ECQ Chronicles # 1

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How do I describe life these days?

My quarantine story started several days earlier. The City Government of Manila decided to suspend all classes for a week. Admittedly,  I considered this as a blessing. I have been chasing deadlines since January. I sleep at most, two hours everyday. Added to this, I have pending reports, which always get interrupted at work. Calls, meetings and other urgent concerns. I can’t seem to get my working pace in the day. I took the suspension as a much welcomed opportunity to work in the comforts of home.

I stayed at home for several days. I planned to go out and attend to some errands on weekends. But Thursday came, my social media accounts were flooded with advanced reports of a possible lockdown in Metro Manila. I felt alarmed so I forced myself to go out and have an unplanned grocery shopping. Much to my surprise, everyone shared my reaction. Everyone flocked the supermarkets, hoarded canned goods, instant noodles and other necessities. What was usually an hour of errand took me five hours. I booked a Grab Car and was able to reach home before the President made his Official Announcement.

It started as a community quarantine, became enhanced community quarantine (ecq). No one was prepared, not even the government. Hence, it’s not a surprise that everything came so disorganized. What caught my attention was fellow employees stuck in military check points. Since most employees work and live in different cities, most of them cannot reach home. Added to this, the government implemented a curfew. Not all companies dismissed their employees before the government’s proclamation. Since everyone rushed home, availability of public transportation and traffic worsened. I feel fortunate because I never had to undergo all these inconveniences. I felt grateful, but worried for fellow members of the working class.

There are contractual employees under no work no pay arrangements. There are BPO employees still required to report for work. Same goes with employees from the healthcare industry, supermarkets, military personnel, banks and food manufacturing companies. Most of them depend on public transportation. Not everyone has their own car. On the succeeding days, I heard stories of employees having to walk and cross several cities to report for work.  I’m worried for senior citizens living on their own.  Some of them are financially capable. Some of them have means that can only afford their daily needs. How can they support themselves? In some cities, senior citizens are not even allowed on public places. I also remember a fellow Grab Share passenger. She lives on her own and completing her series of chemotherapy sessions. She depends on Grab for her hospital check ups. I keep wondering how is she coping now.  There are also the informal sector workers, who depend on foot traffic for their livelihood.  Their means can only afford their daily needs are suddenly, taken away.  I have entrepreneur friends forced to stop their operations. As much as they’d like to provide for their employees, they are likewise faced with financial constraints.

My list of worries goes on. I settle with the best I can do, stay home and continue whatever work I can contribute. The school where I work for was considerate enough to continue paying our full salaries. The least I can offer is to return with good service, by continuing my reports. Everything seemed to be working well. I have supportive and responsive colleagues from other offices. Unfortunately, it’s a different story within my own department. I’ll write this on a separate post. But really, this is testing my patience.

I still have stories to relate, a lot…. I’ll take this unexpected break to write again.

 

Forced Farewell

Almost 10 years in the same office

8 years of living in the same workstation

Before the last quarter of 2010, I received an offer to move to another office. Same workplace, different department. At that time, I had no clear plans of leaving the workplace. I just finished my masteral studies and was starting to take part time teaching stints. With the way things are going, I’m most likely to transition to teaching for a better career. But life made other plans, I accepted an offer to move from research to strategic planning.

It was the company’s first attempt to establish a stand alone strategic planning team. With the leadership of my superior, we were able to establish a two-member planning team. We built the office and expanded by adopting another function. We added another colleague and till the end, our office spearheaded a corporate responsibility work with a three-man team.

I thought I had everything from our office. I had my lowest points, which started in 2015.  I began to develop frustrations. I felt sad. I felt pathetic. I wanted to escape. I struggled accomplishing my tasks, while battling all my sadness and disappointments. Like any other employee, I made all means to survive. This included having discrete efforts of looking for employment opportunities. Nothing optimistic prospered. After a year of job search, I stopped and gradually conditioned myself that I’m meant to stay in my stagnant post. I should be contented with my current position, even if it meant the absence of career growth.

