The Pros and Cons of My Career

Recently, I was told that the first three years of my working life could spell out which direction my career would go for the next twenty years.

I sat there, pretending to listen intently to my youngest sister’s friend’s well-meaning parent. She related how her early career moves led to a lifetime of creative work. A daughter of a newspaper editor father and a physician mother, she was reluctant to try any of the aforementioned fields. But ironically, her first job was as a copywriter for a pharmaceutical.

While I don’t buy her theory, it did get me thinking. Suppose what she said were true, my entire career (based on the past three years) would be as follows:

1. I get an insatiable need for consumer goods and thus go for a corporate job.

2. I then realize that consumer goods aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and what’s more important is fighting for the rights and welfare of my countrymen. After this epiphany, I quit my job and go back to being an activist in the streets.

3. I realize that being an activist will not get me the material goods I suddenly want (again) and go become a corporate whore (again).

OK. Maybe I’m being a bit too severe. There are two sides to a story, after all. So let me try to be fair by presenting  (drum roll please) the “Pros and Cons of My Career”.

Let’s start at the very beginning. Unlike most of my friends in high school, I didn’t have a clear cut plan for my life. You could say that what I had was just a vague recollection of what the word “future” meant. I didn’t have top colleges of choice or degrees in mind. At that point in my life, the only awards I got in school was for winning student journalism contests (the fact that I spent most of my high school life in a SCIENCE high school, didn’t help my artistic growth). Recognizing the importance and beauty of the written word was, by far; the only aptitude I possessed.

I did, for a time; want to enroll in a creative writing program. But when it was time to choose between that creative writing program in UP Diliman and the European Studies program in the Ateneo, my mom candidly asked me: “Anak, if you’re studying writing and nothing else; what will you write about?” That, coupled with my dad’s “OK na sa Ateneo. Magiging aktibista ka lang sa UP (Ateneo’s fine. You’ll just turn into an activist in UP).” made me enroll in a degree program that was unfamiliar at best.

My dad was wrong though. Even within the sanitized environment of the Ateneo, I became involved in student activism. It was true though that many of my colleagues were from UP (we Ateneans usually numbered 5 or less).  My militant involvements were my first willingly chosen “career path”.

During that period, my days consisted of  writing press releases calling for the ouster of Gloria Macapag-Arroyo, making (and sometimes delivering) political speeches and slogans, marching and shouting in the streets, etc.

Pro: I was living my beliefs, my sense of integrity was sharpened

Con: I had no money whatsoever. I couldn’t get social security, pay my taxes etc. (But then again, not paying taxes could be a pro).

Five years later though, I decided I needed to explore other areas. I wasn’t tired of activism though, I just needed a change of scenery.

But when it came to actually choosing a corporate job, I settled on the familiar. I became a writer/researcher for a firm in Makati. From there, I progressed to other “creative” corporate jobs.

I think that a lot of companies use the tag “creative” too loosely. Sometimes, they use it inappropriately. Unlike our counterparts in journalism, we aren’t as free to frame or angle a story. Indeed, I can count on my left hand fingers the number of times I actually had creative license to do what I wished with a topic.

The answer as to why is simple of course: in corporate communications, our main concern isn’t the public (as in journalism). Our concerns are usually limited to our clients. While the public will gobble up heinous, negative but realistically framed stories, our corporate clients want nothing but a rosily painted picture.

Con: Sometimes, I feel like a trapped animal as I pace my office/cage thinking up so-called creative ideas.

Pro: Financial security

Is it a draw, then? Equal points for each?

(To be continued)

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