It was around Christmas of 1984, and I was completing my national service in the army, and was to face the world in a few days. I was a high-school (what we call junior college here) dropout, with no university to go to, and no job in sight.
The mid-1980s was one of the worst recessions we experienced in our locale, and jobs were scarce, and salaries were very depressed. When you have no place in a tertiary institution to spend a few years safely tucked in college, and no wealthy folks to live off, you have to look for a job.
I remembered dutifully reading every single job advertisement in the daily newspapers, pondering if I could in fact apply to each of the positions I looked at. I have looked at positions such as trainee chefs, couriers, insurance agents, hotel salespersons, advertising artists, junior copywriters, laboratory assistants, and so on. In those days prior to the convenient Internet, there were 2 options, (1) write in by postal mail, or (2) call their recruitment hotline.
In many of the entry-level positions I tried applying, I called the numbers and tried to persuade the persons at the other end to give me a foot in their doors with an interview. Many went south, and I left cold on my end of the phone in mere minutes. For a young man lacking options and confidence, it was difficult times.
One I recalled was when I tried to apply as a courier in a multinational logistics and supply chain company. The conversation went something like this:
Me: I am enquiring about the courier position.
Recruiter: Do you have a driving license, class 2 or 3?
Me: No, I don’t have a class 2 or 3 license.
Recruiter: Then I am sorry you can’t be a courier.
Me: The public transport system is very reliable. I can take the bus. Please give me a chance.
Recruiter: I am sorry. We need people who can drive.
I have sent out hundreds of letters by mail as well, to every conceivable entry-level or trainee position in almost every industry I see a sliver of hope in, in just about every corner of this island. And nearly all the time, there was no response, and if there was a postal response, tearing open the envelope would more likely end in a disappointing form letter devoid of empathy, akin to:
We refer to your application for the job of XXXXXXXXX. Unfortunately, we have selected someone else (blah blah blah). We wish you every success in your endeavors. Thank you once again for your interest in our company…
I have known of some people who would give up if their job searches are unsuccessful. Some have even been unemployed for years! But my humble belief is that there is always something that we can find, if we are humble and earnest enough to persuade someone of our convictions.
After those painful trials and tries, I did eventually land a job as a laboratory assistant in a national testing board, earning what was a vey low salary of around US$300/month. But hey, I got a job! And from that job, I went to the polytechnic (similar to an associate degree program), and eventually went on to become an Apple Macintosh evangelist of desktop publishing and digital media, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I am grateful to my first job and those who gave me a chance in that job and in many jobs that followed, that helped me grow and mature to what I do today. Don’t worry about what may seem like #careercurveballs, they will become tiny blips on the radar screen in years after. Keep trying. Keep looking. Keep knocking on doors.
Seamus Phan has 33 years of professional experience. Polymath Problem-Solver & Strategist – Leadership, Cybersecurity, Branding, Crisis, Scientist, Artist, Author, Aviation, and Theologian. Some articles are reproduced at McGallen & Bolden, where he is CTO and Head of Content. Connect on LinkedIn. ©1984-2020. All rights reserved.