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

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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/
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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.

 

 

Things I’d Tell My Career Coach (if I had one)

One of my greater weaknesses is that I don’t know how to express my professional achievements. In some way, my cultural background might have had a little influence on this defect.

As I was growing up, me and my peers were discouraged to mention any praise towards ourselves and we were careful not to sound too boastful about our qualities; lest we wanted to be branded as airheaded kids. The expression in Tagalog literally translates as “Don’t carry your own bench” (“Huwag kang mabuhat ng sarili mong bangko”).

Apparently this saying is derived from Proverbs 27:2 which means “let not your own mouth praise you”. This passage was supposed to teach humility but I guess the elders of our yesteryears weren’t keen on differentiating between self-praise and self-esteem, both of which I believe are healthy practices, given that they are done in moderation.

If I listened to that kind of advice, then who will carry my own bench if not me? isn’t that why it is referred to as “my own”? Therefore, the responsibility clearly falls upon me. The bench of course, is a metaphor of one’s qualities and good traits and to carry it means to lift it higher from everyone else’s perspective so it could be seen and maybe even appreciated.

In my opinion, as long as truths are being told, there should be no harm in letting people know what a good-quality bench you own. Who knows? upon seeing it, others could be inspired to improve themselves and achieve the same things…

Old habits are hard to break but I believe that technique and practice could overcome any kind of quirk. I’m coming up with an actual list of achievements with which to further attract recruiters.

Another thing I’ve been bothered about is the dichotomy of Competence and Warmth. I mention this in relation to the job interviews I’ve recently had  (and did not pass- tee hee!) and which of the two aspects I tend to project more.

Ever since I read this article from the INSEAD Knowledge page, it has been months since it got me to thinking about my own “communicator profile”. Although I don’t believe in the strict definition of people’s personalities, the content of that post has helped me better understand my own self.

What has been an eye-opener is that during an experiment, the research team found out that listeners- or those on the receiving end of a communication- with a feeling of high power lean towards messages emphasizing competence and skills. While “low-power” audiences prefer those which projected warmth and established connection.

Looking back, the interviews I’ve had were for jobs which demanded high level of competence and efficiency. The interviewers were, consequently people who perceive themselves powerful. However, in all of them I gravitated towards projecting more warmth than competence.

As in the case of self-esteem, this could also be a product of the different “happy” and “warm” cultures I grew up in… which is a very safe and comfortable reaction, if you ask me. But realistically, there comes a point where the individual makes the choice of acting a certain way or another.

In my situation, it was my conscious decision to show competence and warmth at the same time. But being a naturally warm person, I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up projecting more of the latter than the former.

The reason for all this is that I’ve learned to value good companionship over competence through the years. This is not to say I don’t value competence. Simply put, I find that competence is already measureable by various technical assessments. If the recruitment team wanted to test my knowledge on a subject matter, they would find ways to subtly or openly do so. The results would then speak for themselves.

On the contrary, good characteristic traits, one’s quality as a team player or an open attitude for learning…? 30 minutes is not enough to display all those! Such a feat would require a good grasp of some tough interpersonal skills. Personality tests can only reveal so much…

Before any misunderstanding takes place, let me clarify by saying that I do not consider myself able to demonstrate all those qualities in my past interviews. What I’m trying to say is right now, I’m working towards achieving it. Hence, another reason for the higher warmth-competence projection ratio. Given that the technical part of the jobs I apply for is already familiar to me, I have decided to allot more time and resources in bettering another set of abilities that could also enrich me as a person in the meantime.

I must be doing something wrong, though. Because I never got a call back from the interviewers.

Finally I would like to let you know that ever since Brexit, I’ve been itching to write to this Senior Researcher from one of my job interviews to tell her, “I told you so”. She asked me about my opinion on the EU and if I believed it would stand the various crises it is facing right now. I told her I didn’t think so.

Yes, I admit that I lacked eloquence at the moment but I would so terribly like to ask about her opinion on the EU now. Her nationality of course is a tell-tale sign that she’s pro-EU. She wasn’t convinced of my response as to why I wasn’t optimistic about it, yet when I returned the question her answer was even more vague. I was thinking: perhaps in the light of the recent events she could find better words to defend her stance.

