10 Inputs for Rookie Employees (Fresh graduates, I see you!)

As I celebrate 10 years since my first employment, please allow me, dear reader to give unsolicited advice for those who, for the first time are reveling in the wonderful world that is: the workplace.

1- Just how urgent are urgent tasks?

They are pretty urgent. However, a common rookie mistake is to be stressed because their superiors would give them five tasks that are simultaneously labelled as URGENT. The more prepared interns/fresh graduates would pause and actually ask, “Okay, but which of these is the MOST urgent?”. To which the manager would respond, “All of them are equally urgent”. This is a lie. Because even if you, little grasshopper, are a wizard of all sorts and were able to finish all the tasks punctually, your manager CAN NOT POSSIBLY revise them all at the same time.

This is why I would suggest you rather ask, “Which of all these urgent tasks would you like to revise first? Could you give me a deadline for each of them?”. This means that your manager would have to sit down for 5 minutes with you and decide, say, Task 1 should be on his desk in 1 hour, Task 2 to be submitted in 2 hours, Task 3 in 2 hours and a half, etc… And if he refuses to do this, then feel at liberty to prioritize the work yourself.

Tip from my mother: If your manager DID sit down and classify the tasks with you, remember to write him an email confirming what you just talked about. This would be your safeguard against any future “misunderstandings”.

2- Gossiping is One Train You Should Not Hop On

Avoid gossip. Even if you’re only a “listener” and not a “contributor”, do not be around people who gossip. It’s a waste of time and it only brings distraction. Besides, being a “listener” is just as bad as contributing because it means tolerating trash talk about somebody who can’t give his side of the story.

If you want something cleared up, talk to the person face to face. Also, don’t criticize anyone behind their backs unless you’re 100% sure you can repeat the same words in front of them.

Most importantly: Don’t use gossip as a weapon if you’re not sure you can take the fire.

3- Doubts Will Arise

I know 40-year olds who are still not sure what they want to do with their current lives, let alone their future. So be kind to yourself and consider that as a young person starting to explore a new world, it’s only natural to feel doubtful and undecided about things.

NEVER be afraid to take a step back and evaluate your situation. If you feel the need to go back to studying, take a sabbatical, change career directions, or whatever you feel that could make you grow, go for it.

Still, it’s absolutely important that you be clear on your purpose. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Is it for the money? for personal needs? for professional fulfillment? or for sheer curiosity? Afterwards, ask yourself again, “Would this change be able to sustain me until I get my bearings back?”

4- Is it Wise to Mix Personal and Professional Life by Making Friends at Work?

Personally, I think it matters little whether this is wise or otherwise (pun intended). Human beings are social animals so whether we like it or not, we will always be drawn to gatherings, socializing and eventually consolidating one “favorite” group of people from work. What is wise though, is to choose your work friends prudently.

In this light, think 50 times over whether it’s worth “hooking” up with an office mate. ‘Nuf said.

5- Honesty Really IS the Best Policy

Be as honest and frank as possible with your direct manager. Even if she isn’t totally honest with you, be transparent with them with whatever issue you have that might affect the quality of your work.

Your manager’s lack of “honesty” could be explained by the fact that some work-related subjects should remain only in the hands of the “upper crust”. I’m not talking about this kind of honesty. Any topic that relates directly to you or your work is a topic you have the right to know about. Similarly, your manager has the right to be informed about anything that could directly affect the accomplishment of the objectives she set for you.

In my case, I opened up to my former supervisor regarding my problem when I get hungry. You might think this is an exaggeration, but “cranky” is an understatement in this case because I would suffer a complete shut down of all my systems: I become a friend of none and an enemy to all, I make bad choices, I start remembering past offenses… try to get the idea of that kind of co-worker.

6- Drop the Delegation Drama

KNOW that it is your manager’s obligation to properly train you for whatever is written under your job description. He should know that whatever mistakes you (or anybody else under his supervision) make would directly reflect on his performance. So if he’s wise, he would adequately teach you everything you need to know to deliver a quality output. If he’s not, he would hoard all the tasks while you sit on the sidelines- that way, the deliverable would be quasi-perfect and he would not risk his attention being called.

One of my former managers was like this. I described the experience in this post.

As a newbie, it would be normal for some time to pass before some major decisions or operations are to be delegated to you. But don’t lose heart: it will come. And the first step towards that direction is to reflect the seal of excellence in every deliverable that bears your name.

7- The Value of Knowing Your Place

When you argue with your boss, LET YOUR OBJECTIVE BE TO BE HEARD and not to win/change his mind/make him side with you. While you’re at it, be as eloquent, as respectful and as precise as you can be when letting yourself be heard.

Trying to get into an argumentative battle with a superior will only leave you badly wounded and demoralized. Think about it: managers have had years and years of “training”, having had more experience in almost any type of arguments in this life. Sometimes, a smile is the best response. This way, you save time which you could use later on for whatever you wish for! PLUS, you save energy and keep your happiness.

8- Commitment Issues

It’s okay for you not to love your job. However, don’t make it an excuse to under perform.

It’s very important to leave a good impression in your job, especially if it’s the first one, and you achieve this by committing to produce the best results you possibly could.

Talking to a friend the other day, we both agreed that nothing is forever. But if we want something to last, there should be a conscious effort from our side to wake up each day and make a decision to get through the day, everyday. Work-wise, it’s the same.

In my opinion, problems could arise the moment your job starts to go against your values. A friend once told me she turned down an offer from a company that manufactures weapons for war. Another one told me that he had to leave his former company because ethically, he didn’t agree with its new strategy. When this happens, thoroughly weigh your options and be realistic about how you’re going to pay the bills and fund your dreams when a regular flow of income gets cut off.

9- Understand Your Contract

Back in France: each time I signed a new contract, an HR personnel was always beside me and ready to answer any questions I might have. Even if I took my sweet time to carefully read the 12-page document, they would patiently wait without interrupting me. They would explain anything, from something as simple as the personal tax deducted each month, to something more complex such as the legislation applicable to my situation.

