5 tips for S'poreans to get employed in Korea: Student Edition

Landing a job in Korea is no easy feat, but it is definitely not impossible.

Ellen Ng| November 26, 02:11 AM

This article is part of a series that explores a Singaporean’s journey to Korea to work. Check out her previous article here: A S’porean lady explains how going to work in Korea was an act of defiance that paid off

The golden question I most often get asked is: “How do I get a job in Korea?”

Here are 5 tips for Singaporean students looking to secure direct employment in Korea.


Tip 1: Plan ahead



Sounds commonsensical?

You’ll be surprised how many people have not taken steps to be employable as a foreigner even though they claim they are dreaming of moving there.

By the way, being able to name all the members of Girls Generation does not constitute preparedness.

As a start, ask the following:

What are the industries or companies I am looking to enter?

Industries are particularly important because while conglomerates in the tech industry are open to hiring foreigners to assist with global expansion for example, other more conventional industries like pharmaceuticals or healthcare are not as penetrable for foreigners.

You don’t want to waste your time banging your head against a wall.

Am I flexible with the job options extended to me?

You need to be aware of your expectations - are you open to taking a lower-paying job despite your skill-set or a job that is not aligned with your career aspirations?

Depending on your expectations, the opportunities that you seek may not come so easy. It is tough to secure jobs in Korea fresh out of school and without work experience.

To know which steps to take to achieve your goal, you need to do your research to ascertain potential routes.

Do you need an internship, an advanced degree in Korea or need time to brush up your Korean?

Clearly, these cannot be done overnight – meticulous planning is essential.


Tip 2: Train your “Korean-ness”



To appeal to recruiters in Korea, you need to be seemingly “Korean” while demonstrating that you can bring local knowledge of your region to the table.

While “diversity” is slowly being accepted, Koreans appreciate it when non-Koreans exhibit the ability to adapt and assimilate to the Korean culture.

There are 2 things you can do to accentuate “Korean-ness”:

1. Mastery of the Korean language and its nuances

The former is a no-brainer. Many Singaporeans studying or working in Korea are masters of the “Test of Proficiency in Korean”. To distinguish yourself, pick up business Korean as well.

Most importantly, with fluent Korean, you leave a more lasting impression.

Due to the Korean Wave, many people who are well-versed in Korean from around the world seek employment opportunities in Korea. Your competition is global.

If you are aiming for office transfers to headquarters in Korea, fluency in Korean exhibits a sense of readiness too.

2. Expand knowledge of Korea beyond popular culture

Having a keen awareness of Korean sociology, politics and economy will set you apart.

With many Korean news outlets offering English equivalents, it is easy to develop an understanding of numerous aspects of Korea aside from entertainment.

Your familiarity with current affairs in Korea will be very useful in helping you partake in conversations with older Korean folks, at networking sessions or even during interviews.


Tip 3: Network AND keep in touch



Korean exchange students in your school the best people to practice your sub-standard Korean with, pick up idiosyncrasies about the Korean culture and train your tolerance to soju.

One sub-tip: Once you befriend a couple of Korean students in your school, it is easy to meet the rest of the exchange delegation.

Korean students living in foreign countries usually form a tight network so by tapping on one, you can cultivate a new group of “chingus”!

Having Korean friends keep you in the loop about employment trends and opportunities.

I got my internship with SK Telecom in Korea because my Korean friends alerted me to the recruitment, without which I would not have known about the opportunity.

While networking is easy, keeping in touch and continuing the connection is the difficult part.

Koreans celebrate holidays like Seolnal (the lunar New Year), Chuseok (Korean thanksgiving) or even Christmas – drop a note filled with warm greetings via Kakao or email.

The key to building lasting relationships with Koreans is embedded within the word “jeong” (the closest English equivalent being “affection”).

The greater the “jeong” in a relationship, the higher the likelihood of a Korean friend going out on a limb for you.


TIP 4: Work for a Korean company in Singapore


While this is a strategy that requires time, patience and effective networking within the organisation, it is one of the ways some Singaporeans have managed to transfer to headquarters in Korea.

In my case, I got scouted to work in Korea by a former partner with whom I was on a project with back in Singapore.

After he was invited to lead a team in another Korean company, he recruited me to join the company.

Korean conglomerates are also known to send employees in regional offices to headquarters for extended periods of time for training or projects – a form of “employee exchange programme”.

This is also a plausible strategy if you are not sure whether to take the plunge and move to Korea for work or if the Korean corporate culture suits you.

Nonetheless, working for a Korean company gives you a foot in the door to seize internal transfer opportunities that are not unknown otherwise.

Most importantly, always give your best – Koreans can be the harshest critics.


TIP 5: Don’t give up



Securing an opportunity to work abroad requires patience, dedication and optimism.

It took me 3 years studying Korean to secure my first internship stints with Korean organisations, followed by a year in Korea as an exchange student.

And 5 years before I got my first full-time job with a Korean conglomerate.

It was my 7th year of obsession with Korea when I got headhunted to work in the land of the morning calm and fulfilled my goal.


Top photo via

If you like what you read, follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest updates.