Job Hunting in Korea: A Process

I’ll begin by saying that whilst I am not actively looking for a job, I do keep my eye on several different sources and am a member of a couple of interesting mailing lists, so that if an opportunity should come up that piques my interest, I am ready to apply.

Two weeks ago, one such opportunity came up and so I spruced up my CV and portfolio, wrote a covering letter**, spell-checked, re-did the spell check changing all American English to British English (I really need to change the default on my dictionary) and sent out the email in the required format. Minutes later I received the ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you if you are successful for interview’ email (also known as the if-we-don’t-reply-it-is-because-you-suck) and patted myself on the back for getting it done 5 days before the application deadline. Then I wrote a list of questions that I had about the role, as the job description was either vague or lacking on certain basic points of information.  Later that evening I spoke to my mother – who, by the way,  I am pretty sure has implanted some sort of chip into my brain, because it isn’t normal for her to know EVERYTHING before I tell her – who said she had recently bought me a pretty ‘work’ dress and was planning on sending it to me irrespective of my non-working status so that I could wear it when I was feeling fancy. It seems however that both her and my confidence in my ability was somewhat misplaced as I am yet to hear back so can only assume that I wasn’t up to muster for the job at hand. Oh well. Time to focus on my secret-project-that-I-can’t-tell-you-any-more-about-and-really-must-stop-metioning-at-all.

EDIT: 03/03/2017: Apparently it isn’t unheard of for the process to take up to 6 months just to reach interview stage so I am told that I should learn to be more patient and not jump the gun. Sounds like an unlikely thing for me to do however I can but try **puts patient hat on and waits**

Of course, in the last two weeks I’ve had a couple of other interesting emails and messages as well – one I missed simply because I hadn’t switched on my UK phone in a while and the other two were more calls to make certain agencies aware of one’s existence as they host worldwide events and having a database of event producers around the globe is always a good thing, so let’s see what comes of these.

Anyway, for those who are actively looking for work here, a few things I have learnt. Of course, this is entirely dependent on your particular industry, skill set, years of experience and so on so proceed with a pinch of salt (by the way – Pink Himalyan Salt is now sold in both Homeplus and Emart. YAY).

Language and location are key factors in the job hunt. Even when a job description requires English, it is always English as a second language. Where this isn’t the case, several people I have spoken to have found that their lack of Hanguel means that they can’t even write a short covering email to which to attach their CV. I believe the area around Songdo is big in the bio-med/technology fields so perhaps you’ll have better luck if you are in those fields. It seems to me that there are many more opportunities in Seoul that would not require Hanguel but then comes the question of whether you want to make that commute daily (or twice weekly, or whatever) which is a matter of personal preference. There are some people who wouldn’t mind this, but after year of 4 hours roundtrip commuting in London, there is little that would make me want to do this again.

Another obstacle can be in finding the openings in the first place. There are, as I mentioned in a previous post, as few facebook groups that you can join to keep an eye on openings but I’m yet to be able to sign up to any local recruiters. IFEZ has a couple of initiatives in place to assist and in a couple of weeks, they are holding a workshop to help spouses network, provide information about the visa process (not such an issue for a GCF spouse any more) etc. The best source I have found is still LinkedIn. I’ve had a couple of people contact me through my LinkedIn Profile and one skype-interview progressed very well, until I had to turn down the role due to the vagueness surrounding my visa situation. Fortunately, that has now been cleared up and upon receiving a formal job offer, getting a work permit is easy-peasy-consider-it-done (so I’m told, I guess the reality still has to play out).

For the teachers amongst you, opportunities are more plentiful. There are plenty of Hagwons nearby and of course, Chadwick International. You can also do your TEFL or equivalent online in order to open this door to you. The one thing I have found is that when people are advertising for English Teachers, there is usually an overt preference for North American or Canadian accents, which puts paid to me applying. I don’t get why the Queen’s English would be eschewed for its less correct younger sibling (and a lifetime of Zee not Zed) but never mind.

Anyway, that’s me and the job search for now. To sum up: It is hard for most people to find work in Songdo and also in Korea in general. Make sure that you have that conversation with your partner before you make the decision to move here and keep expectations realistic. It is certainly possible to find a job out here but the process is going to require proactivity and perseverance so GOOD LUCK!

** OK. Here comes a bunch of personal opinion but this business of a covering letter for the events industry is HILARIOUS to me. In the UK, the events industry is a personal one, relying heavily on making contacts. Every job, whether permanent or freelance, that I have had has been because I’ve known someone who is hiring, or a friend of a friend was looking. In one instance, the interviewer knew a former teacher of mine and after giving me the usual chat about taking time to meet other candidates called me up on Monday morning – I had interviewed on Friday late afternoon – to offer me the job. When you work in events, you need to be personable because you will be dealing with clients, suppliers, colleagues and staff all in the space of 10 minutes. Yes, you need to write clearly and efficiently – I always follow up a phone call with an email detailing exactly what has been discussed and agreed…. what good would a 2ft square stage be when I need  12ft square to fit a band, backline etc – but in the first instance, you have to build a rapport with your production team. Once you get on site, if you can’t talk to the people you work with you are screwed. Anyway, as I said, that’s just my opinion and as I believe a picture is worth a thousand words, I always send a copy of my events portfolio (selected case studies) to convey the scope of things I have worked on. But that’s just me.  **

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