Tag Archives: office

“Sorry, You are Disqualified Because You are Not Foreigner”

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So while I am struggling with the endless battle with LSAT, my friend called me about a possible part-time position.  I was not too keen on it, but hey, at least someone thought of me and that is a terribly nice gesture.  And earning a few more wons won’t hurt me, right?

Friend: Well, they are looking for a native speaker, or “foreigner” for the position.
Ceberus: What?  For the English-Korean translation part-time position?
Friend: Yeah.
Ceberus: That. is. insane.
Friend: I know! I told them they won’t be able to find a “foreigner” with a good-enough control on English and Korean.  But as I heard about the position, I thought of you.  You grew up in the States, speak good English and Korean, right?
Ceberus: Yeah I guess so.  So should I write to this person in English of in Korean?
Friend: Er…both?  ‘Cause that shows you are good at both languages?
Ceberus: Er…I’ll just write in English, since you said they want a “foreigner.”  You know it always helps to be foreigner in Korea, as much as you can.
Friend: AH, TRUE.

There goes my resume.  Which clearly shows my extensive experience on dealing with foreigners, foreign documents.  And I have seperate block for my freelance translation/interpretation.

Oh, and my friend did not have a clear idea about job description (after all, the job wasn’t for her company – it was for her client company), so I also asked them to give me a job description.

The job description never came, nor the reply.  Naturally, I thought the position is bygone.  Well, as I munch down my lunch today, my cell rang. It was the company.

Company: Thanks for the resume.  But we are looking for the foreigner, I mean, native speaker for the position.  I think there was some kind of misunderstanding.  And you are Korean, so unfortunately, we believe you are not the best match for our position. 

And then “we hope to see you again if there is another opportunity” blah blah shit.   Yeah thanks whatever.   Oh and I never thought being a “foreigner” matters that much in terms of job performance.  I didn’t even bother to argue, since my friend already said that they are looking for a “foreigner,” and I am very well aware of Korean (Asian in general) companies’ fantasy on having a foreigner in their office.  Oftentimes, it’s usually a white person from North America.  Never mind that there might be some other Korean who speaks better English AND Korean than that person – it looks cool, who cares?  But if they are really looking for a “foreigner” who can actually translate Korean – English, I say their chance is really, really slim.

It reminds me of how I wanted to join FBI, CIA or MI-5 back in the old days.  The things looked good, because many of these organizations are always short in people speaking good East Asian language.  I happen to speak 2 East Asian languages quite fluently, and my educational background is a good match.  However I had to give it up quickly.  All of them were only accepting US citizens and UK citizens.  No surprise, they are still short in people who can do that.

It’s not my first time, nor this is something that happens only in Korea.  Maybe there was a miscommunication.  Nevertheless I hate this bullshit.

God chose me to be his/her prank target today.

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In order to balance out my study life and actual real world life, I force myself to do regular socials.  Few weeks ago, there was a nice social for expats so I and my friend went there.  We met a fellow foreigner (wait…can I say “fellow foreigner?”) who was just transferred from Japan.  Since my friend and I both lived in Japan and speak Japanese, we formed a nice little Japanese bubble.   During the follow-up emails and such, he suggested me to send a copy of my resume.  I did, and ta-dah, the interview came along.

Now, after having been duped several times and experienced multiple interviews with domestic and international employers, I don’t hold my hopes high.  However, I thought this might be a good opportunity for me.  I lived in Japan/Korea/US, know the local culture very well, and speak Japanese, Korean and English fluently.  The company was sort of business consulting, specialized for westerners trying to enter Asian market.  The office wasn’t far from my place either, which was a bonus point.

So I went to the office.  Thought they seriously lacked personnel in the office, I did not mind, knowing the company just opened their Korean office few months ago.  I was to be interviewed by my reference-person’s boss (either British or American), who is in Korea for a business trip.  The surrounding looked alright, given that I tend to work better with non-Koreans.  I came prepared.  I read off their company website, read job description, thought of few typical interview answers – such as, “tell me about yourself” – and took a copy of my own resume.  There I was, ready to play catch-ball with questions, waiting for my interviewers to throw the questions in.  Instead, the interviewer went on and on for about +20 minutes, explaining what their company does.  I appreciate his thoughtfulness, but I really think he could have cut it down to 10 minutes.  He saw my copies of his company website and I told him I read the company website.  Growing up under Korean parents who have zero tolerance on impolite behavior, I am brainwashed to not to ever cut off when someone is talking (even more so if he is my potential boss).  What could I do?  Just nod, smile and let him finish.  Thus, after that 20+ minutes I was pretty exhausted.

