How I got my first job in Korea

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When was the last time you did something for the first time?  If it’s been so long that you can’t remember, I would consider that an issue.  In August of 2014 I found that I was asking myself that same question over and over again.  I took every possible opportunity to go try something new.  I took a card-sewing class (yes, you read that right), a brew-master’s tour, adult ballet (and barre) classes, did a scotch-tasting (okay, that one wasn’t quite so new), a Ukranian egg-decorating class (yep – wax, dip, and dye over and over again), and I dined in the dark at a restaurant where all the servers were blind.  We had scheduled axe-throwing and stand-up comedy classes, but ultimately I was just too busy with such an extremely demanding job.

While it was one that most people would consider a “great career” (well, at least my job title). I was absolutely miserable.  I had fantastic friends, but our relationships suffered because I was constantly exhausted from late nights, early mornings, and my trips to the gym.  I tried to keep my diet on the straight and narrow, but I worked in the food and beverage industry and, quite frankly, delicious, fatty, FREE food that was there when I needed something immediately was an easy choice.

After a really rough day at the office I went home and started searching for jobs abroad.  My Grandmother was born in England, so I ordered a copy of her birth certificate in case I was able to do some remote interviews and get hired within the Sales and Marketing niche in the UK.  Ultimately, I questioned whether I could remain this burnt out.  The answer was a definite “NO”, so I continued down the wormhole of work-abroad programs.  I had had a few friends teach in Korea (I actually handled some of the paper-work for my sorority big sister’s Korean visa extension when I was in Vancouver) and I’m kicking myself for not joining them earlier.  One of them met her husband here in Seoul and has gone down a completely different career path than she had ever anticipated (she’s still teaching, but now in the US!).  The other is gallivanting around the world after having been a modest celebrity in Busan.  Korea seemed like the right choice!

I e-mailed out my resume to recruiters with some super smiley photos.  Almost immediately I was bombarded with responses asking me to fill out applications and start getting my documents together.  Seriously?  I was in the information gathering stage.  I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to pull the trigger on this one.  Through the mess of e-mails I found one without attachments.  This one had included some pictures of Canadians enjoying classroom time with cute Korean kindergartens, and I figured hey – why not take an interview and see what happens?

At 11 PM the next evening I got on Skype and did my first (and only) hagwon (private academy) interview.  The head foreign (Canadian) teacher seemed really cool and was finishing up her second year, so I figured that was a good sign.  The next morning I woke up to an offer and a contract and thought I might as well just go ahead and do it.  Without reeeeeeally doing my due-diligence, I had taken a job on the other side of the planet.  I got lucky after having been moved from Seoul-suburbia to Busan, but I definitely do not suggest this route.  If a recruiter wants you to fill out an application, it’s because he or she wants to know if you’re a serious candidate.  Had I gone with one of the other companies, I’d likely have a cushy public school job with tons of free time and even more vacation.  I’d also have a style of teaching that I don’t think is a right fit for me, and I could have ended up in a super rural area, so it all seems to be either a risk or a trade-off.

I’m coming up on a year in Korea in exactly one week, and at this point in my life there’s absolutely nowhere I’d rather be.  I’m trying new things every week.  I have the free time to relax and re-energize, and thankfully I have a group of fantastic friends who understand the traveler’s void and are happy to explore with me.  I’m also not perma-tired, which makes for an easier time and better friendships!

Are you sitting there wondering when the last time was you tried something for the very first time?  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching abroad.  Schools all across Asia are looking for native English speakers, and just maybe you’ll find solace as I did in the land of the morning calm.

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