Category Archives: Career

Random Thoughts: On Making It Work

The next time you feel like giving up on something or someone, take a tip from the movie, “Celeste & Jesse Forever” (2012).

The two were getting a divorce when Jesse got involved with someone he really likes. In one scene, he tells Celeste, “I want to make it work.”

I’ve stopped memorizing movie lines years ago, but this one just keeps bubbling to the surface because it’s achingly simple and practical. The line, short it may be, rings with such determination that it’s almost impossible not to feel empowered by it, especially if you keep saying it over and over again.

So, a diet you’re trying out isn’t showing results. It’s so easy to give up. Don’t! Hang on and tell yourself, “I want to make it work.”

A job you got accepted for is turning out to be less than challenging. No job is perfect. Give it another chance, and in the meantime keep saying, “I will make this work.” (That’s not the original line, but the essence is the same.)

You’re in a relationship that’s giving you sleepless nights. Okay, I have to admit that sometimes, it’s better to just give up, especially if the relationship isn’t going anywhere and neither party is growing. But what if it’s the opposite? You won’t just bail out at the slightest problem, will you? That’s for quitters! You’re a winner, and winners will do whatever they can (in an ethical manner, of course) to make something work!

Personal sharing: I can’t post entries that often because I’m busy with a full-time job. It’s easy to waffle, but I won’t. I want to make this work because it is also from our virtual community that I get the strength to pick myself up when I’m feeling down.

Of Plants, Endings, and Beginnings

This is what the "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" looks like. It's lovely, isn't it? (Source: 3.bp.blogspot.com)

This is what the “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” looks like. It’s lovely, isn’t it? (Source: 3.bp.blogspot.com)

I have a potted plant that I talked about in this blog last year. Called “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” I had specifically chosen it because I was told it’s a hardy shrub. It can withstand being left alone, can put up with natural elements, and it doesn’t mind having its branches trimmed every so often.

That plant and I have been ‘together’ for a little over three years now. We’ve been through sunshiny days and, worse, through rainy days, and fortunately, we’re still together.

Taking care of a “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” has taught me a lot of lessons, too. Last year, when it nearly died because I neglected to water it for a few days, I noticed that growing plants and nurturing a career share similarities. The right elements and conditions should be present for the plant or career to flourish properly.

This year, it happened again. One morning, I saw that though the plant’s leaves were still green, they were falling from the branches! This baffled me because I’m sure I’ve learned from experience. In fact, I water the plant every day: in the morning and at night. I do the latter because, just in case I forget my duties the following day, the plant will have enough moisture to it keep it nourished.

It turned out, the soil was too moist, said a friend who’s really into gardening. If the leaves are still green, but they’re falling off, it means you over-watered the roots.

“That explains it,” I said. “What do I do now?” “Leave it alone,” she recommended. “Don’t water the soil further until it has had the chance to dry up a bit.”

This year’s take-away: don’t be overzealous. Or if I were to apply this insight in my personal and professional life: don’t run yourself ragged. Leave enough time to relax and have a bit of fun. If you keep going forward and neglecting your health, you just might find yourself like the leaves: supposedly healthy-looking on the outside, but too choked to do anything else inside.

There’s a bonus lesson from this ‘ordeal’ (yes, the fight to survive is not yet over). I noticed that while some leaves have already given up, a lot more, though wilted, remained stuck to the branches. When I tried shaking the plant to make them fall away, they wouldn’t. When I tried to pluck out the leaves on purpose because I couldn’t stand how sick they look, they stubbornly held on. This made me realize plants are like people too: tenacious and focused even when the going gets tough!

My formerly leafy friend is looking a little bare lately, but it seems to be saying, “Don’t give up easily in the face of challenges.” And don’t underestimate what something – or someone – looks like from the outside. My plant may look like it’s dying because the branches are currently a mix of brown and green. But look closely: there are three new leaves growing out of one of them.

Indeed, every end is a new beginning.

Feeling Lost (Career-wise) and Lessons Learned

In search of my true north (Source: Inmagine.com)

In search of my true north (Source: Inmagine.com)

I haven’t written in a while because during the last quarter of 2013, I transferred to a new job. Like most people finding their way through a new job, I completely immersed myself in it. The funny thing is, no matter how much I try to learn about the new role and everything that it encompasses, I keep sliding down. I’m not making any headway.