Then he asked, “have you read our job description?”

Well hello, I’m already DOING the interview for the very position, and who on earth with their right mind doesn’t even read job description and go to the interview?!?!?!

Finally we moved on to questions.  Which made me feel a bit uncomfortable, if not strange – because, according to my experience, a lot of interview is about what kind of person I am.  Thus many questions, if not all, are about your strength, weakness, unseen experiences on resume, background, etc.  I don’t think he asked any of that…except that he asked where do I see myself in future.  Now that I think of it, I think he just asked it because he felt he needs to do.  Generally all the questions felt like he is either quizzing me with answers already in his mind, or “Can you do this? that? this?” Most of them, I think, can be inferred from my resume…but this is a subjective opinion so I’ll put it aside.  Then as he answered my questions, I was further confused.  In the beginning, he said whether I am familiar with high-tech industry (which I answered, “well given that I am fast-learner and always curious person…” blah blah, you know the drill).  Then, in the end, he said they are looking for generalists.  Er…sorry, so your job description is…?

I came back to home after the interview.  Took a short break, checked my e-mails and LinkedIn, and changed to do some workout.  It would be a good idea to pick up my pants, which I left to local seamstress shop because the pants were a bit too long for me.  Few days ago, I left my perfectly fine and new two pairs of Uniqlo pants to the seamstress shop.  She said she make the adjustment by Wednesday.  So I visited there Wednesday.  She said it’s not ready yet.  Honestly, I wonder how long does it take to shorten your pants, especially when you already pin-tucked your pants with the length you want.  Oh well.  I went back today.  I said my address and told her I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.

Then the seamstress was going here and there, looking for my pants.  She said she doesn’t see them.  I said:

Ceberus: Well, I left two pairs of pants for length adjustment.  Don’t you remember?
Seamstress: I don’t see them though…
Ceberus: A pair of jeans and another pair of black pants?
Seamstress: (blank face) Er…could you describe it for me?

Yeah, like it is so easy to describe your own pair of jean.  Unless you are talking about some limited edition premium jeans with swarovski crystals on the butt or grand decoration, how can you really describe your jeans? Oh it’s blue and there’s white washing on your knees?

Ceberus: Well, it’s from Uniqlo.
Seamstress: (another blank face, searching for the rack)
Ceberus:…(sigh)
Seamstress: I will have to look for it…can you come back later?
Ceberus: I can’t believe this.  You put another day of delay, and now you are saying my pants are gone.  Fine.

I was on the border line of getting late for my workout, so I backed out.  After the workout, I visited the shop again.

Ceberus: well, did you find it?
Seamstress: You’ll have to come back tomorrow.
Ceberus: …(visibly unhappy) Do you mean, you found the pants but it’s not done, or you just don’t know where the heck my pants are?
Seamstress: (smile) Well…I’ll have to look for them.

Like seriously.  What can I say.  How hard it is to track down your customer’s stuff?  I’m not talking about she should have a grandiose account managing system.  All she needs to do is tuck the memo or copy of receipt on each hanger.  I almost wanted to unleash the hellfire but I was too tired.  I just gave her a visible eye roll, and dashed out without talking.  I will visit her tomorrow, and if she has not located my pants’ whereabouts, I’ll have to make her pay for the pants.  But then, that means I’ll have to do shopping again, just to buy identical pairs of pants.  Fudge…alright, empty-brain time.

I logged on to internet.  Then, I found a cheaper deal than the pair of ankle boots I ordered a few days ago – my old boots are so very old, it’s visibly falling apart.  So I tried to cancel my old order.  But they say, by the store policy, cancellation is not possible.

Those three happened all in one day.  One fucking day.  I am so sure that someone high up in the sky got pretty bored, rolled a dice, and made me his/her prank target for today.

Maybe They Don’t Want Me

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On April 7th, I had my job interview with a major shipbuilding/raw material trading company.  Of course it is Korean company.  I thought let’s go and try it, because 1) the more interview you have, you get better and 2) the company works A LOT with foreign market.  There office was one of the driest office building I’ve ever been to.  On the top of that, the entire office space had carpet.   My throat started to dry up really bad.  Ever since I moved back to big Asian city, I started to have nasal obstruction and dry bronchi in Spring.

This isn’t my first interview with 40-50 years old Korean executives.  But after this one, I have this weird feeling.  I feel that the interviewers don’t quiet know how to deal with me.  They feel uncomfortable with my presence around.

No, I’m not talking about how way too cool I am.  Let me turn the table around and put it this way.

So you are typical middle-age Korean salarymen.  Your position is about senior manager and you are 50 something.  Of course you grew up in South Korea under Korean parents and Korean friends and classmates.  You started your career in a Korean company, and you have been working for the same company about 20 years.  Your subordinates are Koreans of 20 and 30.  They obey you.  Now, you are about to interview loads of candidates – of course someone who will be your subordinate and drink all that liquor as you command, and come to the office as soon as I say so, even though it’s 7 am Sunday. Here’s the next candidate.  She looks Korean, speaks fluent Korean but feels a bit different.  Foreign.  But she is Korean.  Um….alright, let’s check her resume.  So she went high school and a good college…in States.  It’s not California, New Jersey or New York, where there is bunch of Koreans. And, unlike other Koreans who got Western education, she literally grew up there.  And she was in Japan, too.  I’ve never quiet seen something like this…hmm.  I called her because her resume looked interesting but oh, what should I do, what should I do?  Think, think…well I’d rather have a good obedient Korean who covers my ass rather than an unidentified living creature, which I don’t know how to manage.  It’s better to be safe than taking a risk.  Alright, off you go…NEXT!

I feel this is what’s happening in their head.

I admit in the world like this, candidates with degree of more “practical,” specific field – like accounting, engineering, finance, etc – is preferrable to employers.  I don’t have one, and I would not be surprised if that part plays a big role in their decision.  But honestly, it is baffling when all these Korean employers are saying how globalized (or trying to be) they are, and how the candidates are so not globalized and incapable.  Then some “global” candidate appears.  The employers are then scared to hire him or her.  Now about the capability – they can’t even write a clear job posting, or organize what kind of skillset they are looking for.  My generation of candidates is probably the “smartest” candidates of Korean job market history.  Yet the employers complain.  Just stop all that bullcrap about how global and open-minded they are, and go right to the point on what kind of people you are looking for.

So why not scrap all of this and go off to grad school or travel?

Here’s my weakness.  I am very reluctant to quit before I see the tangible result.  Sometimes along the road, I start to feel – or realize – that it will probably fail.  But I keep doing it anyway, saying you never know until the end.  To be honest, I’m not really happy here.  Sure there are some things I would like to keep – such as superb infrastructure, cheap public transportation, floor heating, cheap beauty products and service and medical insurance.  Still, if I have a choice I’d rather live in States.  Yes I know, US has not so impressive infrastructure, expensive insurance (subject to change, of course), lack of heating device other than radiator that dries heck out of your skin, immobility without a car, and so on.  But I was happier there.  People usually let me be.  Here, everyone pushes me to be outsider and insider at the same time.  I feel like the society here is pushing me to be something that I am not.  Sorry folks, I can never be the nice, obedient Korean girl next door.  While I do not deny my Korean self, I feel only about 20% of my self-consciousness is Korean, other 20% Japanese and 60% Midwestern American.  And employers, please stop bragging how globalized you are, when your managers are narrow-minded Koreans.

Like I said before somewhere in this blog, if I am to go to grad school, I really want it to be my ticket out of this rat hole.  But what’s the probability?  About 10 years ago, the probability was high.  After that , here I am, whose employer refused to sponsor my visa at the very last moment.  Let’s say I get into one of those top law schools and graduate safely.  Would I actually be able to settle down in States, or, at least, get to work with a group of people who are not solely made of Koreans and live in somewhere else?  If that’s not possible, then what is the point?  Obama, please do something about the immigration law.  Damn my green South Korean passport.  Maybe I should just buy off a man with American or European citizenship.

This is also my excuse of why there was no posting for a while on my blog.

How to do Interview in Korea – 3 (My World, Upside Down)

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I’ve been away for a while.  First,  I sweated myself too much on MCAS Excel and PowerPoint exam.  It turned out to be 95% same with the sample questions given from my MCAS training course.   Way to go, Korean hagwons.   So this means I am halfway done to getting my MCAS certificate.   Second, we had a short lunar new year holiday.  This is one of the major holiday in Korea.  The traffic goes crazy and all major retailers launch massive campaigns.  Just think of Thanksgiving.  Third, I have been busy, preparing my materials for Korean-style job preparation.  I know many Asian culture prefers perfect orchestration and preparation done before the real deal, but man…I keep wondering “do you really need all of this?”  You almost always begin with self-introduction.  Duh, what’s the difference? In States, it’s pretty much casual – you mention a bit about your background, maybe hometown and college.  Then you mention some activities you’ve done and describe your strength (the former often used to support the later).  Lastly you thank and say you are happy to have a chance to interview with your potential employer.  Done.

Well here, you almost have to be a adviertisement copywriter.  You have to come up with some clever punch-line.  More the better, and even better if you can make each one for your strength.  Although you are asked to do self-introduction, it’s really about you saying about your strength.   You might wonder, “but they didn’t ask about my strength…?”  Welcome to the high-context society, pal.  By the way, they will ask about the strength later on.  I assume that the reason of this grandiose self-introduction is the difference of interview environment.  In States, it’s almost always one-on-one interview.  You might get multiple interviewers, but it’s always one candidate per interview.  However, in Korea, it is VERY common to have up to five candidates per interview.  You will be compared.  I really do not like this – when I first had the Korean style interview in Korea, I almost thought I’m in a beauty pageant, if not slave market.  And let’s not forget about hierarchy and mean questions, which is unlikely to be asked in States unless you are applying for tough, testosteron-filled world of Investment Banking in Wall Street.   I haven’t come up with my punch-line self introduction.  It’s hard!

Before the last week’s job session, I wrote out my personal statement given by one of the employers here, and sent it to the specialist for review.   According to his advice, my sentences are long, some of them are a bit colloquial and I will have to diversify my answers.  Sure, no problem.  But his last comment summoned my Korean community nightmare.  It was on the last question: “where you will be after 10 years from now on? What do you want to do in our company?”  My answer was to be a helping hand to both company and foreign candidates who are working in Korea. For the intro, I briefly mentioned that Korea’s low familiarity, lack of diversity (when compared to western world) and closedness tend to push away many qualified candidates (and from there, developing how I can be a help for the problem).  The specialist says, “It might sound as you are trying to teach these people.  We are not writing an academic thesis paper here, so forget that part.” Only after I gave him more description – that I am not aiming for getting any job here, but for something I can work as a liaison between foreigner and locals, he said “well, in that case mention some of the troubles they are going through, and how you can be a solution.”  Hello, that’s what I was trying to do.

One thing I always had a trouble with other Koreans was that “teaching” part.  All I try to do is state my opinion, thoughts, feelings and/or position clearly, for the better communication.  To many Koreans, often older ones, accepted this as I am challenging their authority, being rude, if not cocky.  This is why I deliberately avoided using words like vegan and homosexual because 1) if I use a concept they are not familiar, they will think I’m showing off and 2) many of Koreans are homophobic.  In short, they are pissed because this youngster – I – don’t follow whatever as they said (I sometimes see this from my Korean dad, too).  They all preach about how wonderful US is and how it is better than Korea, but even in States they stick to a principle that works to their advantage.    On the other hand, I never had that kind of trouble in States with Americans.  In the statement, I was just trying to develop some ground for my thoughts, yet Koreans will look at me and think I’m just being cocky.  And they complain about how these smart young candidates are unwilling to do “hard work” and foreigners always cause trouble in office.

Next we did the mock interview session again.  Most of the questions were about social issues.  You don’t really ask this in States for job interview.  What’s the need, as long as you can do your job and fulfill your responsibility?  Well, welcome to the Asian wonderland.  You are almost always asked about this, and your opinion can actually affect the decision.  Unfair, but I know – it’s not US of A.  Usualyl I’m pretty good at this.  I was asked about the founder’s direct management vs CEO system.  So I gave definitions and mentioned pro and con of each system.  Then the specialist says, “this question is often asked by company under founder’s direct management.  So you’d better ask something in favor of the system.” Er….okay.  But you didn’t give me the context.  I sometimes wonder this specialist guy is trying to break me.  For this question, other participants complimented me that I gave a really god definition and said it in a very confident way.  The specialist didn’t, and like I said he mentioned the context only after I finished my answer.  There has been some more dubious moments, but I’ll keep it for now.  And again, I was said that my posture and manner looks “too cool, not passionate.”  Fortunately, there was another participants and she was somewhat like me – never raising her voice.  She, too, was constantly advised to change her attitude.

I know.  Like I mentioned multiple times on my posting, if I have to change myself completely and act something that I am not, and to be judged by it rather than the content of my voice, I really don’t know what to make of it.

The more and more I do this mock interview and job process session, increasingly I realize that I am way more objective and unemotional than average in Korea.   Some of it is because my parents.  They are 100% pure Seoul natives, and all urban natives of the world tend to be viewed as cold, direct, objective and rational.  Both of my paternal and maternal relatives are Seoul natives.  Then I grew up States, where it is encouraged to 1) be yourself, 2) state your opinion clearly, 3) be emotional is a sign of immature, and 4) be objective.  Now, I am living in a country, where being yourself and clearly state your opinion is a sign of immaturity, being objective and rational is a sign of lack of passion, if not impolite.

What a fun to have your world turned upside down to be shaken, regardless of your will, and forced to be bear with it, just because I speak the language fluently and looks like one of them and have my nationality document bearing its name on the paper.

No wonder why I want to get the fuck out of here.

How to do Interview in South Korea – 2

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Friday was my second job interview session.  For some reason the specialist guy was nicer than before, and one of the participant was just a living laughter buster (=continuously laughs out loud when she is nervous or frustrated) so I was able to enjoy it a bit more than last time.

If you are familiar with American style hiring process, you are rarely required to write a personal statement (unless you are applying for school).  There are companies asking for it, but majority of companies do not need this.  Instead you need to turn in your cover letter.  Sometimes you are asked to send your writing sample, or answer some more question in written format, no more than 2-3 questions.  Obviously, in South Korea, it’s completely different.  Depends on the place, you are required to make a hand-written copy of resume.  Sometimes the employer asks you to do so on the day of interview, at their office.  Why? So your employer can see how well do you handwrite.  It’s good that you have a nice handwriting, but does it really matter for fulfilling your duties as executive secretary?  Okay, if you have completely illegible handwriting, that might be a problem because your boss won’t be able to comprehend your memo.  However, if someone who is keen on time and great at organizing loses out just because she has a messy handwriting, that’s not only wrong but also unfair, in my opinion.  And if the handwriting is that much of a problem, she can be trained later on.

Almost all of Korean companies ask the candidate to write a paragraph or two on your job application.  Usually the categories are: self-introduction, challenges in your life (and how you dealt with it), your experience, your passion, and where you would be at after 10 years.  Now, you might start wonder…”but isn’t that supposed to be interview questions?”  Yes, I do think so, too.  And they do ask it in interview.  Now, if you are going to ask same questions twice, and if you know the answers will be pretty much reiterating the written answers, what’s the point? While I was thinking this and secretly sighing, the specialist guy added: “make sure you have a headline for each questions, before you write out your answers.”  Um…okay, why?  “Many interviewers don’t read your writings.  So, by placing headlines before your answers, you are informing them about what to ask.”

Okay, so all that writings of your blood and sweat are to be read only by HR staffs, but not by the interviewers.  You have to be so nice to tell them what to ask about you.   I understand that many of interviewers are not HR staffs but someone who will work closely with the candidate.  I also understand that majority of Korean companies don’t let you keep a good track of 9-to-6 but squeeze the life out of their employees, therefore many of them would not have time to take a good look at resume and personal statements.   If the company is to ask someone to be an interviewer, shouldn’t it allow the interviewer to have at least one good look of the application?

As we move along the road, one of the mock interview question was this: “how much can you drink?”

Yes, yes, you western readers of my blog, this is a totally nonsense interview question.  But to your surprise, it is quiet common for Korean employers to ask this to candidates.  A lot of “real deal” is based on after-work drinking, and participating the collective drinking session is deemed as a team spirit.  Many businessmen – especially salesperson who need to get the quota before due date, no matter what – ruin their health because of this drinking.  South Koreans finally started to take this as a quiet serious problem, but like anywhere of the world, change is always slow.  After all, this society doesn’t have much outlet for stress release for men, other than gamble, visiting shamans/evangelist pastor, drinking, and/or drinking at escort club, buying woman.

