Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Expert Talks on Unemployment

The way people discuss the topic unemployment holds just as much appeal as discussing the topic of some airborne virus threatening to wipe out all of humanity.

I don't blame all the naysayers of the concept of unemployment, though. Many horror stories are attached to it, some of them even ending with the loss of lives.

However, I have yet to encounter a topic discussing the advantages unemployment can bring to one's life.

Yes, dear readers, there actually is something positive that comes out of unemployment, and this blog will thoroughly enumerate the many plus factors that come with being blissfully unemployed.


I have just recently returned to unemployment status last week, inevitably joining the list of jobless Filipinos. It just didn't work out with the public relations agency with whom I was connected. While instinct tells me to blame everything on my last employer, reason dictates that I am just not really designed for PR work. Lord knows though that I tried. However, after four months of trying, I just came to the conclusion that I couldn't see myself 10 years from now getting parking privileges for clients or sitting through client presentations and listening to all the lying, pretension, and hypocrisy that go on in these sessions.


This is, of course, not the first time that I was unemployed. Bing jobless and a single mother is quite an awful combination, and if I'm going to write about my own horror stories on being in such a situation, I'll have enough material for a trashy novel.

However, it was during these most trying circumstances where I came upon several life-changing lessons.


Thinking on one's feet. During the early days of my professional life, I had that advantage of resigning from a job I didn't like even without any fallback options -- and I even enjoyed the extended vacation. Life was much easier then: my dad was still in government service and there wasn't much to spend for anyway. Things became more complicated when I had a baby, got married, and my dad retired (Yes, in that order). Add to that the onset of the Asian financial crisis brought about by the fall of the Thai baht in 1999.That was the first time I actually felt the full brunt of being jobless.

Getting a new job was very difficult that time, especially since I have been languishing in media work for so long. Job openings in the career I was used to were non-existent, and we were running out of money fast, what with the baby and all. For the first time in my life, I had to make a life-changing choice for my family. Against all odds, I decided to uproot my family from Manila to my mother's province in Leyte. This eventually took a toll on my marriage, but it was a spur-of-the-moment decision that I will never ever regret making.


Trying new things. I took several stumbles after making that decision to move to Leyte. This was because I had to reorient myself with alternate means of employment. Suddenly, my experience and skills in the print medium were relegated to the background and I found myself becoming a deejay, a gender consultant, a voice teacher, and a college instructor while in Leyte. It was quite amusing for me to know that there were other facets to my capabilities that I didn't know I had. These wouldn't have surfaced if I remained in my comfort zone as a media practitioner in Manila.


Coping with disappointment. If I am going to enumerate the number of times I cried over disappointments in my career, I could fill a small bucket.

Probably the biggest disappointment I encountered in my career was not being able to continue my work in the academe. I found my trued calling in UP Tacloban, and I could actually picture myself 10 years into the future doing the same thing and not getting tired of it. For once, I felt that I was excelling in my career choice -- and the high evaluation scores I was getting from my students reinforced that thought.

Unfortunately, several individuals in UP Tacloban felt that I had to be "disposed," together with other junior faculty members who showed potential.

That experience, utterly heartbreaking as it was, taught me to move and and hope for even better things to come. I became content with the idea that I was considered too much of a threat by the powers-that-be in UP Tacloban that my existence had to be nipped in the bud.

Another advantage I got from being "sacked" from UP Tacloban was the unconditional friendship and fierce loyalty I found from a group of people who -- despite their accomplishments and illustrious track records -- treated me as one of their own. They are the most-revered senior faculty members of the UP Tacloban Humanities Division, namely Dr. Vic Sugbo, Prof. Merlie Alunan, Prof. Joycie Alegre, and Prof. Zenia Mariveles.


Jumping into the pool. It is said that jumping straight into a pool, not knowing first if it's filled with water or not, is quite foolhardy. While there is logic behind such reasoning, I find that blind pool-jumping can cause quite a rush.

And I am only too happy that I'm the kind who blindly jumps into pools because if I wasn't, I wouldn't have been able to experience the feeling of independence which I got when I decided to take a job in Cebu.

Risk-taking does have its merits, but it should also be in the form of calculated risks. This is what I took upon transferring to Cebu and taking that job as a copywriter for this BPO firm. This is the same principle that guided me when I transferred back to Manila. I would have been tied down to my comfort zones if I didn't do so.


Say a little prayer. Throughout all the highs and lows of my career life, I became a staunch advocate of the power of prayer. During those low moments when I felt that I just kept hitting the proverbial brick wall, I would just step aside, close my eyes, and murmur this prayer: "Father, into Your hands, I commend my spirit." It is sort of a surrender hat I declare to my Creator after doing what had to be done with disappointing results. Sometimes, one has to simply stand aside and just let things go on their natural course. More often than not, something g good comes out of it -- and I attribute this to a divine power, God's will, if you want to call it by a name.

