Getting a Job Straight From Undergrad in Korea

It’s that time again! Christmas Time!


Uh, yeah.  Normally I would be doing Excel spreadsheets at some internship or entry-level job, but I’m currently in a Masters program (2 years!) and it’s already giving me 2 different tears…

Anyway, let me congratulate the recent graduates who found a job in this economy:


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Dancing over.

(Thanks, Changmin-didn’t want people to get too carried away there.)

Truth be told, finding a job is hard– you have to fill out countless applications, spruce up your resume, put money down for interview clothes, have a nervous breakdown, complete the interview, wait, get rejected, cry, spiral into depression, get out of depression, wait, go about your life, wait-


It’s tough. And South Korean have it tougher.leeteukgif5

South Koreans looking for jobs post-university have to deal with specs (스펙) or credentials.  Applicants obtain credentials to set themselves apart from the crowd- problem is, the crowd has them too.


“Shut the front door!”- Stacy London


Some examples of specs are foreign language proficiency (commonly a high TOEIC score or knowledge of Chinese) and computer skills.  And the more the better.

Now let me engage your sociological imagination.

Imagine that you’re American college/university senior.  Imagine that you needed to get a certificate showing that you are proficient in Spanish to have the best chance of getting a job (in this case, getting to the second interview stage), regardless if the job actually requires the use of Spanish. Employers don’t care if you’re “bad at foreign languages.” They don’t care if you’re an engineering major.  They don’t care if you intend to live in the U.S. until the day you die.  You want the job, don’t you? Then you better learn to habla español.   In Korea, the idea of specs is similar: you may not need them to do the actual job per se, but you need them to muscle your way through the competition.  [End of sociological imagination time]

Koreans employers usually also require applicants to put a picture of themselves on their job application. This is the famous Korean lookism coming into play – employers do take your face into account (brings a new meaning to the expression “put your best face forward”).  Therefore, your face had better be on par. If it’s not, your local plastic surgeon will be glad to take your money to relieve you of your insecurities. A lot of Koreans have gotten plastic surgery to improve their chances of employment, among other things. In the United States (and most of the West), that application picture slams up against all the anti-discrimination (race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, age, etc) hiring laws.

When combined with the “how-to-apply-for-a-job” description above, all this adds up to a nearly insurmountable summit (that’s some code talk that we academics use for “high threshold of entry”) for Korean job applicants.

I’m sure there are other things that make the Korean version of post-university job hunting different from that of other countries, but this is what I saw/read/heard while I was in Korea.

So for the rest of you tired and weary job seekers-


Credits: Article from the Korea Times about specs.


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