Back to my mock interview session.  I did not know what to answer.  I am allergic to strong alcoholic drinks, like straight vodka shot.  Unless it is diluted with juice or non-alcoholic beverage (like Screwdriver), and/or consumed slowly, disgusting red rash will cover my entire body with extreme itchiness, and for the next 3 months at most I will be forced to eat like a rabbit – no, not even a vegan.  I don’t say about my allergy a lot in States, because you are free to drink at your pace.  In Korea, the very common form of drink is Soju, which has like 20-45% alcohol, and people drink it as a straight shot, on and on.  You could probably tell that this isn’t my cup of drink, literally.  Well then, should I say “Barely, because of my allergy?”  I don’t know, because so many Koreans either laughed about my allergy, if not accusing me for making some silly excuse and bailing out from the great team-spirit session.  Thus I decided to ask the specialist guy – what would be the best answer for my situation?  Yes, some people laughed but now I’m used to it.

Then the specialist said: “Well, you can just say, ‘I don’t really enjoy the drink itself, but I do enjoy the social part of drinking.  And I light up the occasion.’  What they really want to know is how social you are.”

Connecting alcohol consumption with social – how very Korean is that.  Yet to be honest, I am not a fan of hoeshik, or company dinner (this is not your usual company dinner; I failed to find a good explanation, and this is the best I got).  And, it is possible to be a social person without massive shot drinking.  So I got even more confused.  I said, “but then I’m not telling the truth.”  The the specialist said, “who cares?  You can change your answers after you get the position.”  My jaw dropped and there was nothing more to say from me.

I did not have that uncomfortable feeling like last time.  Rather it made me think a bit about how everything I experienced and know about Korean society connect – and also shed some light on why I felt so uncomfortable when having an interview with Korean employer.  In States, the question means itself.  No tricks there.  The candidate can sugarcoat their answers, or just don’t bring up something that is disadvantageous to him/herself.  But the candidate is expected to be honest.  And as long as you can wrap some disadvantages and negatives as positivity, there shouldn’t be major problem.  If something of your answer turned out to be a lie, then that puts you into some serious trouble, possibly eliminating your future job options.

In South Korea, usually the question does not mean what is asked.  Like the Korean language and the Korean way of communication, it often has another question, just like the other side of moon.  I guess in western sense it can be called as ‘cheaing’ or ‘insincere.’  But in return, the candidates are allowed to lie to some degree.  As long as you can get the position, and as long as you are not lying about confirmable facts (schools, address, etc), who cares! Sometimes the ability to improvise a lie is complimented (to some degree I see the point here).  Maybe I am making too much of big deal out of a small thing, but it made me recall the majority of Korean students’ behavior back in my high school, and recent scandals on SAT exam in here.  Back in my high school, Korean boys were notorious for sneaking out and sharing past exams without permission (it was forbidden by school regulation, unless the teacher handed it out voluntarily with permission), and sharing the answers of assignment.  Their attitude was, “who cares as long as I get a nice big A?”   I still remember how they asked me to show my assignment to them on daily basis.  It’s no secret among American college admissions that Koreans’ TOEFL score is not very trustworthy: despite their near-perfect score, they can’t even write a decent paper, let alone talk with their professor.

Very recently, a big scandal on SAT exams shook the ETS and South Korea upside down.  So many SAT instructors here smuggled out the SAT questions, which is not allowed to be taken out from the testing site, and students bought it for the exam.  What a shame.

Sure, everyone wants to excel the exam and take the easy way.  But there are things called “fairness,” “integrity,” and “rules.”  It’s there to be kept by everyone.  In States, adhering to those values and respecting  the rules are valued and counted, even if your skills suck ass.  But in here, rules are generally seen as obstacle that can be beaten by tricks.  While integrity and fairness is respected in South Korea, it is respected to a lesser degree: you will find more people who disregard these values, saying “those who stick to honesty and fairness are idiots, kind of.”   Seriously, if Koreans can have a common respect of law and rules, I bet this country would be about twice better and foreigner-friendly then now.

I know this is all process of learning, and I try my best to think every step in positive way.  I know it will help me in the future.  I know, through this, I will be one of the very few people who can explain Korean culture well in English.  I know that being TCK is a kind of mission, which can improve the human races’ understanding to each other, and I also know I’m not the only one who is going through this.  But to be very honest, I am often tempted to give it all up, throw a middle finger to everything, and run away to a random grad school.   My headhunter said it is really nice that I speak fluent Korean and English.  I agree.  However also because of that, people just push it right on my face.

