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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Creating a Life Plan

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How I use Milanote to plan my life and achieve goals

Vacations and transitions between jobs present opportunities to get to know yourself better — who you are, what you have, what you want, how you can pursue them. A few days ago, I reviewed my so-called Life Plan and made some tweaking. I was relieved to get out of a limbo after that; nothing feels damper than not having a clearer self-image and personal plans.

I also realized what an awesome app Milanote is.

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Screenshot of Milanote’s homepage.

Milanote is described as “a tool for planning creative projects,” relying heavily on the power of visuals and boxed lists to aid creators and strategists in coming up with plans. I used it for some brainstorming work before, but it’s in goal-setting and action-planning that I’ve reaped most of its rewards. I realized Milanote does it so well for me because I’m part-visual, part-list-manic: I can drag-and-drop images that inspire me, lay them out, group them together, whatever is necessary to give me a good conceptual structure for my ideas. It’s vision-boarding on steroids.

In this blog post, I’ll give you an idea on how I use Milanote to make my Life Plan. You just might find something useful, too — or give me some tips on how I can improve my method.

(To give you a glimpse of what I’ll be talking about, here it is. You may refer to this as you go along. Or not. Whatever.)

I call the document a Life Plan, though really it’s just for a particular year, as you’ll see why below. And there are eight sections or parts in this plan:

1. Theme of the Year

The first part is the Theme of the Year. I started coming up with it when Pope Benedict XVI dedicated 2013 to the Faith (“Year of the Faith”). There were no year of whatever in the three years after that, so I just named them after the other supernatural virtues (Hope in 2014, Love in 2015). And then Pope Francis made 2016 Year of Mercy; so did I. My 2017 veered to the secular and I called it Year of Achievement, and this year is…

Why come up with themes? Not exactly sure why. But somehow the years’ decidedly positive themes give me a sort of affirmation, giving me direction on what projects to take and a lens to find some sense in the past. For example, in 2014, “Year of Hope” was simply meant to be an optimistic reminder throughout the year, particularly since at that time, I was rather depressed. In 2015, when I had finally bounced from the trough (and I had moved on to Year of Love), 2014’s theme of Hope became even more meaningful.

So I’m keeping this section.

2. Vision

This is the ideal state which I strive for during the year. Since it’s ideal, there’s really no need for me to scruple over whether it’s realistic or not. Realism comes at the goal level (see section #6). Closely related to the Theme, the Vision gets my motivation going. That’s why I also make sure its wording gets me giddy about a future state.

A good vision can follow a template as simple as: “I am an [adjective]+[noun].” I am a well-known real estate broker. I am a financially free entrepreneur. I am an organized and fun-loving mom. Something like that.

3. Framework

Photo by Mahdiar Mahmoodi on Unsplash

In pursuing my goals, what do I consider as natural laws, the mechanism by which pursuits work? This set of laws or mechanism is what I call “framework”. In academe, we find a study framework to see a particular phenomenon using a particular perspective. Doing so gives a certain sense to the thing you’re studying; it doesn’t seem as much of a puzzle anymore, although you will still have to adjust or discard your framework, if necessary, once you conclude the study. And it’s the same with understanding yourself and your life. You need a framework — a set of assumptions — that will simplify or guide your project, i.e. your life.

For this year, I decided to use the following framework: systems of good habits lead one to success. Meaning: if only I carry out certain good acts consistently, then I’d soon excel, sometimes even without my noticing it; it just happens.

Of course, you can use other frameworks for success. Find what suits you best and then follow through.

4. Key Outputs

Photo by Mahdiar Mahmoodi on Unsplash

These are my main deliverables during the year. Often these are “large” tangible things like reaching a particular weight or getting a certain professional certification or traveling to a dream destination. While I place this high up in the Life Plan, this is actually a product of the list of goals I list in the sixth section. This list is most useful when I want to see what big, concrete things I still have to achieve this year. And I find it helpful to indicate the deadlines for these things, too.

5. Why the Year Has Been Awesome So Far

This is the running list of achievements during the year. Many of the items here come from the Key Outputs, others are accomplishments that I did not see coming. It’s good to have this list because it reminds you that, even when things look bleak, still there are some good things that are happening — we just don’t care to look.

This is actually a recent addition to my Life Plan. When I realized it’s already August, a vague feeling of dissatisfaction settled in. It’s uncomfortable, like wearing tight underwear, or munching a tea bag. The way to feel less sorry — and even to feel good about myself — is to count my blessings; thus “Why the Year Has Been Awesome So Far.”

Applying vision-boarding principles, the more inspiring the images, the better. Screenshot of my Life Plan.

6. Goals

And so here we are at the heart of the document: goals. We have hundreds of goals. But it’s good to keep them to a minimum, so there’s greater focus. After all, some of the goals we have in mind are actually natural by-products of other goals.

For my year’s goals, I try to sort them according to the various facets of my life. You may also call them priorities — although sometimes I hate using that term because some items can’t be given a particular order: they simply have the same “weight”.

