Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes

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Kung dumaan ka sa Crossing Ibabaw, asahan mong luluwag nang bahagya ang traffic pagpasok mo ng Boni hanggang tumawid ka ng tulay sa may Guadalupe. But then again, it might not. Superepic level kasi lagi ang traffic sa EDSA tuwing rush hour. Nag-calculate nga minsan ang isang friend ko na nagbiyahe from Ortigas to Makati. Sabi niya, ang average speed niya ay 5 kilometers per hour. Imagine! Mas mabilis pa ako maglakad.

Because people are in a hurry to arrive at their destinations, they frequently change lanes sa EDSA, hoping na mas mabilis ang bagong lane na papasukan nila. Swerving ang tawag doon at puwede itong mag-cause ng mas matinding traffic, or worse, magdulot ito ng aksidente. Kaya nga ang six lanes ng EDSA madalas nagiging 8 lanes dahil sa galing sumingit ng maraming drivers.

Hindi lang sa lanes madalas mag-shift ang mga yuppies. A lot of yuppies also shift career several times. In worse cases, some yuppies can work for as much as 3-4 companies in a single year. Hindi ko alam naging collectibles na pala ang dami ng pinagtratrabahuan.

Karamihan sa mga parents natin at mga members ng previous generation, kung ano ang first job nila, doon na rin sila magreretire. That was the norm noong time nila. Sa atin, having a one-track career is the exception. It’s not uncommon to see long resumes of young professionals na nagpapakita ng apat na companies or more within the past four years or so.

Okay lang ba ang madalas na career shift sa panahon natin ngayon?

There’s a big danger to this approach in building your career. Masakit sa mata ng maraming Human Resources professionals ang super habang listahan ng mga companies that you’ve worked for, especially if you are a newbie in the workplace (like, you’ve been working for 3 years or less). Yun bang tipong dinaig mo pa yung listahan ng mga bibilhin ni Aling Bebang sa palengke para sa kanyang karinderya.

The Dangers of Job-Hopping

Nababahala si Mr. Francis Kong, business writer, speaker, and columnist, sa trend na ito. Kaya nga he issued a warning over what he calls as an ‘epidemic in our midst’:

“We have an epidemic in our midst – the emergence of young workers in business organizations today who are impatient, jumping from one company to another, and who are outspoken and articulate but low on substance, mouthing clichés without understanding them and driving HR practitioners crazy.

I’ve had at least seven HR heads from our top business corporations telling me that attrition is high among the young entrants to the workplace. These young people’s work ethics suck, and their work values suck even more. Push them a little, and they whine and whimper. Stretch them a little, and they moan and groan. Correct and reprimand them a little, and they quit right there and then. Mentor them a little, and they think they know more than their mentors.

Fifteen years from now, these young people would probably cover a 10-mile wide industry range and possess a two-inch deep pool of useful expertise and skills. It’s scary to imagine what kind of life they’ll have then.”

Mr. Kong’s statements can feel like an unwelcome, unsolicited advice from your strict uncle. Pero kung pakikinggan natin yung sinasabi niya, we can get several important lessons for our career development as millennials in the workforce.

Impatience or the Fear of Missing Out.

Granted, Mr. Kong belongs to a different generation where the norm was to get a job after college graduation, do it well, then retire after thirty years or so. The world has changed, and our generation cannot seem to get enough of all the good opportunities that we can get in the job market.

Yup, it’s great to have a lot of options. But having too many options can be dangerous, too. Lalo na kung bago ka sa workforce and you’re always looking for the next big thing—mas malaking sahod, mas malaking opportunity for career growth, at mas maraming perks sa company na papasukan mo.

Mr. Francis Kong is right. If you are impatient, you will jump from one company to another, looking for that silver bullet that will bring you more money, more perks, and benefits.

Low on substance.

Kung bago kang worker, kahit na super galing mo nung college ka, you have to admit that there are many things you don’t know. Lalo na sa panahon natin ngayon, super daming lumilitaw na mga trends, technologies, and knowledge na kailangan sa trabaho. The problem is, kung lipat ka nang lipat ng trabaho, you will not learn a lot of things in your industry.

The poet Alexander Pope wrote “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” And that is so true for what Mr. Kong refers to as “low on substance.”

Lalong dangerous iyan kapag may konting alam pero sobrang outspoken mo. You can come across as a know-it-all, but when people scrutinize your statements, and observe you at work, makikita that you are still a rookie, a neophyte, who badly needs a mentor, but who is too arrogant to admit it.

