Getting a non-teaching job in Korea is difficult, but not impossible. Here are some tips related to the process that can help you better navigate this area.
Seek, apply, wait
What’s the process?
- Search often, search long, search hard
- Apply to as many jobs as possible
- Wait. . . it can be a slow process
Search . . . Every. Single. Day.
Non-teaching jobs are needles in haystacks, so if you really want to land one, you’ll have to search frequently. I would recommend doing it every single day until you get hired. The Seoul Global Center is a good starting point. If there are specific companies that are of interest to you, check their websites for information about the recruitment process. Also, most, if not all, Korea English teaching job websites contain listings for non-teaching positions.
Make sure the company provides visa sponsorship if you need it. Otherwise, they won’t consider your application.
Are you already in Korea?
Ask Your Friends, and Their Friends
One of the easiest ways to land a non-teaching job is by word of mouth. Company managers usually ask employees to refer qualified job candidates before publishing job ads.
So if you live in Korea, you should start asking around about employment opportunities. In many ways, the international community is quite small (your friends likely know people working in different industries). Knowing the right people could easily help you land a job interview.
If You Are a Teacher, Ask Your Students
Another way to sidestep the competition is to have peripheral connections to employers. For example, those who teach adults—especially one-to-one and private lessons—have access to valuable networking opportunities. Teachers often have the chance to meet HR professionals, startup founders, and other executives who may know about employment opportunities. The key is to ask around. If your students genuinely like you, they will introduce you to people looking to hire foreigners.
There are heaps of meetups in Korea for just about anything you can think of, from hiking to language learning. The more beneficial ones for job seekers, though, are the professional meetups specifically focused on careers and business. Attending these events can give people the opportunity to make new friends, and potentially land a job or an internship through new professional connections. This strategy is popular among professionals looking for startup jobs.
International Job Fairs
Additionally, job fairs specifically for foreign residents are held throughout the year. Again, a good starting point is the Seoul Global Center. Be sure to look for job fairs early on and make plans to attend, otherwise it’s very easy to forget about them.
It’s widely known that the number of non-teaching jobs in Korea is very, very low. Job seekers should expect to see about one non-teaching job for every 100 teaching positions advertised on many of the most popular Korea jobs websites. This is, however, just a ball park figure, and a conservative estimate based on the numbers I’ve seen.
Don’t let the odds discourage you, though. If you are attentive and persistent, your chances of landing a decent position can increase drastically.
Opportunities in education, publishing, tech, government, and trade exist for those possessing the right skill set. In other industries, it might be more common for foreign companies to send workers to Korea for a set period of time.
Having the right skills for the right job makes ALL the difference. Also, communicating your skills and their relevance to the job you want will greatly enhance your competitiveness. Because there is no shortage of applicants for non-teaching jobs, the only way to really stand out is to highlight your skillset and expertise in the relevant areas. Some companies will state a preference for advanced degree holders. However, if you only have a bachelor’s degree, you should apply anyway. In the end, companies want the best talent, and they will likely give you a chance to showcase your talent if they think you are a competitive applicant.
Showcase Your Skills
If you can effectively convey the applicability of your skills in your resume/application, there’s a chance you will be given a pre-employment test. And if you do well on the test, you can land an interview.
Also, be sure to include your best work if the job application requires a portfolio. Moreover, if a company gives the option (not a requirement) to share a portfolio, don’t miss the opportunity. If you don’t already have have good work samples, take the time to create some, and show employers what you are capable of.
Do I need to speak Korean fluently?
Not necessarily. It really depends on the job, since there are positions that require only English and others requiring Korean (or another language). However, job seekers fluent in Korean will have significantly more professional opportunities. Obviously, in Korea, there are naturally going to be more jobs for Korean speakers. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to land a decent gig. It just might take longer to wait and apply to jobs that you qualify for.
If a company does sponsor visas, it will usually be an E-7 visa. That is, unless an employee already has a visa (independent of the company).
This is the most important thing to look for in job advertisements. In most cases, companies will state whether they sponsor work visas. Many will bluntly state “no visa sponsorship”. In other cases, they might prefer applicants possessing F visas, for example.
Note: The E-2 is specifically a language teaching visa, according to the Korean government. However, some companies advertise non-teaching jobs with E-2 visa sponsorship.
