Despite our admittedly limited experience, we thought it would be a good idea to share some lessons we have learned from our short time in Korea. We were all new to this once.
Getting a teaching job in Korea
First things first: the obvious. Get all your shit in order. All of your qualifications apostilled, criminal record check (expires in 6 months, usually). We would advise that you prepare for the possibility of staying in Korea longer than you expect. So even if you’re not applying to public schools now you might in future and it’s just easier to get letters from the schools you attended while you’re in your own country – this applies to South Africans only though. Get your passport, transcripts, certificates, references copied and scanned. It’s easier to have one folder to simply send to multiple recruiters. Koreans seem to prefer .doc, .pdf or .jpeg. files. Save multiple passport sized photos for future, you will need them.
The dreaded resume photograph! Basically take your photo in a professional studio setting or surrounded by smiling kids if possible. Otherwise, just make sure it’s a good photograph. The truth is loads of schools actually prefer pretty, slender blonde North American girls. But what’s also true is that most schools don’t give a fuck as long as you do the work well. In our experience they barely look at your resume. It’s sad. But it is what it is. They want a foreigner who speaks English. Your tattoos or piercings are not a real concern, unless they’re insanely obvious or the school is super finickity (who wants to work at those places anyway??). In your interviews you don’t really need to mention them unless they’d be blatantly visible. Most interviewees are not fluent in English. What really speaks volumes is the work you do once you’re in the school. At a good school this will be valued and appreciated above all.
The easiest way to get a job in Korea is to be in Korea! I know that is some shit ass advice when you’ve just graduated and barely have enough cash to live in your home country. But if you can make a plan for a ticket and a maximum of a month’s stay in a hotel or perhaps if you can stay with friends consider doing that. Before you leave make sure to have some connections to schools in the area you’re staying in: someone who works there, a trusted recruiter, etc. There are tons of academies so you will not be short of options. Physically visiting the schools is also something to consider, but don’t expect everyone there to be fluent in English. Some private schools have the worse reputations for good reason, so do as much research as your can. Do whatever you can to get yourself out there. This includes emailing, calling and surprisingly Facebook groups (Teaching JOBS Korea and Teach ESL Korea).
Public schools hire around February and September each year, Hagwons (private academies) hire all year round. You will see a clear jump in interest during the aforementioned months so don’t worry too much about lack of interest until then. Whether you’re applying within Korea or outside recruiters are only as helpful as their reputations. Adventure Teaching (firstname.lastname@example.org), Steven Cho (email@example.com) and Hello ESL especially Joseph (firstname.lastname@example.org) are great recruiters. There are many who don’t respond. Most reply with the generic, “I’m really interested in your application, please tell me more…” even if you’ve given all of your details in that introduction mail. It’s highly irritating but you’ll be able to tell by the 2nd or 3rd email that it really is just a standard response. The guys we’ve suggested are people we’ve worked with and can vouch for. Please don’t get too disheartened by the lack of response. Keep in mind Koreans are all business, they might seem rude at times but more often than not it’s the language barrier. Even the foreigner run recruiters subcontract to Koreans due to their connections and language advantage.
Our personal experience was nerve wracking to say the least. Tons of Skype interviews, making sample videos, taking professional looking photos, interview prep… Eventually, with a little persistence, we managed to find a job for Gareth. We boldly set off for our new adventure and have been happily living in Korea for a short while now. When planning and preparing for your Korean journey, remember that it’s not easy securing a job anywhere. It’s especially frustrating if you’re a first time applicant. Don’t take the take the first offer you get unless it meets most of your requirements. Remember to research your schools online before you accept any offers and ask to talk to past teachers. With some persistence it’s definitely possible!