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Expat Advice: Working in Seoul, Korea

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Seoul

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

English teaching is the big expat thing here. Some make some good coin, others fail miserably (really miserably, if you think you can live like a Westerner here you might as well stay away). Finance and tech is big as well. I know a guy from home who is in Ulsan donig some tech/net thing. In finance (where I am) there are certain jobs open, which you might never think of back home. Imagine one like mine: talk to guys who speak English, develop products for the market/clients here and explain it (in English) to your staff. You wouldn't find that level of responsibility without being in the firm for about 5-10 years back home.

What type of work do you do and how did you find your job?

I am not sure how to describe my position here. Officially I am an external director at a financial firm in Seoul. The firm is moving from being an asset management house to being more of an advisor on Alternative Investments. I am the only foreigner here and my job is to communicate and liaise with the foreign firms whose products we introduce to our clients (pension funds, investment trust firms, and insurers). So I get up early to speak with North America, have meetings and presentations in the daytime and stay up late speaking with Europe. It's a pretty good postions, as I have a staff to take care of the more Korean aspects (like translating) and the firm has set things up (housing, cellphone, vacation, food) pretty well. How I got here is a story. A client in Canada wanted to help me out (was doing financial advising there for quite a few years). He was going to Korea and decided to introduce me to a few people (well, my Korean wife was the one who prompted him to do so). Coming here for the fourth time I had a pretty good idea of what it was all about. Well, we went to onw guy, who introduced us to another, then to another the next day--and this last gent ended being the CEO of the firm I am with now. We were supposed to be here for 2-3 weeks, and now it will be 7+ years. I cannot emphasize enough the power of connections and knowing the language here (or, in my case, knowing someone who has connections and being married to someone that knows the language). Without those I'd probably be pedding mutual funds in a bear market back in Canada. Now I have what I would call a dream job with good pay (can't get into that too much) good hours, fun work (work? I talk to guys all day, hardly what I call work) and in a foreign country, to boot.

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How did you obtain your work permit? What advice would you have for others about work permits?

The firm took care of all the work permit details, heck the CEO negotiated my apartment rental and got me a cell phone.

Have you taken language and cross-cultural training courses to prepare for your assignment? If so, how have they helped you on the job?

I took a couple of Korean classes, not much stuck with me, though...have to see it everyday to start to get it. My wife, being born and raised here, was a big help, and her family helped me get the things I needed without paying an arm and a leg. As well, just hanging out with them and the other in-laws made life a lot easier. Without that, however, expats have a lot of ways to communicate back home: cell long distance is cheap (get the right carrier!) and webcams are a blast. I also came here 3 time before (10 days at a stretch), so I had some idea what was going on here (although, admittedly, not as much as I thought).

If you were transferred abroad by your employer, were you guaranteed a job upon repatriation? What type of mentoring programs does your employer offer?

I have nothing to go back to in Canada. Sold/closed my advising business and sold my car on the first trip back and looking to sell my apartment too. Like Cortez who burned his ships to encourage his men not to look back the best way to do well here is to set things up so that it is MORE difficult to go back--then you WILL adapt, rather than running once things (and they will) start to go against you from time to time.

What advice would you offer others about finding jobs and working abroad?

Go to the country a few times. Meet expats in your home country that come from your 'target' country to get a better idea of what the people are like (remember that those who leave are sometimes a little different from those who live there, though). Read as many books as you can on the language, history, culture, food and idiosyncracies of your future new home. You should know how to present a business card, say hello and good to meet you and a few other basic gestures and idioms--otherwise you're just another idiot coming off the boat.

To get a job just get anything when you first arrive--teach English, whatever. If you can fall into a position then great, but you may need to take something right away and then look to trade up in a while.

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zbas
Nov 7, 2014 19:37

Hello, I am moving to Seoul early next year with my husband and I am in Finance . Currently working as Sr Financial Analyst in US and have CFA charter as well as Masters in Banking & Finance . I was wondering if you could please advice me on how to locate a English based finance job. Is there a recruitment agency that you would know of ? Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thanks,

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