Even more necessary is for you to understand your paycheck or pay stub. Keep track of your monthly expenses starting with the automatic deductions from your revenues. Don’t forget, you’re “adulting” now!

10- LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS

This final advice is the toughest one I’ve learned, because I’ve known it to be true for quite some time now.

I know it works for everyone who has tried it. However, I just wasn’t able to apply it in my own life. Now that I’ve started to do so, I’m much more fulfilled and happier than ever before.

The key to peace of mind is: not to expect anything. One thing is to bear in mind things like: scheduled meetings, DEADLINES, patterns of behavior and so on… but another thing is to be open-minded enough to ACCEPT THAT EVERYTHING IS SUSCEPTIBLE TO CHANGE. Remember, disappointments only exist because they were pre-determined by an expectation or two. So in this equation, the less we expect, the less we tend to be disappointed!

On Opportunities and Other Lessons from Wile E. Coyote

Opportunity (noun / op.por.tu.ni.ty / \ˌä-pər-ˈtü-nə-tē, -ˈtyü-\)

  • a favorable juncture of circumstances
  • a good chance for advancement or progress

See original image

Image courtesy of: Wikipedia

A little flashback…

Wile E. Coyote- the most hard-headed, stubborn, and pathetic cartoon character that I knew of. I didn’t care much about him when I was in my pre-teen years. I was all about the Roadrunner who I considered the fastest, smartest and coolest looney toon (right after Bugs Bunny). 

Everything changed when I went to Spain. Oh, how the Spanish loved the Coyote! (Just as they love Tom more than Jerry, or the fact that they feel more sympathy for Elmer Fudd than for Daffy…). It took me a while to understand their perspective but it was only lately that I began to fully appreciate Coyote.

Exactly several weeks ago, I started to entertain different side projects and I reflected on how this character always saw the glass half-full. Only then did I really see him under a different light- the most determined, creative and hard-working animated creature I have ever seen.

Introduction

Finding a job is generally hard, or at least not easy. Ask anyone unemployed and most probably they’ll give you the same answer, “The company’s not hiring”, “The firm’s actually laying people off”, “I can’t renew my contract because the department has no budget”, et cetera… Added to that is the fact that more and more people are better educated, more highly trained and some of them are willing to settle becoming underpaid just to have a job.

All of these challenges multiply to 20 times more difficult in Paris, under normal circumstances. It should come as no surprise, considering it’s a big city. It houses many international companies who daily face 10,000 times as much qualified people fighting to work with them.

Given the economic crisis/slowdown (whichever makes you feel better), it becomes 100 times extra harder to even land on an interview with the recruiters!

Thus, the day it finally dawned to me that I’ll never get a job in Paris, I stopped all kinds of activities related to job hunting* such as: checking job sites for vacancies, tweaking my resumé, and writing alternative versions of my cover letter.

What I did instead was to meditate on my situation and watch some cartoons. After enjoying a several episodes of the Looney Toons, I started to think about Wile E. Coyote’s unrelenting attitude about catching the Roadrunner.

Following are the lessons I picked up.

Lesson number 1: Change your game plan.

Ironically, the first lesson is something the Coyote never applied in his own life. For years and years for as long as I can remember, he would always resort to dynamites, bombs, anvils or other heavy objects and booby traps to catch the Roadrunner. Not once did he ever think to change his strategy. (For instance, he could bribe corrupt traffic policemen to arrest the other for over-speeding and he can have the bird handed over to him in jail.)

In light of this mistrust towards change, we should not wonder why the famished canine never got roasted Roadrunner on his dinner table.

Back in the real world, I realized how all this time I had done nothing but follow the same routine: look for a job, apply for an interesting vacancy that suits my qualification, tweak my resumé, tweak my cover letter and wait for their response. I believe the only change I incorporated in the last two years is re-sending my application after 15 days of not hearing from the company. This is not so bad. In fact, this is the way people normally find livelihood. But in 730 days, all I got were 5 job interviews.

Immediately, I became aware that I actually have to do something more productive- something that would actually turn in better results. So instead of looking for jobs, I started to look for opportunities- to showcase the quality of my written work, to build contacts, to reconnect with friends and peers from the past, to learn about other fields similar to mine, to discover different fields that have nothing to do with my expertise, to see what others are doing and to be inspired with what pioneering people are developing around me.

Perhaps I could liken my opportunity-seeking efforts to that of sowing. One sows a seed, tends to it, nurtures it and does all that it takes to produce a bountiful harvest. In the same way, I have this blog where I could practice and improve my writing and researching skills. Likewise, my social media activity has granted me access to dynamic people who have very interesting stories to tell, and who have allowed me the privilege of interviewing them. Although, it must be said that none of these transpired in a day.

As it is, this leads us to the second lesson…

Lesson number 2: Do be patient.

Exercise patience in practice- not in speech, not in theory, not in your mind, not as a “what if”.

How many times have we seen the Coyote go after the Roadrunner again, and again, and again until we get tired and turn the TV off without being told to? And during those times when we would watch him go at it yet once again: how often would we see him assembling traps, studying blueprints, constructing weapons? Then after having prepared his equipment: how frequently would we catch him hiding behind a cactus, a boulder, fitting himself into the form of a telephone pole while waiting for his prey to pass by?

Just as the Coyote worked hard to ensure that his ACME materials would work and that the bird would sooner or later pass his way, so does the farmer. For he is certain that he will gain something from what was sown. He also knows that for him to be able to gain anything, he would need TIME to do its work.

Not all that I have sown bore the fruits I expected and there were instances when the seed even turned to be a bad one. Yet I had no way of knowing until it was time to know. I was in no position to rush anybody or anything. Waiting is as much part of any process as the more active tasks. The key is to learn how to wait.

Lesson number 2.1: Learn how to wait.

This is something I had to learn from my own experience because unfortunately, not all of my “targets” move as fast as the Roadrunner.

The best way I learned how to wait is to make sure there is nothing left pending on my to-do list. Why not take a look at yours?

After marking every item with a check, proceed to ask yourself these questions: When did you last visit your dentist? Have you talked to your grandparents lately? What about that coffee date you keep on postponing with your former office mate? It may seem absurd now, but in keeping yourself active you won’t notice whether time is flying fast or slow.

The second best way I spend my waiting time is observing my surroundings. With the internet, I can do this not only beyond my doorstep but also across national and continental borders. By doing this, who knows what other opportunities are waiting to be unlocked?

Lesson number 3: Every result is a valid result.

In this case, the word VALID is not the same as DESIRED. 

Notice how in scientific experiments, all types of results are noted down (if you did an Investigatory Project in high school maybe this will ring a bell). If there is enough occurrences of such outcome, it will be factored in drawing conclusions. Why is this? because we can always learn from the past, and there’s no better way of reviewing it than taking detailed notes.

Do you remember what the Coyote would do if the giant slingshot didn’t get him close enough to the Roadrunner? what about when the canon literally backfired on him? or that time when the rocket took him too far away? He would just keep on trying new equipment until he finds himself fallen in a ravine, crushed under a ton of boulders (or an anvil).

I never take any failure for granted. I write down everything I could describe, all that I could remember and I try to consider them the next time there is another opportunity to seize.

Once I started applying this principle, my motto has since become…

Lesson number 4: No stopping (No detenerse, in Spanish)

Mr Coyote never stopped. He just kept on running and chasing after the bird even if he already hit a wall.

Do you recall how he dealt with the situation after hitting a wall? Aside from smiling at the stars and birds that circled around his head, he would paint a door, a tunnel or any type of passageway that would allow him to cut across that roadblock. 

Lesson number 5: Create opportunities for yourself.

After more than half a year of searching for opportunities other than a 9am-6pm job, I realized I had to do something more and something better. By that time, I have surrounded myself with a fantastic community of entrepreneurs, professionals, freelancers and different types of passionate people who were already giving me various ideas.

From them I learned that just like the Coyote, it is possible to create a door or a path for us to follow. The end is not the end, unless we want it to be.

Frequently, we take the already downtrodden way because it is the safest option. But truly, risks are contained in any decision we make, including when we stay undecided. Having an employment contract is financially less riskier than not having one, that’s for sure. The thing is, everything entails a risk: even signing on a “permanent” job has the risk of being dismissed. If we didn’t want to be in danger of losing it, then we shouldn’t take the job in the first place- is that how we should view life? I’m not suggesting to jump into any venture with eyes closed. Perhaps the solution is not so much to avoid risks but rather learning how to manage them. As the Spanish would say, “Quién no arriesga, no gana” (Nothing risked, nothing gained).

Do you know what the good news is? The good news is that should you decide to build your own lane and find yourself facing a cul-de-sac, you may always go back to pursue the tried and tested trails.

If we truly wish to move forward then it wouldn’t matter whether we crawl or run; it matters that we keep going (thank you, Doctor Luther King).

People who create opportunities gift themselves the chance to achieve excellence.

This is not to say that the road you will construct will be a smooth one. It never was the case for any of my auspicious friends and peers. But by letting their own selves be the engineer, contractor, builder, supervisor and financier of their ambitions, they all took the necessary preparations to face different kinds of risks. Most importantly, they worked hard and consulted with experts on their fields so they could learn how to manage those risks, in case they turn into reality.

Once or twice an impulsive plunge was taken or a hasty decision was made, yes. Then there were times when certain events were so unexpected, they didn’t even account for as risk (like a terrorist attack). Still, they went on. Most of them might not know it: but in striving to succeed, they have achieved excellence. You might be wondering how I knew this. And just to be clear, I did not have a peek at their bank accounts nor did they tell me their net earnings per year.

The excellence I speak of is being materialized far beyond any of their material possessions. The excellence I have in mind is the kind that is reflected not only in the product of their hard work (ie: a product, a service, a deliverable or a client feedback)- it is also mirrored in their speech, their actions and their intentions. For these people, excellence ceased to be a goal and has become a way of life.

Conclusion

It’s been two months since I had the realization of my need to do something more and do something better, other than simply looking for job vacancies and applying for them. I did stop the job hunt for a while, especially because I needed to meditate on what my next move will be.

At the end of the day (or week) I still look for a paid employment. The difference this time is I have become more selective, and I never fail to mention my other endeavors in the applications.

Truth be told, the time I took off the routine helped a lot; taking another course of action proved productive for me. For example, the moments I spent working on my blog doing independent research and writing have given me a certain level of exposure. Thanks to that, I am able to gather a portfolio of work which includes: drafting, analyzing, researching and translating in all the languages I speak. Now I am also more open-minded towards applying for other types of jobs besides the usual ones.

At the same time, I’ve connected with many interesting people who are currently teaching me and sharing their experiences with me. Some of them are even allowing and inviting me to collaborate with their projects!

The sudden burst of activity has become a training ground for me to exercise patience and learn from mistakes. Besides, being in constant motion only convinced me not to stop advancing my personal venture. Above all, I believe that I am creating opportunities for myself and for others. Knowing this gives a more meaningful purpose to every task I perform- to develop something that would serve not only my interests, but that of others as well.

However, no amount of patience, learning, motion and creation could guarantee goals being reached. During my short time in this uncommon scheme, I learned that perfect planning does not always translate to the projected outcomes. Whenever this happens, one’s patience is tested even further but simultaneously, more lessons can be learned, other doors can be opened and the most surprising opportunities could arise.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Coyote still hasn’t got any wins to prove his worth as a role model. Even so, at least his patience and perseverance make him one very admirable villain.

 

 

*My particular, personal circumstances are allowing me the luxury to do this. I do not mean to be insensitive towards other people who are forced to being underemployed and underpaid to support their families. I am also in no way encouraging the unemployed to stop looking for job opportunities and simply “go ahead with what they feel like doing”.

