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Out of the Box Job Search Strategies

(Originally published on Sunday, July 11, 2010)

Been rejected over and over? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong places

Not everyone who began a job search last February has a job now, and chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’ve been rejected, or want to find a better job than the one you have. We looked over the Classifieds’ archives over the past two years and picked out the best strategies for you that go beyond the usual job search strategies.

  1. Don’t let panic overwhelm you. If you allow yourself to develop a negative mindset—no one will hire me, I’m not qualified, I’m not good enough—then you condition yourself for failure. You need to prepare yourself for success, mentally and physically.
  2. Use your head! Too many jobseekers blindly send resumes everywhere without any thought for what they’re doing or any aim in mind; we’ve received our fair share of misdirected mail at the Classifieds, resumes from people who think we can find them jobs. No one will find a job for you; do it yourself. Also, do an intelligent job search: read job ads in the Classifieds, online, in flyers, and in brochures carefully. Nothing gets your resume tossed out faster than not following directions; in fact, some companies give complicated directions to weed out those with poor reading comprehension.
  3. Leave no stone unturned. Jobs won’t come to you. Search everywhere, use your network, advertise yourself. Make your Facebook or Multiply work for you; let people know you’re looking for a job. Scour the Classifieds (naturally), haunt Internet job listing sites, look at trade websites for your chosen career field, and check out the “Careers” section of the websites of the companies you want to work for. Just look for that hyperlinked word usually seen at the top or bottom part of the website that says “jobs” or “career” and click away. If you don’t know how to use the internet, you should learn now, because that’s a crucial skill if you want a good job. Just be careful as to what you post; if your Facebook has racy photos or questionable comments, open a ‘clean’ account for jobseeking. Sometimes, it’s not only the people you already know but the people you get to know. Public transportation is a good place to find opportunities. Weird as it may seem but you might be sitting next to your future employer. All those long journeys can lead to conversations and those conversations may lead to job offerings. Plus, some employers post job ads in the MRT, in jeeps and in buses; be sure to be ready to take these down.
  4. Put out the word. Tell these people about your job search or ask them if they know of available jobs: online social network friends (Facebook, Friendster, etc.); your school career counselor and alumni office (even if you are a graduate!); parents, friends, and relatives; “orgmates,” fraternity brothers or sorority sisters; former teachers; and the company you did an internship for.
  5. You want a job? Get more aggressive. There are hundreds of fresh graduates, thousands who were laid off, and those looking to change careers competing with you. Revise your resume; visit companies personally; do your research.
  6. Be prepared to walk a lot and move. Attend job fairs; there’s usually one going on in malls and schools every week. Some companies prefer to see the people who apply for them and can be better inclined towards those who’ve taken the time to apply in person. Be sure that while your clothes are comfortable, they are also presentable enough just in case you’re interviewed on the spot. Be sure to bring a towel and a change of shirt/blouse.
  7. Keep an open mind. Be flexible enough to accept a job offer outside your chosen field; say, if you want to be a call center employee, and you get an offer from a small firm, remember that your chances of upward mobility are higher in a small firm even though the pay may be smaller. You can use that job as a stepping stone to what you really want, or create your dream job from there.
  8. Be polite. A lot of jobseekers get their resumes tossed out when they act like prima donnas (“You be careful with my resume ha?” said in a condescending tone to a recruiter) or are just plain rude (“Hoy, dito ba ang HR? [Hey you, is this the HR department?]” asked of the HR receptionist). First impressions last, and there is no excuse for behaving like a brat at any point in your career—whether jobseeking or when you’re already in a job. Say “please” “po” and “thank you” whenever necessary—those simple words go a long way.
  9. Make sure you are available. Keep your phone on; check your email daily. If you ignore a text message or an email from an employer, remember that there is always someone more eager than you who won’t.

10. Look in the places people don’t normally look for jobs. These include your barangay hall and church bulletin boards. Even if jobs are not posted there, they often have free seminars you can take advantage of to improve your skills.  (Compiled and edited by C. F. BOBIS)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C.F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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Classified Readers: Dealing with an Angry Customer

(Originally published on Sunday, July 4, 2010.  Personal details have been removed.)

Advice from the people who know best: customers and those in customer service

Customer service—good and bad—is a concern all Filipinos have, whether as a customer or as employees wishing to improve their careers. Over half of all employed Filipinos are in the services sector, according to the National Statistics Office’s April 2010 report. Sadly, the sector is rarely noted for professionalism—let’s face it, we value good service because we get it so rarely.

Thus angry customers are not a rarity in the workplace. Sometimes their anger is unjustified; have you heard that recording of an abusive customer demanding to be connected to the US branch of a certain bank? She roundly cursed and abused the hapless and blameless customer service representative, who to his credit maintained his calm throughout the curse-laden diatribes (the woman called back several times).

But other times, customers become angry for good reason. I can’t count the number of surly cashiers, rude salespersons, and downright incompetent waiters and managers I’ve encountered.

Whatever the reason, Classifieds readers answered the question, ‘How would you deal with an angry customer?’ And their answers were helpful, indeed. (In cases where readers sent in similar answers, we’ve quoted the person who sent the answer in first. Responses have been edited for grammar, spelling, and clarity.)