Lack of loyalty, especially at the first sign of trouble.

Kapag pumasok ka sa isang company, your supervisors and peers expect you to perform. They’re not giving you money so you could have a good time, or for you to make new friends. They want you to solve problems for them, and keep their business running. Some companies have better culture than others. But on the whole, expect to have some level of friction and conflict. Ganoon naman talaga eh.

If you put two or three persons in a room and ask them to work together, there will be some conflict. The conflict could be with a team mate, your supervisor or mentor, or somebody from another department. As long as hindi naman pambu-bully or personalan ang conflict, it’s all good. It can lead to your growth. In fact, if your supervisors push you, reprimand you, or correct you, take it and learn from it. Don’t quit right away.

The problem with having too many career choices is that, we tend to run away, and quit at the first sign of trouble.

Mind you, if your resume has a long list of jobs you’ve done in the past, experienced recruiters will know if you’ve ran away from one uncomfortable situation and refused to deal with it.

I have to disagree, though, with Mr. Kong in the last paragraph of the quote above. This is a rehash of that false dichotomy: “Jack of All Trades, Master of None.” It’s not always bad to cover “a 10-mile wide industry range”, and there is nothing wrong in possessing “two-inch deep pool of useful expertise and skills.” In fact, for those who want to be at the top of the corporate ladder, this is exactly what is needed. Just make sure that you don’t frequently change your jobs because of too many absences, attitude problems, money problems, and the unwillingness to learn and follow orders.

Here are several benefits that you can get from job-hopping if you do it right.

1. Find the right fit for your talents and skills.

Bilang isang rookie sa workplace, you may be just beginning to learn yourself, your talents, and skills, more deeply. While you may possess a Bachelor’s degree from a college or a university, hindi ibig sabihin na ang magiging work mo ay directly related sa degree mo. Some people who graduated with an engineering degree end up becoming writers and public speakers. Some lawyers may become pastors or social entrepreneurs. In my case, BA Political Science ang degree ko, but now I am a published writer and a youth worker.

Ask somebody in a call center or in the Business Process Outsourcing industry and you’ll discover that a lot of them come from a diverse educational background. Trying out different kinds of jobs in various industries can help you find out which ones you will enjoy doing, and which ones you will probably struggle with. But take note, hindi nito ibig sabihin na kelangan makarami ka ng work experience within only one year. Ang pagbi-build ng career ay hindi parang Eat-All-You-Can Buffet na lipat nang lipat ng table hanggang mabusog.

2. Learn as much as you can.

people-woman-coffee-meeting

Bilang baguhan sa industry na pinasok mo, maaring may mga alam ka na, based on your college training and experience. Pero sobrang dami mo pang kailangang matutunan. Alin mang company ang pinasok mo, at kung alin mang industry iyan—put on your learning hat, listen, observe, and learn. May mga times na feeling mo, nahuhuli na ang company nyo sa mga latest trends and technology ng inyong industry, but it is better to put on the learner’s hat, instead of the arrogant know-it-all.

What should you be learning about? Marami! But to start with, here are several areas you might want to look out for.

Industry-specific systems and processes.

What systems and processes does your company follow? May mga terms ba na sa industry nyo lang ginagamit? How do you measure success in your industry? Read about your industry, too. Halimbawa, sa Pilipinas, the construction industry had been growing in the past few years, and it’s still expected to grow in the coming years. How will you plan your career based on the growth of your industry? Paano kung nagshi-shrink ang industry nyo? How will you prepare yourself in case mag-downsize yung company mo ngayon?

Don’t just focus on your specific job description. How does your role interact with other areas of the company? Kung nasa marketing ka, how does your role affect the product development division of your company? Kung nasa Human Resources ka naman, how does that affect the Operations department? Finance? By doing this, you will be able to arrive at a better understanding of the whole company and hopefully, the industry where you are in. Yes, matrabaho ito, but totally worth it kung gusto mong mag-grow as a professional.

Productivity.

Maraming mga employee, may A.I.D.S. Iyong tipong kapag nandiyan yung boss, kunwari busy: As If Doing Something! Iyon pala super busy lang sa Facebook! Kung magtratrabaho ka din lang naman, ayusin mo na. Galingan mo na. Give it your best shot, and exceed expectations. It almost takes as much energy to do something badly, and to do something well.

