Teaching Roles – The Pros and Cons of Corporates

For those deciding to come to Korea as a teacher one of the main questions asked is often which of the various types of teaching role should they apply for. During my time in Korea I have had a whole range of different teaching (and a few non-teaching) gigs and have taught just about every different type of student – from kindy through to school kids, college students and adults – in a number of different environments.
This time around, I have mostly been concentrating on executive 1 to 1 English lessons with corporate clients so I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of the pros and cons of this type of job. For the most part, I am enjoying what I am doing so the overall experience has been pretty positive. Of course, everyone is different, so it’s worth considering whether these types of jobs are right for you.
Teaching 1 to 1 is quite a different experience than teaching to a class and in some respects, the job is not actually ‘teaching’ so much as coaching the client. Quite often the students already have a reasonable standard of English and are looking more for an opportunity to practice and polish their existing skills. You tend to spend a lot less time with a text book and more time discussing what’s in today’s Financial Times or Harvard Business Review. Of course, every client is different, so the exact nature of the class often depends a lot more on what the student wants to do than what the teacher wants to teach. So based on my experience so far, what have been the upsides and downsides of this kind of job?

The Pros:


Executives – They wear suits and, on average, are far less likely to dong-chim you than your typical elementary student


1. You get to have an adult conversation

Whether its talking about what’s in the news, family life or just last night’s football results it is nice to be able to have a real conversation with your students. Not only is it just more stimulating than going over the names of animals with elementary schoolkids but it also gives you a different perspective on Korea when your view of the country is not filtered through the eyes of an 8 year old boy. Most of the students are smart and sharp business people who may have travelled quite a bit – the kind of people you might not encounter working in a hagwon.

2. Students are often better at English (and more motivated to learn!)

Similar to the first point in some ways, but sometimes it is nice to be able to talk to people and be understood without having to dumb yourself down too much. Not only that but since these guys are choosing to be tutored (not forced to attend a class) they are generally more interested in learning and participating in the class. Half the battle is already fought and you can focus on the lesson rather than trying to keep their attention.
3. More flexibility in content

This one could be a pro or a con depending on how you view it. Since every client is different and has different needs and expectations the lessons have to be tailored to meet what the student wants, not necessarily what the teacher wants to teach. This means you do need to spend a bit more time thinking about how each lesson is going to work and how to help your students. On the other hand though, it opens up opportunities to be flexible – you generally aren’t tied to a curriculum, a textbook or any particular lesson plan. If something isn’t working you can change it and move on. It can also mean the lessons can be less prep-heavy, in some cases you might just have to remember to buy a newspaper on the way to the class!
4. Opportunities outside of class

Corporate classes can also be useful networking opportunities. It never hurts to know people. Whether it’s a chance for a beer after class, or the potential for other business opportunities then obviously working with adults is likely to be useful than teaching middle school kids. Do be careful though – you are there to tutor them in English, not to hit them up for jobs in their companies. If you are working through an agency, they will also often frown on you pursuing other work directly with their clients.


HBR – The closest thing to a good textbook for executive English and its free(ish)! Print off article, lesson plan complete!

The Cons:


The first subway train – I didn’t even know the seats were blue!

1. Working hours

The biggest one of all. At least for me. Generally, classes are held outside office hours so if you aren’t a morning person you might just need to get used to being one. Classes often start at 6.30 or 7am. Alternatively, there are also evening classes – usually between 6 and 8 or so. If you want to make a full-time living out of corporates then you will probably end up doing both – the dreaded ‘split shifts’ – which makes for one hell of a long day with a lot of dead time during the day.
2. Scheduling hassles

On top of the working hours, you can also find that students will often cancel or rearrange classes at relatively short notice to meet their working schedules. They may have important meetings or deadlines to meet or need to travel for business (which I think in most cases is code for ‘I have a hangover’). Be prepared for lots of last-minute changes and expect to have to be flexible. Depending on your contract, you might also find that you don’t get paid if your student cancels a class.

3. Travelling

Generally, for these kinds of lessons the teacher has to go to the student, not vice-versa. This can make for a lot of shuttling around on buses and subways getting from one class to another. Ideally you would try to group your classes together in nearby areas but it’s not always possible. Expect to be spending a fair chunk of your days on public transport.

4. Less ‘fun’

This one is relative so I put it last but generally, corporate classes are a bit more serious than teaching kids and you might miss the fun element of playing around. That’s not to say you can’t have a laugh with your adult students but expect a lot less messing around and fewer hugs! If you like the rough and tumble of kindy classes then an office environment might just be a bit too quiet for you.

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If you like the buzz of a classroom then 1-1 teaching might not be for you – unless you try teaching drunk.

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth. What do you think? How have you found teaching corporates vs teaching in schools or hagwons? Do you have a preference for one or the other? For me, I’m enjoying the experience although I really don’t like getting up at 5am to get the first subway to class on a Monday morning. I do sometimes miss the fun aspect and energy of teaching little kids but it is nice to be able to talk about something other than farmyard animals occasionally!

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