中国日报网 2014-11-26 08:16





When college graduates go for the 'road less taken', it could be the entrepreneurial spirit or aninvoluntary choice.


About a dozen years ago, Lu Buxuan shocked the nation when it was discovered he was a graduate of Peking University. He was a butcher. "How can someone with such an enviableeducation end up in such an unenviable position?" people asked.


Lu considers himself a failure. "I have dragged down the image of my alma mater," helaments. "I'm the prime example of what my alums should not be."


A few years later, Chen Sheng, another Peking University graduate, gave up his coveted jobas a public servant and got into butchering. In just two years he had grown to have 200 chainstores with an annual revenue of 200 million yuan ($32.6 million; 26 million euros).


Granted, both Lu and Chen are outliers with career trajectories utterly unrepresentative of youngsters out of top schools. They are supposed to climb up the bureaucratic, business,academic or professional ladders. Sure, selling pork and other meat products counts as abusiness, but it ranks very low in the minds of most Chinese.


In the old days, one would need a little knowledge of arithmetic to operate a butcher shop, and nowadays that little skill has been taken over by the calculator, if not the automaticvending machine. So, you can be virtually illiterate and still be a competent butcher - not theproprietor though. In fact, the occupation of butcher is often used as an illustration in classicnovels of brute force or absence of brainpower.


Generally, young Chinese come under the pressure of two forces while making careerchoices: One is pragmatism, meaning whatever job fetches the highest salary and perks istouted by parents and the media alike; and the other is conventional mindset, which oftenoverlaps with the first consideration. Officialdom has always occupied the apex of the pedigree, and business much lower. To be of similar attraction, a position with a private business, for example, has to offer much more in compensation than a public servant's position.


About the only progress I have detected in job selection is in show business. Star entertainers of every era are accorded hefty pay packets, but the stigma that used to be associated withthe profession is now largely gone. Even starving artists and artistes would proudly say they are stars in waiting.


China's tradition of channeling the brightest into stable and respectable professions and away from entrepreneurship could be the effect of long-held discrimination against self-made men and women - unless one is big enough to grab headlines and turn into a household name a la Jack Ma. The fear and even stigma of striking out on one's own are not unfounded asentrepreneurship is notoriously risky. The rate of failure is extremely high, especially in the first few years, and you may never run out of challenges even if you are at the top of the game. You may say this is the same everywhere. But even had Bill Gates failed in turning Microsoft into a profitable business, I bet his father would not have nagged him for years about quitting Harvard. Now imagine what Chen Sheng would face if his plunge into private business, to use a Chinese analogy, had run into serious adversity.


The crux of the matter lies in public attitude toward small businesses, which, in turn, is largely determined by government policies and regulations in that area. Most entrepreneurs are not going to end up in the market position or wealth bracket of Ma or Gates. They may not evencome close to owning 200 chain stores. But in a small-business-friendly atmosphere theymight be able to earn a comfortable living for themselves and their families while providinggoods and services unaccounted for by big business. With the average starting salary for acollege graduate at just 3,378 yuan a month last year, that will be the fulcrum for a balance with tradition-ordained professions.


Reports in recent years highlight graduates from prestigious schools who for one reason oranother have forsaken the preferred career paths and taken adventures left and right. High-tech tends to be held in high regard whereas low-tech or no tech, such as selling groceries, is often sneered at. Sadly, the focus is ultimately results-oriented. "Say, there's this young manfrom Xi'an who craves his hometown snack so much that he gave up his job in the information industry and started his own snack stand. Now he is pulling in more than 10,000 yuan a day."


This kind of story usually ends with a venture capitalist stumbling upon the bright young man with the unusual dream and pouring money into his new venture. It is an ad hoc validation when there is no fortune worth billions to prove the merit of the youngster's initial step. The nostalgia for hometown food is such a literary flourish that it plays right into the feel-good sentiments of the readership, but may be of little relevance to a business equation.


Still, it is a subtle shift toward personal interests, which used to figure so insignificantly incareer choices. More young people want to turn their passion into vocation and, logically, if it's something they love, they will have a higher chance of succeeding.


When people talk about college graduates opening food stands, the customary lament is they have wasted what they have learned. But that is not necessarily true. A lot of the young get into college almost clueless about what they will like. Only belatedly do they discover their disciplines do not jibe well with the areas of their passion. Some may take years and explore different fields before they determine what they want to devote their life to, and some may never stop exploring. If you judge by how many of China's college graduates have to find jobs totally unrelated to their college majors, the waste is just a foregone conclusion.


Lu and Chen are very different cases. Lu wanted the conventional job, but could not get it. He has never been comfortable with the butcher's job. The farthest he has gone is to make do on grounds of legal propriety: "I did not steal or rob. It's an honest living. There's nothing to be ashamed of." But the traces of humiliation are everywhere. Chen, on the other hand, has the adventurous streak in his genes. For him, a job as a clerk, no matter how well it pays, is frustrating. Worldly and restless, he is cut out for the self-made job. He also says he is quite "dictatorial", which probably means he is not comfortable working as an employee. He has to be his own boss. The fact that he sells meat and produce is almost beside the point - a point not raised in the media reports anyway.

陆步轩和陈生是两个特例。陆步轩曾想要一份传统的工作,但没能找到中意的。他从未对屠夫这个工作感到舒心过。他做的做好的就是脚踏实地地做合法生意:“我不偷不抢,我这是靠诚信经营过日子。这没什么好感到羞耻的。” 但耻笑声到处都是。而另一个案例的情况却大不一样。陈生凭借着自己的聪明才智,在事业上一路高歌。对他而言,文员这种工作,无论薪酬多高,都是无聊至极的。世故且不安分的他辞去了工作,白手起家。他还说过,他很独断专行,这很可能意味着他不安于为人打工。他要做自己的老板。他去卖肉和农产品这件事几乎是次要的——但媒体也未曾报道过重要的那一点。

A dramatic detail surfaced when Chen hired Lu to be his "consultant". Obviously, Chen wanted to use Lu's "credentials" as the Peking University-educated butcher as a marketingtool. But I cannot imagine them as equal partners. They are such polar opposites in disposition and personality. About the only thing in common is their alma mater. With the economy growing at the speed it is, there will be more Chen Shengs who deviate from charted courses and fewer Lu Buxuans who get mired in humbling occupations because they have no choice.



(译者:linchln 编辑:丹妮)



















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