What are the job prospects for Mandarin speakers? And how do I get into the film business?

The future's Mandarin

Q. I am considering going to China for a year to teach English and learn Mandarin. Assuming that, on my return, I am fluent, which jobs would be available in both the private and public sectors? I am currently a graduate in the financial sector.

A. Mandarin is at an interesting stage of development - there's a lot of expectation about how big a language it will become, but of course it is starting from a low base. CILT, the National Centre for Languages, recently did a survey of job opportunities and turned up 14 requiring Mandarin - and 624 French. Nonetheless it is certain there will be an increase in jobs as Chinese is set to become one of the top business languages. Teresa Tinsley, assistant director at CILT, expects there to be a real growth in tutoring and teaching in your area, finance, and in IT, engineering and publishing. And obviously in government departments and other organisations dealing with China. The best way of learning a language is to immerse yourself in it by going to the country - but you are unlikely to be fluent after a year, certainly not in reading and writing. This may not matter as there will be a spectrum of competence required. Some jobs will be for native speakers only, some will be for those who have a competence at a lower level, and some, as one can see from job ads, will go to those who understand the culture but may need to work with interpreters. Mandarin will be a big plus point on job application forms but it will also be a useful language to have if you are bent on being more entrepreneurial.

Creative licence

Q. I have worked for six years in data analysis and research, but have a passion for music and film and have just enrolled on a film course. I am seeking a job - maybe in production management - that would enable me to use my creativity as well as my organisational skills. I guess I might have to start at the bottom. I have also studied marketing.

A. It's good you have realistic expectations - any area where more people want jobs than there are jobs available is tough. And it's true that if you want to move into production management you'd probably be looking at working your way up through assistant directing, through the production office, or through production management roles in TV or advertising. If this is the way you want to move, start by exploiting the contacts available to you now. But you need to be canny in using skills you already have to move you into areas where a more creative role might be possible, or where you feel your existing skills are at least deployed more creatively. You could combine your need to be creative and use your data analysis skills in media sales and forecasting, and don't forget less immediately obvious ideas like project managing for an interactive media company. Look at www.skillset.org, the careers and training site for the industry, and you'll see that in the section on job hunting (where employers say what they are looking for in an applicant) an interactive media company boss actually mentions shortages of precisely the skills you have. It's going to take time and patience to ferret out the role you want in the media maze, but you may find it, certainly at first, by building on those things you already know you are good at, rather than radically shifting direction.

Careers advisers: Andy Jackson, head of C2, The Careers Group, University of London; Siobhan Hamilton-Phillips, managing director, Career Psychology.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk