So, You Want A Green Job? Think Chinese

As stated in a previous post, Chinese companies in the alternative energy business are opening offices and factories in the U.S. in a push to sell their products and services under their own brand names. And so far it seems to be working. Suntech is one of the biggest solar vendors in the U.S.

So what does that mean for you? A new wave of employers. Just as once-unfamiliar Japanese conglomerates like Sony, Hitachi, Honda and Toyota began to open offices up in the U.S. in the late 60s and early 70s and South Korean conglomerates started recruiting U.S. execs to fill their gleaming suites in the 80s, Chinese companies will likely do the same. I've traveled to China a few times and interviewed a number of executives at Chinese companies.

I'm by no means an expert on Sino-U.S. relations, but I've picked up a few pointers on the office culture and work habits. Some things to remember:

• The importance of college cannot be overemphasized. The two-day National College Entrance Exam, or gaokao, is one of the biggest moments in life for Chinese kids. 10 million take the test and around 60 percent pass, but only a few thousand get into the elite schools like Tsinghua University, a gateway to connections and the good life. The country comes to a standstill. "It is a very, very narrow door," explained one executive.
You might want to keep that story about getting arrested for stealing sorority composites at Arizona State to yourself.

• No matter what, your co-workers will always have better hard luck stories. I once asked Linux entrepreneur Liu Bo where he got the drive to succeed. Working 20 hours a day at age 15 on a collective farm during the Cultural Revolution, he replied.

"The two years of hardship taught me to face difficulties," he said. "What could be worse?"

• Unity is an illusion. The Beijing Olympics gave the impression of a nation harmonized toward a single goal. If you want conformity, lifetime employment, loyalty and unity, look toward Japan and Korea. Chinese companies in a lot of ways operate like Silicon Valley ones: speaking out, standing out and spinning off to form your own venture are not frowned upon.

• Optimism reigns. This is the first time in centuries in China that tomorrow will probably be better than today. There's an infectious sense of can do-ism at many companies: I wasn't alive in the 1930s and 1940s, but you see the same attitude in Americans who lived back then.

• Don't get crazy with salary requests. Chinese companies will pay Europeans and U.S. execs more than they do Chinese counterparts, but wacky compensation isn't part of the plan, particularly before an IPO. Before it went public in 2005, Trina Solar paid a group of four executives 128,000.

And no one had a severance deal.

But you'll get hear some great coming of age stories.