Career change is something that many think about, but few attempt to do. It is a daunting journey for anyone to undertake as it is filled with unknowns and unexpected turns. Those that do take the steps to change, usually attempt it only once. Indeed, in past generations, it was considered normal for a person to choose a career and remain in it for the rest of their working life. There are those, however, where career change is a way of life. For Song Ji-huen her career has shifted four times, so far.
In the late 90s, she was a Korean painting student at Ewha and was adamant on the idea of becoming an artist. She went on to attend art graduate school soon after. However, this all changed when she was 23 years old. Song’s life took an unexpected turn when her father suggested her to be financially independent from then on. This marked the start of her miraculous career voyage as a banker, flight attendant, lawyer, and currently a senior inspector superintendent at Gwacheon Police Station. These transitions of jobs may question others how she could plan her life so intricately. But Song’s initial determination was simple – to achieve financial independence.
“In the back of my mind, I always had the thought of doing art again,” Song said. “I wanted to have enough money so that I could immerse myself in art later on since an artist constantly needs to consume art materials for one’s work.”
After she worked at Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation for a year at 24, she applied to become a flight attendant. Song believed that this work would give her the chance to travel, which could invigorate her artistic side that subsided when working as a banker. However, she was rejected twice as she was the only applicant in the interview without a hair bun and without ‘proper’ attire. On her third attempt, she was accepted by Singapore Airlines despite the fact that she went to the interview without a hair bun or wearing ‘proper’ attire. When Song later asked the interviewer why she was chosen, they said it was because she stood out of the crowd.
While working at Singapore Airlines for three years, Song encountered a job recruitment post at the National Pension Service. After realizing that passing a law test was one of the qualifications, she read the Korean constitution for the first time.
“It was the first time I felt like I could pursue a vocation other than being an artist,” Song said. “Law fascinated me, and it was then when I dived into the bar exam, the so-called sashi to become a lawyer. Now that I look back, I did not hesitate because I did not know how challenging this test was.”
29-year-old Song would study from 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. for the exam. She mentioned that her practice and experience in art let her concentrate for up to four hours easily. In contrast with the stewardess job, studying was relatively comfortable for her. To catch up with her colleagues, she studied different versions of the same subject instead of focusing on a single book repeatedly like others.
Song believes that fortune favors the bold. She is the kind of person who starts the challenge and thinks about the future rather than calculate the scenarios beforehand. She passed the test after preparing for three years and worked as a lawyer for two years. In 2014, she became a police officer through special employment.
“I wanted to experience the investigation process itself rather than be behind documents which is the job of a lawyer,” Song said. “As the investigative power of the police is expected to increase, I believe the work of police officers will become more influential.”
When asked if she had any prospective plans to pursue a different career, Song replied that she is greatly satisfied with her current work. Her ability to incorporate legal matters within the investigations is what enables her to contribute as a senior inspector superintendent. Although she expressed her will to continue her current post, she added that she now has a growing interest in designing architecture blueprints. 41-year-old Song’s unstoppable curiosity in new areas seems to live on.