Don’t expect rent-free housing
Many companies offering non-teaching jobs to foreigners do not provide housing, or assistance in finding an apartment. Additionally, employers may not provide temporary housing, which can be a big deal if you are transitioning from a job with housing to a position without housing. They might provide key-money, though. Expect to sort this out on your own unless the company explicitly states that it provides housing (or assistance).
In cases where housing is provided, the salary may be lower. In the end, this might work out better than finding your own housing. It just depends on what works for you, and how much less you would be making if you decide to take a company apartment. In cases where employees elect not to receive company housing, the employer will typically pay them a cash stipend.
While you might not get free housing with a non-teaching job, you can expect to get a pretty decent compensation package. How much? It depends. But a reasonable expectation concerning salary would be between 3 million to 4 million won per month for a non-teaching job, working from 9 to 6. On the high end, it’s possible to make +5 million won per month.
Frankly speaking, anything under 3 million won per month without housing assistance probably isn’t worth your time, unless you’re really dead set on a specific job opportunity, or industry experience. That’s because the costs associated with housing and commuting will greatly erode your earnings.
So what are the chances of getting a job? Well, the hiring managers I’ve met with say that they receive between 150 – 250 applications per job opening on average for the “good” jobs. Therefore, the probability for success is less than one percent, in terms of the raw numbers. Of course, this low figure does not take into account each individual applicant’s qualifications.
Not surprisingly, the competition for jobs is steadily surging in many industries, including ESL. This overall trend is likely related to the sharp increase in the number of foreigners working in Korea, and the slowing economy.
The location from which job seekers apply to non-teaching jobs may materially impact their competitiveness, and ultimately, their ability to be hired. Candidates applying from within Korea have an advantage since it’s more convenient and cost-effective for employers to recruit them. Nevertheless, businesses are willing to hire from abroad if in-country candidates don’t make the cut.
The Long Game
Another pathway to getting a non-teaching job is to first attend an intensive Korean language program. This route is not for everyone, since it costs time and money. But it is definitely an option for those passionate about learning Korean. Depending on your career goals and motivation level, achieving even an intermediate level of Korean fluency can open up a lot of doors professionally. People who choose this route generally plan on living in Korea for a very long period of time, and are therefore willing to devote a considerable amount of time, effort, and resources to learn the language.
University Language Programs
Many Korean universities offer language programs year round, and the programs tend to run in cycles lasting about 10 weeks or so. Some of them even offer scholarships to foreign students. Also, universities periodically host and/or promote job fairs and other events both on and off campus to connect job seekers with local and global companies. (Yes, these opportunities are for foreigners, too.) Keep in mind that the university language programs are open to anyone with a high school diploma, which means that pretty much anyone can enroll. And while the glut of students are in their 20’s, it’s not uncommon to meet people over the age of 40 in these programs.
Language Academies (어학원), etc.
There are also scores of private language academies focused on teaching Korean to foreigners. Additionally, there’s a multitude of meetups and classes offered by government and non-profit organizations, many of which are free.
It’s common to meet people who teach English for a while, and quit so that they can take an intensive language course. After that, it can be much easier to land a non-teaching job since they have previous work experience, speak (some) Korean, and already reside in the country.
- The process of getting a non-teaching job in Korea requires persistence and patience.
- Only apply to jobs for which you qualify, and apply to as many as possible. Be clear about visa sponsorship if you don’t already possess a work visa.
- If you live in Korea, ask around about non-teaching job opportunities. This is perhaps the easiest way to find one. Meetups and international job fairs can streamline the process and connect you with the right people.
- Non-teaching jobs can be hard to come by. But if you have the right skillset, you have an above-average chance of getting hired.
- Speaking Korean is not a requirement for some jobs. However, more job opportunities exist for those who are bilingual/multilingual.
- Some employers provide rent-free housing, but many don’t. Be prepared to find your own apartment if your employer doesn’t provide housing assistance.
- Many non-teaching jobs have a salary range between 3 to 4 million won, though some are much higher.
- Competition is high, but opportunities exist for those with the right qualifications.
- Applying from within Korea gives candidates an advantage.
- For those with a strong desire to learn Korean, undertaking an intensive language course can make it easier to land a job.