Top 6 Lessons from My First Corporate Job
At the age of 20, I graduated from university.
For 4 years, I studied to be a graphic designer in a beautiful campus in Katipunan. By graduation, I was well-aware of 2 verily inconvenient truths: I hated designing – yet can appreciate good design when I see it – and most importantly, I was horrible at it. Still, I persisted. After all, how do you even tell your parents that their efforts of giving you the best education you can possibly have was for naught?
After a month-long break, I set to find my first job with JobStreet and LinkedIn as my Bible. I sent out roughly 40-50 e-mails to possible employers; attached were my vivid résumé created on Adobe InDesign and an overly perky – almost desperate – cover letter. I had very few responses and requests for interviews. I remember entering sketchy townhouses, cramped bodegas, and rowdy preschools in the middle of nowhere – don’t ask – hoping, but holding everything loosely because I did not want to have my heart broken again. I failed practical exams, and I’d go home crying in cabs knowing that I was set to receive another rejection text or e-mail.
Every day was a battle. My worth was tethered to my ability to get taken seriously by companies. Waking up meant facing the “reality” that I wasn’t good enough. During this long, seemingly endless drought, I held on ever so tightly to my merciful God. I knew He had plans for me – beyond my wildest dreams – and they were to prosper me, not harm me, to give me a hope, and a future.
Almost a year passed. After countless of interviews, gut-wrenching almosts and not yets, emotional breakdowns followed by desolate prayers, at 21, I had my first corporate job as the official photographer of a TV network. My job entailed going to far-flung areas, sometimes out of town, other times in restaurants a few blocks away – wherever artistas camped out – and just shoot. There were nights when I wouldn’t go home, days when I would go back in the office just in time for our morning show. “Pack up!” were the most glorious words muttered. In the comforts of my air-conditioned, well-lit university library perusing another Philosophy reading, this was far from my reality. These were the longest 4 years of my life, and I’ve certainly grown.
Take your time, but be accountable.
You can’t have everything figured out, especially at the beginning. Here’s a shocker for starters: a good education won’t guarantee you a job…immediately. I finished 2 internships – a marketing position in Heima Store and an editorial position in One Mega Group – while shooting freelance on weekends and maintaining “passing grades” (forever a B student). I was blessed with a good – the best (!) in my opinion – education and filled my CV every chance I could, yet it took me a year to land a job.
Now, this isn’t to dissuade you from applying to companies. It’s simply the truth that no one prepares you for when you’re in school. Don’t pride yourself too much in your academic and extracurricular triumphs to the point of entitlement that you feel utterly indispensable.
Take your time but also actively seek out your next step – consider a longer break to be with family, complete your Master’s Program, grow your skill set…just actually do something – because there’s only so much that wallowing in self-pity can do. Passivity sometimes disguises itself as endless self-exploration; know the difference. Do not discount accountability; make decisions and grow. Wipe your tears then move along, friend. Every rejection is a redirection.
Make your job your ministry.
Every day can be holy; don’t wait for Sunday to fully be in the presence of God. Your ministry doesn’t end in church. You also don’t need to be a pastor, a Christian creative, and so on to offer your gifts to the Lord. Be able to serve your colleagues and boss – as you would Christ. When you’re rooted in God-breathed purpose, you will find more clarity with your chosen vocation. It also gets easier to brush off that fleeting sense of human dissatisfaction once in a while.
Everybody, I think, in my former office knew about my faith because I was very vocal about it. I made it a point to include God in the conversation especially when they needed consolation and wisdom. This made them wonder what could be so different about me – grace – that made me lead the life that I did. Now, that doesn’t make me perfect. I’m pretty sure they could name a number of nightmares which included my mouth and my temper – but that’s all part of history now. *hides face*
Leave work behind.
For the first few years, I took much pride in the fact that I would stay after standard working hours to finish all my desk work – especially when I’ve been out in coverage(s) the entire day. I felt that this measured my devotion to the company. It sure is honorable, for the first few months, but then I realized it was pointless. I needed to learn how to separate my work life from my personal life – or else I would’ve lost my sanity.
Know when to leave work behind. If you have a bad day in the office – a conflict with a colleague or a public screw-up – don’t let it define your day, your person, your life. There will also be long days when you will be so desensitized with work and feel that you are not growing. Persist, and know when to detach yourself from the results of your work. In good times, celebrate and give praises, in bad times, humble yourself and still give praises. A difference in perspective can always change how you look at the work that is set for you to do now.
Have a passion project.
The best way I could keep my sanity – aside from prayer and my daily Starbucks Barista Drink – was to have a passion project. Having a creative outlet like a personal blog did heaps for my mental health. This was a space I would look forward to every night after my 9-hour corporate job and on weekends when I could tend to it more. It fulfilled me more since I was not pressured to incentivize it because my income did not depend on it. If people paid attention to what I was creating, it was simply an added bonus. This made me feel in control since I had my own time and my own rules; it was liberating. Continue to grow your passion project(s), and you might just consider using these newfound skills and interests to shape your next career move.
Read: 5 Reminders for Your 20s
Know when it’s time to quit.
You will hear sound advice from everybody about quitting. I know people who hardly completed their probation period because the job simply wasn’t a good fit for them while others stay for 10 years (and counting) because their vocation is in their specific workplace. Some don’t desire professional growth while others need a promotion every year. Know your non-negotiables but also know when to battle short-lived discontentment.
I spent years afraid to pursue my dream to be a freelance creative out of fear of instability; I made so many excuses. Truth be told, there is a part of me that thinks I overstayed but I know that in God’s economy, nothing is ever wasted. In the end, I was certain that I had to leave because I was compromising my professional and individual standards. I no longer produced the best work I could and honor the job that I had. I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t bearing anymore fruit so I finally took the plunge, and I’m writing you now – a month freelancing – with enough projects to sustain me for the month; God is faithful to provide.
There is a time for everything.
It’s never too late to start over. There are days when work is simply tolerable, days when it feels purposeless, and days when it fills your heart – no matter what job you have, it happens. You do work you’re proud of. You do work to pay the bills. You do work to keep your sanity. There’s a time and season for everything. Timothy Keller says it best, “Waiting on God is to be busy in service to God and to others, all in full acceptance of his wisdom and timing.” Wherever you are now, what you do matters, and you are one step closer to your next goal. Let God meet you there.