Some people will probably say, “Well, try harder.” or “Get a mentor to help you understand the job.” In my opinion, these strategies will only work if your heart is in the job you signed up for and not just, you know, for the money.

Personally, I left a company and work that I really like thinking I could make it in another industry (from communication to business development). Somewhere along the way, I realized I like communication way too much to leave it. It also dawned on me that I like interfacing with people more than I care to admit. (I always claim to be shy and reserved.)

In the process of making a career U-turn and heading back to my industry, I reached out to a friend who happens to be an HR practitioner. I requested for her to help me. Well first off, she said, “Just so you’d know, corporate communication is on the wane.” For someone who thinks she’s on top of her industry, I admit I was blindsided by her statement. How could I not have noticed that newsletters, for example, are no longer as well-received as e-newsletters?

“But all’s not lost,” she reassured me. “Take the skills from corporate communication and channel that toward digital media, which is what everyone is into right now!”

The whole point of this entry is that when you’re feeling “lost” in your career, stop trudging along and admit it. It doesn’t help to simply rationalize and say, “Oh, I’ll eventually grow into my new role.” Maybe you will, and maybe you won’t, but it’s important to admit something doesn’t feel right.

Are you one of those who trust your instinct? I am and I do. In the past, it has always been my best gauge when determining if I should place a bet on an idea or calmly walk away. Or run, if needed.

Second, I trust my friends, and I bask in their comforting presence. But when I need more than hugs, cheerful quotes, and pats on the back, I seek career advice from professionals or someone who has ‘been there.’ They can – and should – tell you things as they are, and because they know how to navigate the world of work, take notes and do as they say. If you’re still doubtful, just ask yourself, “How badly do I need to get out of this (rut, mess, hole I’m in)?”

Third, adapt. Be open to changes. When you’ve been in one field for quite a while (as I have), it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Many years ago, just a year after graduating from college, I learned this quote, “Retreating (turning back) doesn’t always mean that you’re a coward. It simply means you have to re-think your strategy so you’ll have a better grasp of handling what’s ahead.”

I agree. How about you?

Time to Move on From a Job

Time to move on (Source: Inmagine.com)

Time to move on (Source: Inmagine.com)

How can you tell?

• When it’s getting harder to wake up in the morning
• When, after you’ve gotten up, you can think of a 101 reasons why you can’t go to work, and all of them seem plausible
• When, once you reach the office, the hours leading to noon break and, worse, end of business seem like a long, l-o-n-g time
• You “blast” out of the company’s doors once the clock registers “5:00 p.m.” or “6:00 p.m.” or whatever time office hours officially end
• You make it to work just on time if not five minutes, oops, 10 minutes late
• You have a lot of things in front of you (that’s literally and figuratively), and none of them look one bit exciting
• A simple activity like writing and submitting a one-page report takes ages to get accomplished
• You develop all sorts of illnesses that were never there before: headache . . . tummy ache . . . backache . . . fill-in-the-blank
• You’ve started resenting the inanimate object you’re “tied” to for the next eight hours or so: the office chair
• Every so often, you surf the Web for more interesting articles to read or activities to do
• Weekends ‘don’t get here fast enough’ and they’re never long enough
• No matter how many cups (mugs?) of coffee you take, you still find yourself dozing in the middle of an activity . . . like typing at the keyboard (yikes)
• You can be found anywhere but at your workstation/ cubicle
• You’re in a meeting with a roomful of people, and you’re still feeling restless (Then again, meetings, especially long ones, have that effect on many office folks.)
• When you’ve stopped learning new skills because there’s nothing else to learn
• When you’ve outgrown your job and there’s nowhere else to go
• When your work values no longer align with that of the company or vice versa

Note I didn’t mention “because of strained working relationships” with either the supervisor or colleagues or both because no matter where we go, even when we set up our own business, for example, strained relationships will always pose a challenge. They’re external factors we barely have control over; there will always be people who will get on our nerves. Neither did I mention “salary and benefits” because monetary compensation alone will never make one feel contented with his/ her job. I should know; I walked away years ago from a comfortable job and annual salary increases for career growth. No regrets.