Be Ready for It

Corleto Manuel draws on his experience as a call center agent and shares this advice: “Since I (began) taking and solving customer concerns , I (understood that the) customer is always right even though sometimes, (they can be) wrong and inconsiderate. (Try to) remember (that) the customer is not actually irate at you personally but the situation.”

A former customer service operations manager for a large multinational company,

Imelda Cruz-Maghirang, 47, a businesswoman from Parañaque, made it a point to be prepared for customer complaints, focusing on techniques that work. “As a manager, I ensured (that I was) available to help the front liners and supervisors in case problem escalation is required to finally solve a customer complaint(s). My voice projection is equally important to give (a) good impression to the customer as I listen to her/his concerns. After listening and empathizing, I let the customer know that I am acting to give the final solution, whether it will be done by another group or by our own department. I give my contact numbers (so the customer can) reach me personally and a timeline when it will be finally resolved. Should there be changes to the timeline (we) committed, the customer (is) informed ahead of time…My staff and I (are) ready to give alternative actions towards resolution.”

Don’t Avoid the Issue

Entrepreneur Carlo Cruz, 34, of Quezon City advises that you tackle the issue head on. “I will attend to (the angry customer) and (ascertain why s/he is) angry. Then I will offer help and give (the customer) sympathy by coming up with a solution…that (fits) his/her wants, needs, and priorities.”

“We Pinoys are nonconfrontational,” says Mia Cheng of Mandaluyong, “but we should not disrespect the customer by hiding or avoiding conflict by just saying sorry. We must find out what the problem is and exert genuine efforts to address it, then afterwards we must be (sincere) in our intention to improve.”

Stay Calm

A common Pinoy reaction is to meet anger with anger, but remember, anger is also a sign of guilt and resolves nothing. Melanie Chan, 34, of Las Piñas City learned this the hard way: “I was an agent in a call center before, and most of the time, I just reciprocated the emotions of an angry customer. But things changed when I became a quality analyst. What I usually tell my agents is that handling an angry customer is like dealing with an angry Mom nagging you for coming home late. All you have to do is listen first, empathize with them, explain (or educate) why the issue happened, and assure action plan or resolution. One golden rule is, never fight back.”

Peter Carillo points out that in dealing with an angry customer, one “must be circumspect and prudent. Firstly, we must remember the general rule that we can’t fight fire with fire and win.” That’s because your job “is to win them over to the company’s side, not turn them away,” and quotes Proverbs, “A soft answer turns away wrath,” pointing out that a low, calm voice tends to diffuse tension. “Speak in a relaxed manner and the customer will be relaxed as well,” he says, adding that if, for example, you are a call center agent answering a call and “the customer starts ranting about a bad service or a financial issue…take a deep breath and listen actively…after the customer has unloaded (their concerns)…paraphrase what they just said to show that you…were seriously listening. It is also a means of validating and confirming what they said and a way of making them feel that they are important,” and sometimes that’s all they want.

Oliver Erwin Ele of Marilao, Bulacan adds this gem of advice: “I usually (hold on to) my patience and talk to them to know what they want. The rationale is, you cannot control the customer’s anger, but you can control your responses.”

Benjamin Peralta, 31, says not to sweat the small stuff. “Just treat it as an ordinary situation. For…instance, (if) my wife is very angry and yells at me profusely, I make sure that I listen to her first. During (her) yelling period, I try to figure out what went wrong. (I) think fast and come up with (the most) acceptable solution possible. Do not focus on the blaming someone else but try to address (the problem) directly.

Listen to the Customer

Jeralyn Flor, 26, of Mandaluyong shares a mantra that’s worth remembering: “(First) I will listen (to) the angry customer; then while I am listening, I will understand, and analyze (the situation) and give the “right solution” to (address the) customer’s concerns.”

“Let him/her speak up. It is a no-no to butt in while a customer talks. You should listen and understand what his/her concerns are, so by the time s/he is done, you will have something to (say) and solutions to offer,” says Joey Apostol Avila, 26, of Valenzuela.

Let the Customer Have His or Her Say

Josephine Rebutar advises Classifieds readers in customer service to let angry customers ‘vent’ their feelings. “Let (them) say whatever (they) wanted to say; don’t interrupt and don’t get affected. If (they’re) done, say:  ‘I understand your feelings; I would have done the same if I were you.’ Be calm in saying it and try to pacify the customer. Never, never fight back. Speak in a low tone and tell (them) that you are there to help…try to help in resolving their concerns in a very (understanding) and considerable manner. ‘Attack’ the problem not the person. Explain the situation and (show genuine) concern and s/he will be pacified.”

Don’t Make the Customer Wait

“Stay calm and don’t smile as if you are happy about the situation. Four things I learned in the past: 1) Listen so you can hear the actual complaint; 2) Ask him/her what s/he wants to be done about the situation but never give any promises; 3) make sure the customer service representative knows all the departments for proper endorsement; and 4) an angry customer must not wait for more than a minute,” says Dante Pascual, 30, an entrepreneur from Parañaque.

