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Life after college can be tough. If you don’t have a position lined up you could be job searching for months. If you’re not ready for your typical 9-5 experience, or if you have no idea what it is you want to be doing, there are other opportunities out there that will help you find yourself and your passion. It takes a lot of courage and initiative, but if you’re willing to take that step it will change your life forever – guaranteed.

To learn more check out my guest post over at University Ave:

Extending Your Education By Working Abroad.

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한국어: 대한민국의 나라문장 English: The coat of arms of S...

한국어: 대한민국의 나라문장 English: The coat of arms of South Korea Español: escudo de Corea del Sur 日本語: 大韓民国の国章 中文: 大韩民国国徽 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This blog is mainly for transitioning into HR, but today I’d like to write more about cultural transition. I’m a huge advocate for working abroad and I truly believe that without global knowledge you are limiting your professional and personal opportunities.

I’ve been back in the States for just over a month now, so between job hunting and trying to stay on top of all things HR-related, I’ve had some time to think about the transition from Asia back to the USA. While the big move has been smoother than I thought it would be, there have been a few unexpected challenges along the way.

In the beginning, the hardest part was getting over the jet lag. They say it takes one day per every hour in the time difference – and they were right. (South Korea is 14-15 hours ahead of Chicago, by the way.) Despite being awake at odd hours it felt almost too easy to get back into a few old routines. Some were nice, like driving to the mall while listening to the radio or spending a weekend with my family. Other habits needed to be restricted, like eating CHEESE for every meal and watching reality TV. I wouldn’t want to further enforce the typical “American” stereotype I’ve fought against for the past 3.5 years.

Everyone had warned me about the reverse culture shock, which I had experienced during previous visits back to the US: the momentary surprise when hearing little kids speaking English, seeing non-Asian employees at the airport, and even the terrible customer service at shops in the mall. Coming back this time around will be even worse, I thought. But the culture “shock” hasn’t been so shocking at all. Maybe I knew what to expect, so this time it’s more like small realizations that pop up now and then that remind me how every day life is very much influenced by our country and culture.

I’ll give you a couple of examples.

One of the “challenges” I found myself facing is the ridiculous amount of CHOICES I have here in America. I was so excited to go to the grocery store once I got back, but when I stepped in and looked just at the cereal aisle, I knew I was in over my head. Likewise, my choices at the movie theater have now increased at least x10. I’m not saying I don’t like having all these choices, but now I wonder how much more of my time will be wasted researching what product I’m willing to spend my money on.

Koreans have just as many wants and needs as Americans, but our economy is less dominated by particular companies and organizations, increasing competition. In Korea, the winners are clear.

Another challenge was every time I came back to the States from Korea I would get a little “shock” or sometimes a bit nervous about social situations. It took me a little getting used to, but after a month or so in Korea I had pretty much gotten all the acceptable social behavior down, e.g. bowing when greeting/saying goodbye, handing something to another person with two hands, facing away when drinking in the presence of elders, etc. So after doing all these things for months and months on end, I had to remind myself that it wasn’t necessary in America.

I remember worrying about accidentally shaking someone’s hand using both hands during a job interview in America, since it is a sign of politeness and respect to do so in Korea and I had done it for so long. While I might still hand something over using both hands, I realized practice makes perfect. And honestly, I’d rather be too polite than not polite at all. Thank you for that, Korea.

Overall, like I mentioned before, the transition has been a smooth one with very few bumps. But this is coming back to my home country, where I spent most of my life. The transition to Korea was much more challenging than anything I’ve ever done in my life. But it was also the best decision I’ve ever made. Sometimes the hardest decisions to make turn out to be the ones that are impossible to regret. I can only hope that my decision to move back to the States and pursue a career in HR will be as rewarding as the one I made 3.5 years ago.

So far, so good.

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Remember my post “Starting the Job Search is Half the Battle” about how just getting over that initial hill was the hard part? Well, I forgot to mention the first hill might just be one of many.

Unless you’re very lucky, the hills in our job search are inevitable. We run into them for various reasons: illness, vacations, personal issues, lack of motivation, etc. In my case, a weeklong trip to Thailand followed by a relocation to the States from South Korea slowed me down quite a bit more than I had anticipated. I found myself having to start the battle once again.