-The End-

Sources:

  1. Merriam-Webster online dictionary, available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Some thoughts on philanthropy

For 5 months, I was given the chance to work as Prospect Research Officer (or Fundraising Researcher) for a prestigious business school just outside of Paris. I worked alongside the rest of the Advancement Team and sometimes also lent a hand to the Alumni Relations and Events (organization) departments. It was the most interesting part of my colorful professional history because: i) it introduced me to the fast-growing world of philanthropy, ii) I met some really great people and iii) the first two reasons combined have given me a different perspective when analyzing situations. Here are some of the thoughts I’ve reflected upon during that period…

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Image courtesy of: http://frankazargives.com

Some people believe that charity organizations should give aid to those in greatest need, wherever they live. Others believe that they better concentrate on helping people who live in their own countries instead.

From a practical point of view, resources are more effective when delivered to those who pressingly lack them. It is perceived to be more useful, as it directly addresses the problem at hand. In an ideal world, the aid that was donated would be equal to the aid received. Yet the fact remains that a percentage of this aid is lost along the way before finding its beneficiaries: conversion rates could be harsh, banks and other financial services companies charge high commissions, there’s tax to be dealt with… In short, there’s a certain level of fungibility in these funds, where aid can become “hostage” to the local context.

That is why not only aid effectiveness should be considered when allocating donations. Costs and benefits also have to be taken into account when deciding how to dispose of available resources. In this regard, economists would try to convert the dilemma into a mathematical formula: see if there are patterns that would lead to the best choice, and try to predict a final result of their analysis.

Still, the choice is not really between helping a population “in need” and one that has “better location”. The question actually lies in how charity organizations manage themselves, whose own funding mostly comes from subsidies, grants and/or donations. As a matter of fact, non-profits are accountable to their donors, binding them to comply with the specifications detailed out by their patrons regarding the use of funds. Oftentimes, they are also required to report about the funds’ impact to the community, or at least to the target population (but this is a subject for another essay). Therefore, the choice of which people to serve does not lie entirely in their hands.

A more balanced approach would seem to be reaching an accord to meet donors’ objectives while respecting the realities of both the organization and the community he wishes to help. This means donors would have to be engaged (at least the major givers) by the organization to take an active part in determining how best to allocate their contribution. The initiative would call for a constant and consistent communication from both parties.

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Image courtesy of: https://educationunderattack.info

This offers a win-win situation because on one hand, regular contact would allow the donors to disclose their motivations for making such a contribution. For instance, they could make the organization understand their emotional connection to the beneficiaries. On the other hand, organizations could take this opportunity to better explain their activities to their patrons. This could be a good moment to make them see that a strong infrastructure and qualified professionals are required to deliver aid to those who are in need; and as such,  funding has to be allocated to these operational aspects as well. Only through communication can the two ends find a middle ground that would allow each of them to carry out their respective mission statements.

A typical philanthropist would think and argue about improving the lives of those in greatest need; while a typical economist would compute the costs in terms of time, effort, phone bills and transportation that result from the continued communication between donors and organizations. Both would have good points to defend their views.

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Image courtesy of: https://intentionalmuseum.com

However, it should be noted that listening is as vital as analysing in any problem-solving situation. Gloria Steinem, co-founder of the Women’s Media Centre explains, “Helping begins with listening. Context is everything… Big problems often have small solutions. And finally, do what you can.”

Sources:

  1. “The Parable of the Fence and Other Lessons”, available at> https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140404194646-25295057-the-parable-of-the-fence-and-other-lessons
  2. IELTS Essays, Essay Topic sample available at: http://www.testbig.com/ielts-essays/some-people-believe-charity-organizations-should-give-aid-those-greatest-need-wherever

A Lesson On Job Commitment

A young lady went to the mall

and shopped until her budget allowed;

dresses, shoes, bags from almost each and every stall.

Of course, how could she forget

to pass by the food court- ah, she ate her heart out!

But the grilled squid, crab rice, soup and gulaman

waged a war in her tummy, bullying the leche flan.

 

So she ran to the restroom, pushing everyone away.

(Let’s leave out the details of what had transpired.

But oh boy, she made a mess! that we can safely say.)

Red-faced and ashamed she looked for assistance

because the toilet flush broke.

A uniformed lady approached her with a smile. She was hard to ignore.

She was coiffed, made-up and she was fragrant.

Oh and with a big pump in her manicured hands!

The young woman reached out for the pump

but the uniformed one kindly declined, shaking her head.

“I’ll clear the toilet, madame. Thank you”, she said.

The young woman wished to die

because back there was something very unladylike.

She insisted to clean the mayhem herself

but the other won’t budge,

she just kept smiling and asserting it’s her job.

 

The young lady shamefully walked away.

But not because of her biological disarray.

For she thought about her job in a renovated palace,

in the city center, near the office of the mayor.

She thought about the airconditioned work station,

the fancy lunches, the interesting debates… that was her day to day.

Yet she complained and was discontent.

After meeting the uniformed woman, who literally

cleans up people’s sh*t for a living, daily,

with a smile on her face and not one sign of lament

she was filled with guilt. Dumbfounded, she did finally see:

how life whacked her to reality.

That Which Contains the Human Capital

When I was in 6th grade, my classmate Ellen S. once told me that according to her grandmother, “There are no ugly people. Only less beautiful ones”. That struck to me as something true and it appealed to my empathic nature. I adopted that philosophy until my adulthood and was happy with that reconciled thought.

The first time my husband heard me say that, he laughed so hard because he thought I was being sarcastic. After a few dates and several encounters with the “less beautiful”, he finally realized that I meant it.

So, what does it mean to be ugly in the realm of human capital?

What is Beauty? What is Ugly?

Beauty, according to sociologist Jean-François Dortier is a debatable topic for all eternity because ugliness is indisputable. Allow me to disagree. The concept of ugliness is just as subjective as that of beauty, making it susceptible to disagreement and justifications. What’s more, if people and societies have a clear idea of what is pleasing to the eye, then they must have an equally decided criteria of what is not. However, he argues, there are constant elements present in every idea of beauty across time and continents. For instance, badly placed teeth, weird spots on the face, grimace-like facial expressions or stains will hardly be found in those considered as canons of beauty.