Clarify the Issue

Carillo gives an example of a customer calling about a disputed billing. “If the issue is about a US$10 surcharge on her bill, paraphrase what she said: ‘Ms. Sanders you said you called to complain about the US$10.00 surcharge because you think your initial payment of US$120 already covers (this), am I correct?’” He points out that doing so will calm down the customer as you show that “you indeed listened to what she said and are making it your issue as well, not just hers…While you are trying to clarify some salient points in her complaint, be sure to ask the right questions. Refrain from asking questions that call for ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers because that will…end the discussion. Ask “What,” “Why,” and “How” (questions to) encourage her to explain further. This also helps you…get a good grasp (on) the problem.” Then you can address the problem as needed.

Choose Your Words Carefully

If the customer is angry and you discover it’s due to an oversight on his or her part, “pray to God quickly for wisdom to give you the right words to say and how to say them so that you won’t offend her and cause her to start (ranting) again,” says Carillo. He advises that you “avoid using words like ‘You’ or…are negative in meaning and that serve to convey to the customer the thought that she is given to overlooking what she reads or worse, that she’s dumb. (The key is) proper communication, (whether) verbal, non-verbal, or para-language. (Listeners respond to the) tone of voice 38% (of the time), 55% (to) our non-verbal gestures and a measly 7% to what we say.”

Don’t Be Pushy

“Don’t force the customer to accept a certain replacement or to do something,” advises Marah Del Castillo, 27, of Davao. “Being pushy is not the way to settle an argument; the point of entertaining customer complaints is to serve, not to win or lose, let’s remember that.”

Even if you are under pressure as you have a quota of calls to meet at work, Carillo advises that they not “be pushy in handling an irate customer over an issue” lest “the problem (be) escalated instead of resolved.” Donna Lapairan, a call center agent, adds, “There’s a reason why it’s called customer service: it’s not about you, it’s about keeping the customer, who is the company’s lifeblood and reason for being, happy enough to keep patronizing your services.”

Watch the Way You Say Things

“More people are turned off by the manner in which you convey your opinion even if what you are saying is right,” Carillo points out. You might be misinterpreted if you’re not careful, leading to comments like, “Hey, why are you yelling at me?” Or, “I don’t like the sound of your voice.” Carillo says this can give a bad impression even if “what you said was the truth. It can spell the difference between a consummated sale or a lost one, or a resolved problem and an escalated one.

Mind Your Manners

“Treat the customer like an angry lover,” advises Jean Malaine Derenes of Bulacan. “You have to (court customers) to get (them) to see your viewpoint, make (them) believe that you want only the best for them…and be sincere!”

Carillo shares several basic etiquette points which a lot of us forget: “Desist from interrupting when the customer is talking. (Do not talk) over him/her!”

Don’t Waste the Customer’s Time

“When it’s your turn to talk, don’t waste too much time saying sorry, take the time to explain and comfort the customer!” says Allan Jimenez.

Zoe, 28, of Quezon City and a call center agent, says, “The best way to handle an angry customer is to approach him/her in a very polite manner since you are professional. Let the customer explain why s/he is mad and give the assurance that you will do everything to find a solution to the problem, then apologize for any inconvenience.”

Carillo adds, “Speak directly about the issue at hand only; stop beating around the bush (like we Filipinos are likely to do)…Express appreciation for (the customer raising the issue) regardless of who ‘won’ the momentary verbal ‘tussle’ between the two of you. When you do, you will end up making your customer your friend who will want to call up your company again and again on account of your efficient call handling skills.”

Learn to Apologize

“The word ‘sorry’ does not cost you a thing,” points out Larry Ucurza. “Don’t spit it out to shut up the customer; say it because you want to improve. ‘Sorry’ can fix a lot of problems.”

Entrepreneur Lady Anne Lleva, 24, says, “I would sincerely apologize to the customer for the inconvenience s/he encountered and resolve to find the appropriate solution to his or her problem as soon as possible.”

Understand and Empathize

Account executive Peralta points out that “when a customer approaches you or calls you it means two things: either s/he’s (inquiring about) something or s/he’s upset with the service. It is unlikely that a client will call and say s/he’s delighted with your service. So when you receive a call, try to assess what s/he wants exactly. During conversation, be prepared not only to address the issue but also to (get) some hints. Read the client. A client may be complaining but (may) only want a refund or a discount. Validate (the) details of the conversation. Now if a client is really mad, try to focus on the procedure lapse. Every company has (a) trial and error system. A memorandum or boards directive is born because of complaints. Provide (an) immediate solution, and know when the client is ready to listen. The company may have limits but try to be flexible and make them feel that you care for them.”

Joyce F. Barrios of Malabon City, a call center agent agrees and says, “As a customer service representative, you need to have a lot of patience when taking calls. If they are irate, you have to empathize and apologize if necessary. Give (the) assurance that you will provide (the) appropriate information and always show (the) willingness to help.”

Find a Solution

“Put yourself in (your customer’s) shoes. Listen to them. Focus on the problem, and think of a possible solution,” says Ivan, 28, of Bulacan and a computer salesman.