These facets I turn into “cards” (in Milanote parlance). Right now, I have 12 cards, though I try to pour most of my attention to the first five or six. Again, the importance of minimal number for maximum focus. (I know, I know, 12 is too many, but I just want to be as comprehensive about understanding myself as possible.) For 2018, my cards are:

  1. Spirit — I struggle so much in getting a better relationship with God, but I believe that if this is in good standing, I’ll be in good standing everywhere else
  2. Profession — My 20s are over, and boy what a decade of experimentation that was. This card covers everything related to making up for lost time in developing my career.
  3. Finance — Because everybody wants to be financially free, of course. Unless you’re Richie Rich, or one of those crazy rich Asians.
  4. Toastmasters — My lone “extracurricular” self-development organization. I’ve gained so much from this group, and there’s still a whole lifetime in which to gain from it — and serve it — more.
  5. Masters — I’m trying to finish my MA in communication.
  6. Family — I don’t live with my family, but I try to be an “active” member as much as possible.
  7. Love — Maybe it shouldn’t be called that way (cheesy!), but this refers to my trying to become a better boyfriend.
  8. Fitness — Looking good and feeling good are often the strongest confidence booster.
  9. Culture — Food, places, experiences, and ideas are some of the most beautiful things in this world. I don’t want to miss out.
  10. Friends — Perhaps because I’m quite an introvert, I have very few close friends. Sometimes I still struggle relating with them. That’s why I keep it a point that this area is one of the active cards in my plan.
  11. Business — Someday I’m gonna put up a business.
  12. Travel — My one luxury.

Each of these cards or categories have one main goal, under which are subgoals, which are often habits that I try to foster. After all, I believe that habit systems are the key to attaining excellence. If you notice, some items have been scratched off: that’s because as far as I’m concerned, I’ve already turned them into reliable habits. A triumph; no need for me to fuss over them.

7. Routines

Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Since I struggle with habit formation, I need to keep some routine-related things especially in mind:

  • System Changes — The three key ideas I try to apply in daily life, based on insights I gained from prior self-reflection. Normally these ideas counter the main vices or negative habits I’ve noticed in myself. For example, I and some people close to me have complained about my tendency to overthink. So I’ve proposed to myself that I “focus, and not overthink.” The items on System Changes are the mantras I should be sort of “reciting” in the course of each day.
  • Morning and Evening Routines — The first few activities I do upon waking up and the last ones before hitting the sack are like bookends that keep the books of my day well propped up. I got this idea from author Brett McKay some years back. Having these routines is consistent with my habit-systems framework: I know I’ll have a good day if my day starts with my Morning Routine, and I know my day has ended well if I close it with the Evening one.
No more images because I got tired. Screenshot of my Life Plan.

8. SWOT Analysis

(This should probably be at the top of the document — even before the Theme of the Year, because it helps me to identify what I lack and what I already have, therefore informing me how to craft my vision and goals.)

The SWOT Analysis, of course, looks into the internal and external forces that affect your pursuit of goals. Albert Humphrey is credited to be the creator of this self-awareness tool in the 1960s.

  • Strengths are your current abilities, talents, skills, and stock knowledge (e.g. writing skills, singing talent).
  • Weaknesses are your inadequacies — abilities, skills, and knowledge that you don’t have yet (e.g. driving skills, ignorance about the complexities of taxes).
  • Opportunities are factors outside yourself that may help in achieving your goals (e.g. vast professional network, close proximity to workplace).
  • Threats are those people or things outside yourself which can foil your plans (e.g. envious coworkers, micromanaging boss, rainy season)

Once you have your SWOT Analysis matrix filled, you’ll have a better perspective on yourself. Often, for me, the best part of doing SWOT Analyses is figuring out my strengths. Like most people, I’m really quite insecure, and nothing beats discovering some innate qualities — Strengths — which I already have and which I can exploit to my advantage, if I wanted to.

That’s it! And congratulations for reading (or scrolling down, haha) this far. As I’ve mentioned, my Life Plan is a work in progress, much like its subject: me. So if you have some tips for me, please don’t hesitate to tell me in the comments below.

In case you missed its link above, here’s a peek into my Life Plan.

And if you’re interested in signing up for a Milanote account, please use my referral link. Thank you!

Meditations minus the ommm part

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3 morning activities for a more productive day

There’s a half-hour slot in my morning schedule I call “Meditations” (thanks, Marcus Aurelius!).

It’s composed of three meditative activities which I now consider pillars of a productive day: mindfulness meditation, mental prayer, and journaling. Without these, it seems, I’d feel my day quite directionless, limbo-like, chaotic. You might want to try them.

Mindfulness meditation — or, simply, meditation — involves closing my eyes and becoming conscious of my bodily processes — my breathing, primarily, but also how the muscles on my face relax, and those on my neck, my shoulders, my torso, and so on. (No ommms, though, because that’s too much weirdness I can take.) I normally use Simple Habit to do this; it’s an app with great meditations addressing various issues like stress and insomnia, but also mundane stuff like getting a cup of coffee or taking a break from work or getting ready for sexy time lol. Meditating normally takes 10 minutes.

