Like to Play Chicken? You can get a University Teaching Job in South Korea!
Think of getting a uni job in Korea as a game of chicken. As I mention in How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams, almost everything in Korea happens last minute. I call this the bali-bali (fast-fast) syndrome, which is a unique Korean specialty.
This means that Korean universities will be interviewing and making hiring decisions alarmingly close to the start of the semesters in March and September. Like you could actually be getting emails and calls in the middle of February or August.
If you’re the type who likes to have things locked down early, then you’ll probably hate it and end up taking an inferior job such as at a public school or hagwon which you can possibly secure at an earlier date. It’s the “safe” option but of course, it doesn’t really help you get that sweet, sweet uni job with 12 teaching hours per week and 5 months of paid vacation.
I get it. I really do. My nickname for myself is actually “Preparation J” because I’m a planner. Or, should I say, I was a planner. After living in Korea for 10 years, I’m all about leaving stuff until the last minute.
Whatever! Just chillaxin these days, you know?
My Own Experience Applying for Uni Jobs
In both my rounds applying for university jobs in Korea, I got interviews and job offers astoundingly late, more than I would have ever thought possible and even for some of the top jobs in the country. As I mention in the book, the top candidates turn down job offers and then it’s on to the next tier of candidates and on and on it goes. If you’re in one of the middle tiers, you’ll have a chance to slip in there because all the universities are counting on the same select pool of candidates to choose them.
If you play the game of chicken well, and wait, and wait, and wait until the last possible minute for some good job offers, you’ll likely get something if you meet the basic qualifications (a masters + a couple years teaching experience in Korea). However, you might end up with nothing and totally regret not taking those inferior job offers that you had. That’s why it’s a game of chicken because you can end up with a pot of gold, or a whole lot of nothing.
My Top 5 Tips to Go for the Gold
It’s kind of a crap-shoot when it comes to getting a uni job in Korea and it largely depends on your networking skills and who you know, however you can improve your chances at winning by following some of my advice:
1. Try to avoid something like signing a housing deposit until you have a job locked down. This means you are free to move easily if you get a great offer in another city. It NEVER hurts you to be flexible and willing to take a job in any city, or even in the countryside because those places have a harder time filling positions.
2. Emergency fund. Get one. If you lose at the game of chicken, then you’ll have a bit of a buffer and won’t have the money stress on top of the job stress.
Speaking of the money, are you a wee bit clueless? There’s a book I guarantee will help you get on track financially: The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Future.
3. Always have a back-up plan. It’s great to have plenty of options so apply for any and all jobs including public schools, hagwons and universities for low pay out in the countryside in case your first few choices fall through.
4. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time and who you know. So, make networking with university teachers a huge priority in your life and you’ll hear about those last-minute job opportunities (there is basically one at my own uni every single semester and they usually end up hiring someone fresh off the plane with only a year or two of hagwon experience).
5. Join this Facebook group: Foreign Teachers in Korean Universities. Just this semester, there were a couple posts with last-minute offers that were never advertised publicly on the big job boards.
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