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Job Hunting Blues

airportLauren will arrive at the ungodly hour of 4:00 AM tomorrow. I hope she’s all revved up, motivated and raring to get back to job hunting. The couple of days before her short vacation in Singapore, she kept on whining how difficult it is to look for a job. How bored she is etcetera. How depressing it is etcetera. There is nothing more annoying than to hear a bored child‘s rant. So I have been asking my friends if they know of job openings for fresh graduates.

The problem is not the lack of job opportunities. Blogger-Friends in the publishing industry like Cathy, Jayvee and Annamanila have asked for Lauren’s resume.

The problem is , she doesn’t want to get a job because of connections.

Sighing, I explain ” In Filipino work culture, most employers look for referrals or recommendations. Sometimes a job requires someone they can trust. Besides they will still have to look at your qualificiations.”

She muses “I will think about it”

I told her as I drove her to the airport last wednesday “Let me tell you… how I ended up in the best job I ever had.”

The best job I ever got was a lead from my dad’s friend (Eduardo M. Taylor) who was the director of the UP Institute for Small Scale Industries (UP ISSI) in the early 80’s. While visiting their library, I chanced upon their research papers and felt I had a lot to contribute to the institute. Armed with MBA units , a technology background and ethusiasm, I felt I was qualified. Filled with romantic ideals for the country, I felt my contribution to the Philippine economy was by working on research or feasibility studies for the entrepreneurs. The challenge then was the freeze hiring by the government for new employees. I moved heaven and earth to find a way to be part of UP ISSI. By sheer coincidence, my dad knew the director . Armed with confidence and a referral, I asked for a job and immediately, I got it through their foundation. My salary was a pittance compared to my previous salary but I was happy and fulfilled. Four blissful years with UP ISSI was shortlived . I got terminated by the new director. I was really heartbroken and angry. He terminated anyone associated with the previous director. It was terribly unfair because in my department , some people even sleep on the job or play pacman during working hours. And here I was so devoted to my work and I got …fired!?!?!?!

Newly married and pregnant with Lauren, I left with a heavy heart. The good news was Mr. Taylor hired me four months after I gave birth to Lauren. My salary was so much higher than UP-ISSI. A few months later, my boss was appointed by Pres. Aquino as the SSS head. Mr. Taylor wanted my husband who was then a law student to work for him . That was good news since I was pregnant with my second child and would be unable to work for months. Once again, Mr. Taylor was generous with the salary and working hours.

We would not have made it through our precarious financial situation without those years working for Mr. Taylor. Butch worked for the next four years with SSS until a law firm hired him.

So I tell Lauren “something good comes out with getting referrals from connections. It’s not a bad thing. It’s bad if you get the job and are not qualified for the position. Sometimes , employers just want trustworthy employees”

Lauren just nodded “Maybe you’re right.”

But really…

Is it bad to get a job because one got it through a lead or referral from a family connection?

How did you get your first job?

34 thoughts on “Job Hunting Blues”

  1. I got my first job through my school. Our External Affairs office gave our numbers to my company and they called us up and after a few interviews, here I am. So the school is the referral. Sorta.

    What’s funny is that I didn’t get interviewed in any of the jobs I applied to. All the interviews I attended were referrals by the school. My mom told me to just go and attend interviews to gain experience about the entire interview process itself. From my first job, I’ve learned that it is very important to get experience first. It’s normal that fresh grads make mistakes over their first jobs. I don’t think a lot of fresh grads ever found their dream job in their first job. Experience is still the best teacher, IMHO. 🙂

    Good luck to Lauren’s job hunt. 😛

  2. For my first job, my classmate and I looked for investors and put up an ISP (yeah I know the story is short… I should expound later). This was in 1995.

    This phase of my career lasted until 2002. All my jobs since then (as employee and would-be-startup-founder) have been through connections.