Manuel outlines a plan of action: “1) Listen to customers very carefully. Don’t ever interrupt them. 2) Acknowledge their concerns and if necessary apologize. 3) Assure them that we will do our best to investigate the situation. Explain to the customers why (things) happened. If necessary, give…discounts, refunds or credits for the embarrassment or for the mistakes of the company. 4) Act accordingly…and (present) the best possible solutions to the concern. It can be through email or a call to the customers. 5) Thank the customer and assure them it will not happen again

Follow Up

Peralta adds, My initiative for customer visitor calling them personally, is very effective to regain their confidence to our product, services, and maintain credibility in handing customer complaints with sincerity. This approach makes me well remembered by irate customers who still remember me even if I am no longer connected to the company I worked with. (Compiled and edited by C. F. Bobis)

(For August 2010, let’s go to the other side of the fence. Tell us of the good customer service you’ve received and what you think everyone can learn about customer service from that episode! Also: Got a customer service issue? Why not share it here and have other readers weigh in on it! Email us at mbclassifiedwed AT gmail.com)

Tables 3 & 4: Checklists for Jobseekers

(Originally published on Sunday, June 20, 2010)

By C . F. BOBIS

A Job Search Checklist

Job search coach Brian Bowman says, “The job search process involves a lot of planning and attention to detail, so it’s no wonder that many people quickly feel overwhelmed and even a bit out of control. The best way to avoid this is to organize your job search so that you have a clear strategy outline and a structured schedule to keep you moving forward.”

To help you get started, here are job search checklists for you:

Job Hunt Materials:

  • A notebook you can carry around
  • Pencils, ballpens, erasers, red markers, highlighters
  • An envelope where you can store advertisements/want ads you’re interested in
  • Scissors, paste
  • Printer; if no PC or printer at home, USB flash drive for storing resume, cover letters, and other vital documents
  • Current photo in office attire
  • Copies of my resume in a waterproof envelope

List of Job Search Strategies

  • Check the Manila Bulletin Classified Ads every day
  • Check job sites and company sites on the internet, and deposit resume in sites you like
  • Announce to family, friends, and connections on Facebook and other social networking sites that you’re looking for a job
  • Other:

Action Plan (Use one checklist per potential employer)

  • Resume
  • Cover letter tailored for company
    • Find out contact person
    • Submit resume and cover letter
    • Notes: (List here if they’ve called you, asked you for additional requirements, etc.)

My Daily Job Hunt Schedule

Date:

  • Touch base with a family member, friend, or other contact via SMS or the Internet to catch up with them and let them know I’m looking for a job
  • Check the Classifieds for free training sessions I can attend
  • Check the Classifieds for job openings I’m interested in
  • Do research on companies I’m interested in
  • Customize resume and cover letter for target companies
  • Other:

Target Company File (One page per company)

  • Name of company
  • Address
  • Contact number
  • Background data
  • Contact person/s
  • Job opening/s
  • Resume and cover sent?
  • Interview?
  • Additional notes

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Creating Opportunities in Adversity

(Originally published on Sunday, June 20, 2010)

By C. F. BOBIS

Make your own good news by adapting your job search

If you’ve kept an eye on the news, the April 2010 Labor Force Survey (LFS) recently released by the National Statistics Office tells us that the unemployment rate has increased (see charts included with this article). But remember that there is always a way to turn things to your advantage.

Take the LFS results. If you read carefully, you’ll see that the jobs are in the services sector (making a culture of good customer of vital importance—something we’ll tackle). They will tell you that you have a better chance of being employed as a full-time laborer or unskilled worker at a private company, and if you’re a woman and/or you have a college degree.

So how can you increase your chances of getting a good job? Over the two years the Classifieds have been around, here are the best tips that have appeared on these pages:

1. Finish your education. Though over 40% of those unemployed have college degrees, remember that the survey includes fresh graduates. The jobs with higher starting salaries and greater room for promotions are most often open to those with college degrees.

2. Approach your job search differently and learn to be both flexible and creative. Be prepared to have to do more to find a job, and be willing to take a long hard look at your options. Remember, if you aren’t flexible and creative, there’s always someone else out there who is willing to be, and who will land the job ahead of you.

3. Now is the time to network. Why not let your Facebook, Multiply, and/or Friendster connections know you’re searching for a job? (Just be sure your account isn’t filled with photos and/or comments that make you look silly, unprofessional, or cast you in a bad light.) Don’t forget alumni associations for your school, past bosses and colleagues, even the people you interned for in your last year of college. Just two things to remember: Make a personal connection; be prepared to help the other person in turn, and be sincere.

4. Be armed. Improve your resume by updating it with job-oriented achievements instead of a mere list of work experiences, and reformatting it, if necessary. Ask for letters of reference now, and inform other references that you have listed them as such. Tailor your cover letter to specific companies you’re applying for, the better to show your suitability for a particular job. And why not get your employment requirements now? (See list of pre-employment requirements below.)

