FOR the life of me, I don’t can’t remember who was our commencement speaker during our graduation rites at the Philippine International Convention Center. Of course, this was many decades ago, the Bangles was still “Walking Like an Egyptian”. (Google it, Millenials.)
I’m pretty sure it must have been someone important. And he or she tried to tell us what the real world was like, and how our talented bunch could contribute toward nation-building or something to that effect. Who chose that particular speaker, I have no idea.
All I could remember that evening was our university president Bro. Andrew, seeming delighted to see me as he handed over that “diploma” (really, a rolled up sheet of blank paper). I suppose his thought balloon that night was something like “Thank you, Lord, we’re finally rid of her!” (Canned evil laughter here.)
Seriously, Bro. Andrew did ask me to teach at the university, which I complied with, with much dread. I never liked public speaking, but I’m not one to turn down a challenge or a likely adventure. But the experience was, how should I put it, so un-fun, I only taught for barely a trimester. (By the middle of the trimester I already found employment at a prominent newspaper that it was quite easy to let go of teaching. And frankly, I didn’t relish the fact that my superiors at the department seemed to be planning my “teaching career.”)
But I did appreciate the opportunity. I guess I just wasn’t ready for a career in molding minds, when my own had yet to fully form and mature. The experience though was admittedly, cathartic, as the memories of unruly behavior under previous instructors, professors, and teachers especially in grade school, came flooding back to me. Gulp.
Post-graduation, the experience was largely terrifying, exciting, exhilarating – all at the same time. I was befuddled at first to be given exams at the first few jobs I applied for. (Truth to tell, one of them was SM. I went to their old Escolta branch to take the written exams. It was an opening in the marketing or PR department I think. But I never went back for the interviewed when I got called for it. So yes, Millie Dizon, I almost worked for you. J)
I’d like to tell the young people that grades aren’t that important, but they are. Just one of my mistakes in college. I enjoyed my extra-curricular activities too much, to the detriment of my most important subjects. So I was basically a mediocre student most of my university life. But employers do look at your college grades as an indication of how hard you work. It shows your potential to earn a living and how much you can contribute to the company.
Of course, common sense and streetsmarts count for some points too. Except that you don’t really get to show off those character traits until you’ve already joined the company. You first need to make a good impression on the company you want to be hired in.
- Always dress impeccably. Whether it is for just a written exam or an interview, it’s always important stand out among others with your smart style. Forget your goth black getups, or K-pop cute dresses, go with the usual plain dark slacks or skirt (for women), and a white or sky blue top. You may or may not use a blazer or coat jacket, but using these does make for a more complete outfit.
- If you pass the written exam and are lucky enough to get interviewed, always speak plainly. Never embellish. Human resources personnel are trained to sniff B.S. a mile away, and will know if you’re lying about something. As this is just a getting-to-know-you exercise, just answer the questions as best as you can. If you’re not comfortable speaking in English, ask permission to express yourself in Filipino, or Taglish.
- If you manage to get an interview with the company executive you are supposed to work for, that means you have expressed yourself well enough to make an impression, so that should give you more confidence. Questions that would normally be asked would be about how you see yourself in the company in five years or so, what can you bring to the company or why should the executive pick you over the other applicants for the position. In knowing your strengths, you should be able to express them well, and give concrete examples how these strengths were applied.
- Ask questions about the company. It helps the boss to know that you have an inquiring mind and are naturally interested in the workplace.
- Unless an offer is made right there and then, just say thank you at the end of the interview and wait for the call to say you are hired. If and when you do feel so inclined to accept the job, ask to see the offer sheet. Remember that nothing is final until you sign on the dotted line. So feel free to back out after you’ve seen the offer sheet. Or ask a few days to think about it if you wish to. Do not get pressured into thinking you must make a decision right there and then. So many years are wasted toiling at the wrong job because of “kahiyaan.”
While I do feel it’s important to see an offer sheet just to ensure you know your salary and benefits (as well as how much taxes will be deducted from your salary), one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my own, and as well from other people, is that it’s never the money.
Money makes life more comfortable, yes, but it’s not going to make you really happy. It won’t give you a hug, or hold your hand in times of distress. So it’s great if you’re offered a humongous amount of money, especially if it’s your first job. Enjoy it. But as you get older, you will realize that you will buying more and more material things in an effort to find what will make you truly happy and content.
For the graduates, I’d also like to make a pitch for the government. I wish there was some law to require government scholars to become public servants for at least two years, just as a way to pay back taxpayers. Also because, I think we have too many critics of government who really don’t know the challenges of working in an actual bureaucracy.
I must say that one of the few jobs I really enjoyed was a stint in government. At the Department of Agriculture, I was able to travel to the farthest rural farms and to the deepest fishing areas. I met people who were not materially rich, but were honest, good, hardworking farmers and fisherfolk, whose main goals were simple: to put food on their tables and send their kids to college.
It’s an enormous challenge, that’s true. Working in government won’t make you wealthy. Your hard work and sacrifices may not always be appreciated. But it will make you rich in experience. For me, it’s more rewarding to put country above self.