 

 

Mental prayer is simply reading some Gospel passage and a short commentary on it, and then talking to God about it — or other things like wishing the day would be great or complaining about getting neither Argentina nor Spain nor Germany(!) in the World’s Cup’s Final Four. I use iPray with the Gospel to help me with this. Time allotted: 10–15 minutes.

 

 

Journaling is, of course, just writing down (in my bullet journal) a more coherent version of my thoughts — my hopes and dreams and frustrations and disappointments, but also confusions and conundrums and manifestations of the Inside Out characters. Towards the end, there’s a part where I list three people I’m grateful for (and why), then two things I look forward to in the day (normally my day’s key goal and, often, “sleep”), and finally one lesson I get from Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic book. Allotted time: 10 minutes.

One or two of these may not be useful to you. But I suggest you try at least one. A little introspection — getting to know yourself — goes a long way in cultivating friendship with yourself…and others as a result.

What I learned from tracking my activities for 60+ days

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Free image from Stocksnap. I wish I had this watch, though!

I started tracking my activities in mid-April, after reading an article about the benefits of doing so. The article, ultimately, preached about self-awareness.

Guess what I learned from the exercise. Self-awareness, exactly.

I used an old-school tool: MS Excel. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to do this, given my long history of not following through with my “expense accounts” (expense tracking I used to do back when I was a good boy).

I had a rough start, but after several times beginning again, I finally caught second wind and the process began to ease into the peaceful realm of Minimal Effort. After all it’s really simple: just describe what you do every half-hour, just so:

In case you’re wondering, Self-Admin is anything from making my bed to meditating to deleting apps I have stopped pretending to like.

And what did I discover?

  1. I wasted so much time trying to decide what to do…and then decided not to do anything. Weekends and free time can be the worst.
  2. I value sleep, devoting up to 32% of the day to sleeping time. That’s about eight hours every night! Sometimes I get tempted to think this is very lazy of me. I mean, isn’t it a badge of honor to sleep late and get only four, five hours of sleep? Thank God, Ariana Huffington had a nervous breakdown due to exhaustion and sleep deficit — and then wrote about the ordeal — or else I wouldn’t have gained the habit of getting enough rest as a competitive advantage. I mean, dude, you’ll be able to work double and more deeply if you’re not sleepy or groggy during the day. (I love you, Ms Huffington.)
  3. I made sure Quality Time with the girlfriend is a considerable slice of the pie. This is the secret to a happy life lol.
  4. Keeping a running list of activities helps you to steer clear of the rocks: Shopping, Chill, and Worry (yep, I had to put that in because I sometimes find myself swimming/drowning in it).
  5. It gives me a clearer picture of what I’ve actually done. I can judge more wisely whether my day has been productive or not, and whether it has created value or produced meaning in my relationship with others.
Yummiest data representation — a pie graph!

This is low-key OC, but this can be helpful if you want solid data on something as ephemeral as time. Try it. Here’s a template coz I’m helpful like that. Message me in 30 days maybe?

What’s great about keeping a bullet journal

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The back cover of my bujo goes straight to the point.

I once had trouble understanding Ryder Carroll’s explanation of the Bullet Journal method, which he invented.

So I tried it out.

Behold, the impression of complexity was just a phase. When I started creating my modules and went on with my daily logs (including my notes of feelings and ideas and late-blooming teenager-y angst lol), I got hooked.

It was January. Now, six months later, my humble, tattered bujo is ready to be shelved. It is filled to the last page.

I cannot say I’ve been super-productive the whole time I was using the bujo system. I can vouch, however, for its service as a life organizer, a soul mirror, an aide-memoire.

 

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I try! 😝

So what’s so great about keeping a bujo?

  1. You can progress through the journal logically (that is, from page 1 then 2 then 3 and so on). No need to segment the book into various sections (except the index). This is important to me because I dislike blank pages, which are a waste if not filled in. The logical progression also makes for easy navigation among the pages. And if you get lost, then there’s the index for you, bud.
  2. A physical — and I mean tangible — manifestation of my thoughts is kind of…romantic and esteem-boosting. It makes you think you’re writing a book, or leaving an artifact for the historians of 2200 AD.
  3. It strikes between final and tentative. Final because your pen’s ink isn’t erasable — and tentative because, hey, you can still strike through your mistakes! It’s forgiving, and it’s how we should be to others and to ourselves, too.
  4. There’s something charming about creating your habit trackers or monthly log at the end of each month: it’s a continual call to begin again, to be young once more, somehow.
  5. It’s organic, duh. You can burn your bujo and leave nothing in the environment except ash, which symbolizes the transience of life and the supremacy of the soul. Bam!

If you’re interested to know more about bullet journaling, head on to bulletjournal.com. Don’t let the fancy designs on Pinterest intimidate you. You can keep your bujo minimalist like I do. Freedom and simplicity is the name of the game: do what works best for you.