So You Want to Work in Da Nang:
A Rough Guide to Employment Possibilities in Central Vietnam
by Kit Davidson.
You’re in Da Nang. Whether you’ve just moved here or you have been here for some time already, you are looking for work. What are my options?, you might ask. There are several things you can do, so let’s take a look at them and you can decide for yourself how you want to proceed. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive guide from start to finish for every possible job in the city. Instead, this is meant to be an honest look at what is available to you, depending on your skills and training, and how to proceed down the road to a certain choice. Let’s go through the steps together.
1. Work for myself? Or for someone else?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself and decide, because it plays a role in everything else down the road. So do you want to be self-employed, and start your own business? Or would you prefer to work for someone else. If you wish to work for someone else, please skip ahead to Question 2. If you are interested in working for yourself, let’s take a deeper look.
Subsection A: Working For Yourself
Working for yourself generally comes down to two (2) options. One, you can open yourself as a representative for a company not based in Da Nang, or work from home on a project where you define your own hours and input, like some of the programming and other CIT-related “web nomads” do. Some could say this is akin to working for someone else, and it’s quite possible. The other way to work for yourself, and to truly do it is to start your own business. Let’s look closer at what we need to do for that.
Starting a Business
First, you are going to need to have a pretty good idea of what it is you will be doing, and how you want to proceed. From here, you will need to apply for a business license from the proper authorities. This process can be quite an ordeal, especially if you do not have a Vietnamese business partner or don’t know the language. Infinite patience helps out. However, there are friendly and trustworthy locals out there who can help you with the process, in whatever form or function you need. Please see this website for more information if you want to proceed along this route.
Starting a business can be in several different fashions. You could start a commercial business, selling products of some kind. You could open a restaurant and service customers food and beverage. You could open a tour guide service, and show people around the area or offer a unique tourist experience. You could build a hotel, a hostel, or even a large house and turn them into apartments. There are lots of possible avenues for starting a business.
2. What fields are available in Da Nang?
You’ve decided you don’t want to work for yourself; it’s just too much of a hassle or not what you are looking for at this time anyway. So, the question is now, what are your choices for employment in Da Nang? What general fields are available, and what are some jobs that can be found in those fields? Generally, employment in Da Nang can be broken into five different sub groups:
Education Business Government ICT Hospitality/Tourism.
Each one has it’s own sub-fields and jobs, which we will look at in a moment, but almost every job in the city for all intents and purposes can be lumped into one of these categories. To help narrow it down, you need to ask yourself question 3, which is….
3. What are my skills and training in?
Before you begin the job search, make sure your CV is in good standing and is as current as possible. Reflect back on your skills and decide what avenue would be the best for your combination of skills and training. Remember, just because you don’t necessarily have proper training in one field doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a new one. The ability to be a hard worker can carry from one job to the next. Obviously some jobs will be off-limits due to a lack of professional education, but don’t hold yourself back. The worst thing that could happen is you get told “no”. You never know, you may also get a great opportunity as well. In addition to each CV, it does not hurt to include a photo copy of your passport, current visa, and a passport-sized photo of yourself. Make sure you have these things before you begin the search.
4. What are my choices?
Let’s now take a look at the different options you have in this city. While some jobs have more openings than others, this is just a rough look at what each field can offer.
Education – This is obviously the most common, and the most standard entry-level employment for people in the city. It’s possible there are more teaching jobs available at any moment in Da Nang than any other job. But within this field, there are many possible options, including:
- Language Center teacher
- Private tutor lessons
- University teacher
- K-12 Teacher (Skyline, APSU, etc)
- Hospitality English (for hotels, restaurants, etc).
While some of the education jobs, such as teaching at a University, or as a K-12 Teacher, require official certification and training, a fair number of the language center jobs and private tutor lessons don’t require as much certification, only a command of the desired language (usually English but also Chinese, Korean, French, German, Russian, etc) and a willingness to teach.
Business – There is a small but ever growing number of spots available in this field as more and more foreign companies open branch offices and warehouses in Da Nang. Most of these jobs are fairly restricted by skill and training requirements, but if you meet them you may find some good possibilities. These can be in the fields of Business Management or Administration, Human Resources, or even International Business.
Government – Although rare, it is possible to find work connected to a government power. Whether it is working for a foreign country in the form of Consular Services (very rare in Da Nang), or working for an NGO in conjunction with the government, these jobs tend to be more for managing projects the government has running at any given time. For example, I know of a foreign national who is working with the government to help alleviate traffic congestion in the city; I also know of another foreign national who is working with the World Wildlife Fund to try and establish sustainable living traditions with the ethnic groups in the mountains. Like business jobs, these can tend to be more restricted by skills and training, and are nowhere as common as teaching jobs, but should you find one they can be both rewarding to both mind and pocketbook.
ICT – Tech jobs. In our fast paced, digital, 21st-century world, everything runs on computers and technology, and as a result there are always jobs available in this field. This can be a wide array of things, including:
Video Game designer
- App developer
- Web design
- Server operations
There is at least one notable gaming company that has a branch office here with over 500 employees, and that is just the biggest representation of the jobs available. Many of these jobs are often small scale, working in a team of a handful of other individuals. And like Business and Government, these jobs tend to be more restricted by skills and training. However, computer skills are very much in demand and will continue to be in the future, so if you have training in this field it’s a fairly good bet you may find something quickly.
