Recession Proof Your Career

Recession Proof Your Career

Secure your post – here’s your survival guide against lay-offs and retrenchments

By Felicisimo A. Tejuco, Jr.

The debate on whether recession has hit the country may go on but the lay-off of employees from export industries (for instance, the highly publicized retrenchment of semiconductor workers) has generated fears and anxiety among the Filipino workforce. Life for the average Juan de la Cruz is hard as it is so the prospects of unemployment or early retirement are troubling.

So, how can one better secure his post? How reliable is the “last man in-first man out” policy? Should the worse happen, is it still advisable to find work locally or should one seek greener pasture elsewhere? Is there still room for fresh graduates in the labor sector? Parents with working children are probably asking the same questions.

Recession or not, Vicente U. Kilayko, director of Drake Beam Morin (DBM), Philippines Inc., believes that anyone can survive with the proper skills and attitude. DBM Philippines, Inc. is a human resource arm tapped by companies who have to let go off their employees. DBM eases up the transition by helping the displaced move on and get back on their career path. This is called outplacement which Kilayko has pioneered in the country.

Jesse Francis N. Rebustillo, assistant vice president and HR director of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), said one’s values should start from within and show. This includes one’s “maximum potential, his genuine concern for the company, and balanced lifestyle,” he adds.

So how can you recession-proof your career? Read on.

1. Sell yourself

Be a company asset. As a professional, Kilayko says, you should always reinvent yourself and be updated, like take a short course or learn a new language. The DBM director shares having met people who worked for the company’s warehouse. What impressed him were their competent computer skills. “These are good signs for them,” he observes.

The same goes for the resume. “Always have an updated resume. Keep in mind that it is your marketing material. Fill it up properly,” Kilayko advises. In line with this, DBM assists job applicants in highlighting their strengths and competencies to be noticed, which can be occasions where one has exemplified leadership skills, presence of mind, or multi-tasking.

2. Get the right skills and attitudes

Kilayko says employers are looking for two qualities among job applicants: technical competency, which refers to education and skills; and behavioral competency composed of one’s initiative, analytical thinking, and good communication skills.

Relatively, all applicants, who have educational background or work experience related to their applied position can be considered technically competent. Kilayko, however, poses the following questions: “Do you have the drive? Can you work with other people? Can you write a report? Applicants are hired or not hired because of these behavioral competencies. This is where the mismatch happens.”

3. Don’t be too picky

Rebustillo adds there is also a mismatch between job seekers compared to their expected salary. Since it began, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has revolutionized the labor industry with its 24/7 working hours and rewarding salary package. Unfortunately, the new generation of job applicants has used the BPO professional’s compensation as “the new salary scale, regardless of which industry.” Rebustillo argues: “That cannot be. The work of a call center agent is different from a clerk. So, you cannot expect that they will have the same salary.” This leads to Rebustillo’s other observation that new graduates are too picky, preferring “comfortable jobs.”

Unsurprisingly, the latest study of the National Statistics Office (NSO) regarding the current workforce reveals some disappointing results. The report estimated that unemployment has risen to 7.7% by January 2009. Unfortunately, almost half (49.2%) belong to the age group of 15-24, which is composed of high school and college graduates. “This is an irony for the country. Why should there be a big percentage of unemployment from this bracket?” Kilayko asks.

4. Develop yourself early on

Both Kilayko and Rebustillo also note that most graduates have poor communication skills, which may be rooted to poor reading habits. Instead of developing their research skills, “many students simply `copy-paste.’ They copy ideas from different Internet references and paste them as if they were their own, instead of formulating one,” Kilayko notes.

Worse, schools and universities nowadays are producing college graduates who are unable to speak or write basic English. In addition, Rebustillo points out that communication is not just verbal or written expressions. Whether it is in job interviews or actual work, communication “extends to the body language and how one presents himself to others,” he says.

In response, Kilayko, who is an active member of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), has given talks to college freshmen in hopes of giving remedy to the problem. PMAP is a non-profit organization which promotes the advancement of the profession of human resource management. For one, he suggests for college freshmen to take up extra-curricular activities like playing for the varsity team or writing for the school paper. “This is where you develop behavioral competency. You learn to do multi-tasking, be a team player, and hone leadership skills” he says.

Similarly, PDI offers professional advice through the Job Market section weekly as survival guide for job seekers. Rebustillo, who is also affiliated with PMAP, stresses the need to develop one’s interests and strengths at a very young age. “If you have the built and height, be a basketball player. If you have the personality, why not join beauty contests?” he suggests.

