By Raquel Erhard
I remember the first time I heard those beautiful words ‘You’re Hired’ when I was in my last months in the university.
I cannot remember anymore how I ended up applying for the job as a freelance entertainment writer for a really new tabloid newspaper, but I did and I got the job, too. My first assignment was to interview Francis Magalona. Or it could be that I got the job because I already have access to showbiz people as I was already doing on-the-job training at Channel 13 that time?
The memories may have faded but I still can relive how it felt when ‘You’re hired’ was said to me. It was a combination of utter excitement and yet it seemed unbelievable, too. I think I floated in the air for hours, with a big smile on my face.
The next big thing came when my first article was published and I saw my name in the newspaper, with the tag ‘Entertainment Writer.’ Never mind that another college friend and I shared the byline. My byline is in print! I am sure I pumped my fists in the air and made the victory dance.
Of course, another highlight came afterwards: receiving the first salary from my first job. The call came first, informing us that there’s money waiting for us in the accounting department. Nervous with excitement, my co-writer and I rode the jeep from our university to the tabloid’s office. We were directed to the right room and each of us were handed a long, brown envelope with our names on it. We were on cloud 9!
We didn’t forget to pass by our entertainment editor’s office to thank him for giving us the opportunity to work for him, even as we asked for new assignments, too. Sadly, the newspaper didn’t last long. It did not even wait until our graduation a few months after to fold up. But to this day, I have kept that piece of article that made me confident I chose the right college degree as I enjoyed writing and researching for articles.
Next came graduation day. I recall some of my classmates who hurriedly changed into their business attires right after the ceremony, brandishing a cut-out advertisement from Manila Bulletin. They were told to go to a certain hotel (I would say it was the former Hotel Nikko in Makati, now Dusit), in business wear, with a copy of their curriculum vitae complete with ID pictures. I envied their determination but it was not the way I see myself getting hired.
As it turned out, my classmates were told they were hired for the job of selling encyclopedias or insurance policies.
Since then, I’ve been wary of business attires and mass interviews in hotels or any high-end venues.
I answered most freelance writing jobs I found on Manila Bulletin’s advertisement pages. Of course, not all of them answered back. Some answered with ‘Thank you’ notes which were appreciated because at least one knew the waiting is over.
And then there’s the bitter experience of ‘we have a job for you’ scammers. I experienced this once with another university friend.
This was the time we were scouring Makati, looking for a job and going to one job interview after another. We would even bring our ‘baon’ lunch boxes which we would eat in the old Greenbelt parks after a day of walking around Ayala Avenue and back. Admittedly, we all had dreams of working abroad. Personally, I would have accepted an assignment in the province, too.
That’s how we ended up looking into recruitment offices. We found one interesting advertisement for writers that promised o bring us out of the country. The office is located in Pasong Tamo — just the right place, because our main target was the Makati area. No need to wear business clothes, just casual attire, the ad said. But we came armed with our resume, the required two ID photos and references.
The office was small but apparently busy. We met the personnel officer doing the hiring and other people, including fellow job seekers. A day after leaving our documents, that same person handling our application called up, saying we were to meet her at the Goldilocks restaurant in front of the office the next morning. Not only that, we were to bring urine and stool samples. The instruction to bring those vials of human wastes convinced us we were at the brink of being hired. But wait,we were also asked to bring 200 pesos each, “ … you know, for laboratory.” The amount was not to be scoffed up at that time.
We met her early morning in Goldilocks where we turned over specimen and money. On hind sight, she could have asked for a breakfast treat. Good on her she didn’t, for we were drained of our bottom peso.
A few days later, we called to follow up our job application status. You guessed it, we fell for a hoax. It turned out, the recruitment office was being used by an unscrupulous group to deprive young, eager, and unsuspecting job seekers of their money.
I don’t know how many fell victims to the scam. All I know is that friend and I got burned and learned lessons hard to forget. We started looking for jobs elsewhere than in Makati. We became cynical about any offer of easy jobs, easy money, too-good-to-be-true ads in newspapers. “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” became my mantra.
Fast forward to the internet age where one could easily find jobs in the same way one could find scammers. So be very careful.
Number one tip? Never trust anyone asking money for a possible employment. Forget that.
Number two: Trust yourself, your ability and your qualifications.
Number three: Be ready to work hard.
Number four: Love your job.
After a lot of job -searching mishaps, I finally found the job I love and I stayed there for years and years. So I am pretty sure, someplace,somewhere, there is an ideal job waiting for each of us. Just make sure your eyes and mind and soul are open to these opportunities.
Raquel Erhard blogs at Home Worked.