5. Be willing to work outside your comfort zone and to train in new skills. The good news is that new jobs in different growing fields, particularly in the BPO sector and in IT, are opening up to those who are willing to work outside their comfort zone and learn new things. Richard Nelson Bolles, author of “What Color Is Your Parachute?’’ He advises jobseekers to be receptive to the idea that in the future they may be working “in the service of new technologies,’’ he said. To prepare for this, why not take advantage of free training offered by institutions like the Philippine Trade Training Center or PTTC hold free training sessions (the last Friday of the month, and it’s listed in the Classified Calendar) to upgrade your skills?

5. Keep an open mind and a positive attitude. Consider jobs you weren’t sure you wanted to apply for. Take a few risks. Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer for Adecco, a staffing company, suggests that jobseekers make a list of what you need to do each day (see the sample list on this page), and “try to keep your emotions separate from the tasks of the day… This is not the time to say, ‘Well, there aren’t any jobs out there, so I won’t look,’ ” she says. Bolles adds that with the right attitude, job seekers “can often turn this crisis into a real advantage for themselves” by moving their life in a new and more fulfilling direction” so that they can look back and realize that “this is the best thing that ever happened to me.’’

6. Be willing to go outside your comfort zone. Don’t just look for the same job over and over. Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer for Adecco, a staffing company, advises jobseekers It is time to think harder about transferring the skills you have or acquiring new ones to move into a new type of job or industry.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

In the Business of Hospitality

Who says jobs in the tourism industry are limited to tour guides and translators?

Not Department of Tourism (DoT) Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, OIC for Tourism Promotions Sector and OIC for Planning, Product Development and Coordination Sector, who says, “There is no better time to be in the industry than now. I can’t imagine of any other industry that has so many opportunities and within that industry you can move from one place to the other; we have people starting as reservation clerks and in the end they end up in the PR department. It is a (growing) industry, so it cannot fail. If you know your calling, grab it now and go for it.”

Jarque says passion is necessary for any career, particularly one in tourism. Without it, he says, no amount of preparation will help. Having your heart set on a career in tourism also makes things easier. He urges those looking for a career to consider tourism as “Opportunities are everywhere.” Jarque reveals an interesting problem: tourism has many jobs unfilled because people don’t know of the vast range of opportunities available in the field. One problem may be the misconceptions about jobs in the industry. “(We tend to say), ‘tour guide ka lang (you’re just a tour guide)’ (even though) abroad, (it’s) a profession.”

To upgrade the quality of professionals in the industry, Jarque was among those who started the Mabuhay Guide program, in which applicants must pass screenings by panels and the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), and learn under industry experts and national artists. The DoT is gearing up to train another batch soon. So are there opportunities in the tourism industry for those who didn’t finish their studies? Of course, Jarque says. You just “have to have the right attitude and you have to love people. First, you have to know yourself, your capabilities, and all that. (Opportunities) are everywhere. Come to the DoT; we can give you a list of hotels, tour operators, the shipping lines.” You can also keep your eyes open by looking for listings in the classified ads, he adds. “But you must realize that travel and tourism is not all glamour. It’s hard work, it’s 24/7.”

“When you love your job, you’ll never have worked a single day in your life. At this stage of my life, I still look forward to the mornings, dying to come to work,” Jarque says. “But when it’s work, it’s work. They can call you any time of day,” especially if there is an emergency. Don’t expect an 8-5 job in tourism because it’s a calling,” he adds.

What about career shifters? Jarque has good news for them too; he tells the story of a butler at a hotel in Boracay who was a medical representative who knew nothing of the hotel industry. But, “He was willing to be trained; so he trained. Now, he is one of the most popular butlers in (his hotel).”

Attitude is key, regardless of where you are in your professional life. But Jarque cautions, “Don’t go (into tourism) for the wrong reasons. You have to study yourself. And if you think you got it, go for it. And it’s never too late to start anything. Some people that I have known who are in their autumn years of their lives are into travel writing now. You can really shift. There are so many facets now of travel. It’s a way of life.” Jarque believes that traveling is a way of expanding horizons, and those in the later years of their lives can make the best tourism professionals. “There is no age limitation for tourism jobs. You can be a tour guide. The best tour guides we’ve had are the people who have lived life, who have seen the world, and they have read so much. People love having those tour guides.”

Even better, a person can create his or her own opportunities in tourism. “Even people who are obsessed with their bodies, they end up as lifeguards. People who surf all their lives – some people call it a bum, but no, they call it a way of life…you just bring yourself to surf destinations and you can become a teacher. You just have to look for (an opportunity) and make something good out of it; (this is always) possible in the industry. It’s within us, to take care of others. We take care of people because we want the tourist to come here, stay longer, and spend more to keep the tourism industry going. And you just to be an important part of the picture. The tourists (we take care of) should not be limited to international travels. We are tourists of our own country. Everybody is travelling now.”

Confidence plays a role in choosing a career in tourism. Jarque advises, “You have to know your value, and then you have to go for it. Knock on doors. They will see through you (especially if you have) what it takes. Don’t overplan. You just have to be honest to yourself: Is this for me? You have to make sacrifices. Some people do a fantastic job of juggling family and career, especially the ladies. They have mastered it. So there is no reason that we’ll be running out of [job opportunities]. [Tourism] is the biggest industry in the world. And with our proficiency in the English language, we should be able to work here and outside [the country].”

