I knew finding a job was not going to be easy, but nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced in the past year.
It was January 2020, my last semester in college before graduation. Like most of my classmates, I was savoring my last moments of school and was already thinking about post-graduation plans. I knew of friends who already booked plane tickets and hotel reservations for trips around the country and abroad. For me, my plan was to spend the next few months post-graduation just resting, hanging out with my friends, and doing stuff that I wanted. I originally wanted to start to find a job by that September, but I was open to extending that to 2021 since I was advised by batches that came before me to rest first before trying to find a job. My plans were set, and I was honestly looking forward to what 2020 had in store for me. And then the pandemic hit.
When I first heard of COVID-19, I didn’t take it too seriously because I thought that it was just an isolated incident in China. As more people started to get sick around the world, I realized that things were much more serious than I initially realized. The ironic thing was that the weekend before classes were suspended indefinitely, I was in a silent retreat for my theology class reflecting on my last year in college and my future.
A few weeks after the initial lockdown, my school announced that they would give the option to let students end their semester early and opt not to be graded for the semester. Due to all the anxiety that was going around in my brain and around me, I decided that it was best for me to just end it early.
And just like that, I was already a college graduate.
The dream job was to become a writer, specifically an entertainment and lifestyle writer. I was initially hoping that there would be openings in magazines, newspapers, or websites for a writer. The pandemic, of course, changed everything.
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At first, I didn’t want to look for a job since everything was so hectic and scary. I thought that it was best to just stay at home and just wait out the pandemic and then start my search once it’s over. My parents, however, started relying more on my older brother to pay the bills than before. I felt bad because I wanted to help my parents, but I didn’t have any source of income. But I also didn’t want to work during a pandemic because a.) it was a pandemic and b.) so many people were losing their jobs left and right. This push and pull of what to do conflicted me until around August of last year when I decided to brave the wild and look for a job.
My main way to find and apply for jobs were through LinkedIn, Kalibrr, and JobStreet. I also joined Facebook groups where people posted job openings and opportunities. Writing jobs, especially the ones I gravitated towards, were few and far between. When I applied for a job I did like, I was up against dozens to hundreds of applicants with stronger resumes than me. I remember applying for a job as a junior content creator for a newspaper and there were at least 200 other applicants for only 4 positions. I applied to around 20+ jobs in the last year, and it was either I didn’t hear back, or I got rejected.
I was slowly starting to feel resigned to me finding a job by 2021 at the earliest. I was getting nowhere with my job applications and I was not finding any work. To pass the time, I enrolled in some online courses on Coursera so that I would be able to gain new skills and hopefully make my CV look more attractive.
Later on, as I was talking to my friend about my job woes, he told me that I should do online freelance work. He told me about two websites he is a part of, Freelancer.com and Upwork. On both sites, you make an account, have it approved by the admin, and if approved, you can send pitches to people who post work offers. My friend said that he joined Upwork in March 2020 and made over $200 in freelance work. The potential was there, so I decided to sign up and soon enough I was sending pitches.
But just like with finding a regular job, getting online freelance work is not easy. When I would make an offer to be chosen for a job, I would be up against established profiles with 5-star reviews. I had nothing to my profile expect my experience in college. To top it all off, both sites have a point system where you need to have a certain amount of points to bid for a project. If you don’t have enough, you can’t submit an offer, so I was limited with my offers.
My losing streak ended in December when I sent an offer to this job posting about someone who’s looking for entertainment writers for his website. I got an email from them saying that they wanted to get me which delighted me. But everything can’t be perfect as the next day, they sent a follow-up email telling me that they no longer had the entertainment writer position open, but that they would get me to write about “other” topics. I got bummed by this, but I thought that I was still going to make money, so I said yes.
I was working for a marketing company based in the US. The way the job would work is that they would send me an email every day telling me what articles and topics to write about with certain instructions. It would be around 3-4 articles a day that are around 600 words each. For every article I wrote, I got paid $3, which was honestly not bad. I wrote about every topic under the sun; how to remove molds in the kitchen, what you should know when you are involved in a multi-car pileup, what to do when you are falsely accused, the benefits of CBD oil, 5 smartest rugby players, and much more. I wasn’t necessarily enjoying the job, but at least I had a source of income.
Getting The Job
I felt that the freelance work I was doing was something that was going to last until the first half of 2021. I thought that I would do this just as a way to make money and once I find a nice job or when things start to cool down, I would begin my search again. But my search would start earlier than expected.
In January of this year, I got a message from my editor from my internship in college. She told me that the publishing company she was working for was hiring new writers and asked me to apply and so I did. The process of applying was not a simple activity. I had to fill out a few forms and then submit a 3-minute video about myself. I then had four interviews related to the job, from the HR representative to the Editor-in-Chief, and even the VP of the company. After 3 months, I got the faithful call that I got the job. I quit my freelance gig and began work in April.
Advice For The Next Batch
The journey from where I was in March 2020 to where I am now is not easy. The search to find a job gave me so much anxiety. There was a constant tug-of-war in my brain of whether or not I should find a job. I wanted to help my family and I wanted to have a source of income, but the job market (and society in general) was so crazy that I didn’t know where to start. I guess you could say I was lucky because if I never got the job I have now, I probably would still be a freelance writer. This was a dilemma my batchmates faced as well because I know some of them were able to find a job, some quit, while others are still looking.
As a new batch of students is set to graduate this year, I would just like to be honest and say, brace yourselves. Finding a job during a pandemic won’t be a walk in a park. You may be lucky and get accepted for a job you like, but you also may have to compromise. There is also the worry that the work environment will not be for you since almost everything is work from home. Just know that it can be the Wild Wild West out there, some people can afford the luxury to wait, while others can’t, but that’s a story for another time. Take it from me: expect the unexpected.
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