Hospitality/Tourism – The huge sphere of influence that includes any and all jobs related to the tourism, food and beverage, or hotelier industries. Thanks to Da Nang’s position as a tourist destination, there is no shortage of jobs in this field, including:
- Hotel Management
- Event Planner
- Staff Teacher
- Shop Manager
- Wait Staff
Between the two areas of Da Nang and Hoi An, there are countless resorts, restaurants, beach clubs, bars, hotels and shops that foreigners of all countries (US, UK, Aus., Rus., SK, Jap., etc) frequent, and all of them prefer to have foreigners on staff to fill certain positions. There is a wide variety available here, and while there are some skill restricted jobs, many of the jobs in this field only require a willingness to learn, and a friendly, motivated personality.
As you can see, there is quite an array of fields and jobs to look into for work in this city. This is also just a list of the most obvious jobs as well. There are many more jobs out there that you couldn’t imagine off the top of your head, or that don’t quite fit into one of the categories above.
5. What do I do next?
The next thing to do is put yourself in contact with other people. This means either putting yourself in contact with someone who can give you a job, or putting yourself in contact with people who can then connect you to people who can give you a job. There are a couple good ways to do this. One is word of mouth. Go out to social functions. Make friends with some foreigners. Mention that you are looking for work, and include your area of experience, if any. I’ve passed along many a name both for people looking for employment, and people looking for employees.
The other great option is to connect yourself digitally. The Facebook group “Danang Hoi An Expats” is a great resource to start. You have to join before you can post, but it’s really easy and once you are in you are connected to the single largest pool of Expats in Da Nang. Post your name, experience, and what you are looking for. Utilize the search engine and try to narrow the posts down to what you are looking for. Another option is the group “Danang Expats Jobs”, which is solely for people posting looking for jobs and looking for employees. Between these two groups, and personally networking with people, you should be able to find a wide array of contacts.
The other option is to go put yourself out there. This means putting on some nice clothes, and going to the school/resort/restaurant/etc of your desire, and trying to meet with someone about possible work. If you are trying to find work through one of the large resorts or hotels, it’s often nice to call ahead and schedule an appointment to talk about employment, or even a possible interview itself. Or, simply call ahead and see who or whom you need to talk talk to about work. You may get a meeting, you may get an interview, and you may get told they are not looking for anyone at this time. Who knows? Keep trying.
If you are trying to be a teacher, let’s first talk about Language Centers.
Be aware many language centers keep a stack of CV’s handy, so when they need a replacement or new teacher, they just take the next name in the pile. Be ready to do a demo class at a very short notice. Often times one great demo class and a center at the right moment of need is all it takes to get you long term work. Centers just need to see you are reliable so it’s one less headache they have to worry about. Show up, on time, smile, throw some words around and you will be fine. Although it’s possible to jump right into one of the higher tier language centers such as ILA, ELI, Apollo, or Fisher’s right out of the gate, this isn’t as common as many would hope, so many people are forced to do a tour of duty in one of the second or third tier centers until the right opportunity arises. Some also find a good niche in the 2nd or 3rd tier schools as well and stay for quite a while.
Only the top tier language centers can you reliably count on to get you a work permit and a residence card. Many of the lower level tier schools say they can, but can’t or wont, and others just outright say we can’t. It’s more common for a center to not offer them than to actually do it for you. Pay is also not as great as it is in Ho Chi Minh City or Ha Noi, but it isn’t bad either. You can still make a decent wage and enjoy a good lifestyle.
If you want to be a K-12 teacher, though, things are different.
If you are a licensed teacher, then there are a few schools in the area to choose from. However, be aware that some of these schools, especially Singapore International School, are highly coveted spots and there is an incredible amount of demand. Don’t expect to walk in and get a job there immediately. For many teachers, they often have to work at a language center for a period of time, until the hiring process for the next year begins (usually in February) and you can apply. Of course, you wont start until August, but you need to be on you game and have work to get you through until you start. The pay is also fairly decent.
Be aware that both avenues of teaching have different hours; most language centers run classes from 5–9 pm, which is the only time many university and high school students can study, and 8-11 am on weekends, which is the only time children can attend. However, K-12 teachers will work 8-5, with weekends off. This can cause awkward timetables in couples if one teacher works at a language center and one works at a K-12 school, but it isn’t the end of the world.
6. What’s the story with “work permits” and “residency cards”?
Most people will enter Vietnam on a tourist, or business class visa. These visas are typically 3 to 6 months in length. However, some jobs can offer you a “work permit”, which is a long-term business visa, or a “residence” card, which grants you temporary residence in the country and you get a plastic ID card with you name and information, instead of a visa. For you to get one, several steps have to be followed. One, the company must be registered with the government, and be a law-abiding, tax paying, rule-following enterprise. If a job can’t or wont get you a work permit, it’s because they are doing something that they don’t want looked at too closely. Next, you’ll need to have a signed, notarized contract with your employer. Following that, you’ll need to submit your contract, with an application for temporary residency, and complete police and health checks, and pay a small fee, at which point you can get the residence card. It is possible to do all of this independently of your work, however you MUST have a signed, notarized contract with your employer to do it.
7. How long do I need to wait?
That’s a tricky question to answer because there is no pattern. Some people come into town and find a job within 48 hours of being here. Others have to look for a couple weeks or a month or so until they find something. Many people often come in and start at the Language Centers, stringing together hours here and there, often at more than one center, until the opportunity they were waiting for presents itself and they pounce on it. Ideally, if you move here, you should be ready to support yourself for 2 to 3 months until you can find a decent paycheck. While you may not be in your final job at that point, you should be able to find something to get yourself going until that final job shows up. The biggest message of it all is be patient. Be persistent (but not rude) and be patient. Others have found work here, and you will too!
Thanks for reading!