The gap in my resumé
As I scroll through social media, I can’t help but feel left behind whenever I see my peers from college slowly working their way up the corporate ladder or enrolling in graduate school to earn their master’s degree — while I make no such advances in my career or education.
The evidence does not lie.
In the past year, I haven’t been able to add anything noteworthy to my resumé. Every time I apply, I imagine the stern lady from human resources raising her brow at my unimpressive employment history, and I feel a little less hopeful that I would get an offer.
The first and last time I was officially on payroll was last year. I was hired as a planning officer for Pampanga’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) office. Finally, after several failed applications and “ghostings” by HR, I was going to work in a field where my fascination with science and communication coincided.
I was excited, like any other UP graduate, to serve the people. I considered myself lucky because my work interested me, I had a good starting salary, and I got along well with my workmates. I had found my tiny place in the world to make a difference. Or so I thought.
Despite what my job title said, I could not have planned or prepared for the world event that was about to unfold. In March 2020, the novel coronavirus hit the world. I had just signed my contract at the governor’s office when the national government decided to enforce a lockdown.
While my superiors explained to me the demands of working in DRRM—that we were first responders to disasters — fear of the unknown had replaced any rational thought I had. My roommates and I decided not to report for work the following day. We stayed at our apartment for three days without ever going outside and wondered how long the supplies we bought would last. Uncertain of when the lockdown would be lifted, we left Pampanga in a mad dash one cloudless night.
When I arrived in Tarlac, I stayed in the rented office space my parents had converted into an isolation room. For 14 days, I was alone in a cement box with my computer switched on from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., because I still had work to do. The only time I could see my family was when Mama brought me food and retrieved my plates and utensils. If not for the internet and frequent video calls with friends, I would have lost it, feeling all the psychogenic symptoms associated with COVID-19.
After I reunited with my family at home, discussions of alternative work arrangements began. Of course, I was hesitant to go back after the trauma I went through. There was still very limited information about the virus, so every fiber of my being insisted that I stay. Another factor I considered was our economic situation. Our family did not have any financial safety net to fall on. If I contracted the virus and had to be hospitalized, we would easily drown in debt. At that time, it felt like the risks and potential cost outweighed the benefits. “There are other jobs,” I told myself. I was fortunate enough to have parents who saw my distress and supported my decision to resign.
I realized that no work is worth losing your sanity, and possibly your life, for. We work to live, not to die. I believe there is something profoundly amiss in jeopardizing or sacrificing one’s life for work, unless the job specifies it. It is even dangerous to frame workers’ lives as casualties of a war against an invisible enemy when certain death could be avoided had authorities done their job right.
As the weight of indecision left my shoulders, I joined the millions of Filipinos who became jobless because of the pandemic. Since then, I have been scouring the internet for part-time jobs as a writer, editor, transcriptionist, graphic designer, research assistant, etc., so I could support myself instead of asking for money. I wore many hats so I could save up for plans and emergencies.
It dawned on me that, even in the face of uncertainty, I was capable of a lot of things. The time I took away from the field/office was productive because I did my part in staying home. I was able to help my little sister graduate from grade school, I was here to support my family and friends emotionally when they needed me, and I even managed to reach out to my fellow Filipinos in Cagayan and Isabela in the wake of Typhoon Ulysses. I wasn’t merely passive during this unprecedented time.
Now that the world is gradually reopening, I am slowly building up the courage to apply again. However, I have one request to make. Dear future employer, I hope you would extend your understanding and overlook the wide gap in my resumé. I was trying, in my own way, to survive, just like everyone else.
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Jeromy Verayo, 22, is from Tarlac City. He is a freelancer who wears multiple hats. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the ukulele and taking photographs.
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