    I have to admit I don’t understand Lauren’s concern. What country/culture doesn’t honor connections? Note the popularity in the US of using LinkedIn. I’m spending six weeks at a foreign client location, and am leaving on Thursday. We landed this gig because my boss has high-level connections.

  3. Ahhh I understand Lauren. I was very much the same when I finished my studies. My Dad and I really fought since he wanted to ship me off to London for some training. That dropped, he then kept referring me to work for his friends. But I held my ground and I luckily got accepted at Smart – they responded to a job application I did in our school’s job fair. And the rest is history. 🙂

  4. (we’re not counting odd jobs during school, right?)

    got my first job via a campus recruitment thing. next thing i know, i’m on a bus to laguna.

    took a couple of months, though, before i was told i was in, but i stayed for seven years there (less for the money than for, erm, professional fulfillment), before moving to my current one.

    job hunting takes a bit of time, especially these days, when vacancies are on a slump.

  5. I’m pretty sure I landed my first job because I’m from UP. The interview was forgettable, the test was simple algebra & I’m not a bona fide graduate, I was working on my SP (special project). So I’m pretty sure I got the job due to “luck” that the owner was partial to UP students. It was the best experience of my life, I stayed there for 5 years until I moved to London.

    Don’t you think your daughter’s reluctance may be due to “Generation Gap”? Iba ang thinking nila, and they want to assert their independence & prove something to selves. Ganun kasi pakiramdam ko nuon, I turned down my mom’s offer of introducing me to her big time cousins whom I’ve never met! Nowadays, I don’t like it either when people approach me for jobs when I barely know them. I’ve recommended a fair few but only because I know them personally to be reliable at di ako mapapahiya.

    Habaan ko na post ko ha? Hubby got his first job thru his Dad’s friend in St Luke’s. Like you he was fired up & made his referee proud. So I guess using connections to land a job is not bad in itself, it only is when you’re referring someone who is unfit for the job.

    I hope your daughter lands a role she’ll grow to love.

  6. I think I tried all possible ways.

    -My school has a job fair every year (I think it’s twice a year) and I attended those job fairs to submit my CV.

    -We also have a Career Placement Office (CPO) where job oppurtunities are posted so I would normally drop by the CPO every now and then. There are also companies who get the list of graduates from the CPO. Then, they call them or send them letters for exams or interview.

    -The College of Eng’g in my school has a bulletin board which is also used for job postings. Some companies write the college dean or the CPO inviting applicants for job opportunities in their companies and these are posted in the bulletin board.

    -We also have an industry-academe linkage. The list of the participating companies , address and contact numbers are available in the linkage bulletin board. I remember sending my CV by mail to every company in the list.

    -Manila Bulletin every Sunday-until my mom got tired of buying the newspaper for me. At one point, she told me, if you want Manila Bulletin, wake up early, and buy it.

    -Walk-in application. It was quite an experience. There are times, the security would just ask you to leave your CV and there are times the company would give you on the spot exam or interview. But one thing I’ve learned, is even if you just intend to submit a CV, dress nicely because companies may conduct an interview right away.

    -Online (although it wasn’t very popular yet at that time).

    There’s nothing wrong with referrals as long as you know you are qualified for the job. My last job in the Philippines is through a referral. The only set back is when you want to leave the company already. I felt so “hiya” when I left.

    For a fresh grad, it feels good to compete with 1000 other applicants and end up getting the job. But once you are already working, you will realize that key positions are not always advertised and there are companies that hire employees through referrals only.

    My only advice, is to take her time and find the job she likes. I quit my first job even if the pay and the benefits are good, because I didn’t like the job. It’s difficult to shift careers specially if you already gained considerable expertise in a certain job.

  7. I echo your sentiments, Noemi.

    No, it isn’t bad to land a job through a referral, most especially if you’re really qualified for the position. All things being equal, the prospective employer will go for the one recommended by someone trustworthy.

    I know Lauren’s feeling because I never wanted to indulge in “palakasan” myself. But I think noteworthy companies do not operate on palakasan system. If you’re qualified and we like you, you’re hired!

