As a dynamic metropolis that dwarfs all other cities on the peninsular for size and political clout, Seoul has grown into a mecca for overseas government organisations and foreign companies expanding into the Korea market. However despite the intensity of trade and global cooperation gravitating to one of Asia’s biggest cities, Seoul remains a difficult city for foreigners pursuing non-teaching jobs.
The number of non-teaching jobs in Seoul open to expats are limited and the competition can be intense; especially from ethnic Koreans who grew up in the U.S or Canada. But there are a number of Australian organisations operating in Seoul and Asia Options sat down with Scott Walker from Tourism Australia to discuss job opportunities in Seoul.
Scott Walker is the Country Manager of Tourism Australia and remains the youngest ever Board Member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Seoul. Scott is also highly regarded within the Australian-Korean community for his Korean language proficiency and professionalism. With eight years of work experience in Seoul, including work with Blackmores, Austrade and Australia Education International, Scott offered the following tips for seizing employment opportunities.
1) Establish rapport with your Korean language professors
Korean language professors tend to hear about opportunities before you do and the more senior professors in particular, usually have experience in government or the private sector and tend to retain strong relationships with a wide range of organisations. Also when it comes to foreign hires, many organisations seek out Korean language professors in identifying foreign talent. You don’t necessarily have to be the best student in the class either, as professors generally recognise students who work hard and demonstrate commitment to their studies. It’s therefore important to go to class and be diligent as professors may be reluctant to recommend students who have failed to demonstrate a strong work ethic and reliability. This will also make the job of finding the right match for both the student and the potential employer simpler for the professor.
2) Attend job expo’s
Every year there are many companies in Seoul attending job expo’s and they are looking to hire. At the same time the sheer number of students attending the expo’s can be intimidating and overwhelming. There can be big lines for some companies and it’s very easy to feel out of place, but Scott reflects that at least five of his classmates attended the same expo as him and two months later they were each offered jobs. It therefore pays to be brave and to find a way to make yourself stand out at job expo’s, remembering that the companies are trying to find you as much as you are trying to find them.
3) Attend networking events
AustCham, Korea Australia Alumni (KAA) and the Australian New Zealand Association (ANZA) are excellent platforms for seeking professional contacts in the Australia-Korea business community. Attending one of their events will not immediately lead to a job offer but with patience and the nurturing of relationships it can certainly lead to future employment opportunities. Scott himself received a number of professional introductions and employment opportunities through regularly attending AustCham events and volunteering his time to assist at events before becoming a Board Member.
4) Improve your Korean language skills
Although in some jobs you won’t be called on to speak much Korean, your Korean language skills will definitely improve your employment opportunities and put you ahead of your competitors. Improving your Korean language credentials is important but academic achievement in this area may not necessarily translate to immediate job success, as language courses often lack opportunities for conversational improvement. It will be your ability to demonstrate and even impress employers with your conversational fluency that may be the key to improving your employment chances. Conversational fluency is also, sometimes, best nurtured outside the classroom.
5) Check online job websites
There are also number of online job portals for professionals seeking job opportunities in Seoul.
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