Dortier, in his article “The Tyranny of Beauty”, says that ugliness in a person is a heavy handicap when brought into the markets of marriage and labor*. I will not disagree. But allow me to focus this post on how physical beauty plays an important role when buying and selling (workforce) in the labor market.

I believe that the idea behind this discrimination is caused by the unthinking mammals in us, who uses its instincts to survive. In the animal kingdom, the ones who are successful in mating are the more beautiful samples of their species. Why? Simply because it denotes HEALTH and thus, STRENGTH. An animal’s only role is to procreate and who better to multiply one’s race if not the best and the most likely to survive of the lot? The equation is easy to infer:

Beauty=Health=Strength=Breed=GOOD

With regards to human capital, somebody who looks good (well-proportioned body, bright eyes, good teeth and pinkish complexion) is certainly a sign of having been well-fed, a smooth skin on the face signifies not much exposure to external or internal stress and of course good grooming is very much attributed to a good upbringing in the family.

The relationship then, is easy to establish: somebody who is properly nourished, who did not experience much stress and who was brought up well must belong to a family with enough resources: resources which sufficed not only to make the person survive, but to develop him into a citizen able to participate in the community. Thus, the better-looking a person is, the higher value is attributed to the talents and capacities he was able to build up through his lifetime. The equation could then be modified into:

Beauty=Health=Learning Ability=Developed Talents=GOOD

Sadly as time passed, this equation has slowly been overly simplified as:

Beauty=GOOD

Sadder still, the concept of goodness has been generalized to being good overall: good worker, good person, good team mate, etc… Only time will prove this notion to be untrue, after all that’s been said and done, spent and consumed- leading to realizations and regrets.

For instance: 13 years ago while spending my summer holidays in the Philippines I overheard a friend complaining to my mother. Apparently in all the job interviews she has been to, the requirement “Must have pleasing personality” was always being equated to “Must be pleasing to the eyes”. In short, the job applicants must respond to a certain beauty standard established by the Human Resources (HR) department.

Now, I admit that for jobs requiring a brand representation or corporate delegation perhaps being easy on the eyes increases sales and improves financial results. I also know that HR staff cannot waste their time interviewing candidates just to check whether they meet the physical requirements they’ve imposed (in those cases where a photo was not included in the resumé). But demanding someone to have a pleasing personality when what they meant was for the candidate to be a certain kind of pretty… is just plain deceiving.

Anyway, who was the authority who declared that a beautiful physique is equal to a pleasing personality? Above all, whose claim made it a fact that a beautiful façade always holds a great talent?

In fact, below is Eduardo Gómez Manzano, famous Spanish actor. He is very well-appreciated in his job. He, along with the other beauty-lacking actors have opened up this generation’s minds and as well as this century’s entertainment industry that talent is not always contained in a lovely package.

Image courtesy of: http://www.fotoshumor.com

Boosted Brands but Talents Trashed

Studies have shown that other job types where no “representation” of the firm is needed, hiring teams still tend to favor beautiful applicants. Again, why? Because it’s good for the company’s image. It boosts the brand. It matters little if another candidate was more competent or skillful- human nature just can’t help but lean towards company that could offer pleasure to its vision.

It’s a pity though, because can you imagine if the Futbol Club Barcelona (FCB) refused to hire Ronaldinho because of his looks? Having said this, can you now picture just how many people lost their opportunity to contribute to an organization’s mission and vision just because they didn’t qualify physically? And can you imagine how much potential is currently being left unused just because of this terribly absurd bias?

I have stopped being a football fan more than a decade ago, but I admire how the sport’s values are consistent to their branding strategy. A football club must be composed of the best players it could hire (pay for) without regards to whether they would look good or bad in front of a camera (although I noticed Ronaldinho seemed to have had something done to his face).

In an ideal world, banks and/or banking groups would hire the brightest analytic minds, research organizations would employ the smartest and most focused among the pool of candidates, schools would choose their teachers according to their capacity to diffuse knowledge and infuse curiosity, shops would enlist salespeople with charm and wit to engage customers, and so on…

This way, demand for a specific qualification would be met by the satisfactory supplier; competition among various suppliers would rise, pushing more and more suppliers of talent/labor/workforce to be better qualified than the rest and prices (salaries) would adjust accordingly.

dream

Image courtesy of: http://www.fastcompany.com

(In the least ideal world, we’ll have what I call “Pippas”. Pippa* was my college teacher in Economic History. Not only is she the opposite of beautiful, she also taught horribly! in short, ugly and incompetent people.)

Ugly ≠ Unkempt but Unkempt = Uninterested

While conducting a very modest research on this subject, I encountered quite a number of online fora exhibiting questions such as, “Are smart people ugly?” or “Why are smart people usually ugly?” (For the sake of simplicity, we shall assume that being smart equates to being competent in any given job.)

As someone who is more appreciated for her smarts, I believe I am at the position to respond. And my answer is that most (not all) smart people find it more important to strengthen their brains than to embellish their physical selves. There are so many books to read, so many people to talk to, so many things to ponder and many, many more things to (literally) take note of that a normal person’s waking hours are not enough**. That is why they make it a point not to “waste” time doing something not so gratifying to them.

The point is: One can be as ugly as far as ugly goes and admittedly, not all can afford cosmetic surgery to modify their genetic legacy. But I believe that a person’s appearance is his presentation card (especially in a job interview!). As such, one cannot care too less because first impressions do last. Besides, in the context of hiring, interviewers would actually imagine themselves working with you, travelling and attending meetings with you and perhaps even having to defend any future blunders you might commit. Do you think they would want to do all those things with a sloppy-looking colleague? Accordingly, one can and must appear neat, pleasant, motivated and ALWAYS COLLABORATIVE. Here’s why…

An Unexpected Twist

According to an article from INSEAD Knowledge, “… the type of expected relationship the decision-maker will have with the new hire is very much a consideration, consciously or not, when selecting candidates for the job.” Although the results of the experiments were more conclusive for men than women, it’s interesting to note that when the hiring personnel perceive that the attractive candidate could be a potential competition (read: could be a threat on their own promotion) the less attractive applicant would be chosen instead.

