At the time of posting this, I am already in my ninth year of work experience. I have tried a lot of odd jobs as a college student until I finally graduated and I got my license. I thought that after getting my license, finding out what I want professionally and finding my respective place in the professional scheme of things is going to be a piece of cake.
I was dead wrong. The jungle in the working world is more intense than the jungle that is UP.
As a freelance writer in college, I thought that I’d simply ditch my engineering degree to pursue my writing fulltime. As it turns out, I ended up loving engineering as much as I love writing. And I was, in fact, not mistaken to plug away all those gruelling hours of training.
After my board exam, I pursued a prestigious editing job in a publishing house, only to find out that I sorely missed the world of technical things and that the glamorous world of rubbing elbows with literary bigwigs did not turn out exactly to work well for me as I’d hoped.
I went on to the second year (post-board exam) with another job to pursue what I thought was something that can bring me back to a semblance of my technical roots with a heavy call to public service, only to be brought more writing work. For a large bureau, I thought it would open horizons for my career and perspective. But I ended up being boxed in as just another writer, with little room for what I can actually contribute. The things that mattered a lot to me in a job did not mean anything in that environment.
I thought it was THE ultimate job. A lot of people thought I was an idiot for letting that opportunity fly. But in truth, I was extremely miserable for a full year. It was a place full of potential for making a good impact with technical pursuits. But again, it did not turn out the way I had hoped.
I distinctly remember the heartache of lugging out my things and looking back at the tall edifice of that second job, feeling so much frustration. It has been nine months since that tearful night where I don’t know how to pick myself up after the big devastation of forcing myself in a supposedly relevant industry to my line of expertise. Turns out, the demands of the job was not well-matched to my existing skill set.
At the time, I felt like I never wanted to work anywhere else anymore. I felt like I lost all that I had inside even when financially I was gaining without burning my skin in fieldwork’s stinging sun. I did not know myself anymore. It was a crisis. And in that rock bottom, I revisited my engineering background and reconsidered it with a new perspective.
On more than one occasion, I thought of not using my engineering degree. But all roads ended up pointing to the fact that I was, indeed, cut out to be a practicing engineer. I had other opportunities in marketing, in editing, and in online ventures. I even had the opportunity to get rich quick. But I felt like something was amiss.
My curriculum vitae solidly states my credentials as an engineer, but it did not contain my apprehensions of pursuing this degree, the silent panic of living up to the title, the doubts, the micro-projects, the life priorities, the steep ladder of achieving this hellish degree, the trade-offs of not using my license for two years. It was only after six months of exposure to actual engineering practice that I became fully convinced that engineering is my field.
After nine years of taking diverse jobs as a freelancer, online writer, editor for textbooks, call center agent, mall cashier, tutor to Filipinos and Koreans, etc., I find that there are five things your curriculum vitae won’t tell outright about you but are really essential for job success:
1. The Level of Passion, Interest, and Tenacity You can Offer the Industry
There is no thermometer that can gauge your interest, passion, and tenacity. Anyone can pretend or feign interest in a subject during a job interview. It is quite easy to just put a lot of motherhood statements in your resume to impress the employer.
But you will only know how determined you are to succeed in a job if you are reporting to the office daily and you are asked to do things you like and things you dislike. If you still find yourself able to handle the unglamorous tasks and consider yourself a happy employee at the end of the day, you are in the job that suits you.
In my second job, my boss told me I needed a certain tenacity to tackle my deliverables. He was right. I was not willing enough to immerse myself in that world, in that industry. In this present job, I had been tenacious to the point of being overbearing without anybody dictating me to be so.
I was finally able to compare the last three jobs and I found that for the first time, I am in the right place. My passion, tenacity, and interest in what I am doing now is off the charts. And it shows at how I find myself wanting to go to the office even during hell days and overnight sessions for some nights. The bottomline: I don’t have to force myself to work hard. It’s just all there now and it fits, and I am thankful to God for that.
2. How You Treat Your Peers, People under You, and People above You
After years of working with people, it’s not their level of intelligence that leaves an indelible mark in me. I have known countless brilliant people who are really assholes. They say inappropriate things in a working setting, cause discomfort to their colleagues, find ways to put down co-workers to elevate themselves, use people and love things, harass rank and file employees or people they can bully, impatiently curse and badger until they get things their way, and basically make life unbearable so that they can thrive.
