I graduated summa cum laude from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2015.
But it didn’t save me from the pains of looking for and landing a job — reproducing my resumé as though in a printing press, scattering it throughout the busy buildings of Makati as if it were a newspaper begging to be read, and waiting for weeks for the call to signify that at least someone had noticed my piece.
The whole routine of dressing up, taking exams, and showing up for interviews turned out to be all too draining at the same time.
I could not grasp why I had to undergo what every other graduate and job seeker would.
I can vividly remember shooting an application for a clerical post in a multinational company. It had a great employer reputation, so I did not mind the fact that the job would not be very fulfilling for me.
I projected that I would stand out as an obvious choice for the organization, notwithstanding the minimum work experience I so easily dismissed as a trivial requirement given what I perceived as my qualifications.
I was floored to discover that I was mistaken.
After passing the preliminary test, I received a letter expressing thanks and regret and informing me that I could no longer proceed to the interview. No other courteous gesture frustrated me in my lifetime.
The unencouraging encounters numbered more than one. And they progressed from being totally reasonable to subtly relegating to downright discriminating.
In an interview with a consulting firm, I met a recruiter who happened to also come from the same university. As she skimmed through my resumé, she did what to me was both unimaginable and disrespectful.
Instead of probing into my credentials, she said she had a friend in my batch who also graduated summa cum laude, and proceeded to praise that friend for being commendable and academically excellent. I ended up being an audience at my very own interview.
Afterwards, I heard no more from that firm. So I guessed that I should move on and continue searching.
My application for a junior management position in a local bank bore no promise either. During the initial screening, the HR manager gave me a critical look, asking me straight whether I was sure of what I was applying for.
I met her skepticism with my certainty, furiously convinced that I was at par with the cohorts I knew who had landed a similar job.
I had acquired a degree in psychology, which is no less powerful than business management. The understanding of human dynamics and organizational principles underlies any business dealing — and success. I saw no reason why my course had to be an impediment to corporate employment.
But no matter how strong, my stance made no difference. Weeks passed and I still received no feedback. By then, I had mastered the practice of interpreting silence as a failed application.
As if things were not bad enough, other people, including friends and relatives, would check on me for updates on my job pursuit. They mostly appeared well-meaning, but their expectations brought me no good.
Each time they asked which job offers I was choosing from, I just kept mum, unwilling to admit that, to begin with, none of the companies I applied to had even contacted me with an offer.
These initial real-world experiences shook my confidence to the core. I asked myself: Did I bank too heavily on academic achievement? Did I overlook aspects that must have mattered more? Did I regard myself too highly?
On hindsight, the singular answer to my questions was yes.
Perhaps the disheartening incidents that occurred in the course of my job-seeking were needed to uncover the danger of the pride I might have allowed to build up in me.
After all, the unqualified notion of an easy and quick lane to employment for UP graduates runs so rampant that pride becomes an almost inevitable result. Pride can then transform into an unfortunate attribute when it obstructs rationality that ought to come before it.
I have realized that pride might as well be one of the great enemies that a UP graduate must confront and overcome.
Pride has a way of limiting perspective. It can influence you to focus on particular things that would reinforce it, leaving the rest unnoticed, as these do little to fortify it.
In my case, I was obsessed with academic accomplishment in college, to the point of foregoing significant involvement in organizations and causes that I believed in.
Pride has a way of stealing sensibility. It can cripple your ability to assess situations, develop foresight and take appropriate action.
As for me, I became unresponsive to my surroundings, to the extent of ignoring job fairs and seminars, and assuming that it is the opportunities that would later run after me.
Pride has a way of undermining identity. It can create the false idea that unfavorable events diminish your sense of who you are. It replaces hard-earned honor with an unfounded degree of frustration over the natural occurrence of failure.
To me, it meant de-identifying myself from the university I came from, to the point of resenting all that I had lovingly worked for and attained as a passionate learner.
Thankfully, pride, too, has a way of exposing itself. It did
exactly that for me.
A beaming morning welcomed UP’s first June graduation. I stood at the front of the open field, lined up with the top graduates of our batch. I heard someone say that in previous years, summa cum laude graduates were seated onstage for distinction.
“I like it better on the ground,” I told myself. “In the end, we are more similar to than different from the rest of the graduates.”
Three years later, I now understand what that statement truly means.
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Faye B. Zipagan, 23, is now junior manager for operations at a local bank.
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