Tag Archives: work

I’m Getting Worried

It’s rare for me to get stressed out, so the past few weeks have left me feeling strange. With less than two weeks before I move to California, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m making a mistake. Am I doomed to burn through all of the money I’ve saved over the past two years? Will I waste it all while wading through a hopeless job search?

As my twenties come to a close, I am encumbered by the Catch-22 that affects so many job seekers. You need two years of experience to snag an entry-level job. This bit of irony makes it nearly impossible to change careers without taking an unpaid internship.

In an effort to build experience in marketing, I did just that. I went to work for a small tech start-up last year, agreeing to forgo pay in exchange for the experience my resume has been missing. I was initially responsible for basic translations and copy writing, but my position quickly evolved into a marketing role. I’ve learned a lot about how an app is conceptualized, designed, made, and sold. Watching a new company get its feet wet has given me a new understanding of and appreciation for the hard realities of entrepreneurship.

Armed with my new experience, I sent out dozens of job applications over the past month. As the rejection letters begin to stream in (11 as of this morning), it has become clear that I’m no closer to landing an interview than I was before moving to Korea.

This should not be mistaken for a lack of confidence. I believe that past performance is the best predictor of future success, and I have a strong history of exceeding expectations. As a police officer, I earned promotions early and often, ultimately becoming the department’s youngest detective. I was awarded the annual emergency services Hero Award and the annual city Customer Service Award. As a teacher, I won 2nd place in the national teaching competition.

I am intelligent, had working, and dependable; I’ve never missed a day of work in 13 years. All I need is somebody to give me the chance to prove myself. The next few weeks will be spent thinking about ways to differentiate myself from the sea of applicants competing for each open position.

I want to hear your job search stories. What helped you land the perfect job? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Alcohol and Irony

As most of my friends know, I’m not a particularly lucky person when it comes to the small things. Although I’ve been overwhelmingly lucky when it comes to the big (important) things in life, timing has never been my strong suit. Well, a bit of good luck finally struck this weekend.

My new vice principal has been making my life a difficult since he started last month. He rearranged my schedule just as I was getting comfortable. According to one of my colleagues, he has a lot to prove to the other teachers. The first thing on his list was to increase everyone’s workload even if it’s not necessary. A common Korean tactic for new bosses – flex his administrative muscles and let us all know who’s in charge.

I tried to fight the changes to my schedule but ultimately learned that he was technically within the bounds of my contract – even if the changes seemed sudden and unfair. So I settled in for what I thought would be another year of crappy scheduling.

Fast forward to last weekend when I attended a party for the vice principal. He completed a course that all new VPs have to attend, after which a group of teachers to throw a party celebrating his “graduation.” Before the party, he only communicated with me through other teachers. I was surprised to find, when we finally spoke at the party, that his English is almost as good as some of my fellow English teachers. So we sat for over an hour drinking and talking.

VP Celebration in Ulsan

Unlike the principal, this guy drinks at work events. When he invited me to drink with him, my first instinct was to make an excuse to avoid him. But I listened to my colleagues and joined him for a quick on. To my surprise, he was nice and didn’t seem at all like the hard-ass manager that his new image would suggest. We talked for at least an hour before I had to leave. He told me that I wasn’t what he expected – I am “much kinder than [I] look.” I learned that he has a fascination with American police dramas, so he was excited to hear that I was a detective in the US before coming to Korea.

The next morning, I got an email from my coteacher informing me that the vice principal has chosen to compromise with me. Instead of shifting several work hours to Saturday each week, he agreed to give me every other Saturday off. I’m sure glad I didn’t snub him on the drink!

It’s easy to forget the power of good work relationships in Korea. Although a manager’s opinion of you is important in the west, it’s that much more important here. A few beers and a little friendly chat made the difference in enjoying my weekends and spending them working.

Until next time.

-Taft

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It’s About Time

I was getting worried – it’s been a couple of weeks since anything totally weird or infuriating happened here.  Things have been going well….too well.  Fortunately, we returned to normal this morning, thanks to one of my fellow English teachers.

Mr. Park is the head English teacher for the 3rd grade (senior class).  We do not teach together, but I see a lot of him.  He visits our office at least a few times a week.  This usually consists of him strolling in, talking to Mr. Kim and standing over my shoulder reading my emails (not cool).  Today was different, though.  He was a man on a mission.  Mr. Park hurried in and opened two boxes that he left here about a month ago.  Both boxes were full of books.  He stacked the books on the empty desk beside mine.

