10 Lessons My First Job Taught Me

I spent 2 months of my 5 month summer working as a secretary/receptionist of a tutorial center (Thinking Hats). I worked from 9:30AM – 5PM, Monday to Friday and sometimes Saturdays, earning PhP 7,000 per month.

I was determined to find a summer job to keep myself busy and to earn money, and when I finally did— wow, it opened my eyes to the real world and how to adult.

Read more on how I got the job and what the experience was like here.

As a secretary, they give you quite a bit of things to handle. It’s safe to say that during the turnover (it was only a day) I was overwhelmed with all the information. I ended the day taking home with me a headache. I was in charge of taking calls/inquiries from parents/students, updating their Excel database, receiving payments in the form of cash, check and credit card, scheduling students for  tutorial sessions, scheduling on-call teachers, etc.

I was not used to the type of work, talking to parents with demands, saying “ok po” to all the things my boss makes me do (kahit sobrang hassle nung pinapagawa, go pa rin kasi no choice). I suddenly treasured down time while at work, going home after a long day and uninterrupted weekends.

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t trade those 2 months for anything else. I came out of the experience with a small taste of what the work and adult life has to offer. Here I’ll be sharing some of the things I learned and insights of other people who had summer jobs as well (Meggy and Sofia).

So here are the 10 main lessons I learned from my first job!

#1 Nothing prepared me for this

High school, org work, etc. did not prepare me for this “world”. As I was trying to not make a fool out of myself while learning the ins and outs of the job, I realized that what I learned in class didn’t help much. It didn’t teach me that salaries are given every 15th and/or 30th. Or how to deal with complaints and being yelled at on the phone. It didn’t teach me about office culture and that there are certain boundaries you have to acknowledge.

#2 Finding a job isn’t easy

Yung feeling na papasok ka sa loob ng isang office to give your resume only to be told na they’re not accepting applicants. Or yung kukunin nila resume mo pero yun lang, walang sign of interest. Out of 11 resumes given to tutorial centers/pre-schools in Better Living and Alabang, I only got 2 offers. I understand now why it’s good to know people on the inside.

#3 Easy turnover is essential

When the old secretary was teaching me how to “secretary”, I noticed that it’s the type of work that requires consistency and a lot of organization. My mom said that each document you make should be timeless. The records should be easy to understand so that it can be read by anyone. Especially for a secretary, everything has to be labeled and filed with all appropriate information like the date, price, remarks, etc. Do not leave any detail out because you’re lazy. This will not only benefit you but also the next person to sit down at your position.

#4 People skills are important

Talking to the parents makes me so nervous because they know what they want and I have to answer all their questions. There were countless times wherein I couldn’t answer… so I’d call on a teacher to help me out. I had to deal with varying demands from parents and students with different backgrounds. Whenever someone inquires/the phone rings, my heart lunges because I’m nervous and I never got over that feeling. It’s something I still have to work on.

Small talking the (nice) customers is also a skill. It helps build rapport and breaks the wall that they’re just here to receive service. It’s also quite nice to hear the stories they have!

Also, your tone on the phone says a lot. My co-worker told me na dapat labingan ko yung boses ko on the phone. This was really hard! I’m not the type to talk that way, I’m frank with my tone and words. But this was something I had to learn so it was a conscious effort to sound nice on the phone kahit badtrip na ako. I asked my high school teacher for some advice on this (thanks Ms. C!) Here’s the tip she gave me:

Tip: Smile while you’re talking on the phone even if you have to force yourself. The smile will translate to your voice and the person at the other end will notice it. Mararamdaman nila yung smile and mood mo kahit boses lang. Also, speak confidently and sit up straight, this will improve your voice.

I tried out the smiling thing and it worked! Smiling also made the “lambing” easier HAHA May mga times na sobrang haggard ko na then the phone rings, I breath, clear my mind, smile and answer the phone.

Lastly, talking to your boss/es is something else. Because I know they’re above me, I feel inferior to them and just follow their instructions (even when it’s sometimes not the best solution). It’s also a skill knowing when to swoop in to inform them about a problem or update, because they’re also busy with their own agenda.