Would you advise me against it, or should I follow my heart? (or instinct, or thirst for knowledge, or that part of me that wants to tell her “neener neener neener”)

 

A Short Note On: Mastering a Language

I was once told that the moment you could express anger in a foreign tounge, then you can be considered highly-skilled in speaking that language. It was only two weeks ago when I realized that albeit the truth behind this principle, HUMOR has proven to me the best way to improve my communication skills.

A quick background

I hail from a nation of story-tellers, so the desire to understand different languages comes from my fascination with recited tales of adventures, droll anecdotes and parables offering moral lessons. All the better if these stories are based on true to life experiences!

Suddenly, there came a time when I also yearned to share stories of my own (remember when I said I talked too much?). I noticed then, that the more I got to know a language the more I felt attracted towards it. This attraction is currently making me want to better my abilities. And in principle, the best way to do this is to spend time in a place where the said language is widely spoken or a place where that language is native to.

But in real life…

… the manner of speaking and being understood vary according to culture*.

Communicating is really not as easy as textbooks describe, even if one is lucky enough to be able to practice in the language’s native land. As a result, foreigners who are trying to succesfully communicate in a new tounge must exert an effort to establish a connection with the native speakers.

In the Philippines, this is achieved through a smile preceding any question or comment. In France, one connects through la politesse (politeness)**. In Colombia, the tone and melody of the voice set the scene***. In Spain, people also make it a point to be polite but it seems to me they talk more directly to the point.

No matter what kind of connection sets the stage for communication, it cannot be argued that life generally presents us with more opportunities to use humor (unless you live in a conflictive or famined area). It may be in the form of wit, light banter or joke.

Continuing with the examples: French people seem very serious but they are also susceptible to good-natured teasing (especially when the weather is “not bad”). The Colombians and Filipinos share a very similar sense of humor (we all love jokes with double meanings), while the Spanish style could range from being witty to total absurdity (look for Miguel Gila and Martes y Trece, respectively).

So wouldn’t it be easier to make our way into a labyrinth of vocabulary and grammar through amusement?

(And perhaps a bottle of beer or a glass of wine…?)

I don’t doubt that verbalizing anger helps master a language. After all, it taps into our most primordial feelings and connects them to that new system of words. But practicality-wise, to whom would we vent our anger out for language skills improvement? Our partners or housemates? A public servant? The butcher? The baker? The candlestick maker? And even if we are able to find someone to “practice with”, would they really give an assessment on how we might have constructed the sentence? Because, digo yo, self-evaluation doesn’t count…

Isn’t humor a much better connector than anger?

A differing opinion

According to my husband, I may have a point. However, he also stressed that the words spoken in the heat of the moment “arise from the soul” and break out automatically. So if a person naturally blurts words of anger in a foreign language, this means that the language has taken such roots into the subconscious that it could be easily accessed to voice out strong emotions.

I agree. Anger might be more effective. Yet as I’ve mentioned before, it may not necessarily be more efficient. At the end of the day, it depends on what objective a person has in learning a new language: does he simply want to speak it, or does he want to use it to communicate with others?

In my opinion when someone is angry, oftentimes he just wants to send everyone to “where the devil lost his poncho” and leave- perhaps without even waiting for the other person to respond. This describes a situation where the speaker utters whatever is needed and doesn’t necessarily need a reply; this is not communication. Whereas, within a fun atmosphere there is a lively exchange of stories, reactions and impressions among people. Besides, feedback is more accessible. This is communication.

In my own words

I don’t consider myself a “master” of any language. I am honestly nowhere near that. Even with regards to my mother tounge (Tagalog), I have to admit I still have a lot to learn.

I do, however celebrate my mini-victories during the times when I am able to grasp French humor or on occasions when I make my Spanish parents in-law laugh.

 

* For example, I learned how to speak Spanish in Spain, but when I went to Colombia… TENAZ! Whatta difference the Atlantic makes!

** It is compulsory to greet “Bonjour” before starting any kind of conversation with anyone. It is also important that you wish the other “Bonne journée”- or whatever is applicable- after bidding goodbye.

