Living With A Purpose

Reicza Gene C. Olojan is a millennial, which is officially described as “a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.”  In this Resurgent exclusive, she immerses into the narratives of her job-hunting or job-frustrated peers, resonates with the angst, but emerges from the limbo with hope and resolve for, ultimately, a life with consequence.

I am currently at one of life’s crossroads; unsure of where I am headed, specifically when it comes to jobs. Before I graduated from college, I had my whole life planned out when it came to my ideal job. I would apply for a teaching post at my alma mater, earn my Master of Arts in Literature degree, and explore my chosen field of expertise. However, two years after graduation, I found myself teaching foreigners how to improve their skills on the English language. It's a good job, paying more than the usual tutorial assignments. I only work for seven hours every day, my boss is generous and considerate, and my workmates are easy to get along with. So why do I still feel like my life should be headed in a totally different direction? 

Even if everything seems well, I would consider my job as something that simply pays the bills. I feel like I should be doing something more when it comes to work. Graduating with a degree in Literature might sound cool. But job-wise, it's a big disadvantage. I can't seem to figure out what job fits me. Sure, I can teach. But I don't see myself teaching for a long time. I can write, but my writing always seems juvenile compared to the mentors that I've had. As of now, I'm lost. 

I acquired copies of Gene Olojan’s (my godfather) lecture about millennials to help me in my dilemma. According to the presentations, millennials have 14 distinct perspectives. 

  • One, millennials are extremely connected. Most millennials cannot function without a cellular phone and internet connection, which are usually used to connect with their peers. 
  • Second, technology savvy; millennials know how to use technology and use it to their advantage. 
  • Third, millennials are entrepreneurs. Most millennials possess a self-employed mindset. 
  • Fourth, millennials are nomadic. They tend to wander and are prone to using modern made-up language. 
  • Fifth, millennials are entitled and narcissistic. They tend to be self-centered and opinionated. 
  • Sixth, millennials are ambitious. Millennials seek constant appraisal and lightning promotion. 
  • Seventh, millennials are frequent job-hoppers. Low retention rates for millennials frustrate employers. 
  • Eight, millennials have a free-spirited outlook. Millennials have high self-confidence levels and are politically involved. 
  • Ninth, millennials can produce meaningful work. They long for sensible careers and a responsive work environment. 
  • Tenth, millennials seek integration because they are socially connected, both locally and globally. 
  • Eleventh, millennials pursue collaboration – they can multitask, and are also progressive and diverse. 
  • Twelfth, millennials love freedom. They are risk takers and they tend to do what they think is right. 
  • Thirteenth, millennials love to have fun, which is a motivating factor for them; they are the life of parties.
  • Fourteenth, millennials are competitive. They love challenges and usually possess a ‘winner’ mindset.

I can relate to most of these perspectives – maybe that is why I have reached the point where I’m no longer sure of my career choice and direction. I've always wondered if it's just me, or is it a common trend among millennials. I talked with some of my peers and past mentors to check if millennials truly possess the perspectives indicated above, assess the situation of the millennials when it comes to jobs and also, how people deal with certain decisions in life.

Aubrey Laude is a fresh graduate from the University of Southeastern Philippines  (USeP) with a degree in AB Literature. Her ideal job is to be a police officer because she said that her calling is to serve the country. She said that she didn’t pursue Criminology because it was too expensive – UseP offered free tuition since it is a State University, so she opted to get a degree in this university because she passed the entrance exam. She is currently unemployed. “I don’t want to have a job which doesn’t fit my passion. I aim to be passionate in what I do,” she said. She is now waiting for the next Entrance Examination conducted by the National Police Commission.

Joseph Palisada, a 24-year old USeP alumnus, works as an engagement specialist on a tech support account of a call center company. He said that this is definitely not his ideal job – he wants to work in the IT field, doing network maintenance and troubleshooting. He said he is hesitant in pursuing his ideal job because most IT jobs require experience. As for his current job, he feels it is merely “acceptable,” and he is neither happy nor unhappy. He describes his salary as “just enough,” and doesn’t see himself working the same job for a long period of time.  

Denver Langahin graduated with a degree in Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering. His degree was not his choice; given the chance he said that he would pursue a different course – chemical engineering. Since he was young, he had always been interested in science.  He now works in the research section of the Department of Agriculture. He said that his goal was to get a job at the DA, and thankfully, he did. But before that, he admitted that he felt lost in that he didn't really know where he was headed. When he got the job, he thought that was the accomplishment of his goals. But after working for a year, he began to feel restless. He wondered when he would become a regular employee, and he felt that he wasn't growing at his present job. Financially, the pay was good; it's hard to find a job which pays P938 per day. He said that it has something to do with passion; research wasn't something that he wanted to do. He's not sure what his ideal job really is. All he knows, he says, is that the ideal job is something that you enjoy doing, and that you don't merely go to work because you have bills to pay. He hopes to get a regular position at the DA, but hopefully in an area other than research.