    Besides….there’s a difference between landing a job and keeping it. A less-than-qualified hiree will not be able to keep his job for long. So Lauren need not worry. Her abilities and talents will shine through, referral or no referral.

  8. @tina- Oh yes Ateneo has a placement office. The problem is that most of the job offers are for business related

    @miguel- wow good for you. I also told lauren that even abroad, one gets jobs through connections. You’re right Linkedin is similar to that. It’s networking

    @aileen- the only reason I am asking for friend’s help for job openings to speed the process of job hunting. It’s irritating hearing her complain. I thought I’d do something. Good thing you were strong willed and ended up in SMART, the stepping stone to Google. Great.

    @The jester- Precisely I told her that job hunting takes time. It even took me 5 months to land on to my first job

    @auee- yes a lot of employers are partial to UP graduates. I think that’s how I got my first job. I do agree that maybe Lauren wants to get hired based on qualifications alone. Pride.

    @nina- you gave quite a comprehensive view of the job hunting process. I think she’s going through the placement office and even giving her CV’s to job openings . You’re also right that key positions are not also advertised. They rely on word of mouth

    @jane- besides I won’t make it a big deal if she’s not qualified. You’re also right that the test is if the person can stay put in the job .

  9. it’s different here in the US, but still had connections..LOL. i say different coz most highschool students have their first jobs at the age of 15 with parent’s signature of course.

    my VERY first job was when I was a teenager, for a fastfood restaurant, POPEYES, they have best biscuits ever, hehe. I couldn’t eat fried chicken for a month 🙂

    after that my Dad introduced me to a friend working at a security checkpoint in San Diego Airport. I got the job. To my credit I passed the test 🙂 . Checked luggages, computers, guns, bombs, drugs, stuff like that. Yes we did training and tests :). 1 month later I was recruited by American Airlines as a Passenger Service Representative. I loved it :).

  10. My dad landed his first job after getting, well, “dropped from the academic roster” for his part in publishing a controversial literary folio in Miriam College. The Manila Chronicle was so interested in the story of my dad and his “barkada” that the paper invited all those “dropped” to become reporters. No connections there. Although he uses connections today to get work. 😛

  11. I also got my job through a referral. Actually, they were looking for people and I happened to know two of the people working there.

    Now, my boss is even asking me for referrals cause it’s always better to hire someone who the company already knows. You’re right, it’s about being able to trust someone you’re hiring.

  12. Since hindi lang naman sa workforce nangyayari ito, I’m gonna attack the issue from my POV — sa Filipino school culture. People with connections can (in some cases) frustrate and discriminate those who don’t. And why not?

    I know a lot of people who got their jobs through connections, and they’re not even exactly the the best people for the positions they got. And mind you, they work for the so-called reputable institutions. Some of them even laughed about how they outdid the more qualified ones (related course graduated, passion, candor, you get the picture). Unfair? In this case, yes.

    Tapos one time, medical exam sa Infirmary, my friends and I were there two days straight though we arrived early on the 1st day, and it’s all just because the Infirmary accommodated first those people who were referred to them, or kamag-anak ni ganito o ganyan, bago kaming mga nakapila na run since it opened. I was sooo frustrated I almost cried, dahil na-hold pa ako (some now-inactive TB infection on my lungs which could’ve been spotted a day sooner if only the Infirmary followed the process duly) and wasn’t able to enroll on time because CMC didn’t allow me to unless I was cleared by the Infirmary (which was another painful and loooong process, thankyouverymuch) that I was fit to handle school, else I would have to take a semester off to go under medication of some sorts. Nangyari tuloy, lahat ng subjects ko prerog lang. I was able to enroll a few minutes before 5PM on the last day of late registration.