“Members of the same organisation are often mutually interdependent, for example they may cooperate for shared rewards when they work for the same team, or compete against each other for recognition, promotions, commissions, and bonuses. In many organisations today co-workers are included in the hiring process… Similarly, professors at universities often selected professors they are going to work with. When this occurs, the type of expected relationship the decision-maker will have with the new hire is very much a consideration… ”

A twist within the twist

On the other side of the Atlantic, Debrahlee Lorenzana sued her employers for having fired her because she was “too hot”. Thinking about it and as the Newsweek article pointed out: “isn’t it possible Lorenzana’s looks got her the job in the first place?”

Yet, did you know that some studies even show that attractive women may find it hard to be hired? supposedly if the employers are females, jealousy may arise.

∼sigh∼

Are We Doomed?

I would sincerely like to believe that we are not. Yes, it would take years of education and enlightenment before people get to terms that unattractive people can be competent, good team players, efficient leaders and desirable work mates. However, the diversity of human nature provides for adjustments such as:

  • The belief that beauty automatically translates to competency is compensated with the view that attractive people could deter the employers’ own progress or,
  • That beautiful people are just dumb.

Such absurd conclusions may be the exceptions to the rule, but I would like to believe that there is a balance being struck somewhere.

In a world where being beautiful is being sold as a choice (just Google how many $$$ the cosmetic industry cashes in per month), those who are not might be deemed indifferent or inflexible. But this is the same world where information is the most important resource for production, so it will just be a matter of time before everybody- even the unbeautifuls- find their place in it.

 

*Name was changed
**Personally, I prioritize hygiene but I don’t find it practical nor worth my time to wake up 30 minutes earlier just to apply makeup and fix my hair. I clean, I moisturize, I tie my hair and I brush my teeth. And I smile.

-the end-

 

Now, just because it’s summer in this part of the hemisphere: join me by putting your speaker volumes to MAX and enjoy the un-beautiful BUT DIVINE, JANIS JOPLIN!!!

(THANK GOODNESS THEY WEREN’T TOO SHALLOW BACK THEN)

 Disclaimer: I do not own this video. Video courtesy of Zuzuking Youtube page.

Sources:

  1. “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful”, available at: http://www.economist.com/node/21551535
  2. “The Beauty Advantage: How Looks Affect Your Work, Your Career, Your Life”, by Jessica Bennett, available at: http://europe.newsweek.com/beauty-advantage-how-looks-affect-your-work-your-career-your-life-74313?rm=eu
  3. “The Beauty Premium”, by Schumpeter, available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/schumpeter/2010/11/good_looks_and_good_jobs
  4. “La Tyrannie de la Beauté”, par Jean-François Dortier, available at: http://www.scienceshumaines.com/la-tyrannie-de-la-beaute_fr_22384.html
  5. “A New Twist to the Beauty Bias”, by Stefan Thau, available at: http://knowledge.insead.edu/talent-management/a-new-twist-to-the-beauty-bias-4004

Colorfulifesite responds: Why should I love my job?

The short answer:

Because if you do, your job will find a way to love you back.

The long(er) answer:

This would help you get through the day/s when you have to work for free. Getting up each morning to face an abhorred task is already a struggle. How much worse would it be if you had to leave bed, do the job and then realize you won’t get payment of any kind?

When I say “love”, it could of course range from the way you love the summer breeze to the devotion you have towards your grandmother. As far as jobs go, anything in between should be healthy for you. The only condition is that you have to love it enough so you won’t feel awful when you are required to finish a task outside your working hours and  without receiving any compensation.

And when I say “job”, I refer to the work itself. Anything outside of it such as colleagues, perks, learning experience, etc is not included. You really have to have a certain level of appreciation on what you are carrying out, as well as the chain of effects it has on your business or enterprise.

Finally, when I say “free” I meant a service rendered without charge. Receiving a well-meant “Thank you” doesn’t count.

My experience (which you are free to skip!):

The first time I worked without pay was (gasp!) here in France, while honoring one of the three contracts I signed (Meaning: no extra money nor extra leave was given to recover the hours of work surpassing what’s legally established).

The job was a part-time one where I signed a 3-day per week agreement. Many of my friends joked (?) that what it really meant was I would GET PAID for 3 days a week. Oh, such wise, prophetic words!

True enough, I started reading, replying and writing emails on the days I wasn’t supposed to; I scheduled Skype sessions outside my working hours and I would always make holidays coincide with my non-working days so I wouldn’t miss anything (the working days were specified in the contract, but I was requested to exercise flexibility).

Fairly speaking, I didn’t mind and I still don’t. At that time, I was truly attached to the project’s mission and I could honestly say that the job loved me back: I gained new skills, expanded my horizons and met impressive professionals along the way. Besides, I believed I was making an investment- in the sense that if I showed my bosses how diligent I am, maybe they’d extend my contract. Technically I was working for free, yet in reality I was learning, having fun, and I was convinced I “had to do it” thinking that my future would be somehow guaranteed. (My contract was not renewed. So, “Ha ha!” for me…)

The latest job where I worked for free was for a TV production company. They hired me as a translator from Tagalog to French for some interviews and other videos they shot. Due to my gullibility and irresponsibility, the company got away with paying me only 16 out of the 20 total hours I worked. I told the production staff though that, “…for the remaining 4 hours which you will not pay, I gladly give it to you as a gift. As for me, I shall consider it an act of charity towards your company. Good luck!”

The topic I had to work on was close to my heart; but not close enough for me to love the task. I accepted though, because I wanted to practice French and, I admit, I did it out of vanity. My name is supposed to appear on the credits! (I’m guessing if the job had been to write something- which I absolutely adore- I might have gotten less annoyed)

(Anyway, I found out that the company was only planning to pay me 12 hours. Thus, after having my vanity fed and my pride hurt, I thought, “Look, didn’t you want to practice French? Go after them!” Ooooooohhh! I loved asserting in French… I actually enjoyed writing those demanding emails, talking frankly to the production guy and the reporter to make them see my point shove in their faces how improper their behavior was.)