5. Update yourself

Companies don’t just shut down; there are signs. Thus, Kilayko urges the need to be informed and connected both globally and locally. “Be connected with what’s going on. Take time to watch CNN or Bloomberg. Read business papers. Read MoneySense,” he says.

More important, read beyond the text because messages are often presented as simple notices. Kilayko says that news of freeze hiring, limiting overtime work, or cancellation of a company outing say much about the company stability.

6. Be pro-active

Kilayko also dispels the “last man-in, first-man out,” adding that it would be harder for management to let go of someone who is pro-active and visible. This goes beyond just doing what is in the job description. Volunteer to organize company events like Christmas parties and summer outings.

7. Plan your career carefully

There is still life after lay-off. One may choose to take a similar career path or consider other options like a career shift or work overseas. In the case of DBM’s clients, the first part of the challenge is getting over the emotional rollercoaster through counseling and personal development programs. When making career moves, Kilayko advises: “Do it intelligently. You don’t jump (from one industry to another); you should evolve.” He adds that one should have long-term goals and “not settle for any job.”

8. Expand your network

As a social being, Kilayko believes that having many friends should never be a problem. Find time to move out of your circle and network but keep yourself out of office politics. Getting involved in gossip however does not make one a team player, he stresses.

9. Watch your finances

Kilayko also advises everyone to be wary of their finances. Basic necessities like food, shelter, and clothing should matter. Buying the latest electronic gadgets like music players or mobile phones are wants that can wait. “Be fluid. Stick to the basic necessities,” he says.

10. Be flexible

The DBM head explains there should be a gradual shift with regard to industry and function. For example, new graduates of technical courses like engineering and architecture are expected to be familiar in computer drafting or Computer-Aided Drafting in Design (CADD). It is still safe for an architecture graduate to apply as a CADD operator for a mechanical engineering position because it is still within his function. Should the time come for him to return to architecture, it would not be too difficult to return. To date, some of DBM’s current clients, who used to be in the field of electronics, have been trained and are now qualified to work for BPO firms. And despite global economic turmoil, Kilayko adds there is still a market for overseas work, depending on the demand.

Rebustillos, who himself made a career shift, says that one should “visualize and listen to his calling.” A management graduate of Aquinas University, he has worked as an HR manager and even taught in Letran College and San Beda before he moved to PDI. Noting the lack of teachers, unemployed professionals, especially those with a masteral degree, may also consider teaching. A proud Bicolano, Rebustillo also suggested retuning to one’s hometown and maybe enter into small businesses that are in demand there.

[sidebar 1]

Recession-Proof Career: Accountant

Probably one of the most resilient professions, any company, regardless of size or industry needs an accountant. That includes liquidating offices, which even as they lay off their workers, still need accountants to wrap up the business. There is high demand for accountants in the back office outsourcing sector and in companies from all sectors here and abroad. Plus the job pays very well.

Maria Cristina Cruz-Salvosa, 28, is a certified public accountant (CPA) who has secured herself in a multinational office in Makati. As a tax accountant, her work carries serious responsibilities: “If I make a simple mistake, it will mean penalties (for the company) or someone could end up in jail,” she said. Thus, accounting should be for people with patience, eye for details and analytical skills, she adds.

With the benefits of flexible working hours spends, she balances her time in front of her laptop, doing analyses and computations or attending meetings and teleconferences.  A cum laude of BS Accountancy in UST, she previously worked for an auditing firm before moving to her current office.

When asked about what she loves most about her work, Kris said it is having a clear view of how the company moves as whole, including the environment, changes, and factors affecting it.

A financially fulfilling profession, accountants may earn to as much as P40,000 to P60,000.

However, Kris admits that part of the work is the stress, and in her case, long hours especially during the filing of taxes. “Sometimes, you get the feeling that there are not enough hours in a day to finish everything and meet your deadline,” she adds.

Regarding recession in the country, Kris disagrees there is actually such. “There are still a lot of job openings out there. A lot of construction is still going on. And lots of people at the mall,” she notes.

[sidebar 2]

Recession-Proof Career: Call Center Agent

It’s obvious just by looking at job ads that call center professionals (not just front-line agents but also supervisors and managers) are still very much in demand, recession or not. The back office sector of offshore outsourcing is also a growing source for new workers, from accountants and HR professionals to financial analysts and insurance claims processors. But call center agents continue to rule the roost.