In order to cope with my career growth struggles, I entertained myself on weekends and started to build opportunities outside my day job. Freelance works came as a dual blessing. It diverted me from all my frustrations. It gravitated my self worth. I found a creative outlet for my other interests. Best of all, it gave me the opportunity to earn additional income.

On the summer of 2019, something disheartening happened. I will spare details for may safety and sanity. It’s not yet the best time to relate my story.  The best I can reveal, I was forced to battles I never wanted.

On June 2019, I was taken out of my comfort zone. I took the position of leading the humble Office we started.

It’s career growth and advancement. It means additional income for my family. It’s a good opportunity to save and settle all my debts. I have all the best reasons to embrace the new job offer. Most people will never understand my sentiments. I never wanted the post. I never imagined to get promoted. I don’t see myself in the leadership. But there are things beyond my control. I took the helm and forcefully embraced all the battles that came with it.

People who don’t know my real side of the story were quick to create their version of my story. They thought I took advantage and benefited. They thought I’m enjoying my time. But deep inside, all I wanted was to return to my stagnant post. It made me realize, having silence, stillness and being unnoticed is pure bliss.

Fast forward today, I hired a colleague out of necessity. With the new colleague on board I wrapped up my 8-year stay in that humble workstation.

I’m overpowered with emotions. And while I wrestle with everything inside me, I have works to accomplish. I have deadlines to beat. I have debts to pay. I have a future to prepare. I have aging parents and a special brother fully dependent on me.

I was about to leave, I can’t help but look my post in the last 8 years.

I just wish to return to the good old days. I wish everything was simpler. I wanted my quiet life back.

At the expense of another

A few hours ago, I encountered a post from another blogger. The blogger narrated how she survived an anxiety attack in the middle of this festive and stressing season. Her parting statements included a call for everyone to be kind to anyone they encounter … be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

I don’t have any intention to disagree. Everyone deserves kindness.

Unfortunately, I also have an experience to relate. In as much as I’m more than willing to show kindness and render extended patience, I have been a casualty of people suffering (or claiming to suffer) from anxiety, depression and psychological related illnesses.

One of my core tasks at the workplace is to generate customer feedback reports. Every year, I compile complaints, suggestions, commendations and ratings made by customers on all feedback mechanisms. The report is later distributed to the respective department heads.

Unfortunately, there’s this department head who feels violated every time the report is released. This department head regularly calls my attention, especially when negative feedback is contained in the report. The worst encounter happened early this year. There was one comment that questioned her capacity to head a unit. She was an engineer by education and heads a department dealing with performing arts. In the latter part of the comment, the feedback insinuated the back story behind her appointment. Turns out, the customers believed that she illegally ousted the previous head.

Whatever story is behind this, it’s no longer my concern. My responsibility is limited on administering, compiling and generating customer feedback report. My task should have been simple. Unfortunately, some people like this department head, prefers to make everything complicated. If they receive a positive feedback, they rejoice, brag and celebrate. But when things become messy, like some negative feedback happens, they start to pass the blame on other people.

I’ve received information from colleagues that this department head is suffering from depression. Some mentioned she has a bipolar disorder. Some said, it’s mere anxiety. I heard another colleague saying it’s alcohol dependency.

While I can always offer additional patience and understanding to this department head,  I also have my  limits. It’s not like I’m the mentally healthier person, who will always tolerate her episodes and issues. I also have my own mental and emotional well being. I’m afraid I’m giving other people an impression of how I should be treated. That I’m always the person willing to accept the blame. I’ll end up as her pathetic scapegoat.

If such principle will be followed, where is the claim that the organization is promoting a culture of healthy well being? In a way, what the department head has been doing to me and my other colleagues is downright bullying. When you can’t accept your fault, pass it on another person. How distressing. While some people can easily express their “attitude” and use their psychological state as an excuse, especially those in authority, the subordinates are always left as silent casualties.

