It’s been months since I left the University of the Philippines. With my departure, I brought with me the promises of a successful career, a head-turning university name, and a contract-worthy Latin honor. But then again, these are just promises—words and phrases that walk on stilts on shaky hanging bridges. Through all my years in college, I was assured by relatives and peers that a UP degree would get me a job pronto! Some even said people would line up to hire me even before I graduate.
Well, they were wrong! I don’t mean to burst balloons, just myths. UP does get you a job, but if it’s going to be your first, don’t expect the offer to be delivered to your house, or to be for the job you’ve dreamed of having.
For three months I went through job screenings. I spent more money printing resumés and reproducing copies of my credentials and commuting from Pampanga to Manila and back than I did during my college days. Most of my Internet hours were spent surfing JobStreet.com, not Facebook. My cell phone became a fixture in my pocket because I knew that a missed call was a missed opportunity. Job advertisements became very appealing to me despite their boring layouts and occasional misspelled words.
I must say the past months have opened my eyes to the real life. I made a few notes during my job-hunting (I call it soul-searching) days that may be of value:
1. Make your CV/resumé as attractive as you can. Pick from your college life the most substantial activities that you engaged in. The trick is in the intensity of words. Make the most out of your thesaurus! (For example, use “I facilitated” instead of “I assisted…”)
Tip: As early as your freshman year, make a list of your achievements and activities (with dates and places) so that writing your CV will be a breeze.
2. Print more copies than needed. Whether CV or birth certificate, when you’re looking for work there’s never enough copies.
3. Use a waterproof long envelope for your documents. I know it’s a minute detail but your documents have as equal a value as your face and decorum in an interview. Imagine the cringe of your interviewer if you present her with a soggy birth certificate or a creased resumé! Also, don’t use bright colors for your envelope because you’ll often pull it out of your bag in your potential company.
4. Bring two or more pens and paper. It’ll absolutely make a good impression if you keep pen and pad handy. Again, more than one pen because I have had the experience of borrowing a pen from the HR person (my only pen would not work and it was embarrassing)!
5. Ask questions. If there’s one crucial lesson UP taught me, that would be the act of asking. No matter how bruha the receptionist is, ask her if you don’t know the floor the office you’re seeking is on. It won’t hurt if she raises an eyebrow at you; it’s going to be her wrinkle, anyway.
6. Bring FUN (Fan, Umbrella and miNts). The weather is very unpredictable so you must bring an umbrella anywhere you go. And if it’s too warm, you should know better than to present yourself all soaked in sweat. Pause for a while, wipe your sweat, and fan yourself until you’re sufficiently presentable. As for the mints, you know what to do.
7. Do research on the company. Never, ever attempt to go to an interview without even knowing what products it makes or who the CEO is. You’ll just make a fool of yourself.
8. Memorize your lines. Yes, memory exercises don’t stop after college. Write down your answers to common interview questions and read them repeatedly until you know them by heart. Just make revisions along the way. You should know yourself better than anyone else (in terms of achievements and goals). There’s nothing more impressive than a naturally smooth talker.
9. Save up! Looking for a job is not like strolling in the park. Especially if you’re going to do walk-in applications, expect to spend cash and change for transportation and other nitty-gritty fees.
10. Draw up a game plan. You don’t just go to a job interview once a day, five days a week. If you can, schedule interviews in one day, but make sure they are within the same area. That way you save money, time and energy. HR people are very accommodating to schedules, so try your hardest to bargain for the most convenient time and date for you.
11. Know your value. One of the most difficult questions in an interview: What’s your expected salary? You’ve studied for four freaking years in college, so you better not give the HR person a P5,000 to P10,000 range! I don’t mean for you to make it a sky-high P50,000. Give a range that fits your credentials and the company. For instance, if it’s a government agency, you’ll be joking if you asked for a P25-30,000 starting salary because even older employees don’t get as much.
12. Remember names and contact details. When the HR person calls you up for an interview, remember her/his name because people in the office will ask you who you spoke with. And keep contact numbers so that if you have questions, you can easily call and seek answers.
13. PPP. Persevere, be Patient and Pray. I received calls for interviews not because companies got the cum laude list from my college, but because I submitted my resumé to a lot of companies, whether online, through career fairs or walk-in. If you see a job opening that seems great, grab it like it’s the last one! Keep on sending your resumé until they give you a ring. Be patient because some companies collect resumés for months; don’t worry if they don’t phone immediately. Of course, pray. No matter to which Higher Being you pray, ask for divine intervention that you may seal the deal asap, or that you be strong enough to accept rejection.
The past months I spent swimming in job advertisements and fishing the good ones have actually paid off. I’ve already signed a contract and by the time this piece is out I’ll be an active member of the labor force. As I said, you will not always get the job that you like. In my case, I took the job that I need. It’s always a comparative-advantage issue. As the eldest child in a middle-class family, I chose the job with the best possible benefits; the enjoyable environment will have to wait.
Nowadays, UP grads may find it difficult to land a job, but it’s not impossible. I may have busted the UP myth, but I never said that there’s no hope in making it big out there. You may start by getting papers filed and making reports. These are not useless actions but warm-up exercises for bigger responsibilities ahead. And when you do get the job that you want (or need), cherish it and treat it like an investment that you have to shield from negative externalities. Make the most of the experience and use your college lessons as often as you can. You’re a newbie, so all eyes will be on you. Learn to listen, take the lead, and, as expected from a UP grad, exceed expectations so that you’ll not only hit the mark but also make your own.
Maria Bianca M. Mendiola, 20, is a political science graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman.
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