    Maybe in Lauren’s case, it is pride…because today’s youth want to assert their independence by doing their own thing and proving themselves worthy of whatever job they land on. In my case, I want to be given the equal opportunity as everyone else, connection or no connection, to prove myself qualified for whatever position I’m applying for. I know it’s highly idealistic, pero kanya-kanya na lang siguro. Kasi sa akin, once someone gets an advantage, it follows that another one is disadvantaged (and the sad thing is, hindi naman qualification ang pinaguusapan dito). It’s not that I’m doubting the capacity or the qualifications of the ones who have connections, pero most of the time kasi, mga Pinoy talaga, pag sinabing “connection”, you’re almost always assured of a spot na.

    But then, what do I know? Student pa lang naman ako. As you said, it’s the Filipino working culture.

  13. It’s indeed great to have many connections in finding jobs. But for people who value their own effort, it’s better that they got the job on their own.

    People who are in need of a job right away will certainly use any resources they have.

  14. Ms. Noemi,

    I can see where Lauren is coming from, bec. Back when I was job-hunting, I was that steadfast too in getting a job on my own, foot calluses and all. My schoolmate asked to tag along to an interview on a Friday and luckily, Sunday, I was hired.There is that immense satisfaction that you get a job entirely on your own.

    On hindsight though, I know of many colleagues who got choice positions bec. of referrals, and they stayed on the job only bec. they proved worthy of the trust given to them. Oftentimes, there is even more pressure to do well to show that he/she is deserving.

    Please wish Lauren good luck for me.

  15. @dexie- my sister in the states got her working visa through network connections.

    @jhay- Lauren works for me in our joint webhosting business but she wants a job where she can socialize. after all she is still young

    @cesky- that a blessing in disguise.

    @tiffany- good for you that you got a job this early. You must also be that good,

    @lemon- I will tell her that you are rooting for her job hunting

    @miguel-actually Lauren and I started our webhosting business in 2002 but then she wants a day job. She just wants to work outside of home.

    @connie- now if only she wasn’t bored then she’d have to wait it out

    @shari- you do have a point on equal opportunity and I respect Lauren if that is how she wants it. But she will have to be realistic if she has to wait it out among the hundreds vying for the position. If she ‘s in a hurry to find a job, then she’ll have to use referrals and connections.

    @carrie- I hope she understands that it will take her more time to get the job she wants using the long hard route.

  16. I got my first job one week after I flunk the CPA board exam through a referral from my friend. Her cousin is an HR of a manufacturing company at the South end and looking for additional staff. I was only there 3 mos ’cause after, the management decided to close down (they’re operating on loss) and we were transferred to their sister company. Too bad it was only short lived. The GM and my colleagues are so kind.

  17. Alam mo this is true, tita. Nowadays, it’s hard to compete with someone who has connections. I got my first job through my tita, dad’s sister. She knew an expat who wanted to hire a part time bookkeeper so she referred me. I was still a college student then but because my boss knew my tita, he gave me the post but with a probationary period pa rin naman.

    Yes, it’s bad to get a job through connections IF you are not qualified for the job or given a ridiculously high salary. My two cents’ worth, tita.

    Happy Wednesday! And may Lauren be able to find a job soon 🙂

  18. I got a teaching job right after graduation. The director of the school contacted me immediately. I knew him when I was in college, so he thought I’d do great (I hope I did, and only my students can answer that). I thinks I got the job primarily because I was qualified, him knowing me was just secondary.

    When I got in Trend Micro, now that’s honest-to-goodness without connections. I knew no one from there when I applied.

  19. @tofubaby-it’s great you got a job inspite of everything

    @sasha- lauren decided she will apply on her own without connection. Let’s see

    @arbet- am sure you are qualifed arbet! Perhaps your experience got you that position in Trend Micro.

  20. Saludo ako kay Lauren for being idealistic as many of young people tend to be. They want to stand purely by their own merit. But what they do know is that connection is just a lubricant. They won’t get in if they dont pass minimum standards and most important of all they won’t stay if they are not worth keeping.