… because we wanted to understand and save a person suffering from a psychological illness, we end up harming the quiet, patient and much mature individuals

Restless

Freelance works accomplished! If this happened a year or months ago, it will be one of those days when I could say, I’m at my best. My heart is full from hearing a thankful client. I’m happy for the simple reason that I accomplished something. I’ve done something good. But life is so much different today. I’m on a difficult transition period. I need to make a life changing decision.

In the recent years, I’ve been struggling of my static work life. I feel hopeless. I get depressed of the fact that I’m in my 30s, remains unaccomplished. It doesn’t help that I see contemporaries at the prime of their career. I feel depressed of the fact that I will remain as a staff for the rest of my life. A limited salary, debts to pay and all the fears of not being able to support my aging parents and special brother. Once in a while, I detach myself from reality by daydreaming of a better life. It feels great but after a while, I’m back to my pathetic self. I read, reread and continuously get attracted by articles covering topics on, signs that you need to leave your workplace, when you should resign, signs of being dissatisfied with your work. The messages are the same. All signs tell me, time to look for better opportunities.

I started seeking jobs since 2015. Only one application prospered, it was from another school within Manila. I was nearing to employment, but decided to forgo. There was something about the environment. I didn’t like the initial description of work given. A typical day is having meetings with people …. Oh no, hosting meetings are not my cup of tea. I’m aware that being employed also means attending meetings. However, doing it on a daily basis is not for me. I stopped seeking work from 2017 to 2018. The hopelessness still thrived in me but in general, 2018 felt good. Maybe because of the continuous downpour of freelance works, the presence of my friends and my family remained healthy. I’m not really sure, but as far as my feelings can remember, 2018 was great.

I left 2018 on a positive note, hoping and praying that 2019 will remain the same. But as always, life has other plans. Life is filled with surprises. Some pleasant, some will test your strength and character.

My immature self is telling me, I should have been thankful of my static career life. Life was simpler and less complicated. Everything remained steady. That alone is more than enough reason to feel happy and contented. Times like this make me appreciate those days. I may not have everything I wanted, but the silence and stillness of life is priceless.

These days, I feel restless. I’ve been living with all the fears and worries the past weeks. Anyone reading this, I would really appreciate your prayers.

15

Even if I don’t update my posts, I’m certain that I will continue maintaining this account. I planned to blog at least once a month, but some other things came along the way. If I’m not tired, I find comfort in the company of a few and trusted friends.  I believe this is way better than my attempts to battle and resolve my own struggles.

15 years have passed, I’m halfway to the typical 30 years of work-life-expectancy. Cliche as it may sound, I want to be given the opportunity to express the usual and expected reactions.

Had it really been 15 years?

Where did time go?

Part of me still feels that I’m still the fresh graduate struggling to find my niche in the professional workplace

What did I gain? … weight hahaha

Flash back to 15 years ago … I graduated in April 2004. As early as my last semester in college, I started browsing classified ads, opened a Jobstreet account and sent letter of applications to different companies. Modesty aside, I was one of the top students of our batch. It sounds great but in reality, the pressure of finally landing on a decent job was more intense. Much is expected from a student who graduated with honors. A few months ago, I tried to count the number of companies and job interviews I attended. Honestly, I don’t feel proud of it. It  took a number of rejections before I landed to the company that has been my home for 15 years.

