The Invisible Handshake: Interpreting the Job-Seeking Communication of Foreign-Born Chinese in the U.S.
Degree Granting Department
Eric M. Eisenberg, Ph.D.
Kenneth N. Cissna, Ph.D.
Loyd S. Pettegrew, Ph.D.
Mariam Stamps, Ph.D.
Job mobility, Personal network, Intercultural communication, Weak tie, Guanxi
Building upon Granovetter’s well-known study of the job search behaviors of white males, this research extended the degree to which his findings apply across cultures to Chinese minorities, and across time to the Internet age. Using quantitative and qualitative data collected through systematic observation, questionnaire surveys, and in-depth interviews, this research investigated the impact of culture, Internet usage, gender and age on the communication patterns of foreign-born Chinese jobseekers in the U.S.
It is found that jobseekers adopt either one or a combination of traditional (printed publications and direct application), institutional (the Internet, job fairs, and employment agencies), and personal (personal network) approaches. Within the institutional approach, the Internet job search strategy is a rising preference among younger jobseekers. Through the personal approach, jobseekers enjoy four benefits of personal networks: information, trust building, position creation, and job market expansion. Across culture, guanxi, the Chinese version of the personal network is compared and contrasted with its American counterpart. Further, Granovetter’s argument about the strength of weak ties holds true in today’s Internet age. Job-leading weak ties are usually those infrequently contacted professional and social connections working in targeted organizations at the time of a job search.
Meanwhile, Chinese jobseekers mainly encounter six obstacles in the U.S.: racial discrimination, cultural obstacle, linguistic obstacle, insufficient network, immigration background, and an intercultural communication gap. Multiple regression results indicate that English proficiency, gender, and the degree of Westernization of the jobseekers’ origin are significantly associated with the extent to which each jobseeker encountered these obstacles. Qualitative data show that between American employers and Chinese jobseekers, there is an intercultural communication gap marked by four dimensions: directness-subtleness, aggressiveness-modesty, courtesy-command, and American-Chinese experiences.
Consequently, Chinese minorities are encouraged to develop English proficiency, a cross-ethnic personal network, and cultural multiphrenia for future job search success. Employers are recommended to acquire cultural sensitivity and to publicize job positions through multiple channels. In addition, topics for future research in global job mobility are suggested, and the limitations of this research are discussed.
Scholar Commons Citation
Gao, Hongmei, "The Invisible Handshake: Interpreting the Job-Seeking Communication of Foreign-Born Chinese in the U.S." (2005). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.