The One Lesson I Learned from My First (Real) Job

After graduating college, my parents are in debt for many reasons I didn’t know. But I wanted to help. I wanted to pay back. I wanted to rescue them, and they would be proud of me.

So I applied to different companies, brandishing my skills and diploma. “Hey, look, this is what I’ve got.”

But it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Competition was raging. And the pressure to be the best was paralyzing, not mentioning my batchmates who got a job a few days after graduation. I envy them.

Eventually, a local call center company hired me as a customer service representative (that is after a month from graduation and after applying for more than 20 companies). Seems like I wasn’t unlucky at all.

So they trained me. I learned the tools. I practiced handling customers. I worked every damn night (from 11 PM to 8 AM). It was exciting. Seriously, it was. And I felt lucky for the opportunity. But after a few weeks, I resigned. Why?

Because I’m too pressured to find a job right after graduation, I forgot to answer the one question most job seekers failed to ask:

“What kind of job or career or life I really want?”

The Biggest Mistake

Just because we need money or we need to prove something doesn’t mean any job will do. I know sometimes it’s inevitable — at times we need to work in a job we hate for our family. But if we keep doing it all our lives, what’s the point? Come on, let’s be honest.

In my experience, I was successful — in my own eyes — proving that I could land a decent job after graduation and I was not a loser. That was the goal — land a job and get my parents’ approval, knowing they invested in my education.

Little did I know, I was falling into the trap. Because after a few weeks working, I was happy no more. I felt like carrying the whole world and no one’s there to help. I couldn’t carry it alone. I realized I didn’t want to work at nights as a call center agent. It’s not the life I wanted to live.

The point is, don’t just work for money or because you want to prove something. You’re not gonna make it.

It’s Not Just the Experience

When I was in college, adults would say, “You need more experience. So any job will do.”  I know what they mean. But often, we — and sometimes our college professors — misinterpret. We think that any job will do as long as it’s a “decent job.” At some point, they were right.

But the problem with this advice is that it creates a delusion. It tricks us that we need to gain more and more experience before pursuing the path we really love, instead of pursuing it right after college (or even undergraduate). Yes it’s possible.

Any experience, of course, can teach us — I agree — but the truth is, “more experience” doesn’t always lead to a meaningful life. In most cases, quality beats quantity. Meaning, a few experience that helps you become the person you wanted to be are far better than having many experiences that don’t enrich your life.

If you already know what you want, then gain the kind of experience that can propel you towards it. Minimize the experiences that don’t bring real value to your life and maximize the experiences that can help you become the person you want to be.

But We Need Money…

Sure, we need money to help our family, buy necessities, and sustain our lifestyle. Nothing’s wrong with that. That’s how it works.

And for most of us, earning money is the main reason we want to find a job. Or is it really the main reason? Wouldn’t it be great if we have other reasons besides money? Maybe passion, or learning. Or maybe providing value or making the world a better place.

Here’s what I’ve learned from the great Alan Watts:

“Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, “we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do”. So I always ask the question, “what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?”

Well, it’s so amazing as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses. I said you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do? When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid.”

We should evaluate ourselves before we start searching for money or looking for a job. Ask yourself, “What do I really want to do with my life?”

If you don’t know what you want, chances are, you’ll be doing things only for money, which in most cases you don’t love doing. Even worse, you’ll be doing things most people do, or things you’re told to do so. You okay with that? Think about it.

But What If…

Now you might ask, “But what if I still don’t know what I want to do with my life?” I understand.

Here’s my suggestion: Follow your interests or your curiosities and pay attention to what makes you excited. Don’t be afraid to try those things. Maybe, just maybe, it will take you somewhere. Who knows?

For example, if painting fascinates you and you’re eager to try it, then paint. If you can’t find a job related to painting, then find one that will not consume all your energy and waking hours so you’ll have more time or energy to paint every day.

I’ve read a lot of stories about people doing everything to make their dreams a reality. And it’s so inspiring. What I’ve realized is that if people really want to pursue something, they’ll never stop trying — trying is the key.

P.S. I’m no expert. If you have any questions or opinions, let me know. Send me an email or leave me a message on Facebook. I’ll be glad to discuss anything regarding this post. Thanks for reading.

Have a great day.

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Jade Panugan

Some interesting questions about life and human behavior: What if there's no money? Why we often feel the urge to prove that we're right and others are wrong? Why we react to things beyond our control? Why we hate? Why it's hard to be content? I don't have all the answers, do you? Let's chat.