10 Tech Companies by Revenue —that all might be hiring interns to help expand operations. If you are into start-ups, 33 start-ups in Asia that caught our eye is a good start, together with India’s 30 highest funded tech start-ups of 2014.

Find promising companies on blogs in Asia:

This is just a tiny list. Get Googling!

Tip One: Keep a running list in excel of the companies that pop out at you. Do your research right away and find 2 people from each company that you can contact directly.

2. Look at international job boards and programs

Although some job boards are hit and miss, they are still a great place to start. If you don’t see a job you want, you can just look at the companies that are hiring and approach them directly.

Search through job boards offering global internships:

  • We Are HK Tech is a great list of start-ups looking to hire in Hong Kong
  • IAESTE offers internship placements for students in science, engineering, agriculture.
  • AIESEC.org helps you find life-changing experiences world wide, from volunteer to internship opportunities. They offer internship placements for marketing, sales, software development, engineering and much more.
  • Idealist.org is the perfect place to look if you want to work for a not-for-profit. Idealist has more than 2,000 internship opportunities worldwide.
  • Jobs.theguardian.com has both entry-level and senior-level jobs and is a great resource for companies hiring in Asia.
  • Jobs in Japan has everything from English teaching to IT jobs.
  • Gaijinpot.com is an English job board in Japan.
  • Kopra.org is an NGO offering a free internship database for positions in China, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, Japan and Taiwan. You can browse internships, register and apply free of charge for the internships listed.
  • Naukri.com is a huge database of jobs in India.
  • Hong Kong Recruit has thousands of job postings for Hong Kong
  • Job Street has job postings for Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Philippines.
  • AIESEC.org helps you find life-changing experiences world wide, from volunteer to internship opportunities. They offer internship placements for marketing, sales, software development, engineering and much more. You will have to build a profile on AISEC, wait to be matched with opportunities or search through their database.
  • GoOverseas.com has a variety of structured internship programs in Asia. Some of programs pay a salary while others you need to pay for. Always try to pick the programs that don’t make money from placements.
  • GoAbroad.com has thousands of international placements to choose from. Some of the programs you may have to pay for.
  • BangkokStartup.com is a leading blog in Thailand that also has a job section.
  • TheBeijinger.com has a classifieds section with employment opportunities. This is a great resource if you want to be an English teacher or a consultant in Beijing.
  • ForeignHR is a leading recruiter for foreign professionals in China and frequently posts opportunities in their “Internships in China” section.
  • CareerEngine.org is one of the best resources I found that offers a comprehensive list of jobs in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.
  • eChinacities.com focuses on jobs in China and even has a filter for non-teaching internships.
  • Kalibrr.com is a start-up with a focus on jobs in the Philippines.
  • Angel.co has thousands of job opportunities listed for start-ups around the world.
  • StartUpCollege has a targeted listing for ICT startups in Hong Kong.

Tip Two: Just because your dream internship is not listed it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Focus picking a few companies in specific industries. Ask for warm connections to people that work at these companies.

3. Find start-ups through incubators and co-working spaces

Looking through start-ups that are participating in incubators and accelerators will help you find your dream start-up experience in Asia. Many big and growing tech hubs such as Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai have co-working offices as well. You will find plenty of awesome companies working out of shared office spaces.

When you find a start-up that you are interested in — just reach out and explain what you can offer to the team. You can also reach out directly to the owners of the incubator, accelerator or co-working space as well. They will be able to forward your email to the right companies.