The good news is, you’re not really starting from square one. You’ve got all your basics down from the first round, e.g. your resume, cover letter ideas, job searching strategies, etc., so starting up will come more naturally this time around. But if you’re like me, you’ll want to decrease the chances of ending up at the bottom of a hill once again. That’s when I read an article written by Tim Tyrell-Smith titled “Structure: Is It Missing In Your Job Search?” which I think just might be the solution to this very common problem.

Most people need structure in their life. It gives you a sense of control and it motivates you to continue on with whatever you’re doing. When you are held accountable to adhere to a structure, it is even more effective, such as at work or school.

While many people comment that job searching is a full-time job in itself, it lacks the structure and accountability of most jobs. As the article points out, if you are coming from your typical 8-5 company position to a full-time job search, you may find yourself lacking the motivation and organization necessary to be as successful as you hoped.

The article suggests a few ways to give your job search some structure and, in turn, increase productivity. Personally, I like the tips to set weekly goals and to structure your days in advance. I’ve also heard many times that it is helpful to be as specific as possible in your job search objective, bug I think there should be a little leeway with this. Being specific will help you when searching for positions and while networking and researching, but I think it’s also helpful to remain open to all possibilities.

I’m going to leave you with a few job search goals of my own.

1. Always get an early start. If you want the job, you need to train your body like you already have it. Sleeping in only makes you feel sluggish and might be another excuse to “start fresh tomorrow.”

2. Set a plan for what you want to do each day. For example, the first half of the day might be dedicated to searching and applying, while the second half might be for research or networking. Breaking up your schedule will make your day less monotonous and hold your focus for longer.

3. Find ways to improve your skills. I plan to continue talking to HR professionals, reading HR books, attending classes and meetings, researching and writing, basically anything that will allow me to utilize this free time in a way that will benefit my career.

I’ll let you know how it all goes. In the meantime, what are your job search goals and how do you make sure you stay motivated?

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If you haven’t already read Dr. Bob Tobin’s blog, you really should click on that link and subscribe right away because his posts are fantastic. After reading this post about two different people he would fire if they worked for him, the second man he mentions reminded me of a situation I found myself in a few years back when I was searching for a job in South Korea.

This second man Dr. Tobin wrote about was in charge of the compensation packages employees who were laid off would receive. His idea was to reduce the amount the employees were to be paid from eight months to five months, and then the man would receive one month of that money’s worth as a bonus for saving the company the other two months. While it is unknown whether that actually occurred or not, the man did receive a significant promotion thereafter.

If that did in fact happen, and the man got a promotion for his money-saving idea, it speaks volumes about that company and where its values lay, as it did about the man having the idea in the first place. But on to my story.

When I first was looking for jobs in South Korea, it turned out to be much more challenging than expected. Working with my first recruiter turned out to be a nightmare. I wasn’t prepared for the language barrier, or the way my requests and questions were simply ignored. There were times I just wanted to give up on the whole idea of moving to Asia. Just as I was reaching the end of my rope, my recruiter finally got me connected to what seemed like the perfect job. The location was good, the pay was great, and the employees I spoke with had nothing but nice things to say about the place. Just as we were about to get things finalized, the manager of the school requested that I tell the recruiter that the plans fell through and I was deciding to move on. Basically, he wanted me to lie so he could get out of paying her the finder’s fee she was owed.

After I got over the initial shock, I told him I didn’t think I could do that. He then turned the tables and tried to manipulate me in different ways. First it was, “I would rather not pay the fee and give you more money instead.” When I still seemed reluctant, his tone changed to, “If you’re not willing to do this, there are plenty of other people interested in this job.”

I felt terrible. First of all, even though I wasn’t satisfied with my recruiter, she did her job and found this position for me; she clearly deserved to be paid. How could I take that money right out from under her? Not to mention, I couldn’t even be sure that I would get that money if that’s the kind of company they were running. If they were willing to cheat one person out of their money, who’s to say they wouldn’t do it to me as well? In the end, I alerted the recruiter about the situation and ended up passing on the job. After I made that decision I realized it wasn’t a hard one to make at all. I never would have been happy at that company if I couldn’t trust them.

I didn’t gain anything out of that situation at that time. The recruiter didn’t even respond to my email. In fact, I felt very cheated out of a job that felt like the “perfect fit” even though now I know it was very far from that and I’m glad I handled it how I did.

I’m not naïve. I know businesses need to create a profit, and it’s basically why most of them exist. But in my opinion, they could be creating that profit in a more efficient and honorable way. Integrity is an important quality in both the employee and the employer in order to foster a positive and productive working environment.

What kind of person do you want to be working for/with?

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