  1. First Job Interview – iBank (International Exchange Bank in Makati) I skipped my classes to attend the employment examination and interview. Nothing prospered, but I appreciate the company’s effort of sending a mailed letter of my failed application. The bank was eventually acquired by Union Bank, to which I remember a fellow applicant. He was a bank teller form Union Bank complaining of the stringent promotion policy of their bank. The rejection gave me a feeling of relief. 🙂
  2. BPI – I attended their mass recruitment, took the examination on another date and was eliminated after the first leg of the examination
  3. Chinabank Head Office in Makati – same story with BPI
  4. Security Bank Head Office in Makati – I remember being a walk-in applicant. After submitting my application to a BPO in Ortigas, I took advantage of the time and headed to Makati. I was accommodated and given a date for examination. I didn’t expect their recruitment examination will last one day. I passed all the examinations, was interviewed and offered as a position on Telemarketing. I didn’t like the opportunity. I didn’t anymore pursue the remaining steps for employment.
  5. The BPO in Ortigas (can’t remember the name) – I saw their ad from Inquirer’s Job Market. I woke up early to submit my resume, I was accommodated but nothing prospered.
  6. National Statistics Office (NSO) – Other than banks, I wanted to pursue a career in government service. I took the examination with a classmate. She passed the exam, while I didn’t. Up to this date, my classmate remains with the company.
  7. National Tax Research Commission – Me and my batchmate applied as walk in applicants. We were given an examination and nothing happened after. 😀
  8. Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) – I was only interviewed once. It was a panel interview with different directors. I wasn’t feeling optimistic. Much to my surprise, I learned that I passed the interview. I got a call when I’m already processing my application to my current employer of 15 years.
  9. Skechers Philippines – I was applying for Manager Trainee, took the exam, was interviewed and ended up with nothing. Though months after, I was surprised to receive  a call from them.
  10. Sterling Philippines – The head office is in Magallanes (one of the farthest interviews I attended). I waited so long, but was interviewed twice on the same day. I thought I was nearing employment but likewise, nothing prospered.
  11. Guaranteed Marketing Services (GMS) – This is in my list of worst. They found my details from my university’s Career and Placement Office. I attended two interviews and took a series of examination. They called me after two months and was invited to report. To my surprise, they took me for a reliever position. It involved a clerical work, which can be done by a High School graduate. They asked me to work on the same day, without telling me if I would get paid or not. I threw an excuse after lunch break. I went home feeling so stupid and frustrated.
  12. Geo Spatial Solutions in PSE Tower – I had a pleasant interview. But as far as I can remember, they just pooled my profile for future employment.
  13. Rustans Corporation – I always associate the company with luxury. Hence, I was expecting a breath taking corporate office in Buendia Makati. To my surprise, the head office is housed in a small, compact and old building.  I initially submitted my resume, was not selected for interview but received a call to report on the succeeding weeks. I like the position (analyst), took the exam and was interviewed. I was scheduled for final interview, but decided to let go. I chose my current employer.
  14. Robinsons Land in Ortigas – I’ll never forget how tiny is their HR site. However, I appreciate their efficiency and customer service. Took a quick examination, interviewed on another day, which landed on the same day when I had my first interview with my current employer.
  15. My current employer of 15 years 🙂 – 15 on 15 hahahaha Every Sunday night, I will borrow my Lolo’s copy of the Manila Bulletin. I found a small ad of job opportunities of an educational institution in Manila. The institution is far from home, though the location was familiar. I already visited this institution when I competed for a national quiz bee. I won first place and remembered having positive thoughts about the school. At that time, I never realised  this educational institution will be my second home in the next 15 years.

I’m not sure if I should be proud of my 15 attempts to finally secure my employment. Hahaha But in the last 15 years, allow me to again create another list of memorable experiences.