    I got into my first job as a third year college student because of a neighbor who’s plant manager in Radiowealth. So connection din di ba? After i graduated, i applied on my own with an international research firm and got in. When I was about to get married, I took the civil service exams, got a good enough grade to get offers from three government institutions, one of them being the UP ISSI where you and I met. And as you know i stayed and stayed and ….

  21. I also believe that having connections during job hunt is a good idea, but not in a way that you haven’t tried applying on your own because your connection is taking care of everything. I think it’s too much.

  22. i got my first job partly through connections, that is, for step 1, at least to be shortlisted, or allowed to take the exams. then, it was all me-IQ, typing speed, interview.

    tell L, even if there are connections, she will still be all by herself when it comes to the next steps, she still has to prove her worth. i don’t think there are anymore companies who hire employees, and keep them, just because there were connections.

  23. first job was thanks to pure connections. i told my dad that i wanted a “meaningful job” in the development scene. he referred me to his old classmate who owns Landco Pacific. I was armed with MA units but with very little experience but I was thankful for that job because i learned so much about the real estate and NGO scene.

    looking back i knew i could have done more, but nonetheless, it was a big eye opener and a good start with my career.

  24. I got my first job through a referral from the director of the NGO that I had my college fieldwork. That was in 1993 and I earned P3,000.

    I understand newly grads who prefer to find jobs for themselves instead of asking for their parents’ help. I was like that then. It’s a getting-out-of-your-parents-shadow syndrome. I don’t find fault for people getting jobs by pulling strings but I really commend those who do not. That proves that idealism and taking challenges among their generation is very much alive.

  25. @Danni- It’s good to have options. Getting hired through connections or sweating it out with the other graduates.

    @sexymom- step 1 is good start. At least you are given the chance to be tested.

    @jayveef- we need the experience as springboard to future jobs or career prospects.

    @ami- I will only help when asked by my daughter. Problem is I hear her whining about it so I try to help. or maybe she just wants to rant.

  26. Hi ate Noemi,

    Hope you don’t mind calling you ate…

    You know what your daughter lauren… should be very lucky that they were people helping her and she don’t need to go with the normal process of job hunting which is very difficult.

    Five years ago, I was a commerce graduate and to be frank, I didn’t even know that my first job was all about business & research. I was worked to coordinate the product and research when little did I know that research meant actual creation, implementation and delivery of new services!

    I was a clueless business development coordinator when I joined dentsu young and rubicam , and distinctly remember the first advice I received from our creative director. She told me that in order to survive, I need to learn how to look for the information I need without relying too much on others. I should be proactive if I wanted to be involved and self supporting. I only stayed there for two years then transferred to ayala foundation, then right now am working in the research team under by one of the leading communication business here in GT Tower, makati.

    I believed that rules change once you’re employed. kahit na meron kang struggle sa buhay hindi mo pwedeng sabihin kaagad sa tao, to someone whom you think is your friend in the business. It seems like they judge you right away. They have an opinion right away.

  27. @reyna- call me Noemi. We need to be resourceful in any line of work. That was a good advice given to you right? We get judged all the time it’s up to us to get affected by it or not.

  28. Hi!

    Currently, I’m in my 3rd company now! I’m on training in a call center as a Tech Support Representative.

    My first job was a referral from my Head in our Student government but I decided to transfer to another company. It’s a publishing company and I applied without any contact. On my own. But I decided to resign after a year and 4 months as I’m now satisfied with the compensation and benefits and even the HR and management. They are basically, poor in everything!

    And now, I’m in here in a call center… I applied on my own but have a friend’s name on the referral form (common to call centers) but I did passed the exams and interviews without a friend’s contact. So that’s it!

  29. I work for an HR consulting firm. And we actually prefer referrals than walk-in applicants. We believe that we get good candidates more by referral. But of course, we trust that those who will give the referral will consider our requirements first before recommending anyone. And base on a study that our company has conducted, the best way of looking for a job is still through a referral. Or networking as we call it.

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