Shifting Gears

On a daily basis, my inbox receives dire messages from readers seeking employment. Some readers make it a point to attach their resumes complete with photos perhaps hoping that I can pass these on to my own contacts. Unfortunately, my personal network is composed mostly of friends who are gainfully employed but not in a position to employ others. A lot of them serve government for a wage that can only be described as a pittance given the load of work and pressures involved.

When I left government, I was suddenly thrust into the very same predicament most of my readers found themselves in. For eighteen years, I had a salary to count on to maintain my simple needs. Although I voluntarily relinquished by position in order to remain true to my principles, it was still a major change to wake up one morning fully aware of the uneventful day ahead of me. Change is always tough especially because I did love working for my bosses and enjoyed the camaraderie of several friends in government service. Nevertheless, I conducted an inventory of my own personal skills and sought the advice of well-meaning friends on how best to proceed with my life. I decided to handle the daily affairs of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute while taking on writing jobs and consultancies on the side.

Today, I have settled into a daily routine with a small, competent staff that I can count on through thick and thin. My days are just as hectic as before but there is a real sense of pride and freedom in finally being on my own. Looking back, I recall a life-altering conversation with a wonderful lady named Tupao Lindberg. It was our very first meeting and I came away from that encounter less worried about my future. By sharing with me her own personal experience, she encouraged me to take the leap from a fixed salary to the more uncertain life of a communications consultant. She told me,” don’t be afraid because I know you have what it takes to make it.” With a giant leap of faith, I decided to let go without a safety net to cling to but with a clear vision of how to create one out of nothing.

I am writing this down for a purpose. I am sure that some of you out there may also wish to shift gears, change lanes, and look for an alternative career or to be self-employed. There is nothing wrong with exploring one’s options and dreaming of a better future in some other place, in a different company or even from your home. Change is tough but in some cases, inevitable. If what you have in mind is a career change, let me cue you in on some strategies that helped me along the way.

One, be candid in assessing your own personal skills and experience. If you are an accountant and you see little potential for growth in your company, you can try to see if there are opportunities for more decent employment elsewhere. Ask around, check with your contacts, spread the word that you would not mind receiving information about companies or individuals who may have accountancy problems that you can help resolve.

Two, be bold in defining your vision. Do you see yourself working abroad as an OFW or holding a job in a huge company? Would you rather be self-employed as a freelance writer perhaps or operating a home-based business like a small catering outfit? This is your vision; let your imagination run wild before checking all ideas against present realities. Some of the best businesses came from having what initially seemed as an outlandish idea.

Three, once you have settled on your vision, do the spadework on how to achieve it. Read books, ask around, interview people who clearly have “been there, done that.” Get all the information that you need to make an informed decision on whether to take that leap of faith or not.

Richard Bolles, in his book “What color is your parachute?” offers this advice:

“In evaluating any ideas that you pick up, the first thing you ought to look at are your dreams. What have you always dreamed about doing? Since childhood? Since last week? Now is the time to dust off these dreams. “

“And please don’t pay any attention, for now, to whether these dreams represent a step up for you in life, or not. Who cares? Your dreams are yours. You may have been dreaming of earning more money. But then again, you may have been dreaming of doing work that you really love, even if it means a lesser salary or income than you have been accustomed to. Don’t judge your dreams, and don’t let anyone else judge them either.”

Life is short and unpredictable. The Lord has given us the same share of minutes to either waste or put to good use. To those of you who are contemplating any kind of change, I say don’t feel guilty about even considering it. And after carefully exploring all options and undertaking a candid appraisal of your own talents and skills, once you have decided to shift gears, change courses, and take flight – I say, go and be fearless because you have a right to flap your wings and deviate from a life plan that may have been imposed on you by others. Have faith in yourself and in the goodness of the Lord. Good fortune is really all about preparation, hard work, and a determination to make your dream finally happen. For those who wish to seek friendly advice, write to me. I am here for you.

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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