If you are a nasty person, it does not matter if you have a doctorate or if you are getting graduate studies in a foreign university. No accomplishment can ever erase bullshit in one’s attitude and personality. And sadly, the curriculum vitae is unable to smell the insidious corporate bullshit that wreaks its poison in the organization. Some people are just foul-mouthed, and there are few things on earth that can change the way they are. The most tragic part is that some organizations reward the worst personalities because they are good what they do. They make themselves indispensable at work so that people will be forced to keep them even when they are personally odious and unbearable.
3. Your Life’s Most Fundamental Professional/Personal Motivations and Principles
Some work tasks demand a test of your principles in life. It’s a question of how far you are willing to take this professional advancement. There are many shortcuts involved and while they are convenient, it is costly to your peace of mind. It can be as subtle as padding your resume to add “experience” that your position requires. It can mean tweaking a deliverable just submit it on time.
One of my non-negotiable principles is the elusive work-life balance. Work-life balance is buzz word, a catch phrase among corporations. But very few jobs have the real deal of work-life balance. Most are just lip service. You might put work-life balance as an expectation in your CV, but often the employer just ignores this.
4. Your Life Goals and the Perceived Interplay of Work and Personal Life
Willing to travel?
You can put that in your CV but you won’t be able to put all the details there on when you will get engaged, settle down, make babies, pursue graduate studies, or put up your own business. You can’t tell when your physical strength can hold out and when you will start using your health card more. You can’t tell when you really want to retire because chances are, employers won’t hire people who won’t grow old with them. This is why many people leave jobs after major life changes. Their jobs can no longer accommodate how their personal lives are evolving.
5. Your Most Optimum Work Environment
This is the trickiest mix of all. It’s the conglomeration of everything you are as a professional. After trying out numerous environments, I discovered some things about myself. Each job switch was an added insight on what works and what doesn’t. Some people are lucky to find the perfect job in their first try. But if you are like me and some others, the whole jungle of it takes years to maneuver. Job switching is exhausting though. It’s much easier to just spend some time after graduation to think long and hard about what you want professionally, make a few well-thought-of job applications, and stick to your game plan.
As a breadwinner, I didn’t have that luxury of introspection which led to an unwanted experimentation. As soon as oath taking season was over, I had to quickly get a job for my living expenses. But life is a huge trial and error system until you find what you were meant to do in this world.
I found out later that I have a threshold for overtime work, and this threshold only increases in things that naturally engage me. I also found out that I needed a place where my ideas are valued and considered, that I needed some normalcy but not to the point of boredom, that I do not like sitting in long boardroom meetings to speak on behalf of the organization, that I like working with computers on the sidelines with people who have the technical expertise to appreciate what I am doing, that I like working with real experts who are good at what they do and know how to teach it, that I needed a variety of things with significance to the greater scheme of things, and that I needed an environment where fellow workers treat you like a human being and not an output machine or a pawn to meet their professional ends.
I also learned about my limitations. I discovered what drives me or pushes me to give a lot of effort, and what triggers me to ditch a job no matter how prestigious or nice it is. I found out about my deal makers and dealbreakers, and this has narrowed down my options in a good way.
One would expect after college that these things I want are naturally found in any job, but they are not. You need to dig through all the corporate packaging to find what’s underneath, and determine if you like what you find after digging through.
A good marketer can sell feces and package it like chocolate, but you cannot survive long enough eating it without getting infected or turned off by its stench. In this world of maneuvering people and backstabbers and power hungry abusers, it is important to know who you are professionally and stay very secure in your position.
There are so many things college did not teach me that had to be learned the hard way. There are so many things a curriculum vitae and a corporate website will not be able to tell you as you evaluate where to put your energies.
But to survive in the quest for the right job, it’s fundamentally important that beyond building your curriculum vitae or resume, you know yourself well. Because if you don’t engage in the quest of knowing yourself beyond what your CV can reveal, you can get easily swayed or be just another drone or pawn in the corporate universe.