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Creative career options

/ 05:01 AM November 27, 2016

The problem today is not that there are not enough regular jobs.  There just aren’t enough jobs. Period. The solution is not to make all jobs regular, but to increase the economy’s capacity for job creation.

Industry limitations


Industry’s absorptive capacity is below 20% — i.e., less than 20% of college graduates get hired after graduation.  New entrants outnumber new jobs.  This results in increasing joblessness, some 6,000 Filipinos leaving everyday to find jobs abroad, and growing informality.  When there are no jobs in the formal sector, Filipinos go to the underground economy where there is no social protection at all.

Only eight percent of workers are in manufacturing, where labor productivity is highest.  More than half of total employees are in services, and the rest are in agriculture, where labor productivity is lowest.  Many progressive countries have fully developed the manufacturing sector.


The Philippines jumped from agriculture to services, while manufacturing did not mature.  Next to OFW remittances, revenues from the BPM industry keep the economy afloat.  The BPM sector also employs 1.2 million employees, while the electronic and semi-conductor industry employs almost 700,000 employees.

A million Filipinos graduate from college or turn 15 every year. These new entrants cannot be absorbed by these two industry sectors. It also seems that schools’ default position is to prepare graduates for employment.  But even Entrepreneurship courses have not produced enough Filipino entrepreneurs, as most businesses are still owned by foreign investors and fair-skinned or slit-eyed oligarchs.

Harsh realities

Prospective employees must contend with harsh realities.  Government protectionism will not create jobs for you or keep you employed.  You need the right skills, initiative, and good attitude to succeed in your career.

Remember this:

“One-job, one-company, one work-life” no longer exists.  Your grandparents were born in an era of lifetime employment and worked for paternalistic industrialists that provided benefits for the whole family.

Henceforth, you’ll probably work with ten different companies or shift careers at least five times in your lifetime.


The new mantra is “value for value.”  Entitlement is dead; he who shall not work shall not eat.  Meritocracy compels you to compete with co-employees for a better career, but you have to cooperate with them to create value for the company.  You get what you give.

There are no guarantees.  All you get is the opportunity to prove yourself. Just because you graduated from Taft or Katipunan doesn’t mean you’ll have a career waiting for you.  In most instances, you have to create your opportunities.  Failing that, you’ll lose in the rat race.  Even if you win, you’re still a rat.


Redefine success

Realize that times have changed.  If you want career success, you must define what success means to you.  I like Christopher Morley’s definition: “There is only one success—to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

The business environment that directly affects your career has become VUCA—Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous.  Your choices are now limited—plow new ground or let the weeds grow under your feet.

In Jo-Ann Vega’s words, “Think of your career as the synergistic combination of your skills, values, lifestyle, and interests.”

To thrive in a VUCA environment, you need more than just hard skills for doing a job.  Careers now require physical, mental, and social skills.  Job descriptions are being replaced by roles that employees play from time to time.  Nothing is permanent – not jobs or skills requirements.  What you learn in college could be irrelevant when you finally land a job.  Technology will render many jobs obsolete, but it will also create new jobs.

As you look for your niche in the job market, heed Mick Jagger’s words eons ago, “You can’t always get what you want.  But if you try, sometimes you get what you need.”

Ride the trends

Here are some tips:

Tune in to trends.  In the Philippines, more than 99% of employers are micro, small, or medium enterprises.  There are roughly 3,000 large companies that employ 200 people or more.  If you want to work with the few large companies, study the trends.  Work with the rising stars and the established ones, if you want stability.

If you want challenge, choose the start-ups.  Know where opportunities are.

Know your niche and find somebody to pay you.  Reverse the tables.Instead of knowing what companies want and becoming one, establish what you’re good at, master it, and find a company willing to pay you for your expertise.

Be independent if you can’t find a boss.  If you can’t get employed, use your skills and go into business.  Start small—be an entrepreneur, consultant, freelancer, etc.  There’s a growing market for independents these days.  But first, have skills and self-discipline. Be a risk-taker.  It’s a feast or famine proposition.  If this is not for you, stick to job hunting.

Albert Einstein said, “You have to learn the rules of the game.  And then, you have to play better than anyone else.”

(Ernie is the 2013 Executive Director and 1999 President of the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP); Chair of the AMCHAM Human Capital Committee; and Co-Chair of ECOP’s TWG on Labor and Social Policy Issues. He is President and CEO of EC Business Solutions and Career Center. Contact him aterniececilia@gmail.comor

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TAGS: careers, Employment, job creation, Joblessness, productivity
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