Students woo companies even before graduation

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Students woo companies even before graduation

Heo Hun, a 25-year old marketing major at Sungkyunkwan University, calls himself a “saledent,” a new moniker that combines the term “salary man” and student.

Heo and his saledent friends go to classes like all students, but their extracurricular activities are all geared toward getting a good job in Korean business.

Heo makes it a point to always wear a business suit to class, and he leads a group called S-ONE, which gets together to think up new business ideas for established companies.

With an ever-tightening job market and rising unemployment among young Korean college graduates, students who used to build up their resumes by taking foreign language proficiency tests or traveling abroad are now trying to attract the attention of businesses even before they get their diplomas.

In December, for example, Heo met marketing officials from the Lotte Confectionery Co. and gave a presentation of an idea he and his S-ONE friends dreamed up.

“Customers prefer to buy premium confectioneries wrapped in boxes rather than in bags,” he told the Lotte executives. “That’s a new fad in the confectionery market and we suggested Lotte improve its marketing strategy by selling more confectioneries in boxes,” Heo said.

“The company gave us a high credit for giving them fresh ideas from non-Lotte people, college students like us,” he said.

Every semester, the S-ONE group works with a different conglomerate as part of an industry-university cooperation project, and Heo and his teammates had one product actually come to market.

Last fall, the team told a local beverage company it should sell an energy drink like Red Bull to help students stay awake during midterm and final exams. The company agreed, and its energy drink hit the stores last spring.

Unlike college students of the 1980s and 1990s who joined rock bands, book clubs or drama clubs, today’s saledents give up those fun activities after freshman or sophomore year to dedicate themselves to clubs that will help them get a job.

“Many students perceive activities related to jobs as their main school club activities, while they consider movies and rock band clubs as their ‘sub-activities,’” said Park In-jeong, an economics major at Kyung Hee University, who is also the editor-in-chief of the university’s Internet-based Webzine “Internet future Kyung Hee.”

Seol Dong-hoon, a sociology professor at the Chonbuk National University said such a phenomenon is understandable because a college diploma is no longer enough to land a job.

“In the 21st century, 80 percent of high school graduates in Korea are going to colleges and they won’t be treated as intellectuals when they get out,” Seol said.

“Regardless whether a student belongs to a prestigious university or not, college diplomas no longer guarantee a person a bright future.”

By Jeong Seon-eon, Kim Mi-ju []
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