Personally, I think people move on because they no longer find contentment in what they’re doing. They can no longer express themselves through their work. That’s what the latter is all about: a channel through which we can showcase our talents and skills.

How about you? How can you tell it’s time to move on?

How Not To Be Dissuaded When Pursuing Your Dreams

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.” ~Erma Bombeck

"Do all you can to make your dreams come true." (Image source: Inmagine.com)

“Do all you can to make your dreams come true.” (Image source: Inmagine.com)

When we have dreams or are aspiring to achieve a goal, notice that sometimes those who try to discourage you (intentionally or otherwise) are also the ones within your immediate circle: family members, friends, even colleagues.

It feels bad, right? After all, they’re the ones who should support you and whatever it is you want to accomplish.

But let’s face it: when we’re so caught up in an idea, it’s easy to convince ourselves it’s going to work. Allow those third parties to say what’s on their mind, make comments, and even dissuade you from going all the way. If there’s a consistent pattern in what they’re saying, such as hearing more “nays” than “yays,” then sit up and take note. Their chorus might hold water after all.

If your idea is viable, but needs a little tweaking or a Plan B, work on those suggestions and move forward.

My point is, when we are in circumstances where our nearest and dearest seem to disagree with us, we have two choices:
• Stew and arbor ill feelings toward them and risk creating enmity, OR
• Think of those people as “third parties” who are there to challenge you and how decided you are in pursuing your dreams.

My Perfect Foil and Some Lessons She Taught Me

Note: The original draft of this post was first written in August 2010. This entry has been updated.

Enjoy life. It would be a waste not to take advantage of opportunities to learn, love, and grow. (Image source: Inmagine.com)

Enjoy life. It would be a waste not to take advantage of opportunities to learn, love, and grow. (Image source: Inmagine.com)

I’ve always been reserved, the kind of person who doesn’t display too much emotion or would do so only to a close set of friends. Whenever I meet someone or experience something new for the first time, my default approach is to be cautious, to look before I leap. Sometimes it works to my advantage. Other times it leads to missed opportunities.

Today, I met someone who I consider my perfect foil. This young woman – let’s call her “Alice” – brims with passion and enthusiasm. From her words to her actions, it’s easy to tell she embraces life and confidently goes after what she wants. Clearly, “Alice” believes being reserved or cautious won’t help her achieve her dreams.

There are lessons to be learned from our exchange:
Be pleasant. – “Alice” is in the beauty business, but her charming personality was not a put-on. She had every intent of making me buy something, I’m sure, but she started with a smile and small talk instead. She even shared some stories about herself and her family. The strategy worked; “Alice” managed to make me open up within 10 minutes of meeting her.

Be open to options. – They could yield more positive results than your original plan. “Alice” is a communication graduate and had set her sights on a career in the corporate world. But life intervened. Instead of looking at it as a setback, she decided she would rather help her mother by becoming the family breadwinner. She has been an entrepreneur since graduating from university.

Take risks. – “Alice” didn’t say it explicitly, but her actions suggest she’s willing to go the extra mile to achieve her goals. Her efforts are paying off because she’s now enjoying the fruits of her labor as an entrepreneur. If I remember correctly, did she say she just bought a car?

Enjoy life. – It has so much to offer! It would be a waste not to take advantage of opportunities to learn, love, and grow.

Have something to look forward to. – “Alice” had asked what I plan to do when I retire. To be honest, I do make plans and I save enough, but I don’t think that far. Life can be uncertain, so I’d rather surprise myself with what I’d like to do when it’s nearly time to cross the bridge. Asked the same question, “Alice” confidently said she wants to be either a singer or to travel around the world. As I was looking at her face, eyes shining and with a faraway expression, I had no doubts she’ll end up doing both.

When it was time for me to leave, “Alice” accompanied me as far as the office lifts even though I know she’s busy. It was tempting to think it was another hook to get me to buy something, but I let the thought slide. I think regardless of what company she represents or who she’ll be working for in the future, “Alice” will always enjoy a certain amount of success because she embraces life, swings with it, dips with it, and relishes every single moment of it!

