03/26/19. 14:37. P14
/Pursuing Goals Step by Step/
/Category: Career Management/
/Guide Question: Do you self-advocate? Is there an opportunity for you to do so in your host country, particularly as it relates to a skill or experience you would like to gain?/
One of my goals during this study abroad is to get myself a winter/summer internship. If I couldn’t acquire one, I wanted to at least participate in an interview, or find ways to research the various kinds of firms that matched my career aspirations, and accordingly, the skill set I need to build to get hired in Korea. This opportunity came a few months ago when I attended a job fair for international students. By attending that simple event, I’ve come across several revelations that catalyzed feelings of renewed motivation and self-improvement.
After finishing registration, I was given a booklet of all participating companies and their candidate qualifications. Walking around, I noticed just how many foreigners there are in South Korea. I managed to chat with a few job applicants and was taken aback. Compared to many exchange students at school whose Korean level is very low, most people there were very adept at using the Korean language. I could hear some of them speak in Korean while talking to the recruiters. In addition, their CVs were in Korean! I should’ve researched how to tailor my CV to the standard format used by Korean companies. Compared to these people, I felt like a complete beginner even though I was an intermediate level student. I thought frustratingly, “Ah… I still have a long way to go. I need to keep improving.”
Fortunately, I managed to get myself an interview at one firm. They caught my eye because their market included the Philippines and so I thought my background could give me an advantage. I handed them my resume, introduced myself, and had an on-the-spot interview with the recruiter. She asked me questions in English but told me I can respond in Korean if I wanted. I responded in half Korean and half English. The things I could say in Korean I said in Korean, while things that I can’t express in Korean, I used English. I was simultaneously proud and disappointed because I witnessed my own growth yet I’m still severely dissatisfied at my current level. Eventually, I didn’t get the position, but the most important thing was I received that experience to self-reflect on how I can be better.
Since then, I’ve been focusing on my language studies because communication is such a powerful and pivotal skill. The ability to speak with eloquence and grace, effective persuasion, and to elicit other people’s cooperation is something I highly covet. I noticed that even confident English speakers are not articulate sometimes; even though they may have outstanding ideas, they can’t express them properly to their full potential. For example, there is a phenomenon among younger people to overuse word fillers such as “uhm…,” “uh…,” and probably the most pervasive one of all “like.” Thus, even though I consider myself fluent in English, I shouldn’t be too complacent with this skill and should always strive to practice it with care and continuously improve my weak points. Korea also heavily relies on exports and must protect its diplomacy with other nations, thus, language skill is crucial along with awareness of global issues, world cultures, and developing tact in character. A lot of these companies require some degree of fluency or competency in at least two languages such as English and Korean, or Mandarin or Cantonese, or Japanese, etc. I was surprised to see one with a Russian competency requirement!
During the two-month winter break, I took the opportunity to heavily invest in my Korean language studies and enrolled myself in three different classes at a language institution: regular Korean grammar class, Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) review class, and a conversation class. I also joined two language exchange programs so I can have more practice. One of these programs is part of my school club’s (Yonsei Global) activities called “Language Exchange”. I am assigned a buddy who I can correspond with throughout the semester. The other language exchange I participate in is called “Mingle Cup.” This group doesn’t have set members, so I get to talk to new people every time I attend. The only problem I had was that since it was often meeting new people, it was frustrating to keep talking about the same topics over and over again (i.e., my nationality, my major, how long have I been in Korea, why I’m in Korea, etc.). Nowadays, I’ve taken my language studies into my own hands by coming in with a list of diverse conversation topics that allow me and my partner to practice various scenarios. I highly enjoy participating because I get to practice my Korean, and at the same time, I get to reinforce my command of the English language while helping others realize their own potential. Through these exchanges, I get to meet many different kinds of people and try to improve my interaction with different personalities, striving to receive a good impression.