New Home in Daegu: Our Expat Life in South Korea

Military spouse sunset in field

Settling In: My Journey Begins in Daegu

My apartment is all set up. From now on, everything I do will be tweaking how I use the space. Our VPN works, and I can stream videos and order from JCPenneys and Pier1. I met a few of my neighbors and even received a couple of bottles of wine and homemade kimchi. I have my driver’s license and know that you can turn left on a green arrow, and the dotted lines are where you’re supposed to make the U-turns. My life as an expat in Daegu, South Korea, is about to begin.

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Expat Basics in Daegu

If only that were how it worked here in Korea. That driver’s test was indeed a waste of my time. The cartoon was the best AND most accurate part of the test. Now I know how to recycle, my favorite treadmill in the gym downstairs, and which elevator will get me there the fastest. I know where to pick up spaghetti when the Commissary is closed, how to use my apartment intercom panel, and where to get good fried chicken and a big juicy cheeseburger when I need a big ole American bear hug. I have my favorite shoe and flower stores, a dermatologist, a weight loss doctor (I’ve lost 20 lbs…thank you), a dentist, and two nail salons I like.

Networking is Essential for Expat Life

I’ve hooked up with my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., and discovered a wine and hiking club… two separate clubs, not a wine club that hikes. I don’t think so, anyway. And most importantly, I know a few places where we can get a good IPA because I’m married to a beer snob. So what do I do now? I don’t have any small kids or the promise of a healthy inheritance, that’s what, so I started looking for a job, of course. Not because I really, really want one. Most friends have heard me say God said to do good works. He didn’t say go to work. However, work seems to be the only option left to me. I don’t look good in orange.

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Korean Soap Operas

I last worked full-time ten years ago. But because I want to travel and it’s expensive… expensive. My kids are grown, and my husband works hard all day long. However, I liked working, especially if I’m passionate about it. Still, I’ve been moving with my husband for almost 20 years, so I feel lucky if I find something I’m NOT passionate about. I also like that since we’ve been married, any money I bring to the table is considered “cheese.”

A couple of months of watching Korean TV will make anyone start looking for something constructive to do, so why not get paid for it? You’ll go mad watching the same commercials repeatedly, and I forget what the heck I’m watching all the time because each commercial break is 10 to 15 minutes long. Sure, I can watch Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, but I can also watch those in the States. And then there’s the fact my hubby can’t or won’t watch anything I’ve already seen… and I’m a terrible liar.

Expat in Daegu

I could go shopping, have lunch with the ladies, explore the city and the surrounding area, but I don’t see why I couldn’t do all that and make a little cheese too. So I’ve become… the team let’s find a job.

First stop was to update my profile on USAJOBS.com, which I did. I thought I was all set until I started getting a ton of emails saying I wasn’t qualified for the jobs I was applying for. I’m used to rejection, but it was far too many to think it was just a coincidence.

One thing I noticed was that many of the jobs were so freaking specific, they had to have ‘A’ candidate in mind when written. I also wasn’t getting any positive reinforcement either. And with only one interview under my belt, I decided I needed help, so I stopped by the career center and was given a few bits of advice and I’m glad I did.

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My Job Hunt in South Korea

  1. The civilian resume doesn’t work well when applying for jobs in the public sector. I needed to update it and follow the template on the USAJOBS website. This is the most time-consuming aspect due to the information required that wasn’t on my civilian resume, i.e., phone numbers, supervisor names, addresses, salaries, applicable training/ certifications, etc., etc. I hope to finish this part in time to apply for jobs this Fall.
  2. You are allowed to upload 10 supporting documents, use all 10 spaces, and you don’t know in advance what each employer may want to verify. Not only did I upload my resume, transcripts, PCS orders, command sponsorship letter, and Korean DL. I uploaded my US DL, passport with SOPA Agreement and marriage license.
  3. We’ve been instructed to use action words when constructing a resume, but USAJOBS and actually uses software that searches for ‘keywords’ used in the job description.
  4. Think you aren’t qualified… apply anyway. Don’t lie, but make sure you are taking credit and or describing all your talents… even those you may not think are marketable.

Know the Job Specifications

  1. Think you should apply for the job as a GS7 instead of a GS8? Don’t do it. If you get hired as a GS7, you’ll be stuck on that “linear” career track.
  2. List everything and update each application for the job you are applying to. One resume does not fit all in this case.
  3. Select Federal Employees on the home page. There are far more jobs listed under the Federal Employees tab than US Citizens which means there are increased opportunities for employment. Sure, you will probably get more “not qualified” emails, but it’s the worth the effort.
  4. Don’t apply for a job that you don’t want because if you pass up a job you used spousal preference for, you may not be able to claim that preference again.

Use Employment Resources Like LinkedIn

  1. Join or keep your LinkedIn account up to date. Everyone and every business has a LinkedIn account. You can specify industries, locations, and jobs you are interested in. Networking is key to finding open doors; what you do once inside is totally up to you.
  2. Let everyone know you are looking for a job. You never know where your next referral will come from. We’ve all heard it’s not what you know but who you know.
  3. And by all means, keep your options open. You may not want to teach English, but once you interview, something else that you’re perfect for might come up. Korea has the fastest Internet in the world. It allows for non-traditional jobs such as medical coding and customer service from the comfort of your home.
  4. Finally, I spoke with friends who were already in the system. I asked for copies of their resumes, as well as tips. I could see an example of what worked and incorporated their first-hand knowledge into my job search.
  5. I’ll make another appointment with the career counselor once I’ve completed my new resume. He can then review my profile before I start applying for jobs again. I keep hearing that if you’re going to get into the “system,”… overseas is the best place to do that. So, rah rah sis boom bah!! Time to get a job rah rah rah!!

Did I miss anything about Expats in Daegu? If you have other tips or advice, please let me know. I wish us all luck!!

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