A Collection of Career Advice

I’ve been reading commencement speeches a little more than a week now that I thought it might be a ‘fun’ idea to put together the numerous career-related advice and comments I received over the years. Some are from my parents, some from my maternal grandmother, one or two from well-meaning friends, and many are from former bosses and mentors.

The word "career" in lead lettering (Source: Inmagine.com)

The word “career” in lead lettering (Source: Inmagine.com)

After jotting down everything I could remember, it’s immediately noticeable that I received the bulk of advice when I was just starting out, and they lessened gradually as I gained more work experience. Here they are in no particular order:

First 10 Years
• Stay away from office politics.
• Refrain from saying negative comments about colleagues. You’ll never know who’s listening.
• You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing.
• You’re not indispensable.
• Don’t burn bridges (when you resign).
• Don’t resign without another job waiting for you. (I disregarded this twice, and I survived both instances.)
• The customer is always right. (Unfortunately, there are exceptions to this rule.)
• Don’t bring your personal life into the office. Everyone else has his/ her own problems to deal with.
• Mind your manners.
• Your work is your prayer.
• Actually, you like being around messy people because it gives you the opportunity to tidy up. (Yes, this is a real comment!)
• Your voice is the only way people can gauge whether you’re welcoming or not. Always make sure you sound pleasant on the phone.
• Don’t take offense with the advice I’m giving you. You’ll never know at what point in your career you’ll need them.
• Always be several steps ahead of your boss.
• When you have the opportunity to grow, take it. Don’t feel sorry for leaving if it means doing something that will benefit your personal and professional growth.
• Take your vacation leaves. You’ll feel much better afterwards. (True!)
• Don’t just wish for things to happen. Do something about them!

Next 10 Years
• Dress the part.
• Your work will always speak for you.
• At least you’re just feeling the heat. Imagine what it’s like to be on fire! (This refers to when people feel bad when their bosses are in a foul mood. It could be that their bosses received a reprimanding from their higher-up. Think about that.)
• You can’t keep both hands closed. Otherwise, you’ll never receive the blessings/ lessons you’re meant to receive.
• So that’s it? You’re just going to take “no” for an answer?
• A good soldier goes where he is sent.
• Just because you’re a workaholic doesn’t necessarily mean you should be ‘chained’ to your table.
• There’s no such thing as teaching ‘part-time.’ Teaching is always a full-time profession.
• Don’t limit your career options. That’s how you’ll know what will work for you and what won’t.
• Don’t just hear. Listen!
• Manage your expectations. Not everyone will think or act the way you do.
• I can assure you, there’s life after [insert name of company here].

Present
• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes as long as you’re learning from them.
• Get out of your comfort zone.
• There comes a time when you’ll want to go to work not because of what you get out of it, but because of what you can contribute.
• You don’t have to stay in the same industry as when you first started working.

During the last couple of years, I’ve been reading up on how to transition to a second career because I’m considering whether to continue being a communication practitioner or to give in to a first love: creative arts.

I haven’t decided on anything yet; it’s not that easy. I did pick up this quote, though. It could help me on my journey: “Who knows what you could accomplish in life if you made more of the right choices along the way?”

Growing a Career is Like Growing a Garden

I never thought of myself as someone who could grow plants until I started taking care of them. I used to think plants simply needed water and sunlight, and those are enough to make them grow and shoot new leaves.

Pots in a garden (Source: Inmagine.com)

Pots in a garden (Source: Inmagine.com)

One time, because of my busy schedule, I neglected to water one of my potted plants. As you can imagine, the leaves had wilted by the time I saw the state they were in. Armed with that basic knowledge of water and sunlight, I tried to nurse the plant back to health.

Luckily, the “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” (yes, that’s what it’s really called) survived. It’s a hardy plant to begin with, but that’s not an excuse not to keep an eye on it. In fact, it’s quite finicky: it actually prefers being in the shade rather than under the full thrust of the sun. And it needs to be watered every two days, at least that’s what I noticed. Anything more than that and it will “drown.”

Among the plants I take care of, and there aren’t too many, the “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” reminds me most of growing a career. Tend to it (your career) and it will thrive. Neglect it, and, well, you know how that will end.

In managing a garden or a career, ask yourself these questions from time to time.