You’d be surprised at the fields that involve tourism in the Philippines: medicine, dentistry, and cosmetic procedures cater to tourists, as do English language schools. Jarque says, “We wish there are more qualified tour guides. We wish there are more qualified taxi drivers; we hold seminars here for taxi drivers, (teaching them) how to be friendly with tourists. You just have to have a little bit of imagination, creativity, innovativeness, adaptability…all these things.” (C. F. Bobis)

For more information, visit the DoT website at http://www.wowphilippines.com.ph; to find out about their training programs, click on the “Business and Investments” header then on the “Tourism Training” link.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Classifieds Service: What you can learn from the teachers who served during the elections

(Originally published Sunday, May 23, 2010)

What isn’t there to admire about the teachers who served during the last elections?

I arrived early to vote, but there was confusion and a lot of pushy people in my precinct. The teachers were taking charge, herding some to the holding rooms and instructing the others on how to shade their ballots. They never lost their patience, not even when there were complete idiots insisting on jumping the line or on the teachers locating their precincts for them. I decided to return in the afternoon, and voila! The lines were gone, and calm had been restored. The teachers calmly processed me: verified my identity, gave me my ballot, instructed me on how to shade the ovals, checked if I had any questions, and generally gave the public service fit for expensive establishments.

It’s such a shame that these teachers allegedly have not yet been paid for their services. Considering the stress they faced on that day, I am appalled at the behavior of many in the Philippine service industry. The National Statistics Office (NSO)’s January report estimates that 52.4% of the approximately 36 million employed Filipinos work in the services sector. Something is wrong when a majority of Filipinos who enter service-oriented establishments such as fast food restaurants, salon chains, and the like do not expect good service.

If you look through the Classifieds, you’ll see that a majority of the openings are for service-oriented jobs, whether at a BPO or at a large company. And yet who doesn’t have a horror story of bad service from, say, a customer service representative who, on the phone, treated you like an idiot, or a cashier who cursed and pouted when you didn’t have the exact change?

Professionalism is lacking in the service industry of the Philippines, and too many Filipinos employed in this industry have two fatal flaws: a sense of entitlement and no pride in their job. The lack of professionalism is manifested in how, say, a salesgirl will think she has the right to text friends and take photos of herself and her friends during working hours—even when customers are present. A sense of entitlement can be seen in how a hairdresser will hover around you after a botched haircut, waiting for a tip he doesn’t deserve. And the lack of pride in one’s job can be seen in behavior such as stealing office supplies and spending the entire day on Facebook while at work.

The Business Dictionary defines professionalism as “meticulous adherence to undeviating courtesy, honesty, and responsibility in one’s dealings with customers and associates, plus a level of excellence that goes over and above the commercial considerations and legal requirements.”

And these are what many of the teachers who served during the elections displayed. Let’s go over them one by one.

  • Undeviating courtesy. Yes, there are stupid customers who make unreasonable requests and are rude—but they are in the minority, and remember, customers respond to your attitude. Yes, you can get stressed out by your job. But remember: this is your job, and you owe the customer a high degree of courtesy because without them you would have no job. Remember that these teachers are basically required to do this job, whether they like it or not, and you chose to be in your service job. If they can be courteous despite doing something they have no choice about, then so can you. You, at least, are paid regularly and on time—and you have labor boards to resort to if you’re not.
  • Honesty. How often do you hang around the bundy clock waiting for 5 pm? How often have you filed overtime when in truth you merely waited for your download of a popular TV show to finish? Many teachers at the polls had nothing to hide, and were not ashamed to tell people when something had gone wrong with a PCOS machine or when people had to wait for their turn to vote due to the sheer volume of people
  • Responsibility. How often has this happened to you in a busy restaurant: the waiters avoid your eye and do ‘make work’ such as pretending to fix napkins or condiments? A responsible person is there to work, and will be sensitive to the needs of customers who need his or her attention. The teachers stayed at their posts despite temperatures of up to 36 degrees, assorted pests (of the insect and human variety), and people throwing their weight around. That’s because they kept their eye on their objective: to ensure that the election process flowed smoothly and voters were able to vote. This is responsibility at its highest form: the ability to take responsibility for the needs of others.
  • A high level of excellence beyond what is required. Certainly the teachers who served during the elections could have been rude and surly. They, after all, had to serve thousands of people, very few of whom, mind, said “Thank you” after they voted. And yet they helped ensure that the polls ran much more smoothly than in the past. Their quick absorption of the training given them about the new technology of the PCOS machines was shared with voters who needed help. In Japan, you will insult service persons if you leave a tip, because they believe that good work is its own reward. If you adapt that philosophy—just as many of those teachers did—you’ll realize that work becomes a little easier to bear.