Incubators & Accelerators:

  • ChinaAccelerator is one of the best accelerators located in Dalian and Beijing. I had the pleasure of meeting the organizers during my internship.
  • Singapore Impact Hub is a lively community with a 9 month bootcamp for young entrepreneurs, an incubator, events, and community for social ventures.
  • The Joyful Frog Digital Incubator boasts as the #1 startup accelerator in Asia headquartered in Singapore.
  • Kickstart.ph is an investment firm helping startups in the Philippines. Have a look at their portfolio and contact them for an introduction to one of their startups!
  • ArdentCapital is another leading venture capital firm in SouthEast Asia.
  • Innovation Works was founded by the head of Google China in 2009 and is incubating over 50 startups that are now estimated to be worth over $600 million.
  • Nest has incubators in Hong Kong and Singapore with a focus on health care, wearables and finance.
  • AIA Accelerator is a 12-week programme for start-ups in the health care and wearables space.
  • VentureTec Accelerator focuses on connecting start-ups to corporations to build disruptive enterprise technology solutions.
  • Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Bangalore funds start-ups in India.
  • Open Network Lab is a Japanese incubator that pushes startups to succeed globally.

Tip Three: Connect directly with incubator organizers and ask them to forward your request to all of the start-ups. Also, reach out individually to each start-up that you are interested in.

4. Join global professional networks & communities

There are plenty of professional networks and communities outside of LinkedIn. All you have to do is be a little bit proactive. Join the communities, connect with professionals and find anyone and everyone that lives in Asia and that can connect you with a potential employer.

This is just a tiny list of all of the tech, professional and start-up communities:

  • #StartUp is a global community of start-ups and entrepreneurs on Slack. There is a great “introduce yourself” section. Go ahead and tell everyone what you are about and that you are looking to help out!
  • The Global Shapers Community is the World Economic Forum initiative, bringing together young students and professionals that want to change their communities and the world. Reach out and ask how you can help and if you can make any connecting in the Asia before you go.
  • StartUp Digest is a curated newsletter with news and events from start-up communities. Subscribe to all of the newsletters in Asia to learn more about events, companies and jobs. They even have a specific China Tech newsletter.
  • Focus Asia is another slack group for professionals in tech/start-ups in Asia. Again, join, introduce yourself and see who you can connect with.
  • InterNations hosts a bunch of events for expats from all around the world. Maybe you can reach out ahead of time and ask to be connected to the InterNation organizers in Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong and so on.
  • Lean In is a great community for women leaders, students and professionals worldwide. Just search for a circle in Asia and ask to join before you go there. For example, Beijing has 36 members and Singapore has 16 women in leadership.
  • AIESEC.org helps you find life-changing experiences world wide, from volunteer to internship opportunities. They offer internship placements for marketing, sales, software development, engineering and much more.
  • The Rotery Club of Beijing is super active unlike many other places in the world. It is a great group of professionals doing charity work around Beijing. They have many other chapters around Asia. If you reach out they are sure to help.

Tip Four: Participate in discussions and events of each community before asking people for help. First ask how you can contribute and reach out to volunteer your time to benefit the community.

5. Find companies through tech & innovation hubs

If you are interested in tech, check out the technology and science hubs in every major city in Asia. Below is a good list to get your started. Most of these “innovation parks” are home to big international companies like SAP, Honeywell, HP and Novartis. Make sure you look through the company directory of each hub.

Tip Five: If the company is international, find someone in your city that works for the same company. Make sure to establish a solid relationship with the company at home first and ask them to refer you to their division in Asia.

5. Contact companies with Global Internship Programs

Are you interested in a specific international company? Why not try to intern for them abroad? Your summer will be a lot exciting if you apply to an internship that encourages international placements.

Here are some of the world’s biggest companies that offer international internships:

  • JP Morgan Careers in Asia offer internships in Investment Banking, Sales & Trading, Asset Management, Finance, Human Resources, Operations.
  • Google has internships all around the world. For example, their Singapore office can be quite awesome.
  • BMW has a major office in Beijing, China and takes curious international interns every year.
  • Daimler offers and encourages students to take internships in their offices in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.
  • L’Oreal has a global opportunity program open to any European students and graduates.
  • IBM hires students from all around the world and places them internationally in all kinds of internships from software engineering to business development.

Tip Five: Don’t stop your search here. Almost every international company will offer global internship opportunities. Sometimes they may not exist, and you will have to create your own international internship through connections.

6. Connect with alumni from your University that work abroad

Every University has an alumni database, and an alumni relations department. Sometimes you have to be a bit more productive to get in contact with professionals that graduated from your school — but you absolutely should!

