Wednesday, April 6, 2016

10+ Words of Advice for Fresh Grads

It's 2016, and some students in the Philippines (and other countries that have this June to March curriculum) are going to graduate from elementary, high school (actually this is just moving up for K-12) and college. As someone who's been burned by the industry many couple of times before (and as a very old, 25-year-old childish freelancer / indie artist), I thought I'd drop by some 10+ words of advice for fresh grads.

1. Be your own boss.
Get work experience but DO NOT stay there! Start your own business. Work experience is important, so that you know the dos and don'ts of any business, especially if it's on your field. If you're a very artistic and socially awkward person like me and maybe perhaps office environment isn't your thing, you can simply establish your own business or be an online freelancer if you get tired of being bossed around. After all, every company starts with a person who just graduated (or undergraduate but eager to compete in the business world), ditching another company or getting kicked out of college, like Facebook or Apple.

2. Don't do it for the money.
Don't apply for a job that you know you won't be happy with, just because it's for the money. Just because your salary is big doesn't mean it's the best job in the world, if you're not really happy with what you are doing. Work has to be something you love, just like how you chose your course. If you didn't really like your course, you can sidetrack to a work nature that is similar to your course but somewhere along the lines of what you love. 

For instance, I have a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and worked at an IT department in a circuit company in Laguna. But here I am as a freelance writer, and the salary is pretty much relative. This particularly means that even if you have a big salary, you also get big expenses such as rent, automatic deductions on your salary, transportation fares, sickness (yeah, I got sick often when away from home), other people involved, etc. It's a big hassle, so I decided that freelancing is a less stressful option, where I can deduct money the way I want (discussed later in the insurance part).

3. Thank your parents, but don't forget to thank yourself.
This particularly means that while you want to spend your first pay for your parents or whoever supported your education, don't ever forget to spend money for yourself. You deserve a pat in the back for all of your hard work. Is there something you wanted to buy when you were a student that you couldn't afford? Now's the time to buy it, now that you are self-earning. Usually, I buy food or toys (told you I'm childish) but all of you can buy whatever you want, whether it's new clothes, make-up, or even save up for a brand new car (or auto loan from your bank).

4. Invest in marketability.
Whether you're shooting up to be an employee or start your own business, do consider still a field that is highly marketable and at the same time, something you love. For instance, I chose a computer course because it's a high demand and at the same time, I've always been interested in the virtual world and stuff, and mainly everything I do involves the computer - music, arts, writing, games, etc. But for my freelance writing and home business, I also chose a business which is somewhat in demand - school supplies and art projects.

5. Make sure you have equal personal and work time.
The reason why I chose to be a freelancer in the end is because I realized I am sacrificing my own personal time as an artist, and it makes me unhappy, stressed and depressed. In fact, I'm surprised that a lot of people are actually getting into freelance nowadays, since it is a step further and a lot more convenient than regular jobs. So if you're really up to it, give freelancing a try by getting into sites like Upwork (Odesk),, or just get some friends or neighbors to be your customers.

6. Think outside of the box.
If ever you plan a business, don't just stick to whatever is already there - try something new and feel free to experiment! Most HRM graduates do end up establishing awesome and unique food carts and boy do they sell out! In our case, we mostly take are of art and recycled projects, which not a lot of people could do but at the same time, pretty marketable due to students and people who are looking for souvenir items.

7. Don't forget to save money.
Whether you earn big or small, it is important to save money. Don't save too much, though, as this usually ends up being used for unlikely timings such as getting sick. If you know you have a lot of extras, spend it or invest it. Donating is good too, but you have to keep an eye out for posers. You can also slip a couple of bills or coins on books and other places you know you don't often check out, so that when they going gets tough, you have something to depend on.

8. Get insured and make sure it counts.
SSS or Social Security System is an insurance system for private workers and self-employed people in the Philippines (another one is GSIS for government employees, though). Having an SSS is important so that when you retire or get old, you get pension and on top of that, you can loan (borrow money) after certain periods of time depending on what you've contributed so far. Loaning often is very important so that your account doesn't get hacked by other unauthorized users.

Another important insurance is the PhilHealth, which gives you some discount (50% I think) on hospitalization, which is a big thing if you tend to work on a dangerous, life-threatening job. All of these insurances can be achieved whether as an employee or self-employed, or even as an OFW. 

Make sure that your company is remitting this by verifying your accounts, as some agencies only use this as bogus to get their unfair share. Self-employed people like me have less worries with this, since I remit my stuff on my own, whenever I want, and I can declare my own earnings and get the contribution bracket that I want, not being dictated by any company, so I can get more from my salary in the long run.

9. Choose a job by your own decision, not by others.
You can listen to advice from your parents, relatives or friends, but this should not justify your decision when it comes to job hunting or business startups. Make sure the job you get is the job you want, otherwise you're just being a mindless slave / robot. Don't make the excuse that there is limited job openings - there are tons of jobs out there and you just need to keep searching. 

It took me years for my relatives to finally accept that I'm a lot more comfortable with freelancing, and I had to show them that I'm earning enough just for them to accept that this is the job that I really want. If people around you don't accept your job, so be it. Just make sure you are getting enough to survive and for your wants and needs.

10. Success means differently for different people.
As mentioned above, you don't need others to verify that you are a successful person. Some people may think being an employee makes them successful, but some people (like me) think that success is happiness-based, and this is why I think no matter what job you do, it's whether you enjoy the job and not your salary or yous social status. 

Just because you stay in social limelight doesn't necessarily make you a successful person. These employees go through a lot of tough times by standing for long hours, having make-up and getting very little pay - and this is all usually just for show that "they have work", which, in my opinion, isn't really the epitome of success. And this is why success is different for different people, and don't let other people dictate you otherwise.

11. Foreign or standalone bosses / clients are always better than local or company-based bosses / clients.
I've seen hell enough to tell you that if you choose to go freelance, as much as possible stay away from Filipino clients, or those working under a company and outsourcing you. They always pay you very little for very large amount of work and it sucks. Go for the highest rate possible and don't apply unless you know the rate of payment. 

Same as in choosing an employer - going for big companies isn't really a very comfortable thing, since you will tend to spend more on uniform, travel expenses, etc., compared to a smaller company such as a local warehouse (this was the case for my cousin, though).

12. Work rendered is work paid. 
Whether you're an employee or a freelancer, make sure you get paid enough for your work. As mentioned above, be wise when it comes to rates. It takes a lot of experience to know the perfect work rate for you. Make sure that your pay is equal to your expenses and enough for your wants and needs, otherwise you might need to look for another job or client. Just working to survive isn't really called success - but working hard to get what you want in life should be something worth working for. For instance, you are working to get your own house, car, or whatever you want - set a goal for yourself and not just work for the sake of it.

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