How to do interview in South Korea – 1

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The core attitudes/qualities sought after by employers of the world are simple – the candidate has “can-do” “will-do” attitude, dedicated, responsible, smart and good to get along with.  But how to present it really depends on the culture.  That is what I try to learn from this study session with specialist;which, by the way, started from today.  I need to know how to present it in Korean style.  If you are not familiar with the job market here, you might wonder “why do you even need that?”  Well, trust me, you need that one.  Even mono-Koreans seek help.  It’s a long story, but I’ll just say it involves just too many different deciding factors when compared to that of America.

I know I’m in no position to complain a lot here – after all it was my will and decision to try this, and I am ready to swallow myself a bit if needed.  But I’m a human being, and I need to rant release my thoughts once in a while.  So how was it?  In short it was pretty much reconfirmation of what I felt, or assumed about what Korean companies want to see from candidates, especially in terms of self-presentation.  In American job interviews, I didn’t really get nervous.  Of course there is anxiety, but I just remind myself that all I need to do is be honest, be myself and be polite.  I guess that worked, because I did pretty well on interviews – it’s just that damn immigration regulation held my back.  One interviewer said “I liked some of your answers”; another one said “it’s really good that you look confident, not all-sweat when you enter the door.”

Well, in today’s Korean style mock-interview session, I did what I do for job interview.   Then I was constantly told that I do not sound passionate enough, my manners of speech is too casual, and I sound too casual.  Then we saw a clip of sample interview videos.  On a screen, a guy was there, with artificial smile and loud voice.  When ask to introduce himself, his speech was like an army soldier briefing.  Too me, it was too ready-made – hit-line followed by why you are the best candidate for the company point-by-point.  Wait, shouldn’t you answer that one when the interviewer asked “why should we hire you?”  With my sparse experience with Korean style interview, I always had a feeling that they want someone who is tailored to their cookie cutter and have a very militaristic attitude.  That video was confirmation of my hunch and I was thinking, “holy shit.”  If that is the good example of Korean style interview, I guess what they see the signs of confidence are 1) loud voice, 2) fake smile and 3) no sense of self, i.e. “ready to be a lifeless selfless happy slave of yours!”  Seriously, try that in States – I can see the interviewer getting scared or cross out this guy’s name for being way too desperate.  Maybe my American mindset is emerging again, but if you are confident enough, doesn’t that mean you are able to stay calm and poised, regardless of the situation?  If you can veneer the lacking of self, or confidence with loud voice and fake smile, well, easy life….for them at least.  I don’t know what the specialist will say, but it will take me a long time to change myself in that manner – I grew up in States for the half of my life.  I’ll try but it won’t change within a month.

The specialist who led the session, said “they don’t do this in States, no?”  (Before my attendance, I made it pretty clear that I grew up in oversea).  So I Said, “no they don’t.”  Then he went on, “well, you might be surprised, but in Japan it’s even worse, if not similar. I saw it on TV last time.”  Like I am completely new to the Asian culture.  Well, yes, thank you, I actually lived in Japan with locals, I know I was able to get away with it because I was gaijin, and that’s why I’ve avoided applying to Japanese company, if I am to be accepted as a full member of their group.   It would be a different story if I am hired as an external consultant or something else. ‘Nuff about this.

One of the questions I got was: “You’ve lived in States for a long time.  How are you going to deal with challenges that come from cultural difference?”

So, as a TCK, I said: “I don’t see it is a challenge limited to US and Korean culture.  Getting relocated from one culture to another one is challenging.  People say there is no shortcut for studying, and in my opinion the best and the most efficient way to get yourself adjusted to another culture is immerse yourself in that culture, such as talking a lot and interact with locals.  That’s what I am doing.  Sure, sometimes it is frustrating and makes me emotional, but that’s the part of process, and through that I get to learn more.”

Then I was advised to say that I totally nailed Korean culture, with the comment “it sounds like you are saying it for the news opinion column.”  Um…okay.  Possible if I grew up in west coast or east coast.  But I grew up in Midwest, and my schools’ location on resume show it.  To my knowledge, my target companies has a pretty good database of schools and such, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the interviewers are well aware of the fact that American midland has almost no Asian population, except big cities.  What if they ask “but there aren’t much Koreans in where you grew up…?”  Lying is a big no-no in job interview.  So I decided to ask, though it can be deemed as arrogant in this culture.

Specialist: Was there a lot of Korean where you grew up?  Like did you go to Korean church a lot?

