Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Survival Tip #2: Getting Hired, University Edition

To be honest with you, ladies and gentlemen, the past few monts have been a little tough. I was dealing with breaking things off with my long-term long-distance boyfriend (as you are well aware, my post "The Hardest Lesson I've Learned" got the most hits this blog has ever received), some poor relationship moves on my part, and, on top of all of that, I needed to start working on finding a new job for September.

Some of you may know this already, some of you don't. Most of my readers are my friends back in the states, so I'll explain the situation. I was hired last August (2011) by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. This is a magnificent organization to work for and I highly recommend them for anyone's first job in Korea (their sister organizations EPIK: English Program In Korea and GEPIK: Gyeonggi-do English Program in Korea are also very good). However, due to massive budget cuts, SMOE decided last winter to eliminate all high school teaching positions for Foreign English Teachers. I was interviewed about the cuts for an article in Joong Ang Daily (a Seoul-based English language newspaper) that you can read here.
Also, my hair looks amazing in the article cover photo
So, because of that, I needed to find a job. I have a little more qualifications than some of my colleagues doing similar jobs here in Korea. I have my masters in English Education, am a licensed teacher, and taught for a year back in the states. Because of this I decided to reach for the stars and, in Korea, that means one thing: a university. Universities have more prestige, more benefits, and less work hours. The issue with these jobs is that, with the massive flood the Seoul foreign English teacher market is now receiving, the jobs are very competitive. Most ask for at least two years teaching in Korea, some want at least two years teaching in a university, others wont accept anyone without a PhD. Also, there are few (if any) recruiting agencies that can help you find these coveted positions, so how do you go about it?

Here's a list of tips and tricks:

1) Know where to look
As far as university positions go there is no better or more trusted resource than Dave's ESL Cafe. Most universities will post their positions on this site. I also found a few good postings and contact information through Academic and Research Jobs: Korea, but nowhere near as many as Dave's; however, if you're looking for a position teaching something other than English, in English, the latter is much better. I tried using Hi Teacher, but this gave me mostly spam and recruiters who didn't have the capacity to find a job for a more highly qualified candidate.

2) Have you papers in order.
This means have your degree(s) apostilled again (many universities want to see originals or original apostilled originals, they wont accept "SMOE/Department of Immigration has them"). Also, have the originals, without apostille, scanned; this will help a lot in the online application arena. Get word to your universities you went to and order transcripts asap. Also have scanned copies of your transcripts, passport, ARC card (Alien Registration Card), two passport-style photos, any teaching certificates/licenses you have, your E2 Visa self-health check form, and your FBI criminal background check. I've found that they will accept the one you used for your original ARC application, so don't sweat about getting a new one if you still have a copy of the original. If you do not have a copy I have heard that you can call the immigration office and have them make a copy of your existing one, but I am not positive about this. Not all universities will ask for all of these things but I have had universities require each of these in the interview process. Have a cover-letter ready and check over your resume (make sure to put a professions, passport-style photo on your resume). Lastly, prepare a brief, one-page overview of your teaching philosophy and how it has changed through your various experiences as a teacher.

3) Get recommendations
Have two of your most trusted and awesome coworkers write you recommendation letters. I had both of my coteachers write them in Korean, but I think it would be better to have them printed in Korean on one side and English on the other (some university English hiring departments have staffs comprised largely of foreigners). Both of their recommendation letters were absolutely glowing with praise of my awesomeness. I have heard that getting your principal to write one for you might be better, but make sure your principal knows a good deal about you beforehand.

4) Send TONS of applications
Like I said, the university-qualified teacher job market is a little flooded right now. In the end I wound up sending applications to about 15 universities in Seoul as well as some more prestigious hagwons (private English after school programs), school districts, and some non-teaching positions for editing. You will feel better the more applications you send.

5) Be patient with the process
Firstly, you will have to deal with a lot of different requirements from the application. Some want all of the paperwork you have to throw at them, some have their own application forms, some want only your  resume and sover letter. Some universities will want you to mail them all of your paperwork in triplicate, others will accept just an email, it's really a crap shoot. I've had third tear universities require a pound of papers from me while SKY (the three top Universities in Korea) wanted an email with only four attachments. Be patient and be ready to write your own name a LOT.

6) Don't panic
After sending out massive amounts of resumes and applications over the course of about two weeks I didn't hear a thing for maybe two to three weeks after. I finally got something: a rejection letter from Seoul National University (the top university in Korea). I knew that attempting to get a position with SNU was ambitious of me, but it was still a little disheartening. However, the next four responses were all requests for interviews from very competitive jobs. These were also jobs from the beginning of my wave of applications. So, don't lose hope, you'll hear something, even if it's just bad news. Give universities a good grace period before crossing them off your list. But, if it gets past a month and you haven't heard anything, I'd say you need to start looking at other options.

Coming Soon- Personal Victory: Getting Hired
Preview- I got hired! I'll let you know what  the interview was like and gush about how super excited I am!

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