** If you are speaking to someone with who you regularly see like a co-worker or a client, it would be highly appreciated if you asked them first how they are doing, how their family is doing, etc…

Unsolicited Advice on: Job Interviews

“It’s a job interview, not a rocket science exam. All the best.”

– Wishesmessages.com

Not one, BUT TWO job interviews!

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Sometimes life does suprise us with the unexpected. This is a major breakthrough in my 4-month long jobhunt: to be called in for interviews twice in 25 days! Since this is wonderful news (and the experience still fresh in my memory), I decided to celebrate by writing a post about it.

In contrast to what most of you might expec,t this post will not tackle: neither the “Top 10 Questions Asked” in a job interview nor “What to wear to impress your interviewer”. I believe there are people more qualified than me to give advice on those areas.

What I will deal with however are two main lessons I’ve learned from this month’s job interviews:

  1. A good physical and mental rest is a much better preparation than any amount of reading, rehearsing and strategic planning (Eg: What will make them want me, projecting warmth or efficiency? See Sources).
  2. Even if the end goal is to get the job and selling oneself is the object of the interview, turn the table a different angle and make it a point to have fun at the same time.

The need for R ‘n’ R

In the first of the interviews, I had time to prepare and plan for the d-day. I decided what to wear in advance, coordinated with my husband and searched for a sitter to care for the baby, I researched the latest happenings in the company and most of all I rehearsed by answering the Top 50 Most Common Interview Questions (Forbes). I had one week to do so and I had a schedule laid out before me to answer a number of questions per day. I worked hard, read a lot and reviewed my professional history enough to write a memoir. I saved the day before the interview to take a rest. Wrong, because the day I intended to rest, an unexpected event forced me to redirect my attention to more pressing matters. I’m not talking about the public transportation strike; it was more of a sleep-depriving, concentration-demanding type of affair. That is to say: I was not able to sleep the night before and no amount of makeup or tropical-girl smile could hide that I was only a breath shy of looking like the Corpse Bride.

Nevertheless, the “show” went on. No matter how literally heavy my head felt, I struggled to make my interviewers see that I deserve the job. Adrenaline helped of course, but it can only last so much, because soon enough I started experiencing a lack of eloquence in any of the languages I swear I could speak.

This is very important because as the interview was closing, one of the senior researchers asked whether I think the European Union would withstand the crises it is currently going through. I thought, “This could be the type of question with no right or wrong answers- the one where the way I answer matters more.” So I geared up and took a deep breath… (wrong again!)

For the first time, I experienced flickers of mental blockage (you see, sudden intake of oxygen could make a person dizzy- oh, Bikram!). Extreme fatigue began overpowering me; only the cold temperature in the room held me up and prevented me from dropping fast asleep on the floor. What I answered then is not relevant for today’s topic, but I could have answered it better if only my mind was strong enough to formulate intelligent arguments. (Thinking back, perhaps the fact that my opinion is contradictory to that of my interviewer’s might have a tiny, little influence on their final decision… but I cannot deny that I didn’t exactly shine while trying to explain my part.)

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Image courtesy of: http://www.thinkstockphotos.fr

Enjoying the moment

The second interview was the complete opposite of the first one: I had exactly 36 hours to prepare, the subject matter was something I had only studied back in college and the very name of the organization is even more intimidating. The only thing they had in common was I was still lacking sleep.

Unlike the earlier interview, I decided to read only what I could; and this means being content with just one or two good documents I could find about the job post. The rest of the time, I just tried to sleep or at least relax.

I met with my interviewers in the cafeteria and after a few courteous greetings, started recounting my skills, my educational background and why I applied for the job. They asked me whether I’ve had any experience on certain tasks and wanted to know if I was familiar with the subject to be treated by the hired candidate.

This was when the “fun” began… and what I meant was having the ability to genuinely take pleasure at the opportunity of being considered for a job.