#5 Wag magpadala sa sitwasyon

Working had a lot of mind over matter scenarios. There were many instances where things didn’t go as planned, or someone’s complaining and their reason isn’t justifiable, or it’s peak hours and the center turns into organized chaos. Each time you just have to keep your head leveled and don’t dwell on it because if you do this will affect your performance.

#6 Fun co-workers keep the stress light

Luckily my co-workers help lighten the stress with their sarcasm, hugots and jokes. I was surprised that they’re so goofy because I expected them to be serious and determined with their work. But nope! I asked them why they’re like that and they said that when you’re too serious and caught up with the work, it will just bring you down. Joking around makes time passing by more enjoyable and it keeps the mood light! Thank you Tay Fern, Bianca, Lyn, Ellysa, Kenneth, Yanna and Camil for your kalokohan that made the long days more bearable.

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With some co-workers

#7 Small gestures of kindness can turn any day around

There was one time when one of the owners gave us all a pack of golden oreos. There was also a time when a kid offered me a snack during an insanely long day. There were also many times when my co-workers and boss would make us libre. Kindness includes being kind to yourself as well, kaya minsan kapag badtrip yung araw ko, I’d treat myself to a bag of popcorn and iced tea. Simple (and sometimes free) things like these remind me that there are good days and ways to turn around bad ones.

#8 Masarap manglibre

Iba yung feeling na manglilibre ka tapos galing sayo mismo yung pera, alam mo na pinaghirapan mo yung libre na yun. I felt glad to treat people because I had an abundance to be shared. When I got my first pay I treated my family and friends; and on my last day I bought my co-workers and bosses burgers as a “thank you”. I owe them for cleaning up the multiple messes I caused.

Libre

#9 Adults and parents are superheroes

I’d come home from work tired almost everyday and all I want to do is sleep and take a break. This is totally possible for me because I don’t have much responsibilities to attend to. But imagine if you’re an adult with a family: uuwi ka, pagod, badtrip dahil may drama sa workplace tapos may mga anak ka pang kailangan alagaan. Kailangan mo magluto, maglinis, magtutor ng anak— omigad nakakaloka! I now understand why sometimes our parents get impatient and cranky— they work a lot and get stressed just like any other human, but they endure these things to provide for those they love. Making money, adulting and parenting is a lot more daunting to me now. It makes me wonder how they do it and it makes me appreciate them more because the still choose to.

#10 You have to love your job

Probably one of the biggest lessons I learned: you have to love what you do— because I surely did not love what I was doing. I know what it feels like to love your work, and it was clear that I did not love being a secretary. Once it’s 12NN, I’d count down the hours until 5PM hits. I’d count down the weeks and days until my last day, I even had a countdown on Snapchat!

As I was mindlessly updating their Excel files I’d think, “What would I rather be doing? What do I want to do for the rest of my life? How am I going to provide for my family?” It gave color to the cliche advice of “You have to love and be passionate about your job” because if you aren’t, each day will be a burden. I want to wake up looking forward to what the day will give me, I don’t want to wake up dreading it.

I see now why you have to find and chase your passion and until now I’m still searching for mine. It makes me wonder what I’ll be chasing in 10-20 years. Also, I realize that I’m blessed to have the choice of choosing my career path, to have the choice of pursuing future passions. Some work because they don’t have an option and they would settle for any kind of job. Having options and choices is a great blessing.

A summarization of the experience would be this: It was painful, but it was the good kind of pain. I’d dread Sundays because I know there’s a whole week of work ahead. I’d be scared to mess up, scared to get yelled at, scared that I might cost the center something. Mistakes made were heavier because many factors were at stake, but it also meant that a lesson was learned the hard way. But man am I proud of myself that I endured that “pain”. I can definitely say that it’s changed my perspective and opened my eyes to the “real world.”

I felt like a student again, but this time I wasn’t inside a classroom. It was 2 months well spent and I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience.

And also, there’s no feeling like getting your first hard-earned salary in cash.

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First pay ever!

