What I Learned from my Recent Job Search

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6 lessons that may help you land your dream job

After a long period of hemming and hawing, last May I decided to leave academe and return to corporate life.

That was one of the scariest decisions I made. True, I had about two months to find a job before my previous employer stopped giving me salary (my contract would expire at the end of our summer-term vacation); but also true, many employers are known to be sluggish at best and discriminatory at worst. I would probably need more than two months before I get to my next job.

I got it on the third month.

The journey was tough and rife with mistakes. But it all ended with more than I wished for. Here are the top six things I learned in the past three months, searching for a job:

1. Job hunting is a full-time job.

Turns out, looking for a job can and should be taken as a full-time job, because of all the research and traveling and writing you’ll have to do. It took me a while to learn this. I barely had any progress in June, when I was often busy at a volunteer organization I belong to. My mind was split into the job hunt and “extracurricular” tasks. It’s no wonder I had zero feedback about any of the applications I sent. So yes, “Professional Job Hunter” might as well be a thing.

2. Start early and relearn the ropes.

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

When you’re already having that vague, unsettled feeling of wanting a new job or career, then already start refining your resume and LinkedIn profile. Don’t wait till you’re out of a job. Reacquaint yourself with the basics of job hunting. The Internet is a vast resource for this, of course, but I recommend that you also consult an actual recruiter. Halfway through my job search, I belatedly consulted a recruiter friend on how to improve my resume. Turns out, I was doing my resume wrong! One of the lessons I learned: I didn’t really have to stick to just a one-page resume, especially since I was already aiming at managerial positions. It was a blow to my ego, but I learned a lot.

3. Learn new things.

One of the toughest parts of being unemployed is the psychological tunnel you’ll have to go through. Sure, there is light at the far end, but 99% of the place is utter darkness. It’s easy to imagine demons lurking in the shadows: the naysayers and their ugly ilk. So why not bring your flashlight or torch and read something on the way? You can also bring your smartphone for Duolingo!

Probably the good thing about being jobless is now you have time for reading. Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

What helped me a lot in the past three months were reading books and articles, watching online courses, and attending Toastmasters meetings. I also figured blogging was a good activity as well: creating something always brings with it a lot of research and discoveries. And if you have enough budget for it, you can try getting LinkedIn’s Learning subscription. They have hundreds of well selected courses I found both enjoyable and informative.

4. Learn from every rejection.

Now this is the hardest part of the process. Rejections hit right smack at our ego, the only thing we probably retained from our previous job. And this squishy blob— ego — gets even more sensitive when it’s not seated in a job or position; it becomes younger — as young as a four-year-old brat.

There, there. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

For me, the most humiliating part was how almost none of those I sent online applications to ever gave me feedback. Were my cover letters bland? Were my customized resumes too generic and unattractive? Are the recruiters simply sluggish as expected? These were the questions twittering in my head. Later on, I realized it must have been the resume (see #2 above). In any case, I realized it’s no use complaining; it’s only going to make my blood boil and probably make the people around me annoyed. When I already had my glass of bile-like sadness to last me another month, I finally decided that rejections are a good thing — like all the world’s failed courtships and relationships — they are signage that direct you to what’s most suitable to you and you alone. I threw away that glass of gloom.

5. Widen your network through extracurricular organizations.

I’m a member of Maharlika Toastmasters Club, where they never laugh at my jokes, hahahuhu. Photo: Maharlika Toastmasters Club

I mean Toastmasters. Okay, it doesn’t have to be Toastmasters, but find yourself an organization that will give you a diverse network of professionals. Thanks to Toastmasters, I found myself in a caring environment that promotes self-development, especially in communication and leadership. It was in Toastmasters that I learned to communicate better and began to lead teams and get to know a wide range of people — some of them recruiters. That “recruiter friend” I mentioned above is a toastmaster. And so is the one who recruited me to my new employer.

6. Get professional help (from heaven).

My personal favorite is St Josemaria Escriva, followed by St Clare of Assisi, for anything work-related. I started a novena to St Josemaria nine days before his feast day (June 26). On the eve of the feast, my then potential employer personally gave me an application form. Sixty days later, I got the job — one that’s even better than I wished for.

If you’re still in between jobs, I hope you got something useful here. Don’t give up. Let the naysayers say their nays. In time and accompanied by hard work and prayer, you’ll get the job suitable for you and you alone.

