When you're looking at working in Korea, there's a word you're going to see repeated ad nauseam: flexibility.
Be flexible with your schools. Be flexible with your start dates. Be flexible with your attitudes about the culture you'll be entering. Be flexible with your own perceptions about the world.
For going on five years, I didn't think much about what was whirling around the internet. Flexible, yeah. Pfft. Sure.
But now that I'm looking down at my flight confirmation numbers, I finally see what everyone was talking about. Flexibility with this plan is no joke. Below the jump, you can see all of the times that I absolutely had no choice but to confront the situation, let it roll off my back, and keep on swimming.
When I think about the process of getting a job in Korea, what I picture is the texting world championship from a few years ago. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google it. Go ahead. I'll wait.
And just in case you don't feel like watching a Youtube video of the insanity (or if you can't find it, because the current ones are just people texting on a stage), I'll describe it. It's a bunch of (mostly young) people walking down a treadmill texting, constantly having to navigate around a randomly generated obstacle course bearing down on them. The whole time, they have to maintain their focus and make as few errors as possible with their text messages.
From day one, getting a job in Korea has been navigating one obstacle after another. And I'm not saying it's impossible, but getting the job has definitely taught me to be more agile in my life.
First and foremost, dealing with the government. I've talked about it before, but I'll mention it again because it bears repeating: No matter how prepared you think you are for dealing with the government, you're never truly prepared. When getting our background checks, what was originally scheduled to take 4-6 weeks ended up taking 12. Why? Because the FBI chose that time to completely revamp their entire IT department.
Yup. What's a person to do? Freak out? Call them over and over and over again? Have mini panic attacks? If you're me, the answer is all of the above. But after a time, I realized that all of that stress and worry was getting me absolutely nowhere. It wasn't making them work faster, and there was nothing I could do to hurry the process along. All I could do was focus my energy elsewhere (like on making passports for my cats).
Another agile learning moment was scheduling interviews. I got used to a recruiter emailing me and requesting an interview....for a half hour later. It's not uncommon to have suddenly scheduled interviews. You have to be ready to go at a moment's notice. Period.
Also, as you're well aware, I was working with several different recruiters. When I was offered a position, I had to take it or leave it. There was no time to waffle over the decision or debate it for weeks on end. Because of this, I had to be a little flexible with my requirements for a school. I didn't have time to wait for a perfect school to fall into my lap and potentially lose a really great opportunity because of my self-imposed restrictions. I had to be willing to have options for start dates (I originally wanted to be in Korea before the New Year), school locations (I wanted further north of the Han river), and pay.
By far, though, one of the biggest flexibility issues arose around my flight out of the country. It's something I'm still dealing with, albeit better than I would have at the beginning of this job search.
You see, originally I wanted to fly Korean Air. They have an excellent reputation and are a Delta partner. I fly with Delta all of the time, mostly because I have family that works for Delta. At the last minute, however, the school said that because of the cost difference, we would be flying via Asiana instead of Korean Air. This meant a significant layover (when I'm traveling with two cats), an older plane, and less than stellar reviews.
Rather than fuss and worry and raise hell about it, I just said ok. The school is paying for the flight, after all, which is a small miracle in and of itself. Instead of worrying, I looked at luggage. My recently purchased luggage is now too large and it's late to return. Within a few hours, I had purchased more luggage and listed the other (brand new) luggage on Craigslist.
I looked at flight restrictions for my cats, got paperwork ready, and went to bed relatively calm. I still didn't sleep much, but that's more from the excitement than the stress.
So yeah, I see what all of the other expats have said before. Flexibility is absolutely key when it comes to getting a job in Korea. And I know that once I get to the other side of the planet, that will be tested time and again. But that's ok. Because really, I just have to avoid the big obstacles and then keep moving.
Writer, Photographer, Dream-Seeker