Feeling Wanted: Searching for ESL Jobs in Korea

Job searches suck for the same reason that some people hate being single. It’s a lot of effort with no guaranteed results and a better-than-average chance of destroying your self-esteem.  You gotta spiff up your resumé — always uplifting — read through hundreds of listings, write original cover letters, hope you actually get called back and — depending on the job and how badly you need a paycheck — feign enthusiasm during your interview.

search for "job"

Finding work in Korea is almost this easy.

Of course, you’re lucky if you even get called back.  After a couple weeks with nothing to show for your efforts, this routine  can decrease one’s sense of self worth — or increase one’s sense of self loathing.

When you finally get an offer, you’re so desperate to end this cycle of rejection that you quickly settle for yet another job that will probably fail to fulfill your personal needs and ambitions but successfully reinforces what you took away from your college readings of Marx and Gramsci.

For me, though, the job-search blues are a thing of the past. I am an ESL teacher in Korea and I’ve never felt more important.

Not to have a big head about it, but I am a pretty desirable candidate for most hagwon jobs. In Korea, white privilege benefits even more than it has in the US. But besides being white and green-eyed, I possess a Master’s degree and have a year of experience living and working in a hagwon.  This makes me:

a) Marketable to parents who want their children taught by Americans who value education

b) Less of a gamble for the hagwon owners

The first one is marketing but the second one is smart spending.  Foreign teachers are the highest paid employees with the best benefits, but we’re also high-risk employees. Why take a chance on some foreigner who’s never been to Korea and has a legit chance of quitting mid-contract because he/she doesn’t like the food or know how to get along in Korean culture?  It’s much safer to roll with someone who’s already completed a yearlong contract.

The result for me has been same-day responses from recruiting companies and hagwons. I’ve gotten so many replies that I lost track of who I’d been in touch with and the details of each job.  I’ve even gotten calls and emails from recruiters who I’ve never contacted.  Now I know what it’s like to be a large-breasted female on MySpace.

The downside is that job interviews have monopolized most of my free time.  The upside is that I’ve been offered a position on upwards of 90 percent of them, usually the same day of the interview.

With most of them I’m glad I didn’t accept.  Online communities like theyeogiyo.com and Dave’s ESL Cafe were helpful places to get information about the companies and branch offices  I applied to.  After learning about their reputations or specific instances of employee abuse, I declined interviews with several potential employers.  Other jobs were previously held by friends and acquaintances I’ve met here in Bundang.  Two jobs that seemed really promising during the interview looked a lot different after getting an insider’s perspective.

As of this posting, I seem to have a good gig lined up, teaching at a kindergarten in Jukjeon.  Now I’m just waiting to hear back about getting a furnished apartment.  Between that and my salary demands, they may decide I’m too expensive.  Stay tuned.

Daniel Daugherty



Filed under Employment Details

3 responses to “Feeling Wanted: Searching for ESL Jobs in Korea

  1. cindy

    Hey, good going. The older we get we have more experiences. With those
    experiences comes knowledge. and the more knowledge we attain, the wiser we become.
    IN this blog I could hear some calmness, and self-assuredness in your writing.
    Maybe, just maybe you are becoming a little wiser in your “old ” age?
    Love Mom

  2. I just went thru the whole job search ordeal while here in Korea too.

    I dont remember the last time I spoke with you guys but Im thinking it mightve been before I actually came to Korea. I got here ( almost 2 months now )…Changwon area, and my hagwon closed its doors 2 weeks after I was here and of course the director didnt PAY anyone !! I had wonderful support from the foreign community around here that set me up with loads of recruiters / schools / interviews and even offerings of financial help and a place to sleep. Luckily I had until the end of the month to move out which gave me 2 weeks and I found a recruiter that was ” going to help me out, so dont worry ” !!

    Yeh what a nightmare that turned out to be. He was basically an ESL Teacher Pimp !! hehe We worked temp jobs at any where from 2 to 7 schools at whatever hours he told you to come in the next day etc….plus he held the fact that I signed a contract to work for him…BUT, he didnt pay for the hotel I was staying in…because he said I was a temp and the contract wasnt all inclusive. WTF duude. ( You can read more about that whole nightmare on my blog >> http://mssinmymind.wordpress.com/ )

    Anyways…because I was only a temp…he did hook me up with a FANTASTIC new school / director and NOW…I am like sooo super happy I cant stop smiling !!! Seriously, its like the perfect situation for me. My director is AWESOME !! My Korean co-teachers all speak english and treat me so warmly. My students are well disciplined and with a few exceptions actually like being there !! Its been wonderful so far !!

    At this point I have FINALLY found MY KOREA !! :oP

    Love reading your guys blog !!

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