Meet the Team: Heather Millet

Heather Millet has lived in China since 2013 and has been working in education recruitment for the last 8 years. Here she talks about recruitment, freedom and her love of baby tomatoes.
July 15, 2022

1. What have been the biggest differences between your previous recruitment roles and your work with Explore CRS?

In the past when I was interviewing someone for a specific job, my responsibility was just to assess their fit. With Explore CRS my perspective is slightly altered. 

Now, when I speak to a person who is looking for a new teaching position, I can coach them on moving forward in a way that’s going to be positive for them.

That could include providing guidance on which position would be the best fit for them, or feedback on how they could improve their CV, or how they present themselves to a school.

Heather, pictured here with several shelves of books she would like to read.

Another big difference is that the people I am recruiting now are highly qualified experts in education. Many ESL teachers are often just starting out in education.

The teachers I work with now have been working for multiple years. These are people that are looking to make real steps in their careers.

2. What would you say to teachers who are thinking about leaving China?

It’s a really difficult question, as COVID has created a lot of unique scenarios both in China and all around the world. A lot of expats have been leaving, some of them impulsively. 

I know a lot of people who left even before the lockdowns and they are saying they wish they could come back. They miss the freedoms that they had here.

Sample of photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

When it comes to leaving China one thing I tell people is that you are only 24 to 48 hours from your home country, but it’s not so easy to return to China to start a new position once you leave. It can literally take months of paperwork and waiting. 

3. What do you mean by the freedoms that we enjoy here in China?

One of the reasons I’ve stayed in China so long is the feeling of safety. I can go out in the evening and walk around and talk to anybody I want to. I don’t have to be hyper consciousness about being out in the city at night. 

I don’t know if there’s anywhere else in the world as safe as China. A city like Shanghai is always alive, but it’s not a threatening space to be in at all.

Photo by Nghia Le on Pixabay

There is also a financial freedom about living in China. You have options in how you use your money. You can be careful and shop at the local small markets, cook your food, and save a lot. 

In my case, I paid off my American student loans, which is really difficult to do before the age of 45 or 50 for most people.

On the other hand, if you want to buy fancy products, eat some of the best food in the world and generally live large, you can do that as well.

4. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when you first came to China?

When I look back on myself in the first years, I think that I took small situations a bit too seriously. I could have chilled out more. I’ve been lost a hundred times. I’ve eaten the wrong food a hundred times. 

What was culturally frustrating first time around I’m now a lot more relaxed about. You need to learn what you can from the challenges you face and move on.

Heather has a vast network of friends strategically located in all corners of the earth

My other big piece of advice for anyone coming to China is: If you see something you want to eat, eat it now! Don’t think you’ll go back to that shop next week and it will be there still. It might be gone.

5. On the subject of groceries, imagine you have the whole supermarket to yourself. What’s the first thing that you put in your basket?

Tomatoes. During the lockdown that was the food item that I was missing the most. Big tomatoes, baby tomatoes, especially if I can pick them out one by one.

Photo by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash

One of the things I like about the fresh produce markets here is that you can pick up and look at every single thing that you are going to buy. I love tomatoes. I eat them like apples.

6. What do you enjoy the most about your role in Explore CRS?

I really enjoy connecting with schools as clients. We work with a wide range of different types of schools, and each has different curriculums, and different needs. 

Getting to know the culture of each school has really broadened my appreciation of the education landscape here in China.

The Explore CRS team celebrating the completion of the 2022 Shanghai Job Fair

Now, when I talk to a teacher, I can match his or her personality to the culture and needs of a particular school. It’s very satisfying when you are able to find that perfect match. 

It’s a great feeling to know you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life.