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Why I love Toastmasters

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The best part of organizing speech contests…is not being a contestant 😝 Photo: Zarah Francheska Sy

“It’s an elitist boys’ club that just tries to improve themselves.”

This was how one of the professors I looked up to described Toastmasters — and I thought she was among the intelligent ones who’d do their research first before voicing out conclusions. (She has since descended to a much lower level in my opinion.)

Truth is, Toastmasters is far from being elitist — though certainly there’s a club named Elite and, considering world population, the organization could indeed be deemed elite. Nor is it just for boys: it’s actually for everyone 18 years old and above. I noted a profound prejudice in that professor’s remark. Not worth my time arguing with.

My team once conducted a training on delivering humorous speeches and evaluation speeches. See that range of people who want to become better professionals! Photo: Bruno Tangangco

One thing the professor got right, though, is the fact that well meaning individuals do try to improve themselves at Toastmasters — a motive no less noble than loving someone.

I know, right, I’m triggered! Because, really, Toastmasters — despite all its imperfections (reality check: nothing’s perfect) — is something lovable. Let me tell you a love story:

I first heard about Toastmasters back when I was in Opus Dei (another organization that same professor is so biased against lol — she hates everyone). Someone was teaching us public speaking and he was noted to be a Toastmaster. Like, people hire him to give toasts at VIP banquets?? I remember myself thinking.

Fast forward four years, 2014, and I was attending my first Toastmasters meeting, at Maharlika Toastmasters Club in Ermita, Manila. A kind old lady heartily welcomed me into the club.

I learned Toastmasters International is a global organization with thousands of clubs composed of people who want to become better communicators and leaders. I learned that various prominent people — from politicians to socialites to beauty queens and actors — are members of Toastmasters. But it was knowing Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) is a Toastmaster that sealed the deal. Lolllll.

A typical meeting at Maharlika Toastmasters Club. Photo: Maharlika Toastmasters Club

At first, I had some difficulty delivering my speeches because of my tight schedule (I still worked in Makati then). But when I began teaching at UP Manila (which was near the club), I began to amble through my Toastmasters journey at a steady pace. What did I begin to love?

  • Veteran members are always helpful, and the mentoring culture can be quite strong. There are members who, without being asked or without anything to receive in return, gently provide you with tips and advice — how to organize your speech more coherently, how to avoid using too many gestures, how to evaluate a speech constructively. And these same people humbly receive feedback, too, during the meeting.
  • Leadership opportunities abound. If you have never led a group of people from various professions and temperaments, Toastmasters is the place for you to learn leadership — particularly leading a volunteer organization. For me, the most challenging aspect of leading at Toastmasters is motivating a team of volunteers (no one gets paid, and sometimes work extends to becoming like a full-time job). The question always was: “How do you motivate this person to work efficiently out of good will?” I figured it takes more finesse to motivate someone without the threat of getting axed or any financial reward.
  • The circle of friends I gained is priceless. Before I joined Toastmasters, I was just slightly friendly — the type who’d wait to be introduced, and not introduce himself (because that might intrude into other people’s bubbles of Daryl-less bliss). But probably because of the introductions I necessarily had to do to guests during club meetings, I ended up opening up more and even joining my clubmates to drinks and other socials. I suppose Toastmasters made me so much friendlier than I ever was. (I still need my me-time, though!)
  • The network of members is expansive. This opened up for me various opportunities professional and personal. And I think it’s simply because of the sheer diversity and number of people you’ll eventually meet in the organization.
We conduct yearly conventions where we select the Philippine representative to the World Championship of Public Speaking. This one was in Davao City last April. Photo: Division L Toastmasters

I will not spend more of your time with the other reasons. But those above are, essentially, what keep me going to Toastmasters meetings…and more.

I’ve just ended my stint as a division director at Toastmasters. That service came as a way of giving back to the organization and of challenging myself and improving my leadership skills. I had to advise 19 clubs and a few prospective clubs. In the end, I saw the imperfections of Toastmasters. But that didn’t lessen my regard for the organization. People are imperfect, and so am I. My challenge now is encouraging ways to overcome the organization’s weaknesses and enhance its strengths. And I guess that’s what it will have to be when it comes to loving an organization: you discover what’s lovable, then embrace it; find its dirt and holes, then try to improve it; and if there’s resistance, love it all the same.