Job fairs in South Korea – What you need to know

That’s me, feeling excited but somewhat lost at my first Korean Job Fair at COEX.

As soon as you land in Korea, you are likely to meet with commentary on how difficult it is to secure a job here, for foreigners and Koreans alike. So while you may start out with a feeling of cheery enthusiasm about your job prospects, this quickly changes to nervous edginess at the mere mention of job-hunting, internships and visas, as the ‘toughness’ of your situation seems to grow heavier with each coffee meeting, or casual chat at a networking event.

But now and then a glimmer of hope appears. Success stories, such as that of Scott Walker and Desi Cochrane, are out there. The main question is of course how best to go about securing such an opportunity for yourself – particularly when it comes to companies that don’t necessarily feature jobs on easily accessible platforms, such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

Job Fairs, of which Seoul has plenty, are a great resource to utilise as, firstly, they give you access to new companies you may never have heard of, and secondly, they are an effective way to make an in-person impression with recruiters and stand out from the crowd.

For me, the word-of-mouth was my entryway into the realm of Korean Job Fairs. For those who didn’t study here, there is no email newsletter or campus poster to guide you – but luckily, having a network within the Australia-Korea space is an effective way of filling these gaps. Since I was job-hunting in Korea, I reached out to an old friend through LinkedIn to ask for general advice about opportunities in the country. As he used to work for KOTRA back in Sydney, he recommended that I check out an annual KOTRA Job Fair for Foreign-Invested Companies – which was taking place the next day – talk about a close call!

Now, having spent several months in Seoul and with three Job Fairs behind me, it’s a good opportunity to share some insights into firstly, how to get Job Fairs onto your radar and, secondly, on what to expect when you go there.

Part A – Honing your radar

If you’re a student, you can likely hear about upcoming Job Fairs from your university. However, since not all job fairs are student-focused, it’s still worth keeping an eye out on the COEX event calendar or regularly searching ‘jobs fairs’ on the website in case there is an event that suits your background. Additionally, KINTEX is another major convention centre that is good to have on your radar, along with the annual International Organisations and MICE Job Fair that takes place in Incheon– this job fair is trickly to track, but it’s worth searching for 2020 announcements around August/ September to see if a date for next year has been set.

Once again, I was lucky to find out about it by contacting a UN representative via LinkedIn and asking for her advice on opportunities in the NGO sector – so a similar strategy could work for getting insider tips on other events and opportunities. For STEM-focused conventions, the MICE website event calendar provides some useful tips.  

International Organizations and MICE Job Fair 2019 (1-2) and a typical sitting area found in the centre of most Job Fairs, photo from COEX (3).

Part B – Job fairs in action

Once you’ve managed to find out an upcoming Job Fair – what’s next? Although Korean Job Fairs typically have an online registration system, you can also turn up on the day and register by filling out your details at a special on-the-day registration desk. Sometimes the questions may be in Korean, but you can usually ask someone to help you out if you aren’t sure of your language skills yet, so this part is relatively simple.

Language, however, is often a key hurdle to overcome in these job fairs – as even those targeting international students may have company names written purely in Korean and company introductions (that you get in a handy book they hand out at registration) also alternate between bilingual and Korean versions. Nevertheless, if you have a grasp of basic Korean skills or manage to bring a local friend along to help you out, you can quickly scan the handbook to check which companies are hiring for particular roles, nationalities and visa requirements. Usually, I start by scanning through the book, circling key information and folding the pages of relevant companies. Then, depending on the Job fair format, you can either walk directly up to company stall (numbers are listed in the handbook) or go to an information stall to pre-register for interviews at specific times.

Now apart from providing a chance to speak to HR staff of different companies at these mini-interviews, Korean Job Fairs tend to offer some other interesting services. For instance, you can get a free professional photo to add to your CV (given that Korean CV’s typically require a photo). Another one of my favourite Job Fair regulars is the ‘make-over’ booth where you can get a style consultation, with some booths offering specialised advice on wardrobe colours that best suit your look and even a make-over (including make-up and hairstyling).

Interested in detailed tips on Korean CV-writing? Check out this Asia Options article.

Photo and make-over booths (1-2) and a stress ball, clearly aimed to remind job-seekers to stay positive (3).

Additionally to these somewhat unusual options, you can also get CV and Cover letter advice from special booths and there are usually printing stations for printing out your CV. While all this may seem overwhelming at first, remember to enjoy the experience and embrace it as a chance to jump in and build-up your Korean network by interacting with fellow job-seekers and company representatives alike!

Need help landing a Korean visa? Go beyond the obscurity and get the low-down here.

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