A woman’s guide to keeping her job
I’ve been working for almost 12 years now and have had four jobs to date. Like love, I wanted my first job to be my last, but looking back, if I didn’t leave my first job, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
My first job was a researcher-writer in a government office. I spent almost half of my working life in that job, eight years to be exact. As to why I left was because I needed to experience new and better things, but I have to credit my first job for who and what I am right now.
Most people wouldn’t last that long, but I did. So I would like to share 10 secrets on how I lasted eight years in my first job (in no particular order):
- Believe in yourself. When I got out of college, I was very idealistic. I thought I knew everything and can do anything even to change the world. But when I landed on my first job, I got to meet a lot of people who are better, far more experienced than I am. Some even tried to put me down, but I believed in myself. If I don’t, nobody else will. It was very challenging for me, but I considered that as training in preparation for greater, bigger challenges and opportunities that will come my way.
- Get out of your comfort zone. You will be asked to do something beyond your job description (hopefully not the illegal ones!), like answering phone calls, photocopying or encoding documents, or preparing coffee, but those are just tasks to train you to become a good follower. I know this sounds absurd! But really, how can you be a good leader if you don’t know how to be a good follower? The coffees I served, phone calls I made and answered, all of them trained me to become more entertaining and accommodating to visitors and clients. And you know how Filipinos are known for being hospitable? We are not just known for that, they loved and adored us for that.
- Obey first, before you complain. I’ve learned this the hard way when I entered a military school in 2000, but still rings true in my first job. It’s okay to clarify things, but never, ever complain. How can they trust you with bigger responsibilities if you can’t even pull off this one little task? The task may be hard or difficult, but a leader is always on the lookout for the “attempt” or “initiative” to do the task no matter how hard or difficult it is. Instead of wasting your time complaining or whining, try spending your time studying, doing, and completing the job. You don’t know what your boss is up to when he/she gave you that task. Treat everything as a test.
- Share your talent. I’m a writer, but I always involve myself in extracurricular activities like singing or dancing in company occasions. If you don’t have those talents, why not help in preparing giveaways, writing the program, or joining the food committee? Make yourself indispensible. Your boss will appreciate you more with the things that he doesn’t expect you to do. It’s called, initiative and sharing.
- Be nice and friendly. I make it an effort to know everyone’s name from the janitor, the photocopy guy, messenger, secretary, security guards, to the drivers. Smile. Greet them. Wave at them. If there’s one person who can spread a good, unbiased word for you, it’s them. It’s not always about the job, but it’s how you treat other people that matter also. Be nice to your officemates. Grant little favors. Did you know my vehicle pass was months expired but I can still get in the camp because the security knows me and he said I always smile at him? Yes. But that’s our secret. I eventually renewed my vehicle pass because it’s really required.
- Do little things. I usually arrive at work earlier than usual. And when I do, I make sure that I already turn on the air conditioning system, tidy the room, and clear my boss’ table for used mugs or cups. It’s not part of my job, but I know when my boss comes in, it’ll always make him happy, cool, and relaxed. Sometimes I also offer to prepare him coffee. You see, it’s your boss! At the end of the day, he’ll be the one to promote, recommend, or fire you.
- Figure out a task on your own. When my boss gives me an assignment, I’m always tempted to bombard him with too many questions in the hope that he’ll assign that to another person. But that’s why he hired me because he trusts me to make things easier for him. Wouldn’t it be nice if you can figure out a task on your own first before asking your boss too many questions?
- Study the assignment. Note all your questions or vague parts. Ask your colleagues or supervisor for help. But before you hand the completed task to your boss, make sure you ask yourself these questions: “If you’re the boss, will you be satisfied with it?” and “Would you sign it or approve it?” That’s a complete staff work.
- Check your boss’ calendar. I also keep track of my boss’ schedules. I make sure I know if he has a meeting or conference outside of the office, because most likely, he will require my report before or after that so I have to be prepared. I also make sure that I’m at the office if he’s out because he’ll likely to call me to send him a report or paper via email. Remember, he hired you to make things easier for him. So be it.
- Do your job and do it well. Of course, no matter how talented you are, or how actively you participate in the office’s extracurricular activities, if you don’t do your job well, then who’ll be needing your services? You are being paid to do your job and not everyone’s job, so do it and do it well. You can do everything you want, but make sure you prioritize your main job description. You are not a super hero. Know your limitations and learn to say ‘No’ to other tasks that you think is unnecessary or not a priority. But when you say no, say it nicely.
- Know when to leave. No matter how much I loved my job back then, it came to a point that I knew I had to leave. Eight years were truly a blessing – the best years of my life, but I need to experience more things, explore other opportunities, and pursue my real dream job.
It was hard to leave my first job, but it brought me to where I am now. I will always love and miss my former workmates, superiors, bosses, and friends who played a huge part in my life, but life must go on. I must move on.
Some people are lucky to have found their first and only job, but for some like me, there will always be a second or third, hoping it’ll be their forever.