By June Ramli
After Saxon Cheng’s editorial department was replaced by automation, he immediately started looking for a job on social media instead of the conventional method via job recruitment sites.
The search paid off as the former journalist cum personal trainer landed a job in none other than South Korea.
“I’ve always wanted to teach in Asia and the Korean education system is renowned to be one of the most advanced in the world.
“As this high level of education is important to me, I thought it would be a great opportunity to test my teaching skills and progress and go further.
“Also, Korea was one of the only Asian countries accepting English teachers from abroad,” Cheng said in an interview with dailystraits.com.
Cheng said although the job was easy to find it wasn’t easy to land.
“I saw the recruiter’s post on Facebook and emailed him.”
Cheng said he had sent out six applications before he got an interview and eventually landed the job all while he was still based in Sydney, Australia.
As soon as he was offered the role he had jumped at the opportunity despite the pandemic being in full swing.
“Korea offers one of the best packages amongst other countries for ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers.”
But Saxon said the onboarding process was a bit lengthy and quite stressful at times.
Detailing the whole process further, he said once an expression of interest was made for the role, it would be followed by a phone screen by a recruiter done through a Korean instant messenger service known as Kakao.
“I had the chat with the recruiter who basically told me about the job followed by an interview with the manager,” he said.
However, Cheng received feedback that they may not be interested in pursuing his application due to his thick Australian accent.
“In Korea, almost 80 per cent of the English teachers are of American or Canadian descent. They watch American shows and rarely have any Australian exposure.
“So, I actually got an American accent coach to teach me how to speak in the accent,” Cheng said.
That abrupt coaching session had cost Cheng AUD$200.
But that investment paid off as it had helped him get the job.
His future employers had progressed him to the next stage of the interview which included a test that Cheng had described as being similar to a university entrance exam which involved a lot of philosophical questions.
“They gave me two days to complete the test so I did a lot of research and managed to pass.”
Cheng said some of the interview questions were how he would manage problem students and lead group projects.
“I found out that I got the job at the second round of interview but despite that, I was still subjected to do a test.”
He also said that he had to provide his future employer with a police check and a copy of his passport which was apostilled by DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).
The whole onboarding process from the interviews to the work visa issuance by the Korean embassy in Sydney took about two months to complete.
Finally, on August 7 last year, Cheng did the inevitable which was to head to Korea to teach English after acing the job and receiving special permission from the Australian government to travel abroad during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Once in Korea, Cheng was subjected to two weeks of compulsory quarantine which was borne by his employer.
“During that two weeks of quarantine, I took TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification course online and passed with flying colours.”
On his workmates, Cheng said his company sometimes recruited university graduates.
“I am the only Australian here, the rest are American, a Brit and a Canadian aged between their 20s and 30s.”
On salary, he said it ranged anywhere from AUD$25,000 to AUD$40,000 annually.
“This is a contractual role that gets renewed every year,” said the father of two.
Among the perks of working in such a role was that companies provided accommodation and 10 days paid holiday.
“We also get our water bill paid for and half of the furnishing provided but they don’t pay for electricity which is quite expensive due to winter,” he said.
On the paid holiday, Cheng said that the perk only kicked in when an employee completed 85 per cent of their contract, otherwise, it would be forfeited.
“We also contribute to about 10 per cent of our earnings to super (retirement funds) and pay tax.”
Cheng said working on public holidays in Korea such as Christmas was a norm and one should not expect to get paid holiday rates.
But despite that, Cheng wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The experience here has been great for me. I am leaving this job soon to return to Australia by the end of May to support my amazing wife on the home front, but this is one experience that I would look back on fondly from time to time.”
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