A grand total of 52 textbooks.

Mr. Park:  William.  You will choose English book to next year.
*I immediately point to a random book*
Me:  That one.
Mr. Park:  No no, read them.  After decide, all teacher will vote.
Me:  Wait…is it my decision or do we vote?  I know how this works – the older teachers will disagree with me, even if they haven’t read the books.
Mr. Park:  Yes.  Good job William.
Me:  …ok.  I’ll read them and let you know what I decide.
Mr. Park:  Good, William!  You tell choice at meeting.  1:20pm.
Me:  Today???
Mr. Park:  (In Korean) Yes – hurry hurry!!!
Me:  You’ve had these books for a month!  Why am I hearing about this now???
Mr. park:  Yes.

I got worked up for about thirty seconds – then I decided not to worry about it.  He didn’t care enough to make this request weeks ago, so I’m not going to bust my ass at the last second for his sake.  Even if tried, I doubt I could get through more than five or ten of the books before the meeting.  So I guess I’ll start reading them as soon as I finish my own work.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Change of Pace

Things are speeding up lately.  I find myself more and more busy, which is a good thing.  Unfortunately, it has taken my focus away from this blog a bit.  But don’t worry, I’ll keep posting (sorry if I scared you).  Though the frequency of posts may decline, I’ll still talk to you often.

When I arrived in Daegu, I was busy, but there was plenty of downtime during which I was fairly bored.  Now I find myself making plans days and weeks in advance.  It is becoming difficult to keep my social schedule in order (it’s not as fancy as it sounds).  In fact, I’m in the process of deciding where to spend my summer vacation.  I will have about two weeks to travel anywhere in Asia.  The number one contender at the moment is the Philippines with a few of the guys.  It’s hard to turn down a chance to visit a beautiful, relatively inexpensive place with some great friends.

The daily pace at school seems to be intensifying, too.  As I settle in and become more comfortable in my current working situation, the school is more and more willing to add to my proverbial plate.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I think it means that they trust me.  Just last week, the principal talked to me (through another teacher) at dinner and told me that I am the best foreign teacher that they have ever had.  That was pretty flattering coming from a serious guy who I assumed didn’t like me.  Maybe he was just avoiding me so that he wouldn’t feel compelled to speak English.

I would love to stay and chat, but I have to get moving.  After the last exam today (11am), I have to join my colleagues on a retreat/teacher conference.  I’m not quite sure where we’re going, or what we’re doing when we get there, but I know that there will be lots of beer.  I’m not sure how I feel about playing drinking games on a Monday with a bunch of colleagues…but I’m sure any reservations will pass after the first few drinks.

Until next time.

-Taft

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Two Months

It has been a little more than two months since we (new EPIK teachers) arrived in Daegu.  So far, our time here has been absolutely amazing.  I never could have imagined that I would be having so much fun with so many interesting people in such a short time.  But now that the “honeymoon phase” is wearing off, I’m starting to feel settled in.

That settled feeling has brought with it a feeling that I find difficult to explain.  I’m not depressed, but I am in a bit of a rut.  Maybe it’s the inevitable low that comes after any fast-paced and exciting high like we’ve experienced for the past two months.  We’ve been working so hard to squeeze every ounce of fun out of our time here that we haven’t had a second to stop and think.  Add to it the fact that we are learning a new city, a new culture, and a new language and you have a whirlwind of excitement.

Or maybe it’s the fact that there is something inherently lonely about living (alone) abroad.  There are lots of westerners here and I see them often, so lonely might not be the most appropriate word.  Maybe during the week, when we’re alone among in a foreign place, it is easy to feel isolated.  This is especially true in Korea, where people seem absolutely unable (or unwilling) to communicate through the language barrier.  Other forms of communication, like physical gestures, are totally lost on most of the Koreans with whom I have tried to communicate.  Few are able to understand even the most rudimentary physical communication.

The good news is that this feels like a phase.  I doubt that it will last much longer.  We simply need to strike a balance between the excitement of weekends and the lul of daily life.  As we become more comfortable functioning in Korea, I think we will learn to navigate culture and communicate effectively.

Until next time.

-Taft

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