Garden
• Did I use the right soil for the right kind of plant?
• Do the plants receive enough water and sunlight?
• Am I using the right tools to turn that top soil or snip off that dead branch, among others?
• Do I periodically take out the bad stuff (such as weeds, dried leaves, dead branches) and put in what will make the plants grow further?
• Do I provide enough space for the plants to grow in or do I crowd them together?
• Similarly, are the plants still doing well in their pots? Is it time to move them to a bigger pot or to plant them in the ground?
• Overall, does my garden – no matter how small – look taken care of? Does it look inviting enough for those who’d like to take a peek? Is it something I can leave behind and that future caretakers need not worry about?

Career
• Am I in the right work environment and for the right reasons? Am I truly capable of carrying out the responsibilities I had applied for (as an employee) or set out for myself (as an entrepreneur)?
• Do I take part in activities that will enhance my skills, make me learn new ones, and enable me to meet a diverse group of people? (In the future, some of them can turn out to be mentors or even business partners.)
• Am I using the right tools to get the job done? (It’s okay to ask for help, too, if something’s over your head.)
• Do I steer clear of non-productive activities and negative people? (They can quickly pull you down if you’re not mindful.)
• Do I multi-task to the point of exhaustion? Or do I prioritize tasks so that I’ll have the energy to do other things after work hours?
• Am I still doing well in my current job? Am I still productive, growing or is it time to unhitch from the post and move on?
• When I resign, will I leave behind a legacy for current and future employees to benefit from? Will I leave with a good name and reputation or will I have employers saying, “Good riddance!”

Just to let you know, I’ve now moved on to growing lavender plants. The four seedlings present new challenges (and how!), but because of the basic gardening lessons I learned from the “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” they look like they’ll survive.

Honoring Work and the Path We Choose

The entry below was first written in 4 October 2010. I remember smiling and gasping in surprise when I discovered it tucked in my personal laptop’s folder last weekend.

I can’t remember uploading it in my other blog at the time. Even if I did, many things have happened since then. My priorities have changed. Working – in itself – is no longer as important as looking for that balance between work and personal (inclusive of family and friends) time.

—————————————————————

I have been going home late since last week in preparation for a project that was launched today. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get myself out of the door before 7:00 p.m.

With the launch finally over, one would think I rewarded myself with a little time-out by going home early today. Nothing like that happened. In fact, I went back to the project to see if there’s anything I missed or that needs correcting or improvement. Not contented with that, I tackled one more must-do on my list as if there’s no tomorrow before I finally called it a day. At 7:00 p.m.

Some people would call me “insane.” Others, a workaholic. Well-meaning friends who worry never tire of saying, “Don’t drive yourself too hard.” But it’s nearly impossible to give less than the best of yourself if you’re enjoying what you’re doing.

A colleague who saw me at work today had said she admires the passion I have for what I do. In the same breath she added, “But you don’t have a life anymore.”

I smiled when she said that. After all, “life” means different things to different kinds of working people. I’m the type who looks forward to going home after a long day so I could lose myself in my favorite television program or a book.

Agree, it’s not an “exciting” life, what with malls constantly beckoning commuters after office hours to explore the myriad shops within. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is whether at work or beyond it, we’re contented with the path we’ve chosen for ourselves.

Image from Inmagine.com - Desk in office

Image from Inmagine.com – Desk in office

“Dental Chair Wisdom”

“You have to look for something that you’re interested in.”

That’s my dentist giving me advice for someone who needs to hear it.

We got to talking about passions and hobbies when I confided to her that someone I know is feeling depressed because that person thinks there’s nothing else for him/ her to look forward to. My dentist, a practical woman who ought to be a psychiatrist too, paused from what she was doing and said wisely, “But there are so many things nowadays that one can do to keep himself/ herself preoccupied! You just have to choose an activity that makes you happy!”

It also helps to have a support system, she added. Being with people who think alike and are the same age as you are will help you realize what you’re going through is perfectly normal. Hopefully, hearing how others cope will give you ideas how to move forward and keep the blues away.

I’m not the most eager patient to show up at appointments, but “dental chair wisdom” like the above-mentioned always makes my trips worth it.

Image from Inmagine.com - retro dental chair

Image from Inmagine.com – retro dental chair

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