Both here on Asia Options and at AustCham Korea, Scott Walker is an iconic name within the Australia-Korea space! Formerly AustCham Korea’s youngest Board Member (Director), Scott’s transition from student living off $900 a month to Tourist Australia’s Korea Country Manager can be an inspiration to many young professionals.
Asia Options had the pleasure of catching up with with Scott in Tokyo to see what he has been up to after leaving Seoul, having spent 11 years in Korea. Read on to see how his Korea experience enabled him to transition into Singapore and most recently Japan, as MLA’s Regional Manager.
Language Opens the Door
“There will always be opportunities for Australians who speak Korean, and vice versa”.Scott Walker
Several years after beginnning his Korean language study in high school, Scott flew to Korea to pursue a Master’s Degree at Yonsei University. He hoped to reach fluency in Korean and eventually build a career in the Australia-Korea space. Although at the time there were considerably less scholarship opportunities compared to now, Scott was able to secure a Korean Government Scholarship, which included 1 year of language study and 2 years of postgraduate study at Yonsei University. In addition to enjoying the South Korean student lifestyle, Scott made the most of his time at university by securing an internship to complete alongside his studies.
Scott was able to position himself as a sought-after young talent (read: job opps!) in Seoul by leveraging his knowledge of Australia, the tourism industry, and his command of the Korean language.
“It was Korean language fluency that opened the doors for me, particularly in cases where other candidates didn’t have the same advantage”.Scott Walker
Additionally, Korean fluency helped bypass the language barrier when working with Korean colleagues, and later, managing Korean teams. This of course meant Scott could work more efficiently in his environment. Just think of all the time saved on translating documents and phone conversations between colleagues and business partners!
Leveraging Your Mentor Networks
As Scott emphasised during our chat, while language opens many doors, it’s not the only critical factor in a recipe for success! While your own abilities and hard work lay the foundations of any career, Scott believes building up a network of mentors is equally critical.
“Before taking on a new role, it’s helpful to debrief with people who’ve had the same position. I try to organise debriefs every few weeks, as a new role can be quite overwhelming and it also creates a feeling of comradery with fellow expats.”Scott Walker
Unlike Emily Hallams, whose work experience in the small Japanese city of Kamaishi led her to primarily turn to Japanese mentors, Scott recommends finding a range of mentors, especially in the expat community across a range of industries. If you secure a role for an Australian company in Asia, it is likely that your expat predecessors are best positioned to share insights on the unique challenges of managing local teams as a foreigner, as well as general tips for life abroad.
“When working across markets and in different countries you will regularly face new challenges, and typically there is already someone else who has faced and overcome a similar challenge. While in some cases the insights will come from your locally engaged staff, establishing an expat network is critical to round out your resource base.”Scott Walker
Growing Your Korean Circles Abroad
While Scott was initially worried that leaving Korea would mean losing the advantages of his local network, he quickly found the reverse to be true. Not only was he able to link up with fellow Korea ‘old-timers’ abroad, meeting new people with Korea experience quickly proved a swift way to build a rapport!
“The barriers that you overcome while living and working in Korea create a strong sense of comradery amongst the businessmen that worked there – building a sort of brother/sisterhood based on these common experiences.”Scott Walker
Leveraging this existing network of seasoned experts proved an important source of advice and practical know-how for taking on new roles and exploring new markets. If you are looking to build up your network, AustCham and Austrade are both valuable in different ways. AustCham can offer you quick access to the Australian community abroad, while Austrade is useful for arranging professional introductions with local government officials or business representatives.
Of course, online platforms such as LinkedIn are equally important for digital networking, particularly during the current COVID-19 situation. However, especially in an Asian context, cold-emailing or cold-LinkedIn messaging can rarely be substituted for true interpersonal relationship-building. Scott also recommends asking your existing network of mentors or colleagues for internal introductions to other key figures in the industry.
“Mostly, I leverage the professional circle that I built in Korea and spread out my network from there.”Scott Walker
If you end up studying, interning, or working abroad, make sure to connect with the local AustCham team, or even reach out to our Asia Options correspondents in the region. We would love to meet up, so go ahead and put some of Scott’s networking advice into action!
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