[OPINION] Notes from a first-time job seeker in the pandemic

I started this year with 3 wishes: to graduate on time, to pass my licensure exams, and to find a good entry-level job in Manila. I even followed one of my mother's superstitions, which was to throw some coins onto our roof for good luck. 

It seems like I hadn't thrown enough coins then. It has been 10 months since that ritual, and I have only achieved my first wish. It’s still something to be grateful for, because it means all my sleepless nights and breakdowns have finally paid off. Unfortunately, though, this is not the year for my remaining wishes to come true. 

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) already announced the cancellation of 67 licensure examinations, including the one I was meant to take this October, due to the continued threat of COVID-19 in the country. The announcement relieved most examinees, especially those coming from the provinces such as I — who are afraid to risk their health just to go to Metro Manila, ground zero of the pandemic, where the majority of these examinations take place.

That said, even with a license, working in the Metro isn't a good option. Job opportunities are fewer, thanks to the economic impact of the extended quarantine periods. Daily commuting is way more challenging because of the suspension of public transportation. Moreover, mental health problems are rising due to prolonged isolation and the constant fear of contracting the virus wherever you go. Working there, especially in these trying times, entails extra courage and sacrifice, and I don't think I'm prepared to take that leap of faith. 

Given these unfavorable circumstances, I have accepted that getting my professional license and starting my corporate career in Manila will be postponed for quite some time. Consequently, some items on my wish list have to be changed as well. 

Homebound

I still want to work; this will certainly not change. With the pandemic affecting our livelihood, my priority right now is to help my family the best way I can. I've also made up my mind to just stay here in Cagayan where I am more familiar and would feel safer. However, it's a known fact that finding jobs in the province isn't easy as well. 

As of today, I have already sent my application to more than 15 employers. Only two of them invited me for an interview, while the rest either politely rejected my application or did not respond at all. However, I still made sure to give my best in the two interviews I booked. Sadly, I haven't heard from them since. 

Receiving these rejections can be pretty discouraging. I blamed myself for not getting as much experience and as many credentials during my undergrad. I even considered my family's lack of connections to politicians and people working in government offices as one of the reasons for my unemployment. Sometimes, you just think of these things to rationalize your disappointment. But in some ways,  I find comfort in knowing that I'm not alone in these struggles. 

All around the world, job seekers, experienced or fresh graduates alike, are feeling the effects of the worst economic recession since the Second World War. Labor demands exponentially increase as opportunities decline, leaving more people unemployed and making the market arena more competitive. 

In the Philippines alone, the number of unemployed Filipinos have surged up 27.3 million, based on the July 2020 Social Weather Station (SWS) poll. From a regional perspective, Cagayan Valley registered a 15.6% unemployment rate as of April 2020, way higher than its 3.1% rate last 2019, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.* With fewer companies expected to hire in the second half of 2020, job selection will be more cutthroat than ever. 

For sure, those who have more experience are more likely to be hired. Given the dire economic landscape of many industries, companies want to hire individuals who can deliver favorable results in the shortest time possible. This conscious decision is understandable since they can save resources from training costs. As a result, the chances for fresh grads to get hired are fewer.

Despite these discouraging statistics, I still keep an open mind. (Not that I'm an overly optimistic individual, but it's the only choice I have left.)

Moving forward

Amid the rejections and unfavorable market conditions, I continue to send my applications to local companies. Trying again, regardless of the result, is the only way I know to move forward.

While waiting for employment opportunities, I'm also doing my best to hone my skills continually and to learn new things that will be beneficial to my work life. I'm submitting articles online, speaking on podcasts, subscribing to free online classes, and applying to remote internships. During these times, as industries continue to raise the bar higher, a fresh graduate like me should do the necessary actions to meet those standards. 

I'm not relying on superstitions anymore to finally get a job, but am focusing instead on grit and early preparation. As a wise man once said, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

More doors are closing instead of opportunities arriving, but one shouldn't falter or lose hope. Who knows? That last e-mail you sent to an employer could finally land you your much-awaited job. For now, this is what I'm holding on to. – Rappler.com

Vincent Callo-Verzola is a recent college graduate. He loves listening to other people’s stories and learning from them. He’d appreciate it if you could share your own job search experiences in the pandemic through vincentverzola12@gmail.com.