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Image courtesy of: http://blog.yapjobs.com/blog/pre-interview-checklist-for-job-seekers/

So when the supervisor inquired about my knowledge on the project to be managed, I was confident enough to admit that I have never worked in that field and everything that I knew, I learned in college. I proceeded to explain exactly what I learned back then. I was even asked to propose a recommendation! It felt right. I felt that I was really making a case for my candidacy to be considered.

Still, I noticed how the mind could play tricks if not given enough rest: one of the directors asked if I have ever done “X”. The truth is I have, but somehow I wasn’t able to find the precise memory in my mind. Then I realized that I have indeed executed “X”… in Spanish! and because we were speaking in English and the preparations I’ve done were also in English, my fatigued brain divided my professional history into: Spanish, English and French. It was a good thing I did not panic. I simply acknowledged that I don’t lack experience in “X”, but such experience is limited within a Spanish-speaking context.

It was a good interview: I was contented with what I have done because I was able to relax hours before, thus allowing for better predisposition (not to mention a more agreeable facade!). Most of all, I was very pleased with the inquiries, with my answers and how I delivered them… even my own curiosity was satisfied as to the details I wanted to know about the project.

For next time…

I suppose that the intention of this post is to serve as testimony that a job interview does not have to be a battlefield. Not among the different candidates- each one has his unique set of skills and competencies. Even if one does his best to outshine the rest… well, who among us mortals could really discern the criteria applied by a hiring team?

Definitely, it is not advisable to treat an interviewer as an adversary. Remember, you want them to want to work with you!

In my opinion, a job interview should be a time-space interval where talent and opportunity meet. This is why the talent has to show not just capacity, but also a palpable eagerness to do the job.

Lastly, having “fun” during a job interview will help you look back at that moment with more ease. Why would you want to look back? you ask. Summoning past experiences is important because it could help detect one’s strengths and weaknesses. Keep in mind that self evaluation is highly beneficial to everyone and who better to evaluate our past actions than our present (wiser and more matured) selves?

Author’s note: The author still has not found a paid employment as of this date (because believe me, taking care of a growing infant is a serious job!). To the skeptics- I understand your hesitation to consider my word as something to take note of, and good luck! To the optimists- thank you for your agreement, and good luck!

Sources:

  1. “How to Ace the 50 Most Common Interview Questions”, available at: http://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/#5e7f111b4873
  2. “How Communicator and Audience Power Shape Persuasion”, available at: http://knowledge.insead.edu/strategy/how-communicator-and-audience-power-shape-persuasion-4554#XxwqmPlKhIGTkXrs.99

 

The “ray” in Gray

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called everybody, and they meet at the bar”- Drew Carey

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

Searching for employment is making me review my professional history. As I lookback, I found out that some of the more interesting skills and qualities that I possess were acquired during a time of great distress in my former jobs.

Universal feeling

If asked what type of adhesive could glue mankind together, I’d say that the love-hate relationship with their jobs is a pretty strong one. Even the most satisfying, most fulfilling and most empowering assignment could-at one point or another- make an employee feel jaded, given the right ingredients: there’s a slave-driving boss, the unhealthy competition with colleagues, the lack of motivation…

In my case, even the job that “made my dreams come true”, the one “I’ve studied for my whole life” at one time burnt me out. It wasn’t enough that the pay was good or that I was building a promising career for myself- you can hardly appreciate those things once you’re caught up in a vicious cycle of fatigue and anxiety. This is true even for people I know who have exchanged corporate lives for a quieter, “more relaxed” academic careers only to find out this guy Stress followed them there, only dressed differently.

Meet Stress, the originator of mess

The pattern I’ve observed always starts with stress. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, it is: one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.

The thing about stress is that without recognizing it, people become addicted to it. Creeping up under the guise of “Pressure”, we accept it as part of the job. Why, we even welcome it believing a certain amount would make us deliver great results. For this reason, I know of some who are honestly attached to stress and don’t know how to live without constant anxiety. Good for them if it makes them happy; but what about us who don’t want it in our lives? Where and how do we draw the line between the healthy and unhealthy level of strain? How do we stop ourselves before we end up hating what puts bread on our tables?

The “ray” in Gray

In my opinion, unless you’re an expert on the subject, it’s practically impossible to discern whether the anxiety you’re feeling is normal or bordering noxious.

