I was recently contacted by a writer for Groove Magazine who is writing an article about people who have taught English in Korea but have moved away from this industry, both in Korea and back in their home countries. Looking for an expert opinion, he contacted me with some questions. The following are the questions and my responses.
1. How has the overall landscape for finding working outside of education in Korea changed in recent years?
No doubt, the number of jobs in Korea outside of education is on the rise. However, many of these jobs for English-speakers in Korean companies still involve language-related work, such as in-house teaching and editing. As always, to move beyond this point, job candidates need to bring additional and recognized skills that Korean companies find hard to fill. Considering though, the large labor pool of Koreans who are fresh out of Korean universities and who can't find jobs either, there really aren't a lot of non-language positions available and Westerners who land those jobs are the exception.
2. Have you witnessed many people successfully making the transition from English teacher to working professional?
If you just mean the transition from English teacher to company position, then yes, plenty are doing that. But as mentioned above, most of those are still language related.
3. Do you think English teachers encounter any major difficulties when trying to break into non-education related fields in Korea?
It's too easy to rely on one's English ability when applying for jobs in Korea. If one is trying to go beyond this, then yes, the English ability serves as an obstacle since many people settle for language-related jobs when other types of positions are not easy to find. This is particularly the case since many of these language-related jobs pay more than someone could expect if they were trying to go through the same channels as a Korean candidate. And Westerners are often not willing to make the sacrifices in the Korean workplace, in terms of long hours and other aspects, to succeed on the same terms as Koreans.
4. How open is Korea to employing foreigners, both at entry level and beyond, and what are the major challenges and advantages a person would encounter whilst seeking employment in Korea?
Most of this question is answered above. Korea is generally not open to non-language Western job seekers and most of these job seekers would not be interested in the entry-level positions on offer to Koreans anyway if they knew what the expectations were.