Based on the responses that I got, it would seem that passion has something to do with a person’s satisfaction when it comes to jobs. But people don’t always get to choose the job that they really like.  People choose college courses which are job-oriented, rather than pursuing what they really want. So they end up with a job which might pay well but doesn’t really make them happy.

It’s not a question of qualification. According to Sarah Landrum of Forbes, 38% and 46% of millennial men and women, respectively, have earned a bachelor’s degree or even better. It’s not a matter of lack of jobs either. The 2017 Annual Labor and Employment Status, with Reference Number: 2017-156 provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority show that the annual labor force participation rate of 61.2 percent out of the country’s 69.9 million population are 15 years old and over. The unemployed persons totalled to about 2.4 million resulting to an annual unemployment rate of 5.7 percent. 76.1 percent belonged to age group 15 to 34 years old. 

Vina Buenaflor, a language instructor working for EKA English and Math Education Center, said that millennials have a problem with job satisfaction because they are too idealistic. They have goals but they’re not willing to put in the time – they want instant achievement of their goals. She cited an example of an acquaintance who graduated with a degree in Interior Designing, and immediately wanted to practice her profession. Life doesn’t work that way, she said. Millennials have to face the reality that they have to start at the beginning and not expect to instantly achieve what they want in life.  You have to start as an intern or something similar, and if you really want something, maybe you can achieve it later in life. But don’t expect to achieve it immediately.

USeP professor Rolando Bajo said that millennials are not happy because their jobs are not their own choices and that they have to make do with what is available. Majority of millennials are educated and are professionals. With stiff competition, one settles for anything even when it comes to choosing a course for college. Millennials settle for degrees which might be job-oriented but are not really related to their real interests and aptitudes. 

With all the difficulty of being happy in a job, Breech Asher Harani is a special case. He is a millennial who incorporated his passion into his work. The 26-year old graduated from Holy Cross of Davao College with a degree in Mass Communication, and he is putting his degree to good use. Breech said that at first, he wasn’t really sure about what he wanted, but he was interested in organizing school plays when he was in high school. Given that interest, he took up Mass Communication, and ended up discovering his passion for filmmaking. He currently works as a freelance global multimedia specialist, and is also an independent filmmaker and a photographer. He says that he is “super happy” with his job and he thinks that he will continue what he does for good.

For me, Breech’s happiness is evident in the awards that he has accumulated throughout the years: International Citizen Media Award in Munster, UN ESCAP Photo Award in Bangkok, 100 Best Science Photographers of 2017 in Manchester, Ambassador of the Word in Barcelona, If I Were Video Award in Paris, Ngilngig Films Special Mention Award in Davao, International Short Film Funding in Florida, STEM Research Documentation in Stuttgart, Cinematography Fellowship in Prague, Peacemaker Corps Award in New York, UN Together Award in Geneva, IOM Research Award in Seoul, and the ASEAN Short Film in Manila. In addition, he was recognized as the Most Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Humanities, Social Sciences and Communications by his alma mater, and is the designer of the official new logo of Cher’s (Yes, Cher as in Hollywood’s Cher) organization “FREE THE WILD.”

Breech said that following your passion is always risky, even if it concerns the normal business venture. For him, he took the risk after six months of employment. But those six months spent in that job “wasn’t too helpful” in establishing his chosen career. He believes that millennials should take the risk as early as they can, and that there is plenty of time to stumble.

Writing this article has helped clear my own perspective. As a millennial, I should learn how to be patient. As Ms. Buenaflor stated, nothing is achieved instantly. I have to work for it if I want to be successful. Taking Prof. Bajo’s view into consideration, I should always be aware that there are other people with better skills than me – they might be better educated as well. Based on Mr. Olojan’s list, millennials such as myself should use their strengths and develop them into their full potential. Since I am flexible, I can search for jobs which can enhance the skills that I have and at the same time, learn new skills as well. I truly long for sensible work – I want a job which really matters to me, and I want to help other people as well.

Risk-taking is essential for millennials will find themselves in a boring job which always feels like routine if they are too afraid to take risks. I deem myself as too young to settle for now, but once I find the job that fits my desire, I might stay for good. Attitude changes are also in order; self-entitlement should not be an issue. Always be open to the opinion of others, especially one’s superiors. Lightning promotion is not achievable, so patience is a virtue that millennials should possess. Millennials also tend to wander, but I think that they will stay in a job when the time is right. They should constantly assess themselves, and their skills, then look for jobs which might be a good fit. If those jobs are not yet available, again, patience is the key. Talk to mentors if decisions are too confusing to make.

Life is too short, yet we must not rush everything. Life is meant to be lived with purpose. 

(Ms. Olojan, 23, hopes “to help other people through my writing.” --Ed.)