How to find the right alumni:

  1. Look through an alumni database at your school and search for alumni working in Asia.
  2. Connect with your career advisors or internship department and ask them to put you in touch with 2 alumni that work in Asia.
  3. Do you have any clubs or conferences about international business, entrepreneurship, global development or international markets? Get involved in these organizations and find other alumni that used to run or participate in these organizations when they were in school.
  4. Use LinkedIn. This one is a no brainer. Just search the name of your school and for people that work in Asia. Craft a catchy, personalized and short InMail. It’s even better if you ask a common connection to introduce you.
  5. Can’t connect over LinkedIn? Try to find the email address, twitter or facebook account of the alumni.

Connecting with alumni:

  • Do your research. Finding out the position and company your potential connection works at is not enough. Find out what your contact cares about, why they chose their career path and what they find interesting.
  • Find common interest and passions that you share with this person.
  • Only contact the person if you are genuinely interested in their career path and life. Prepare specific questions about the job, growth of the sector, problems in the industry and the future.
  • Do not ask general questions such as “What do you do day to day?” or “How did you get a job?” or “How do you like your job?” — be more creative and authentic.
  • Prepare to show how you already took steps in your life to embark on a similar career path to this person.
  • Do not ask for a job or another connection without making a solid friendship with this person first.

Here is how you can give back:

Asking for help is not always enough. You can give something in return even if you think you are not experienced or old enough.

Does this person have a blog? Do they write for publications or share any of their thoughts online?

  • Reach out and comment on their articles. Share their writing. In an email tell them how their opinions made you think differently. Ask more follow up questions on the topics that they write about.

Does this person have their own company, not-for-profit or side project? Can you find out about any projects this person helped push within their company?

  • People love to talk about things that they are passionate about. They also love to hear ideas to fuel creativity and out of the box thinking.
  • If they run a company, website or side project reach out with feedback. Don’t be afraid to mention “have you thought about doing this or that in XYZ way” or “here are some ways to make your XYZ better”
  • If they work part of a company, you can still make suggestions. If they are a brand manager on a popular brand you can provide some marketing insights. If they work as a product manager you can share ideas on how they can make their product better.

Did this person win any awards or where they mentioned in the press for any accomplishment?

  • Reach out and congratulate them on their accomplishment. If it is an award or research topic you aspire to be involved with some day, tell them how much you admire what they achieved.

Did this person participate in the same University clubs, organizations or conferences as you?

  • Reach out and update them on the club. Ask if they want to get involved in the club in anyway. People love hearing about their past involvements and how projects that they had influence on in the past are doing.

Email Example:

Hi David,

You graduated from XYZ University, where I am studying business right now. I’m also running the International Business conference that you used to be the Sponsorship Coordinator for. We started two new workshops this year, on top of the annual conference weekend.

The brand advertising that you are doing part of XYZ Corp. is awesome. Asia has such a unique landscape for marketing right now.

Do you have 15 minutes to chat this Thursday or Friday about your experience working in Asia?

I would love to learn more from you.

Helen

Tip Six: If the person you are trying to connect with doesn’t respond right away don’t take it personally. They don’t know you and everyone is super busy with full time jobs, kids, watching movies, whatever. Try to contact the person a few times over different mediums — LinkedIn, Twitter, email. This shows you actually care.

If you want to become part of an awesome network of leaders, entrepreneurs and professionals working all around the world apply to the Cansbridge Fellowship. This wonderful organization supported me through the process of finding an internship while I was at University. Even though the act of finding a job in Asia was my sole responsibility, the Fellowship provided an awesome network of alumni and a grant that covered living expenses.

Applications open up again October 2015! Apply!

If you have any questions about the program you can always reach out to me at angelina.fomina@gmail.com

I’ll help you do the work you love! Product Manager — Facebook, Oculus VR, Shopify.👇Free product management course www.productemailcourse.com

I’ll help you do the work you love! Product Manager — Facebook, Oculus VR, Shopify.👇Free product management course www.productemailcourse.com