And to do something excellently, sometimes all you need is a little extra effort. Kaya mahalaga din na i-observe mo kung sino ang mga productive people sa inyong company at sa inyong industry at kung anong matututunan mo sa kanila. Iyon nga lang, kung nagkataon na napadpad ka sa isang department na maraming tamad, I sure hope that you will learn how to rise above and be a good example in accomplishing great things.

Leadership.

Maybe you feel as a newbie that you are a pawn, a grunt, or a disposable foot soldier. Don’t! Most of the senior managers and top brass in every company started out at the bottom. Observe the supervisors, managers, and bosses in your company. How do they handle leadership? Are they worth emulating? Kung sakaling magiging manager or supervisor ka rin in the future, what traits will you follow, and which ones will you discard?

Mahalaga rin na matutunan mo how you relate with other people at work. Most job descriptions now require a “team player,” so you need to learn your work dynamics compared to other people in your company. This will become the benchmark for future collaborations and working with other people.

Your personal strengths and weaknesses.

Lastly, as you begin working, you also need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. What keeps you excited? What drags you down? This requires you to reflect on your work, your emotional state, and your reaction to different things that happen at work, and in your personal life. Maraming pagkakataon na malalagay sa test ang patience, character, at ang diskarte mo while doing your work. Through all these things, mas nakikilala mo ang sarili mo, and eventually learn how to manage yourself for growth.

startupbookIn my book “Start Up: Find your place. Engage the world. Sustain your life.” I mentioned the 10,000-hour rule that was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. The truth is, that is not an absolute number. May mga nagdisprove na rin ng number na iyan and proved that you can become a master in a given domain even in shorter periods.

Tim Ferriss calls this approach “Accelerated Learning” and he claims that you can be a master of a particular domain within 6-12 months of optimized training and learning. I don’t have the time and space to expound on this concept here, but if you are interested to learn more about this approach to learning, please visit the following link: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2013/05/20/accelerated-learning-techniques/

3. Create a wide personal network.

This will only work if you become a good worker at every single company you work for. When you work with various projects, mas marami kang makikilalang tao, they will learn about your skills and your character. Hindi naman ibig sabihin nito na kailangan maging super friends ka ng lahat.

The key word here is ‘acquaintance’, at hindi BFF. As you become acquainted to more people and your skills improve and increase, some people will remember you the next time they need somebody with the same expertise. Or at the very least, you can talk with these acquaintances about the trends and latest improvements in your industry and any tricks of the trade you can do to keep growing as a professional.

In my experience, the best pa ring paraan ng paghahanap ng work—whether you’re a newbie or if you are shifting from one company to another—ay referral ng mga friends and acquaintances.

One time sa Cubao, nakasalubong ko ang kaibigan kong si Alpha by pure chance. We said ‘Hi,’ nagkumustahan saglit, and then she mentioned na naghahanap ng employees ang employer niya. Since ayoko na sa call center na credit cards ang account dahil masakit na tenga ko sa maraming complaints, I ended up resigning and getting accepted at her employer within a month.

4. Get better job offers from companies.

If you have some experience, and you decide to shift lanes, puwede kang ma-offeran ng mas malaking sahod sa isang bagong company. This is especially true in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Information Technology (IT) Industry. Sa laki ng demand for skilled workers for Call Centers and non-voice BPOs, puwede nang magpalipat-lipat. But again, isang makulit na disclaimer, this is not a license to work for three to four consecutive companies within one year.

Ideally, if you want to shift lanes and get a better job offer, wait for two years.

Pero kung hindi ka na talaga makapaghintay, maka-one year ka man lang sa isang company. That should be enough time to learn a lot about the industry, improve your skills, and malay mo, if you stay long enough, baka ma-promote ka pa to the next level.

But don’t do this lightly. Kagaya ng pag-shi-shift lanes sa EDSA, you better observe some precautions to make this work for you.

The Art of Shifting Lanes.

shifting-lanesKagaya ng EDSA, minsan crowded ang career path mo—may mga kagaya mo na kauumpisa pa lang, parang mga malilit na kotse na napaliligiran ng mga dambuhalang bus at magagarang SUV. At minsan, parang ang hirap mag-shift lanes dahil naiipit ka ng maraming sasakyan, and you also have to follow the rules.

Heto ang ilang mga guidelines bago ka mag-shift lanes.

1. Be excellent.

Sabi nga ng philosopher na si Aristotle, “Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.” Ngayon pa lang, decide to become excellent in your work. Give it your best shot. Nakaka-tempt na gawin lang kung ano ang expected. But exceed that. Go the extra mile, and offer something additional. In due time, excellence will be rewarded.