I: Fuck no Um, no, the Asian population was next to nonexistant…and are you really sure I can lie about this?  Because it’s possible that interviewers know that there aren’t much Koreans or Asians in Midwest.

Specialist:  Nah, I don’t think they will know.

I: Well, it’s not urban area, and the interviewers at least know the names of urban area, obviously with high Korean population.

Then he just started to talk about he enrolled in a training program in middle of nowhere of US, and the training facility had so much Koreans, making all the other internationals scared.  Like that’s a good thing.  Besides, I was in a degree institution, not language institute…I really don’t get what he tried to say.  Oh, and it is common for interviewers not to actually read the personal statement before the interview.

Anyway, I don’t blame the specialist guy.  I didn’t expect him to be highly internationalized person, nor to be develop a personal relationship.  He knows the rule of the game very well, and that’s why I attended his session; as long as he gives me a good, practical guidance in return, that’s it.  And I am willing to follow the guidance from someone who knows it better than I do.  He is probably being a bit more strict than necessary, because he wants to give his clients every single advantage when it comes to Korean style job interview.  On the way home, I had that sick, uncomfortable feeling – just like when I had my first Korean style interview in States.  I really didn’t like it.  I felt uncomfortable and sick because directly and/or indirectly, I was asked to be something that is not me.  I was asked to act something else and that was what made it most stressful.  Then it came across my mind: if they are asking these and requires these kind of answers and qualities, that means the qualities are prevalent in the office, too.  Sure, if I suck up a bit and swallow myself a bit, I might be able to jump over that hurdle and get a job here.  But what about after I make it?  With those qualities filling up the air of entire office, possibly constantly required to “act,” am I going to be happy?  Will I be willing to work there for a long time,  Will I be willing to see the colleagues for a long time, developing a friendly relationship?

I won’t get answers for these instantly, so let’s put that aside a bit, and see how this session goes for a while.

Today’s moral:  If Korean company says they want a highly internationalized, creative person and respect individuality, fuck that – that’s bullshit, so don’t take the words as it is.

Plans

Standard

Whether I like it or not, I will give a try for the big name firms in hiring season here.  As I wrote before, their hiring process is crazy and requires preparation.  For this reason, I will pinpoint the firms I really want to try and put my effort on it, instead of just applying here and there just because they have interesting job opening.  I still think the hiring process is unreasonably too time consuming, but I’m in South Korea – even if I fail, it will be a good experience and I will get to know the rule of game here.  If nothing works out, well, law school then.  I know it won’t be easy and going through three years of law school would be a hell hole.  But hey, if you can’t make money, better to learn something.

I am slightly hesitant, though.

From my experience, I think it would be better to go law school or whatever higher education after having 2-3 years of real life experience at least.  People who just hop on to the next level of academic degree because they had no idea what to do or were unwilling to work, tend to be total tools and immature (of course, people who continuously pursue high academic degree with clear purpose, like getting a job in academic field, does not belong to this category).  My college Japanese teacher once said, when in faculty meeting, professors who just continued their academic life without any wage-earning experience have really narrow viewpoint and frustrates her a lot (she has several years of working experience in Japan).  But professors who went through working in an organization are able to draw big picture.  I do feel for her.  The college professors who were so pleasant to work with all had several years of office working experience.  Earning your wage by working with others – from nice white-collar job to burger flipper – really open your eyes, and for sure you learn things that you cannot learn in school – both positive things and negative things about life and human.  By facing a lot of jerks and unexpected situation, you discover what kind of person you want to be, how to avoid being one of them, and why jerks turn into jerks.  And through that, you get to figure out what you want and who you are.

But on the other hand, so many people – more experienced in life – are telling me it is better to start studying when you are young.  It’s true, though.  Your brain functions better, you can get more things done and there is higher possibility of your parents saving your ass.  On the top of that, I will go to some kind of grad school sooner or later, so why not now?

Decision, decisions, decisions…

I think too much before planning something – it almost hurts my head.  I contemplate about what would be the best choice and the most rational choice.  Yet almost always I never get an answer.  Then I always go “screw it, I’ll just do what I want, give it a go and see how it goes. If it fails, oh well.”  I know I know, you are probably thinking, ‘then why research and plan to begin with?’ But I believe there is a difference between going for something you want just because you want it, and doing so with a good background knowledge and aware of possible results.  Evidences?  I don’t know, I just feel like it.

Well, for sure I’ll start with taking courses on Microsoft office and joining Korean-style employment process preparation club.