Also read: How I got my first job at 18


Now here are some other insights from people who had jobs this summer as well!

“I’m Meggy, a former stirrer and server (a.k.a. Front-of-House) at one of the loveliest restaurants in BF Homes, Spoon: Eat + Drink. Initially, I came across Spoon as an Instagram-worthy merienda place I just had to go to thanks to their Instagram account. Luckily, while stalking their feed, I found out that they actually offered internships for students. Being the broke seventeen-year-old I was, I went on spending an entire night on my resume and anxiously waiting for the restaurant to reply. Soon enough, I found myself being hired on the spot, getting to know the staff the exact same day and having to lie on my bed counting down the days I had left until my official first day at work.

Like any great job, I found myself always looking forward to the days I’d work, the new people I’d meet and the food I served. In fact, for a first job ever, it’s taught me a lot about service, humility and the produce of a good day’s work—especially when it came in the form of very generous tips. Then again, the cons of any service-inclined job would be the kind of people you had to serve and the consequences of not doing so properly. I had my own spills (literally) and thrills with customers but nevertheless, Spoon has never failed to teach me what a working industry was truly like.

The greatest lesson I learned from Spoon that I’ll be carrying to college [and beyond] would be to never underestimate the power of a smile and a simple “Hello!” Nothing can compare to seeing someone’s face automatically light up because you, stranger or not, greeted them with warmth. You may not know what’s going on inside of them but you can really tell that you’ve somehow made their day a little bit better.

Again, I’m super grateful for the chance to work in Spoon: Eat + Drink with Chef Philane Ponio and her energetic staff; it’s not only my first job but a job I’ll never forget.”

– Meggy Marquez, 17, BSE English (DLSU)
Instagram
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“One of my high school friends told me about her summer job in Kumon in Cavite and she told me to try to apply in the branches near me. I immediately looked up Kumon on facebook and sent a private message to the BF El Grande branch. It took them almost a week to reply to me. They told me to go to their branch for the interview and bring with me my resume. I went to their branch on a Saturday, took a diagnostic exam (super easy just basic algorithm), and had the interview. They told me I’m accepted (YAY!) and that I can start working on Monday.

My job was pretty easy. In my first few weeks, I was mostly just checking papers the whole time, but after a while, the other teachers let me handle their students. I basically just guided them in answering their worksheets, and prepared their homework. My rate was Php 65 per hour plus Php 80 transpo allowance. I only worked for 2-4 hours a day since I was only working part-time.

Working in Kumon was definitely the highlight of my summer. I got to meet so many cute little kids, and I really enjoyed the company of my co-workers. I also really liked that the students called me Teacher Sofia! It made me remember that I wanted to be a teacher so bad when I was in preschool. There were days wherein work got tiring because all we did was check worksheets, and it was just getting repetitive. I actually had favorite students, and two of them were also named Sofia(Sophia)! Handling my super cute students just made working so much easier.

Since I was working during the summer, I paid for all the things I needed during my 5-month break. My dad didn’t give me money whenever I go out with friends since I was earning. Because of that, I became so “kuripot” and thrifty that even my parents noticed it! I appreciated so much more my parents’ hard work to earn money because I was able to experience working and earning first hand. Money really does not grow on trees! I guess that is the greatest lesson that I learned from having this summer job. It made me value money more and the hard work my parents put into giving me and my siblings a comfortable life. I’m super thankful for this opportunity ❤️ I might actually work again next summer! I’m really looking forward to it.”

– Sofia Villanueva, 18, BS Architecture (UST)
Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat: sofiavillanuev
Joey
Sofia with her students (Sophia, Venice & Sofia)


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Special thanks to the following people:

Meggy and Sofia for sharing your work experience in this post— it is much appreciated,
YFC-Zobel for referring tutorial centers in Alabang,
Thinking Hats for the opportunity to work for and with you (Thank you Mrs. Riel, Sir Ariel, Tay Fern, Ma’am Helen, Bianca, Princess, Lyn, Kenneth, Camil, Yanna and Ellysa),
and thank you for reading this post!

Featured photo by Benjamin Child

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