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Posts Tagged ‘Korea’

I always joke that while I am conversational in Korean, I am completely fluent in Konglish, a mix of Korean + English. Konglish can refer to a number of language styles adopted by Koreans, one being the adoption of English words into the Korean vocabulary. These “Konglish” words may be English, but unless you’re familiar with them, it would be hard to recognize due to the difference in the sounds of the English and Korean alphabets.

서비스 (seo-bi-suh) is one of my favorite Konglish words. Can you guess the English equivalent? It’s “service” and when used in Korean the meaning changes a bit. When we refer to “service” we might be thinking of an act that helps us, something provided to help us, or something useful. The Korean “service”, however, is referring to freebies given to the customer out of gratitude for their service. It’s like a “return the favor” deal. It’s so popular that places that don’t offer “service” would be looked at unfavorably.

Here’s a scenario for you. Korea is littered with beauty shops selling cosmetics, nail polishes, hair products, and the like. Many times there would be an employee standing outside offering customers a free gift for just coming in the store. You didn’t even have to buy anything! And if you did buy something, be ready for a TON of samples thrown in your bag. The more you buy, the more freebies you receive, but occasionally I walked in to buy one nail polish and walked out with the freebies totaling more than my actual purchase.

Not only do they offer freebies, but these shops would be falling behind their competitors if they didn’t offer a point card that could be redeemed for coupons, discounts, and even more freebies.

The larger organizations make sure they’re not falling behind in the service department. Particularly larger stores and banks make sure a greeter is in place to welcome the customers and help them in any way possible from the beginning of their experience all the way to the end. This has proved to be useful many times when visiting the bank, since the greeter will also assist you with the ATMs and other machines in the lobby. Ever walk into a bank and feel out of place and like you don’t know what you’re doing? Not in Korea.

The grocery stores in Korea also have their own special touches when it comes to service. They take being on sale to the next level. It’s not uncommon to find extras taped to your favorite products. Not only is it good incentive to buy that product, but it’s exposure to a new one as well. I used to say that I wouldn’t buy cereal if it didn’t come with something free attached to it – and I was only semi-joking.

Now, does all this happen in the USA? I believe it does, but not to the extent to where we’re really taking note.

Not to say that there aren’t problems with the service in Korea. The main complaints I’ve heard have been that the employees feel the need to lurk or follow you around while you’re browsing, sometimes pressuring you to buy and getting angry if you don’t. It stands to say that making your customers feel uncomfortable isn’t good for business, even if they do end up buying something.

If I could sum up Korean service to you, I would have to emphasize the attention to detail and respect for the customer. Show interest in a certain product? You get free samples of similar ones. Need something gift wrapped for free? A professional couldn’t do a better job. Look even a bit lost and confused? Someone will be there for you in a matter of moments. And you can always expect a friendly hello and goodbye every time.

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We said our final good-byes today. My students’ graduation had come and went, and as I sat at my teacher’s desk for the very last time, looking around the classroom that contains so many memories from the past two years, I found myself reflecting on what this unique experience as a foreign teacher has given me.

I can honestly say I didn’t give teachers enough credit before I became one and realized first hand the dedication and diligence required of the position. Being a teacher is being a leader, a manager, a supervisor, a counselor, a mentor, and a representative all in one. 

Consistent Leadership

As a teacher, I quickly learned the importance leadership plays in the classroom. A good leader will take the time to understand those who look up to them, create positive moral, and value and appreciate others. Just like anyone in a leadership role, a teacher cannot expect or demand immediate respect; it needs to be earned and mutually nurtured. This also applies to relationships with fellow teachers and colleagues. If co-workers or students sense a lack of leadership, they will not trust you to lead them.  I’ve seen the classroom full of students who don’t respect the teacher as a leader and trust me, it’s not a place you want to be.

Flexible Management

Flexible management are essential skills a teacher must learn to maintain order and facilitate success in the classroom. I say “flexible” when referring to management because even though a teacher might have a particular way of managing the lesson, it is sometimes necessary to adapt to a situation if the “usual” way isn’t working out. What works for one person might not work for another, so we can’t expect to use the same tactics for everyone. If a teacher isn’t flexible in classroom management, the success of his/her students will not be consistent since some will be left behind. By changing and adapting to our environment, we can become better managers, prepared for all types of situations and people.

Perceptive Supervision

Perhaps perceptive supervision is even most important for teachers, since they are trusted with the care and safety of children, who many times cannot take care of themselves. A teacher must know what is going on in the classroom at all times, lest a child gets hurt or does something dangerous or inappropriate. This could be compared to how a supervisor or manager of a company must be constantly aware of the workplace environment, carefully monitoring the employees to maintain a safe, comfortable, and productive environment.

Objective Counseling and Mentoring

As the person who spends the most time with children other than the parents or guardians, a teacher must be prepared to provide support to the students if tough situations arise. The students should view the teacher as easily approachable and easy to confide in. This can be a challenge at times since the teacher should do their best to remain objective and fair, which the student might have a hard time understanding. I found the best way to handle this kind of situation is to explain to them very simply, in a way they also can agree is fair. This explanation is vital if the student will continue to look up to the teacher as a role model.