This once a month column will tackle issues about the service industry and serve as a forum for tips from readers to those in the service industry, and for advice from service industry experts to share their wisdom with those in the same field. In June, we’d like to hear from you about the other side of the fence: How do you deal with an angry customer? Email your responses to mbclassifiedwed@gmail.com, and the best answers will be published here and get a chance to win a gift certificate from Businessmaker Academy for their sought-after courses. (C. F. Bobis)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Classified Cubicle: Choosing Your Direction – The Importance of Career Paths

(Originally published on Sunday, May 9, 2010)

Career advice from those who know careers best

By C. F. Bobis

Too often fresh graduates overlook a valuable resource offered for free in their schools: the career counseling office. Rather than being a place where one goes when one is disciplined for various offenses, counseling offices in universities offer services that allow students and in some cases, even alumni, to find out if they’re on the right path when it comes to a career.

Far Eastern University’s Counseling and Career Office Director Christine “Chit” Vicencio sat down recently with the Classifieds to talk about what career counseling is and how it can help a fresh graduate. In essence, career counseling delves into an individual’s strengths, interests, abilities, and aptitudes, balancing these against his or her various liabilities in terms of aptitudes, interests, and abilities. Typical career counselors have a background in psychology, particularly vocational and/or industrial or organizational psychology, and are trained to use and interpret various assessment tests on someone who approaches them for career counseling.

Aside from willingness to listen and the ability to remember the details of a person’s case, what makes a good career counselor? “It is always the passion, to make sure that you are guiding your student on the right career path. You can’t be a career counselor by just listening. You have to have materials (assessment tests and the like) to support and to validate that ‘this is you, this is your personality, this is your interest, if it’s going to work out if you try your passion,” Vicencio says.

What is the importance of career counseling to a jobseeker? “When we talk about career counseling, we talk about career ‘pathing’,” Vicencio explains. And this begins as early as when a student chooses a college course. “At the start, (when students are) freshmen, we have to make sure that the personality of the student and the course s/he are taking match. There is such a thing as a ‘mismatch’. The reason why a lot of students are not successful in their field of work is there is a mismatch.” Such a mismatch can lead to a graduate being unable to stick to a job after graduation.

Well-meaning parents can sometimes contribute to the tragedy by forcing offspring into ‘vogue’ courses such as nursing. The danger of choosing a course that is currently popular is that its popularity will eventually wane; ISD president and founder Levi de Mesa, in an earlier interview with the Classifieds, pointed out how the deployment of nurses abroad has slowed down as a result of economic crises in countries that used to hire nurses in droves. Vicencio cautions parents to stop pushing children into jobs they do not love, as she believes this can set up a child for professional failure.

She’s got support from many experts; various Classifieds columnists and interviewees from top corporations both here and abroad agree that if a person only has a job, that person won’t succeed. A career that’s a person’s life choice often sets people on the road to success and personal and professional contentment. Vicencio explains, “When you say ‘life choice’, it’s your passion. You put your heart, your mind (into it). And when you say it’s your career, career and my life, it’s just one. When you say job, it’s about (what’s) monetary. (When you say) ‘I have a job,’ (you mean) ‘I have to earn money to support my parents, my family, or my lifestyle.’ But when you say ‘I have a career,’ [what you’re really saying is) it’s your life. That’s why every time I introduce myself, I say ‘I am a guidance counselor’ because this is my career, this is me.”

Why should students take advantage of career counseling services in school? “It is important for them to know if they are doing the right thing,” she says, comparing career counseling to consulting a doctor about an ailment in order to be guided towards informed choices.

How then can a student or a fresh graduate get started on a career? Vicencio says good resumes are the key. Then send the resume out. “People don’t know you, and if you want to have a career, even if you are passionate about it, if you’re not going to send out your CV, it’s nothing.”

Then she cautions jobseekers to present themselves well during job interviews, and to quit the games. “(In) HR, we know if people are bluffing, if they are just playing with us, even (if the cues are) non-verbal. We can identify right away if the jobseeker is going to be successful in our company, if s/he is passionate (about) getting the job. (We look at their) line of questioning, if (they are) attentive, the eye contact, (the) body language. Those are the important things to consider.” Finally, doing research on the company is non-negotiable. That way, a jobseeker can “ask the right questions.”

She also lists the mistakes jobseekers often commit: Acting bored during an interview. Showing up for an interview when sleepy. Bad dressing. Bad behavior.

Vicencio has a word of caution for graduates who grab high paying jobs for the monetary rewards, saying that while such jobs are tempting, the time to ‘pay the piper’ always comes. “If it’s not your interest or passion and you are just doing it for the money, you give yourself five years (then figure out what you want to do, to stay or move on).”

Her office also handles teaching students financial management. “It is important to understand investment and handling money because if you are in (for example) the call center (industry) and you don’t have an idea of what investments are, you are going to spend your money.

She shares some tips for fresh graduates on blending in with the existing workforce on their first job, especially if everyone else is older: “You just have to blend in. (If they talk) you have  to listen to what they are saying because those things will help you in the future (as these are their) experiences. Sometimes they talk about marriage, family…they will help you, so it is important that you listen. As long as it’s not violating your rights, your values, then I don’t think there is a problem. You have to adjust and listen to their pieces of advice, see if it’s going to help you, most especially in your career. But if it’s not, then you don’t have to (listen).”