I've seen this divine power at work during those moments of my unemployment when I had very little money to spare and there was still the obligation to provide food on the table. Just when I felt that I already hit rock-bottom, an opportunity suddenly presented itself to me. That unseen but omnipresent divine hand would help me out of my crises just when I ran out of aces up my sleeve, and this reinforced my faith in the existence of my Creator.

His will be done, as it is said.


Balancing the budget. Probably the biggest challenge one encounters upon the loss of his/her job is the eventual loss of a salary for the family upkeep. We usually go to work to earn money not only for ourselves but also for our family's survival. So what happens to the family when there's no more money to expect?

First, I learned the fine art of budgeting whatever money I had left. I remember a time just before we transferred to Leyte in 1999 when I could extend the purchasing power of my P100 bill for an entire week. I must admit though that I still haven't mastered this art yet. So what did I do when my budgeting skills faltered?

I moved on to the second procedure: I swallowed my pride and loaned money. This is a very difficult procedure for me because I'm not used to loaning money, but when I'm already being pushed to the wall, this is my only recourse. And I am only so grateful that I have friends and relatives who would lend me money with no additional interest. The moment I get a job, I make it a point to pay these people for their generosity. Right now, I still have several loans that need to be paid in full, but at least I'm getting there.

To minimize the dependence on loans, I would go on to the third procedure: come up with income-generating activities. So far the most successful one I ever had was holding lessons on voice and stage performance in my town in Leyte. It was physically taxing because I had to sing and dance with my young wards, but in the end it was worth it.


Being in touch with one's true self. Being unemployed also allowed me to introspect. Where did I go wrong with my last job, what could I do to prevent such a disaster next time...these were primarily what came into my mind during these situations of joblessness. Admittedly, there would be times when I got depressed with the status quo that I would sometimes get all broody with family members. However, I would eventually snap out of it and prepare my battle plan to beat this spectre of unemployment. I guess it's quite normal to get depressed, but I also realized that wallowing in self-pity is not going to solve anything.

I managed to learn a little more about myself during these moments of introspection, So far, these are what I gathered:

- I stink at jobs related to media. It is of no wonder that I don't stay too long in a media-related job.

- I am good at jobs that allow me to take control and improvise. The moment my job (or my bosses) begin to control me, I act like a caged animal whose instinct is to get out.

- I value dignity more than money. I will eventually get out of a job that will give me a higher salary but will ask for my soul in return.

- I will never stand up for injustices and broken promises in the workplace. This is where my idealism comes into play. I will stand up for what I believe is true and just.

- I will stay in a job that will not allow me to grow but will also create a positive impact on others beyond my office.

- I will stay in a job that will keep on stimulating my brain. The moment my work becomes rote/too stupid/too demeaning, that's bye-bye time for me.

I dunno if there is such a job that would allow me to place a check mark on all the above-mentioned items but so far, my work in UP Tacloban came closest. Nonetheless, I am still optimistic that I will finally stumble on that dream job very soon.


To conclude, I believe that unemployment is a challenge meant to be appreciated. It teaches people to become stronger individuals than they were before. It also allows for more creativity, ingenuity, and a little but of tapang ng apog. Furthermore, unemployment gives one the opportunity to see the Creator's hand in motion,and it is the time when one can find his/her trues friends and filter them from the fair-weather ones. It is also the most ideal test of family unity. (That's what caused my ex-husband to "fall off the family wagon," so to say.)

So with the growing spectre of unemployment looming over more and more Filipinos these days, it is important to never lose hope. It is this flickering fire of hope that distinguishes our race from others despite the many calamities -- natural or man-made -- that have befallen us. It is also unwavering hope that can raise us out of the doldrums of unemployment.

Take it from an expert.


Harold said...

Well, what can I say? Nice blog and it's nicer to know that a colleague from UP Tacloban is the person behind those hapless experiences and, ultimately, those enlightened realizations.

What's up Dinky?

I am not really privy with the reasons why you were, as you said it, "nipped in the bud" from UP Tacloban but I do abhor politickings in the academe.

Be assured though that God has a purpose for everything that happens in our life and I'm happy that you have come to a point where God is slowly unraveling His plans for you.

You may not know it, I am constantly haunted with the thought that I may have given you a wrong advice when you asked me on what you should do next after leaving UP. Of course, I know that you have asked the same question to many people then but still, I could not stop remembering the varied emotions in your eyes. You seemed very confuse and agitated then and my inexperience was not very helpful that time. The invisible flagellation of being made to leave an institution (or occupation) which you have learned to love is something I could fully empathize but compared to you, I honestly don't know anything about life.

I know your experiences have made you strong and sturdy against the whips and pounding of savage and cruel realities. Continue to be strong willed and don't forget to call on God in everything that you do or plan.

God bless.

Melgrace Abandula said...

Wow dinks, this was your blog from long ago but it's only now that I've truly realized what you wrote was true.

I'm experiencing midlife career crisis and this post really helps. Your strength is an inspiration, dinks. I know I'll make it too.