Respectful Representation

As I just mentioned, a teacher is a role model not only to the students, but possibly for other teachers or co-workers as well. During my time as a teacher, my role as a representative was very unique as I was also representing my country, my culture, and other foreign teachers for my students, my co-workers, my school, and my company. I quickly learned the best representative must first SHOW RESPECT to others’ cultures and traditions, and remain neutral in debates on the subject. I’ve seen too many teachers in my position abuse this role and talk down on the Korean culture while talking up theirs. I took this as a challenge to show my students and co-workers that not all stereotypes about foreigners are true. I made sure to listen to what others had to say, as well as ask appropriate questions to express my interest in the subject. By doing my best to learn about the Korean culture as much as I was sharing my own, I was able to portray myself as a credible representative not only at my school, but FOR my school as well.

I realized while writing this post that all of these experiences and skills I have been lucky enough to take away from my teaching experience can 100% be transferred into a successful career in any field. I can’t wait until I get the opportunity to learn and teach again as a Human Resources professional.

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One of the first Korean sentences I learned was the proverb “시작이 반이다.” Roughly translated it means “The beginning is half.” The idea is that if you start something well, you’ve probably already gained the momentum to get you halfway through. Finally beginning the job search can be daunting, but I promise that if you give it your all from the beginning, you’ll be wondering why you waited at all.

It’s never too early to begin your job search. Whether you’re thinking about transitioning from your current career, still a student at university, and especially if you’re unemployed, it will never hurt to begin revising* your résumé and researching your field of interest. I know that if I drag my feet doing something, I might wait until the last-minute and stress myself out. I don’t know about you, but I hate being stressed out, so I began pushing myself to bite the bullet and basically just get over that initial hump. I’m not claiming that it will be smooth sailing from there on out, but once I started I was so motivated to continue and reach my goal that I almost felt like I couldn’t stop at times!

I began by giving my résumé a complete makeover. This was necessary because I hadn’t been on the job hunt for over two years, and to top that off, my résumé was tailored for an Asian country. (Not to mention some information required on my résumé for my job in Asia would be illegal for an American company to inquire about.)

Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy task, and even though I was pretty proud of my first draft, I have since found ways to improve upon it immensely. I started out by making a list of my experiences and writing down what I thought were note-worthy responsibilities and achievements. It helps to look online to find some examples, but like I mentioned, try not to get too attached to that résumé because chances are it’s going to change. One important thing to remember about your résumé is to make sure you have a summary section at the top, where you list your main accomplishments and specific skills.

I made a few mistakes at first for sure. One of my mistakes was throwing around too many basic phrases and keywords, without backing them up. Even though in my mind I was thinking, “Strong work ethic? Organized? Attention to detail? Yeah! That sounds exactly like me!” how would anyone just looking at your résumé really know that? Anyone can put a bunch of words on a paper and claim that they are true. Save your time and space and skip those basic phrases unless you have specific examples or accomplishments to back them up. Find the strengths in your experience and character and be sure to highlight those.

Another major mistake I made was once I “finished” my résumé and cover letter, (Yes, one cover letter. Yikes. That should tell you how many mistakes I actually was making!) I began to search and search for jobs. Once I found anything related to HR that I might be interested in, I applied. In my mind I was thinking, “Wow, I’m so productive; I just applied to 10 jobs today!” But the ratio of the number of jobs I was applying for to how many call backs I was getting was terrible. Basically, I was wasting my time and obviously doing something wrong.

That was the point when I decided to start putting a LOT more focus on educating myself, researching HR, networking with HR professionals, and asking a billion questions. I’m still in this phase, and honestly I feel like these are all excellent things to be doing, even after I get a job in HR.

My point is: don’t wait around for information and jobs to come flying into your lap. Unless you’re super lucky, it’s not going to happen. Your résumé is a good place to start. Just make sure you don’t stop there.

*I say “revising” and not “updating” your résumé because in addition to just adding your most current experiences and achievements, you should also be constantly trying to think of way to better showcase your skills and abilities, as well as tailoring your résumé to fit each position you are applying to.

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That’s what I’m searching for: my window.

My time working abroad in Asia is the door I have finally decided to close. I’ve enjoyed my time here and gained invaluable experience, but it’s time to  move on to what I’m most passionate about. In the case you haven’t guessed it yet, that would be Human Resources.

I’ve been planning my transition for over one year now, but only started getting seriously into it within the past few months. Since I can’t seem to go one day without researching, studying, networking, updating, revising, and job searching, I thought I would share what I have learned and what I will learn, as well as organize useful information for me, as well as other fellow HR enthusiasts, into one source.

Sometimes we get this odd feeling that we are terribly alone in our situation, whatever that may be. But once you actively reach out into the community and stop passively absorbing and consuming, you begin to realize how very normal your situation and worries really are. My hope for this project is to help and inspire others on their professional ventures into a new career field.

So my door is finally closing, and I’ve only caught a glimpse of my window so far. I’m doing everything I can to reach it sooner, rather than later.

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