So the lesson I found/rediscovered here was: Whatever you do, put your heart into the task and if there’s no love at first sight at hand, then LEARN to cultivate fondness towards it.

Quel dommage !

Un grand merci à mon amie Super A d’avoir édité et reédité le texte. Por si no ha quedado claro, MUCHAS GRACIAS SUPER A!

Nous habitons dans une société où la plupart de nos besoins peuvent être satisfaits en échange d’une compensation. Cela veut dire que nous payons bien pour les services qui nous sont rendus, bien pour les produits et marchandises qu’il nous faut. C’est avec ce principe que le système capitaliste fonctionne : nous respectons ce qui est appelé le “prix” de quelque chose que nous voulons acquérir et nous procédons au règlement de la facture.

D’un côté, l’acheteur donne le montant précis à celui qui propose ses articles échangeables. De l’autre côté, le vendeur garantit la qualité de l’objet pour lequel l’acheteur a payé. C’est grâce à la confiance mutuelle (supposée) que nos intérêts sont protégés. En général, c’est cette même confiance qui nous permet  d’être contents et d’aspirer à un environnement sans conflit.

La semaine du 13 juin, j’ai accepté une proposition de travailler en tant que traductrice Filipino.

Une de mes connaissances m’a renvoyé un courriel d’une société de production audiovisuelle parisienne qui cherchait un “traducteur de Tagalog pour accompagner notre réalisatrice lors de son dérushage* les 13 et 14 juin, avec éventuellement un ou deux jours de plus”.

J’ai pensé que cette expérience serait intéressante pour moi. Principalement, j’avais envie de tester et de pratiquer ma capacité de parler français. Je pensais aussi à développer mes compétences et à faire une petite contribution au monde de la culture. De plus, c’était une façon de rester “en contact” avec mon pays d’origine.

Je n’ai même pas demandé tout de suite combien et comment je serais payée. Je faisais confiance aux qualités qui sont souvent attachées aux Français – le professionnalisme et le respecte scrupuleux des formes (selon le dictionnaire en ligne de Larousse : le formalisme). Bien sûr que la compensation est importante. Mais je ne suis pas une traductrice professionnelle, donc je me suis dit que tant qu’il me reste un petit peu d’argent après les charges et les autres dépenses (les billets de transport, le repas et le paiement de babysitter), cela vaudrait le coup.

Après avoir bien réfléchi, j’ai décidé que j’étais intéressée. Pourtant, je garde mon enfant de 8 mois et j’ai dû demander certaines conditions par rapport aux heures que j’allais travailler. Puisque la société était d’accord avec mes conditions, j’ai pris l’engagement.

Le premier jour de travail, au moment où je suis arrivée au bureau, j’aurais dû me dire que quelque chose n’allait pas bien.

Je veux dire :

  1. La personne avec qui j’ai parlé ne se trouvait pas au bureau. Il n’a même pas laissé un message à ses collègues et personne dans l’équipe de production n’était au courant qu’une traductrice viendrait ce jour-là. On remarque déjà un manque de formalisme.
  2. La réalisatrice est arrivée 20 minutes en retard sans laisser un mot aux assistantes/secrétaires. J’ai attendu sans savoir à quelle heure on allait commencer. J’ai été déconcertée par cette faiblesse de professionnalisme lors du premier jour de travail.
  3. J’ai commencé à travailler sans avoir rien signé. Je reconnais que la lucidité chez moi n’abondait pas non plus.
  4. J’ai dû attendre jusqu’à l’après-midi pour que quelqu’un puisse m’expliquer comment je serais payée. Comment ai-je pu supporter telle carence de formalisme et de professionnalisme sans rien dire ? Comment ai-je été si bête ?

Il est important que j’explique ma conversation avec le collègue de mon contact (Monsieur P) par rapport à la compensation : tout d’abord, la société ne paie pas un salaire mais il paie pour un concept de droits d’auteur**. Puis, le montant serait 100€ par jour, pour 8 heures de travail. À ce moment-là, j’ai clarifié que je ne travaillerais que 5 heures par jour. Il m’a dit qu’ils allaient me payer 100€ à partir de la 5ème heure travaillée et, sinon, 50€ (la moitié). J’ai fait un calcul rapide et j’ai décidé que cela irait. Un total de 380€ à peu près serait raisonnable.

Pour me rassurer, j’ai exprimé mes doutes : j’ai dit que j’avais l’impression qu’ils allaient faire un prorata (ou la partie proportionnelle) des heures que j’allais déclarer effectivement. Mais, monsieur a insisté qu’ils allaient calculer à partir de l’heure 5 pour payer les 100€.

Alors, même sans aucun document qui prouvait ce qu’il venait de dire, j’étais d’accord. J’ai pensé toujours au professionnalisme et au formalisme vantés par les gens d’ici (cela fait plus de 2 ans que j’habite à Paris, et pour cette raison je me considère crédible quand je dis ce genre de choses). Je me suis mise dans la salle de dérushages et j’ai commencé à traduire avec la réalisatrice.

Le temps passé dans la salle a été vraiment fructueux.

J’ai appris certains détails sur le journalisme qui semblaient banaux mais qui sont vitaux pour pouvoir faire un bon reportage. J’ai aimé cela. Surtout, le sujet du reportage était proche à mes souvenirs de l’enfance. Donc cela va de soi : je me suis amusée. En outre, je me suis sentie utile et productive.

Malheureusement, je n’étais pas capable de traduire tous les vidéos à ce moment-là. Il y a eu des problèmes techniques et j’ai eu des difficultés au moment de comprendre ce que les sujets voulaient dire (j’ai donc parlé avec la réalisatrice : les sujets ne parlaient pas dans leur langue maternelle et donc, elles utilisaient souvent des termes équivalents à “machin”, “truc”, “chose”, “bidule”, etc…).  Mais nous avons  trouvé une solution : ils m’ont envoyé les vidéos et j’ai continué les traductions chez moi.

