I’ve been in Korea for exactly 2 weeks now. I was expecting to take a little bit more time to relax and explore Korea and improve my Korean (which is not going as well as hoped), but after the first week, I found myself quite antsy and in need of some work to do. It’s probably made worse by the fact that the first week in Korea felt like a month, just due to the constant errands and novel experiences. So, I’ve started looking for work.
In my old life in Canada, I was a professor of computer science at a local college. Broadly speaking, this means I’m qualified to do 3 things: teach, research, and write code.
Finding a coding job
On the coding front, I invested a couple days before coming to Canada into searching for software development jobs. When searching for these jobs, I was told to break it down into two different categories: working at a Korean company, and working for an international company. Korean companies, I am told, are not good. Unlike in North America and Europe (and quite likely elsewhere), software developers do not seem to be treated well in Korea. No flex hours, no working from home, no meditation breaks, no foosball tables, and, most importantly, no money. But lots of overtime. My searches into jobs at Korean companies showed that that was generally pretty true, everyone was offering very little money for very few benefits and too high a workload.
International companies such as Microsoft and Google are around in Korea. I never really properly considered them because I flatly refused to consider them while I lived in Canada. I’d had friends and colleagues try to recruit me into interviewing at Microsoft and Google and I could just never feel comfortable developing for a company that size. I haven’t ruled it out, though.
One other thing that I haven’t ruled out is starting up my own company, or doing freelance work remotely. Both of these are completely viable options and I do have a business idea that I’m currently developing and hope to release a preliminary version of within the next month or two. We shall see.
But, in any case, nothing concrete has come out of looking for development jobs.
After defending my PhD, my supervisor suggested that I may have a talent for research and should consider going back into it. I’ve been away from academic research for 5 years at least now. I had given up on trying to join faculty at a research university while I was in Canada because it was so competitive, political (with grants and publications) and often required sacrifices to your life, such as moving to a country or city you’d otherwise not want to move to.
All of that is still true, but my mind is slowly shifting in terms of whether the sacrifice is worth it. I do have to admit that I consider research more valuable, more worthwhile and hence ultimately more rewarding than I had 5 or 10 years ago. Maybe being in the middle of your PhD gives you a soured view of doing research.
There are universities in Korea, and around Seoul and Gyeongi-do/경기도 (think of it as the Greater Seoul Area) even, which are definitely worth exploring. Good research and (English-language) teaching universities who I would feel honoured to join.
The timing of my arrival is not the greatest. For one, I’ve missed the primary hiring cycle (usually March-ish) of a lot of universities. More to the point, though, applying at a university is a big deal. It takes a lot of effort, not just a day or two in polishing up a CV. When I applied for the college I was teaching at in Canada, I had the luxury of already having a full-time job at while I was putting together my application for a month and then waiting another couple months to work through the process. I feel I don’t have that luxury of time at the moment, and should find a little bit of stability before investing it putting together an application at a university.
But I think I will do it while I’m in Korea.
My last major qualification is in teaching. I don’t think it’s my strongest (that title probably goes to writing code), but it possibly is my most marketable. I am trained to teach computer science and computer programming, of course, but unfortunately I haven’t found a lot of opportunities to do that per se, at least not without joining faculty at a university. I’m attempting to find some tutoring work in programming, but most Koreans who want tutoring in programming want it in Korean, not in English.
The obvious other avenue, then, is teaching English. I have had two interviews, one at a hagwon/학원 (private cram school or after-hours school, which is very common for children in Korea), and one at a public elementary school. Neither position was quite the right fit for me, but they were maybe almost the right fit for me, a close enough fit that I’m thinking that I would be good at teaching children.
The nice thing about this, too, is that a lot of schools don’t have a sharp black-and-white division between subjects, especially when it comes to English teachers. In some circumstances, it seems, there can be a somewhat grey line between teaching English and teaching something else (like science or programming) using English, and both are valuable.
So, I’m mostly looking for teaching jobs these days, starting with public schools, and in the meantime, hoping to research a website before long. And, while I’m searching for jobs, I’m trying to get everything in order to get my visa, but that’s for another post….