2. Follow through on your promises.

Kasama ito sa pursuit of excellence. If you promised to do something, do it! This will show the people around you that you are dependable and able to deliver. Kapag hindi talaga kaya, then let your peers and your team leader know. Tell them also, kung bakit hindi kaya, and what tips you can offer to make things better.

3. Overcome at least one big challenge at your present work.

Hindi ito para sa supervisor mo, o sa officemate mo, o dun sa HR officer na mataray noong interview. Rather, para ma-test mo ang strengths mo at para na rin tumaas ang confidence level mo. Di ba, sa mga video games, the only way to level up is to complete one big challenge?

4. Don’t jump at the first sign of trouble.

If the company you work for is going through some transitions and your services are needed, don’t leave right away. Malay mo, ito pa ang maging daan para mapansin ang mga talents at skills mo. If a business is growing, you may need to render more time sa office for the same level of pay. Or you may go through a trouble-shooting period for a time. At kung wala ka pa namang asawa at anak na naghihintay sa iyo at the end of the day, spend some extra time at the office.

Kung naggro-grow ang isang company at gusto nilang magpasok ng isang panibagong area of business, you may be asked to take on the role of two people. And if your bosses ask you to do this, it means they trust you and believe in your capabilities. You should also clarify expectations—ask for the requirements of the new responsibilities you will take on and for how long it will be in place.

5. Make sure that the next lane is clear before jumping.

Simple lang, make sure na may lilipatan ka bago ka umalis sa present job mo. Mag-ipon ka na rin ng extra funds to help cover your expenses while adjusting to the new job or career. This is especially important for breadwinners. Kasi kung breadwinner ka at naka-depend sa iyo ang mga magulang mo, or ilang mga kapatid, it is more difficult to engage in job-hopping. But if you don’t have a major financial responsibility yet, puwedeng puwede.

6. But sometimes, though, you just need to take a risk.

Kahit mahirap, kahit uncertain yung papasukan mong lane, but if you feel that it is the right step for you to take, go for it! Noong 2006, I was working for the BPO industry, and I was on the path to take on bigger responsibilities at work. But, a different lane opened up for me. It was a path that did not lead to financial riches, but after praying for and carefully discerning, I felt that God was calling me to commit to a full-time, volunteer position of being the president of a church-based national organization.

Let’s just say that because of that experience, my online skills leveled up and I was able to feed myself, and go on dates with my girlfriend then (she’s my wife now, by the way). But the first three months was just me going broke, and relying on her to pay for our dates.

Hindi ko alam kung daredevil ka, or you’re the planner type. But if you can reduce the risk of shifting lanes, it could work well in your favor.

Okay lang maging Jack of All Trades.

One of the fears expressed by Mr. Kong is for a lot of young professionals now to become jacks of all trades, master of none. But as I said earlier, that is a false dichotomy. You can be a jack of all trades, and master of some. The most famous example of this is Steve Jobs, one of the most iconic business personalities of the computer industry in our time.

Jobs was able to connect dots that at first glance ay hindi related sa isa’t isa. And yet, he transformed many different industries! He introduced the Apple computer and the Mac, which a lot of creative professionals use. He changed the way people listen to music through the iPod. After a few yeasr, he revolutionized the mobile phone industry with the introduction of the iPhone. Kahit movie industry, pinasok niya. He built up one of the most successful animation studios in the world – Pixar, and changed the story lines and public perception of animated films.

Oh yeah, hindi ikaw si Steve Jobs.

But if you want to become innovative in your industry, you need to learn about other industries. By borrowing concepts from other industries, you may be able to introduce new ways of thinking and doing things in your own industry. Hindi totoo na walang value ang pagpapalipat-lipat ng industry. Kaya lang, you should not do it just because gusto mo lang ng bigger salary at perks. Even job-hopping, lane-shifting, should be done strategically to maximize your learning.

* * * * *

This is part of the #BiyahengEDSA series of reflections for the Pinoy young professional. Read other parts of this series below:

Introduction
Monumento: Out of the Way ang Idealism
Balintawak Cloverleaf: Entry Level
North EDSA: Ito Pala ang Rat Race
Timog Avenue: I Just Want to Have Some Fun!
Cubao Traffic [Poetry]
Ortigas: Relihiyon, Rebolusyon
Swerving after Crossing Ilalim on a Monday Morning [Poetry]
Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes
Ayala: Traffic sa Fast Lane.
Magallanes: Divergent Roads
EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?
Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

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