So on the personal front, my situation could be fairly described as flailing, what with the 2 week delay on getting an Alien Registration Card (SSN equivalent), which in turn is blocking a cell phone plan, apartment lease, and possibly bank account (will find out tomorrow).
Add to that being unable to enroll in the language course for the spring term, and I was in a pretty crappy mood on Mon.
But then I headed down to the bar, and met Cliff, who turned everything right around again.
Cliff is an older American from San Francisco who moved to Korea in Jan. He used to work in IT but switched to teaching a few years ago. Based on the number of Korean students he had, he decided to move to Seoul – very brave for someone his age. Due to the number of legal hurdles the government puts up for non-Koreans to get a work visa, he won’t be able to start working until April earliest, which means he’s been doing a lot of networking.
For all Korea’s modernization and technology, where business is concerned the old-school mindset still defines the rules of the game: hierarchy over collaboration, long hours over productivity, accreditation over experience, and most of all, connections over skills.
The latter two are why I hustled my ass off preparing for my Project Management (PMP) certification exam before arriving to Korea, even though I could just as well have taken it after my arrival: the extra letters after my name, and more importantly the opportunity to join the local chapter and network with other project managers. Added bonus when the website indicated that the local chapter was founded in 2012, meaning I could probably participate and make a meaningful contribution to its organization and development.
The only shortcoming? They only meet once a month, and the leadership has been to flaky to answer my emails inquiring on membership and attendance.
Hanging on the Edge of Cliff’s Words
And right on cue, Cliff tells me about the ToastMasters International, a nonprofit organization that has multiple weekly meetups scattered around Seoul. It doubles as a professional networking society and a venue to develop public speaking and leadership skills. The idea is that you have a packet of 10 speeches that you deliver in front of the group, then receive feedback on the quality of your delivery. At the end of 10 you are certified at the basic level, then can choose among various advanced tracks to finesse different aspects of your public speaking.
Or put more simply, it offers what I need most – networking – while letting me showcase what I do best – public speaking.
Last night Cliff and Chang-Hae, who works the hostel bar and told Cliff about ToastMasters in the first place, took me to the nearest chapter in Hyehwa. Very nice group, but small, hence with a low-key and social vibe. Friday’s session will be in Yeouido, which is apparently the largest and more serious group, with a professional bent. There’s a similar group in Gangnam I might check out next week as well, since that’s where most of the tech jobs are.
Whichever group I end up signing onto, it’s already clear I’ve stumbled into a more promising professional resource than I even imagined existed when I set out on my PMP certification.
I’m curious what tomorrow’s gonna bring…