First Jobs in the Philippines

The resilience I see in the Philippines often surprises me, but after seeing what it’s like looking for a first job here, I have an even greater respect for anyone who can thrive in Third World Countries. The fact that the economy makes it so hard to survive makes the optimism I see around me even more impressive.

When I started out in Oregon, I made $10 an hour. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep me alive and comfortable, with enough disposable income for lots of wine, good food and amazing adventures.

I came back to Manila, went to some interviews, spoke to old friends who had just entered the job market, and did some online research to discover that minimum wage here is approximately $250 a month for full-time positions. That entails nine hour days, seven days a week. People are worked almost to death (from boredom too, I would assume–color me grateful for 237 Marketing + Web and Linfield for teaching me how to use my time efficiently.) There is no such thing as overtime and no concept of hourly pay. How do people survive on $250 a month here with the fifth highest electricity rates in the world?!

A friend of mine said he would consider himself incredibly lucky to make $400 a month. That wouldn’t even cover rent in an apartment where you feel safe at night. My sister’s electricity bill is $400 for a three-bedroom apartment. Now I understand why so many people choose to live at home after graduation; it isn’t just a cultural thing (because family is awesome, and family trips are super fun), it’s out of necessity.

Anyways, back to my first grown up job in Manila. I’ve been offered a consultant position with Wine Story / Planet Grapes, which shows my inability to stay away from the wine industry. They’ve given me a small wine allowance (score!) and enough to cover my utilities once I move out (I hope). This contract will last for six months, and allows me to take on other clients as long as they aren’t competitors.

Their flexibility was one of the main reasons I took the offer on the spot. Pretty much just signed the piece of paper within 20 minutes of it being put in front of me. Most companies here make you agree to work exclusively with them, with no side jobs at all, even if they’re needed to make ends meet. Do you know how mind-numbing it would be to focus on just one company, all the time? I wouldn’t be half as motivated as I am now without experiencing cross-industry innovation and creative “resets” between companies that keep me on my toes.

So my goal for this first job is to find my balance here. Within six months, I’d like to somehow be able to eat fresh, high quality food (I miss raspberries and turkey slices), continue to learn and develop my skills, enjoy a decent social life, and work out regularly–all while earning a standard Philippine salary (give or take). Let’s see if I can do it.

I don’t know how close I am to this goal, but I will continue to work towards my glass ceiling. Until then I’ll be enjoying the view.

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