For Dante Miguel R. Kayanan, 24, work for a business process outsourcing (BPO) company couldn’t have come at a better time. A graduate of information technology (IT) at the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP), he has secured a highly-rewarding job still related to his field without having to leave the country. A call center agent may earn a minimum of P12,000, not including night differentials and other incentives. But it can quickly go up within a few years as getting promoted is fast.

Dante started working after graduation as a customer service representative (CSR) for a call center office in Ortigas. His baptism of fire was a six-month night shift work, which prompted him to pursue luck elsewhere. He found it as IT support representative (ITSR) for the call center arm of ABS-CBN. After two years, he now works for the IT Site Support group.

Contrary to the misconception that call center agents just respond to calls, Dante says the job requires “physical, mental, and emotional fitness.” Aside from working in shifts, one should have knowledge of the clients and their products, which he should articulate well when answering calls for eight to 10 hours.

Generally, there are two types of agents: inbound and outbound agents. Inbound agents respond to 24-hour customer service. Premium is placed on outbound call agents, who can either be lead generation or sales. Agents for lead generation sort the good leads (possible customers) from the bad ones. They will have to convince the good leads to call the office of their client.

Outbound call agents, who are paid higher because of the sales quota they have to meet, is more challenging. It requires persuading people to place an order and getting their credit card number.

For Dante, working in the BPO industry are for those who are “goal-driven and have passion for work.” Aside from the opportunity to earn more, there is always room for career growth. It is also less discriminatory with regard to age and educational attainment. His fellow employees range from 18 to 65 years old. More important, even high school graduates may qualify so long as they speak good English.

[sidebar 3]

Recession-Proof Career: Food Entrepreneur

Filipinos love to eat. So even in a down economy, you’ll still see crowds in food courts, fast food chains, and restaurants offering comfort food. And they love to hang out in coffee shops. For a group of entrepreneurs, this became the inspiration for a coffee shop and fine dining restaurant along Tomas Morato in Quezon City. Baang (a Chinese word pronounced as bang) is a favorite hangout known for its celebrity visitors, homey ambiance, and local dishes of twice-cooked adobo and beef tapa.

Richard Garcia, Baang co-owner and architect, says their success was the product of research, meeting customer satisfaction, and teamwork. Their feasibility study covered reviews of different coffee shops, interviews with coffee lovers, and surveys. Thus, it was no surprise that Baang has had a good start. Operations began with the co-owners bringing friends and colleagues as part of selling it.

Incidentally, Baang, which may also mean “bind together,” is co-owned by a number of people. The main owners include celebrity singer Randy Santiago, entrepreneur spouses Hubert and Vivian Fernandez, and wine connoisseur Cris Lim.

The two-storey restaurant offers a wide selection of American, Italian, Chinese, and Filipino cuisines. Customers are also bound to find something new in the menu as it changes quarterly. Because of the location, Baang’s frequent visitors include stars of rival TV networks, working professionals, students, and families.

Contrary to fears of an economic slowdown, business for Baang grows stronger. Barely five years old, Baang has now grown, with two franchises in Metro Manila. One is in Balintawak while the other is located in Sta. Lucia East Mall, Cainta. A third is expected to open soon.

[sidebar 4]

Recession-Proof Career: Public Servant

In the Philippines, no profession offers better security of tenure than government service. Not to mention the manageable workload, regular five-day work schedule, and availment of health and retirement benefits.

Archt. Andres D. Castillo, Jr. or Bing, is among the thousands of government employees who are guaranteed all of these. He is Draftsman II of the Department of Engineering of Quezon City Hall.

Incidentally, Bing is also the son of retired government employees. The older Andres is former municipal treasurer in Pangasinan while Carmencita worked for the Social Security System (SSS).

Bing disclosed that one of the reasons he entered government service was “the challenge of improving the system,” which includes instances of bribery, corruption, and internal politics. In pursuit of this dream, he has often clashed with fellow employees and architect-clients, earning him both admiration and dislike.

Fortunately, Bing’s latest designation requires him to conduct inspection of government projects, which is less prone to bureaucracy. There, he has been able to carry out and implement his designs which include the construction of public schools and barangay halls in Quezon City.

Outside government service, Bing has always been an achiever and mentor. He finished his architecture degree in only three years instead of the usual five at St. Louis University. The architect also obtained a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Letran College. He has also served years as vice president of his chapter, the United Architects of the Philippines-Quezon City Chapter. Having worked hard and honorably for 22 years, Bing’s patience and perseverance are expected to be rewarded with a promotion as Architect II.

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