Job-hopper no more

If there’s an Oscar for job-hoppers, I’d give a lot of contenders a run for their money. My CV can make human resource managers raise an eyebrow at the number of jobs I have had: 12 in 7 years.

Basic math tells me that I have not lasted even a year, on average, in any of those jobs. When asked during my last interview why I was not just job-hopping but actually industry-hopping, I could only quip, “Because I can.”

My first work experience was as a volunteer nurse for three weeks. When the program was called off due to internal issues, I took it as a sign that nursing was not for me.

Since I needed to financially support my family, I worked as a reservation agent in a BPO company, referred by a family friend, for six months.

Then I became an online ESL instructor to Korean students for eight months. Then came an offer from another friend to jump ship to an SEO firm.

But three days later, she e-mailed me to not report for work due to cost-cutting reasons. Devastated, I went on a frenzied job hunt online. Eventually, I was hired by two different pharmaceutical companies in a span of 11 months.

Soon enough, I found myself working as a training associate, giving lectures on embalming (you read that right) for managers, professionals, and ordinary people.

After 10 months finally came “The One.” The opportunity to be a property writer in a startup online real estate portal was an irresistible game-changer. Having been chief editor of our university publication, I easily fell in love with it.

I thought I had found my forever, having been able to mark a work anniversary (a rare feat, I think, is worth celebrating) and nearing two, when I and my coworkers got the surprise of our lives a day after Independence Day: a retrenchment termination, a belated mockery telling us “You’re free!” Only this time, I had not intended to leave.

Then my mom began showing signs of a lung ailment. I was in disbelief when the initial diagnosis indicated lung cancer — and was relieved of an elephant sitting on my chest when the biopsy confirmed “only” extrapulmonary tuberculosis. My nursing background came in handy for the ordeal.

I had to do home-based online writing to get by and to buy my mom’s medications. Soon I became a content writer at another BPO company for nine months. But a friend and former schoolmate offered me a lucrative career as content manager in a media firm.

Hard as it was to turn it down, it was a lot harder to bid goodbye after a month into the project.

Thankfully, my previous employer still welcomed me back. But the comeback lasted a mere month. I got burnout and called it quits.

I was a bum for the next three months. During this so-called dark age, my grandmother died. Financial woes piled up.

After I flunked yet another exam and I went to pray to St. Jude for my desperate case, my cell phone, which I had taken from my bag for the first time during a jeepney ride home, got snatched. And it was not even fully paid yet.

Weird symptoms began manifesting. I couldn’t stand at times, and it was as if I had pneumonia. Doctors said it was psychosomatic, but I sulked and moped and thought I was useless. I knew I am smart, yet all I could see then was a pathetic being who couldn’t get her life together.

But I had to fight. For the first time, I did extensive research on the firm I was eyeing. Rejections came one after another. But last Jan. 3, the cosmos showered me mercy and a second chance in my career, this time as a copywriter.

I don’t know if there’s something in my personality that employers find interesting, but I’m glad that the firm where I failed in my first application reconsidered me for a job post which I didn’t seek. It was my redeeming moment. And it took someone to trust me once more to get me trusting my capabilities and realizing my worth again.

I could give a rundown as to why I hopped: stress, complicated relationships, a touchy superior, work conditions beyond my control, a better paycheck, caught between unhealthy politics and bosses’ warfare, etc. But I guess it all boils down to the ultimate problem: me.

Once I seem to have reached the plateau (many times I was a top-performer employee), my intensity just waned. I easily got affected by the sociopolitics. And when an easy way out presented itself, I took it in a heartbeat.

I’m tempted to accept the possibility that I’m a girl just waiting to be cast in “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” but I think what makes me leave is the feeling that I’m meant for something more. That I deserve more. That I’m destined elsewhere.

In retrospect, my first few jobs were not really my passion, but stuff I had to do to survive. But it is the pen and paper (or monitor and clunking keyboard) that have been calling me all this time.

Some people seem to have their bright future laid before them, sure of who they’d become, stable enough to take the path less traveled and whimsically venture into something new, or pursue their passion.

But who’s to say it can’t be the other way around? It may have taken me many jobs before my eureka moment came, but I firmly believe that we have our own timetables and that the path to success is not always linear. It can be forward and backward. Detours and stopovers are allowed, too, so long as you don’t lose sight of your purpose.

It’s only now that I’m appreciating how enriching were my experiences. Those were needed roadblocks and stepping stones to discover what I want and what I don’t, to lead me to where I am now.

It’s often frowned upon, but job-hopping is not an entirely bad idea. It works for some, not for everyone. It’s something I’m not proud of, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Some people stay because they are scared to plunge into the unknown. I’m not. But this should not be an excuse for me to ditch my job at my pleasure. Making a career is not overnight magic.

Life offered me many windows each time I needed an escape. When it unexpectedly opens a door for me, I need to keep it shut for some time.

It’s only fair that I give back to the company who gave me so much trust. Now, I need to: have focus, work on my confidence, and be consistent at work. Accept that no job can exist without politics or complications. Learn to ignore. Avoid rash decisions. And listen to my inner voice and well-meaning friends.

I plan to thrive where I’m currently planted. I’ve proven that adapting to a new working environment is just a walk in the park.

As the graduation season comes, I hope to finally graduate from job-hopping and be able to appreciate the beauty in staying. I have embraced change, maybe a little too much, that I think finding some semblance of permanence will not hurt.

Maybe the stars are finally aligning.

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Leah Astrud C. Agustin, who turns 30 on March 11, says she hopes to have a cameo role in a TV crime show.