  1. First Presentation – A month after securing my tenure, my superior enlisted me to a research presentation. It once crossed my mind that I might be asked to present my first research output in the future. I dismissed the idea because I felt so little in an institution that housed educators. After weeks of preparation, I successfully aced my presentation. I’m indebted to my superior, who challenged and took a chance on me.
  2. Second Presentation – I was again asked to present another research output, this time to members of the management committee.
  3. I finished my MBA – I took advantage of the subsidised education and finished my much planned masteral degree.
  4. Research Presentation in Taiwan – I wrote about this several times in this blog. This opportunity came so dramatic. The conference was scheduled in Manila in 2010. Unfortunately, the hostage taking incident in Luneta threatened the Taiwanese organizers. I cried several days for this lost opportunity. A few months after, I received great news. The conference will push through on the succeeding year. The organizers considered my paper and best of everything, the conference was held in a prestigious university in Taiwan.
  5. Gained lifelong friends (T, M and A) – The workplace gave me different stories on friendship. There was a group of managers, who became the best of friends. They were so close to the extent that each became the godparent of their children and secondary sponsors of their wedding. In the course of time and change of management, everyone parted ways. Another group of managers used to dislike another manager. Today, these managers became allies of each other. In my case, I’m proud that the colleagues turned friends I had years ago, were still the same group of friends I keep.
  6. Burned bridges, cold war  – Still about friendship, just when I thought that I have the best group of friends…. I realized, there was someone who traded our friendship for opportunities.
  7. Philippine Quality Award – Our organization acquired it and modesty aside, I claim that I have significant contribution on this endeavor.
  8. First time to receive an outstanding rating – It came from my short lived superior.
  9. Earned my freelancing career – A superior from another office was the first to recognize my capability. She gave me my first decent freelance earnings at Php 6,000. Up to this day, she still gives me client referrals.
  10. Got my dream to teach – Less than a month after I submitted my masteral thesis, a superior gave me the opportunity to teach.
  11. Got suspended for tardiness – This was one of my lowest points in my career life.
  12. Won three times in the Christmas party’s raffle draw – Yay! I won a microwave oven (it still works after 14 years), Php 7,000 in cash and recently, a flat screen TV.
  13. Assisted in improving our promotion policies – I knew how it feels not to be promoted and stagnant with your career life. The revision of promotion policies will always be one of my significant contributions.
  14. Transferred to a new office – I moved from research to corporate planning. So much changed in my life after this decision. It deserves another blog post.
  15. Promoted with reluctance – Me today 😦 I have scattered thoughts and sentiments with the promotion I received last June. Truth to be told, I never wanted the position. Added to this, everything came from a painful story. Unlike other employees who get promoted, I never felt that happiness or fulfillment that it was finally a dream happening. I’ll relate this better in another post.

A few years ago, I started entertaining the idea of venturing to freelancing and entrepreneurship. Much of these were triggered by these factors

  1. I’m tired of the every day routine. Wake up – commute – work – commute – sleep – repeat
  2. I envy freelancers, who have full control of their time, working arrangements and schedule. I prefer to work in the evening till dawn, then sleep the entire day. This system worked for me on freelance works I handle on weekends.
  3. Dealing with unreasonable colleagues – At the workplace, I don’t have a choice but to continuously deal with them. Despite the hassles, I have to be kind and understanding to them at all times
  4. I feel sad whenever I see colleagues retiring after 30 years of service. We honor them but my heart feels that pinches of pain.
  5. I will develop a kidney disease, diabetes or heart ailment if I remain at the workplace and embrace its stress in the next 15 years.
  6. I wanted to earn more. Employment provides a steady source of income but not the opportunity to earn more. Finding the right formula on entrepreneurship and freelancing are the key.
  7. I want to eat healthy and lose weight. Eating and working from home can help me a with this goal.
  8. While I’m thankful for my hard earned degree in Economics, my heart has been calling me to return to the creative field. The dream of becoming an artist, painter, designer haunts me these days. I wanted to relearn drawing or sharpen my knowledge and skills in photography. Added to this, I hope I can pursue a second career from these interests.

I don’t know where life will take me, at least on the next 15 years or more of my work life. If there’s anything I wish for, silence and peace of mind. Cliche? And no, I’m not even kidding. I don’t wish (yet) something grand . All I want, is the assurance that whatever it takes, I’ll be okay.

 

PS I noticed, my most read posts are those that deal with job interviews . This gave me an idea, I might write a series of posts about it. While we have glassdoor, jobstreet and all other employment reviews site, I think it’s different when you hear a personal experience.