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2016: The Year In Review
Candidates should prioritise job function rather than company to build experience in a transitional market
by Michelle Lee, Business Manager, Reed Korea
South Korea is home to many companies of global excellence, particularly in the engineering and technology sectors. As seen across Asia, the use of new digital skills is transforming the way many of these companies work.
Throughout 2016, the main areas of employment were the technology, engineering, consumer and retail and FMCG sectors. South Korea's retail market remains a huge draw for tourists, especially from China, and as a beauty and cosmetics hub for Asia-Pacific, cosmetics exports soared to record highs. Outbound shipments of locally manufactured medicines, medical equipment and cosmetics products from South Korea were up 19.1%, while cosmetics exports alone increased more than 37%.
However, other areas of the market, particularly sales and marketing, are facing cost pressures. Many companies are increasingly seeking candidates for temporary roles rather than permanent positions. This is a sign of South Korea's changing corporate culture, with candidates moving roles more often and employers driving towards flexible working.
In 2016, the country's corporate world changed, driven by the impact of technology. The digital revolution means many companies were already beginning to rethink their business strategy. Companies have begun branching out into new areas, demanding broader skillsets from candidates.
A structural problem for South Korea, as a relatively small country, is that many educated young Koreans speak very good English and are seeking jobs overseas – leaving a talent shortage at home. While Korean companies have been increasingly open to hiring foreign employees over the last decade, global candidates need to speak the local language to be successful. Companies are trying to source global talent that can speak Korean and have some understanding of Korean culture.
Korea has great opportunities, especially for candidates with skills in IT growth areas such as Big Data, analytics, e-commerce and the Internet of Things. Jobseekers with the right technical skills will find themselves offered a number of positions once they have decided to seek a new job, particularly if they can demonstrate they have good professional and personal skills. Companies in Korea are looking for candidates to show what they have done in their career, rather than relying on the name of a well-known company they have worked for.
Looking to 2017, Korea's political landscape looks more uncertain which could impact upon business confidence. However, good companies will continue to hire and expand, and structural transformation prompted by the digital revolution will keep gathering pace.
In transitional markets such as South Korea, employers need candidates who can be adaptable and flexible. Jobseekers should demonstrate the ability to be a self-starter and a willingness to learn new skills. Even those with strong technical credentials need to showcase that they have excellent people skills and problem-solving abilities.
Language skills are also considered very useful and candidates who speak both English and Korean will find more doors opening to them. Although it might be difficult to secure a permanent role, candidates should embrace the potential to expand their skillset and work experience through non-permanent roles.
- The market has more polarized, so candidates should build up experience with differentiation
- Learning to speak English will greatly increase your value to a potential employer
- Companies are looking for jobseekers with good communication, collaboration and problem solving skills
- Political uncertainties could impact the jobs market in 2017
- Retail, technology and engineering still have the potential to grow, and those skills will continue to be in demand in 2017