I remember the first time I experienced this: without any second thoughts, I quit my job at a top financial services company. Everyone, and I mean E-VE-RY-ONE in my circle looked at me as if I just shaved my eyebrows. This is no excuse, but it was literally not healthy anymore.

Each time I looked back, I would shake my head thining, “Whatta waste!”. But now I realize that phase of my life was critical, as it helped me define what toxic is. (And toxic, ladies and gentlemen, is something or someone that pollutes the surroundings too strongly that it’s able to make you physically sick.)

When my dream job proved not to be as ideal as I thought, I approached my colleauges and was surprised to discover some of them felt the same way. We all agreed there’s nothing worse than not wanting to get out of bed because just thinking of where you’re headed to gives you palpitations and a strong urge to cry. Those were just the grayest days for me- sad, pessimistic and even despairing. However, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent and practical people. It’s just a matter of seeing different points of view- I didn’t even need to agree with any of them, I just needed to find the “ray” in that thick air of gray.

Think that there is no Box

One of the best tips I received was: you are limited only by the boundaries you create.

So, instead of clamming up in the anxiety-fatigue-stress cycle, I decided to open myself up to a wider circle of colleauges with a different purpose: this time I was determined to learn from them, their experiences, their ideas, their CRAZY ideas…

Since it’s not that obvious, I’ve decided to share excerpts from my CV and cover letter to describe how I got to be trusted to do certain tasks; some of them are directly related to my profession but which I found difficult and others just “happened” because I was confident enough to undertake them.

Assessment of information accuracy, validity and integrity

I wanted to know how a colleague was able to go through monthly reports looking still as fresh as an orchid by the end of the day. I set up a meeting at her desk so she could show me how she checks and re-checks the numerical data she’d present to the Board of Directors. Aside from the savvy, VBA-powered tool she taught me how to use, I noticed her mindset: she was cool-headed, really taking her time and most of all she was CONFIDENT that what she’s doing is right. I started to take the same attitude (and use the savvy tool!) and although it was not and still is not easy, I am actually becoming good at it!

Editing and proofreading research materials

The first time I had to write a cover letter in French totally blew my mind- in a good way. The language is challengingly beautiful, not only because of the phonetics but because of how delicate and subtle the written communication is done. It turns out one could not just go direct to the point. The message should be polite but clear and assertive and POLITE (oh, I meant to repeat it). I never would have guessed a computer engineer could help me put what I like to call structured finnesse in that first letter (I mean: structure, check! but finnesse? Could you blame me?). Her search for excellence and precision taught me how to thoroughly check for inconsistencies when reviewing a written report.

Facilitated relations with sponsors and external partners

I especially love this one and just about any task involving communication- it demands a lot of EQ, plus not everyone is easy to interact with. I’ve spent (lovely) hours talking to former colleagues from HR and one of them was at the time training to be a personal coach. I even let myself be her “guinea pig”! It was definitely a Communication Bootcamp.

Having learned and shared in a multicultural environment

According to another former colleague from HR, I should “treat people as they need to be treated, not the way I want to be treated”. Just to experiment, I went by this rule for several months and I admit it really made me appreciate what “working in a multicultural environment” truly means. It’s not always easy but in my experience, a quid pro quo deal could be sealed faster this way. I still live by it and here I am, a Spanish-Filipina working with work experience in Paris!

Working in close coordination with supervisors using French as medium of communication

Well, I have to admit: one of the main reasons I started to learn French was because more than half of my officemates speak the language. Although we never used it to communicate among ourselves or with our external contacts, I was just plain ENVIOUS of the fact. So, I started taking lessons.

A lighter shade of Gray?

So did this paint a different color in my gray canvas? A lighter shade, perhaps?

During the moment, it was difficult for me to see past the smoke. Also I was younger, less mature and more hard-headed. And because of that it was easier for me to give in to discouragement (somehow, it seems to me it’s simply handed on a silver platter). Then, as it cleared out, I realized that my canvas could still bear gray spots. After all, I am still unemployed. But let me tell you, my CV does appear to be more colorful!