Conversely she also has advice for forty-something jobseekers who are competing against fresh grads. “I always say you have to prepare for the job just like the fresh grad. Prepare a good resume. Don’t be boastful. You have to look at your objective. ‘Why am I applying for this position? Is it for the money to support my family or this is like a second career for me?’ I suggest that you think of the way fresh grads present themselves (and tailor your job search accordingly).”

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C. F. Bobis 2010. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of copyright holders.)

Classified Cubicle – Employer Wisdom: More hiring tips from friendly companies

(Originally published on Sunday, April 25, 2010)

By C.F. BOBIS

Recently the Classifieds had the opportunity to talk to Ramona “Dot” F. Velasco, senior executive and human resources lead, delivery center network (DCN) for technology, Accenture Delivery Centers in the Philippines. Her career spans 20 years of experience, which includes 9 years as a systems developer and more than 10 years in HR.

Interestingly, Velasco graduated with a Liberal Arts degree, major in Mathematics, and her career seems to show how you can carve your own path out at business process outsourcing centers in the country. Her company, Accenture, is one of the world’s leading management consulting, technology services and outsourcing companies, with more than 177,000 people in 120 countries. Here, she shares answers to some of the most common questions Classifieds readers ask.

What are the job openings you need to fill most often? What are the duties under these jobs, and what are the qualifications for them? What do you look for in an applicant?

We have many opportunities for fresh graduates. For BPO, we need a lot of entry-level recruits for customer contact BPO, as well as for non voice BPO projects, such as health administration and insurance. We also have various openings for accountants in all levels for our Finance and Accounting BPO projects.

For our Technology workforce, we are looking for entry-level and qualified programmers and software testing professionals.

Talent comes in many forms and from many backgrounds. Each project has its own set of qualifications but generally, we look for bright and energetic people with a great appetite for learning. Accenture has always been known for its high standards but  intelligence alone does not determine success in our company, but a combination of intelligence, work ethic, guts and the flexibility to work with diverse people.

Do you have pet peeves when it comes to job applicants?

As we consider them our customers, we treat all our applicants equally. It’s not good to have so-called pet peeves about jobseekers.

Can you share any funny or unique stories (brilliant application strategies, memorably bad applicants) with us?

Memorably good – We interviewed, through an interpreter, and hired two hearing impaired people who will soon become our regular employees. They do payroll processing for our Global Service Center Organization (GSCO) and communicate mainly through e-mail and Office Communicator.  To help the rest of the GSCO team adjust to working with their hearing-impaired teammates, HR had them go through a special orientation and sign language classes

Memorably bad – We interviewed a sales director who didn’t know her company’s sales targets and forecasts, which left us wondering how she can be an asset to any company!

A lot of jobseekers fail at the interview portion; based on your experience, could you give tips to them with regard to how to answer questions, how to dress, and how to conduct themselves?

The interviewer has to make a good and informed decision based on the candidate’s performance during the interview. A job interview is not a game where you must score points or are eliminated when you make a mistake. A good interviewer sees through what an applicant says or does and makes a good decision based on a person’s potential to do well in the company.

Having said that, there are few tips we can give applicants, except to be yourself and be honest. Express yourself confidently.  Answer first before you explain–not the other way around. And dress appropriately for the job and the company you are applying with.

If you don’t make it, it’s only because the interviewer does not want to set you up for failure at the company, and believes there is a better career opportunity for you elsewhere.

What, in your opinion, is/are the biggest mistake/s jobseekers make?

Some applicants focus and give too much value to the salary, giving priority to short-terms rather than long-term gains. The best way to a rewarding career is going through the right experiences. Endeavor to join a growing company that offers varied opportunities for learning and success, and more room for growth and promotion.

What can a jobseeker do to increase his or her chances of getting hired, both at your company and outside your company?

  • Develop your English skills. You may be brilliant but you need to be able to converse, present and sell your ideas in English, the language of business.
  • Research about the company you are applying with.
  • Always try to express, not impress.
  • Focus on your strengths. Are you a creative person? A people-oriented person? An analytical person? Try to focus on what you do best and get into things that will develop those strengths. At interviews emphasize how your strengths can help the company you are applying with to reach its goals.

Would you have openings that non-college graduates, the differently-abled, and those over 35 can fill? If so, then what are these jobs and what do they require of applicants?

Accenture is an equal opportunity employer so we accept anyone as long as they match our requirements and hurdle our recruitment process. Most of our projects accept second-year college-level or graduates of two-year courses, provided they have at least two years of relevant work experience. We also have a project with hearing-impaired people.

Can you give our readers resume and cover letter advice?

Don’t make cover letters. Recruiters have to read through hundreds of resumes and don’t have time to read cover letters. Keep your resume brief but concise, highlight your strengths; you will have the opportunity to talk about yourself in detail during the interview.

Your best advice for a jobseeker is?

Be yourself. Be honest. Try to think of how your strengths can help the company you’re applying at. Always ask “what’s in it for them” – how can you help the company with, for example, your people skills, creativity, analytical skills, or significant previous work experience.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C.F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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