There are many jobs in Korea for foreigners, but do other opportunities exist outside of the English education industry? The following are some conclusions we have drawn based on our own experiences and through networking with a wide variety of individuals in Korea — both foreigners and native Koreans. In no particular order, they are:
1. There are a wide range of opportunities in Korean job market for native English speakers in the teaching field.
Native English speakers who are willing to teach English or otherwise help Koreans improve their communication in English in a variety of venues (businesses/corporations, academies, schools) are in high demand. There are ads all over jobs boards on the internet and posters all over university campuses. There are availabilities for those looking to work their way up, but in terms of finding work outside of the education field in Korea, there are fewer options.
2. Personal networking is one of the only ways (read: the only way) for foreigners to achieve quality jobs outside of the education field in Korea.
The best jobs in Korea for foreigners, including those in the education field, are attained through your personal network. All but one of the individuals I know in Korea with university teaching jobs got them through a personal referral from a friend who already worked for the university. This goes double for non-teaching jobs: it;s all in who you know. Of course, this only applies to individuals who are not already uber-successul in their own right. Are you a sports star, Nobel scholar, or CEO of a well-known international company? Not to worry. Otherwise, get networking!
3. Korean companies, in general, don’t hire foreigners to do jobs that any local university graduate could do with the same amount of knowledge.
If the Korean companies do end up hiring a foreigner, which is highly unlikely, the salary is likely to be quite low. Don’t expect to find job listings for English-speakings programmers, sales assistants, or marketers. Most of these types of positions are generally entry-level anyway.
4. Don’t expect foreign companies in Korea to be an easier path to success in the Korean job market.
Foreign-owned companies in Korea tend to have a wider range of job titles and hire more staff for outside-of-the-norm positions, but there are only a handful of such companies in Korea. Even so, these companies tend to hire local Korean staff, especially for technical jobs, and your chances of securing a job in one of these companies may be limited to management roles.
5. It’s possible to overcome any of these obstacles by utilizing a long-term approach to success.
Many individuals wanting to relocate overseas may look for opportunities in the short term, becoming discouraged when opportunities are not readily available. However, you may wish to consider getting your foot in the door by teaching English or taking a entry-level job and then networking, obtaining local references and building up your connections. You could also focus on learning the language to increase your chances for success in larger corporations, and use your language skills to meet new and interesting individuals what you otherwise may not have been able to communicate with.
Jobs in Korea for foreigners are hard to come by outside the sphere of language teaching, but with a longer-term approach, one can certainly be successful in achieving the job of their dreams.