Donc, j’ai travaillé. Il faut dire que quand je donne ma parole, je rends. J’ai dédié beaucoup de temps à finir les traductions et cela m’a pris un total de 20 heures travaillées, réparties sur 3 jours.

La réalisatrice ne m’a donné aucun feedback mais je suis convaincue d’avoir fait un bon travail : j’ai mis les time codes tous les 30-40 secondes environ, j’ai marqué les time codes pour la version originale et pour la version traduite, j’ai révisé mon travail et j’ai réécouté certaines parties des vidéos pour être sûre d’avoir bien compris. Surtout, j’ai envoyé les livrables ponctuellement… J’en étais fière.

À vrai dire, tout s’était bien passé jusqu’au moment du paiement.

J’ai reçu un virement dans mon compte bancaire de la société de production, mais le montant n’était pas celui que j’avais prévu. En fait, c’était presque la moitié de ce que j’avais calculé !

Immédiatement, j’ai contacté Monsieur P. Je lui ai posé la question et en effet, il m’a confirmé qu’il a fait un calcul du paiement proportionnel aux heures que j’ai déclarées. J’ai expliqué que son collègue m’avait affirmé qu’ils allaient faire justement le contraire. J’ai insisté sur ce point car, honnêtement, je n’aurais pas accepté le travail proposé si j’allais dépenser plus que ce que j’allais gagner. Nous avons fini la conversation, étant d’accord de la reprendre 2 jours plus tard après avoir clarifié avec son directeur comment il fallait calculer le paiement.

Monsieur P m’a demandé aussi de justifier pour quoi j’avais mis 3 jours pour faire une traduction de vidéos dont la durée n’est que 30 minutes. À mon avis cette demande d’explication est pertinente, surtout s’il s’agit de savoir comment régler une prestation de service. À ce titre, j’ai expliqué que comme je ne suis pas une traductrice professionnelle, j’ai dû transcrire toutes les conversations avant de pouvoir les traduire.

Néanmoins, il a dit quelque chose qui m’a tellement étonné : il lui a semblé que 3 jours pour traduire une conversation de 30 minutes était excessif. Alors, j’ai répondu disant, i) Il est possible que la réalisatrice puisse avoir oublié qu’elle m’avait demandé de traduire un autre fichier (vidéo) dont la durée était plus d’une heure, et ii) Qu’en fait “je garde mon enfant de 8 mois et cela ne me vaut pas la peine de faire quelques minutes de plus en échange d’un petit peu plus de rémunération.”

Finalement, il a dit que la société de production me paierait une journée de plus pour la semaine du 13 juin. Pour les autres traductions, je serais rémunérée pour 2 jours de travail. Il restait encore une demi-journée de travail à régler. Il m’avait expliqué pourquoi ils n’allaient pas me le payer. En toute vérité, je ne me souviens plus de ce qu’il m’a dit,  il y avait beaucoup de bruit en background (mais j’ai cru  avoir entendu quelque chose du type “Comme ça on est tous contents”). Peut-être j’étais déjà fatiguée et je me suis rendue compte que je commençais à perdre mon temps …

La réalisatrice a répondu aussi la question et elle m’a écrit, “… 13h pour traduire 30 minutes ça n est juste pas le taux horaire. Normalement 30 minutes c est une demijournée maximum. Donc je suis sure qu’il y a des circonstances personnelles mais on n avait absolument pas anticipé que ça vous prendrai autant de temps de traduire juste 30 minutes!

Le budget sur ce film est extrêmement limité; notre camerawoman a été payée 15 jours pour 22 de travail donc vraiment je pense qu’ils ont fait le maximum de ce qu’ils pouvaient.” (Est-ce mon problème?)

Je leur ai remercié et j’ai dit que je leur offrais les 4 heures travaillées comme si j’avais fait une activité de bienfaisance.

Fin de l’histoire concernant mes employeurs.

Je suis consciente que la responsabilité finale de garantir mes intérêts reste sur moi.

Je ne tiens pas quelqu’un d’autre coupable de cette mauvaise expérience. J’aurais dû clarifier tout ce qui était lié à la rémunération avant d’avoir commencé à travailler. Je me suis trompée d’avoir fait trop de confiance. Eh bien ! lesson learned. Mais, c’est dommage.

C’est dommage parce que maintenant je me sens découragée de reprendre une proposition de traduction avec cette société de production.  En plus, j’ai la responsabilité de donner un préavis à tous ceux qui pensent à faire ce type de travail. Si vous êtes intéressés, laissez-moi un message et je vous donnerais plus de détails.

C’est dommage car le bon sens dicte de respecter le prix accordé pour une prestation de service bien rendue (j’ai parlé plusieurs fois avec eux et ils n’ont jamais été mécontents de mon travail). En fait, c’est exactement ce que je fais avec la babysitter de mon enfant. Je veux dire : puisque je suis contente de son travail, je lui paie respectant le prix que nous avons accordé dès le premier jour.

C’est dommage parce que j’ai pensé qu’une petite entreprise gérée par des jeunes professionnels récompenserait intègrement le travail acharné.

Surtout c’est dommage car je n’ai pas trop observé la pratique ni du professionnalisme, ni du formalisme. Et donc, j’ai pris conscience que ces qualités ne sont pas du tout liées à la nationalité sinon à la personne elle-même.

Fin de mon histoire.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Il me semble qu’au moins, dans le générique du reportage ils pourraient mettre mon nom et prénom avec de grosses lettres et, même en rouge. Comme ça :

Responsables de Traduction

Elena Gnou del Bosque

Kho Jones

KARESSA RAMOS AGUINOT

 

 

Ver imagen original

Image courtesy of: http://inciclopedia.wikia.com

* Le dérushage est la première étape du montage d’un programme audiovisuel ; cela consiste à sélectionner les séquences à utiliser lors du montage, appelés rushes et à les transférer sur la plate-forme de montage (Wikipédia).

** En fait, au lieu d’un bulletin de paie je recevrais une note de droits d’auteur pour la présenter avec la déclaration de revenus l’année prochaine.