I’m a 48-year old balikbayan who lived in the United States for 15 years. Now, that I’m back for good, I’d like to secure a permanent job here. What are my challenges in seeking employment here? — Lady Dragon.
The greatest help to anyone struggling to succeed in any environment is to appear like he or she has already succeeded. The trouble is that this same appearance and background may get you in trouble. For one, if you’re coming back from a country like the United States which is considered a desireable place to live, chances are, potential employers could raise a lot of issues against you.
The obvious questions are: What made you decide to come back? And why? How would you adjust to our culture here? What went wrong with you in the U.S.? Your career move is counter-intuitive as many Filipinos would opt to stay in the States, even up to the point of violating their immigration laws.
Of course, that depends a lot on the kind of job you held in the US. Otherwise, many people here would think of you as being overqualified or underqualified which is not apparent in your question. Just the same, you will be considered a square peg in a round hole.
Your experience in the US can be a strength or a weakness, depending on the employer. There are employers out there who may be interested in what you can do for them based on your experience. That’s assuming that you’ll seek work in the same industry.
On the other hand, there are also employers who may be aware of what you cannot do given your 15 years of experience in the US. Therefore, you need to discover and take stock of your transferable skills that could be applied locally. To list down the most common challenges of job applicants, here are the top seven biases of many Filipino employers and their hiring managers:
One, age discrimination. Even with the passage of the 2015 Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act or Republic Act No. 10911, still I can hear people complaining about age discrimination. That’s because it is difficult for an aggrieved job applicant to prove a case against an employer. If challenged, an employer would simply say the rejection is based on the total package of an applicant.
At 48, this may not be an issue against you. Instead, you should worry about giving a credible answer to why you decided to come back despite all the good things the US has to offer. Therefore, rather than worry about your age, focus on emphasizing your maturity to handle the job well.
Two, length of time in-between jobs. How many months or years have you been out of work? Regardless of the culture, you’ll soon discover that there are many employers out there who would consider an employment gap a big issue. Much more if it is more than one year.
Therefore, you must be ready to justify your whereabouts during this period. One way out is to explain that you tried establishing and operating a business. If not, you may even talk about pursuing a post-graduate degree. Whatever is the case, be honest and ready with the most credible explanation.
Last, job-hopping. While many employers frown on employment gaps, they also reject people who jump from one job to another. This is easy to understand as job-hoppers are viewed as taking the bait right away from companies that offer the highest pay and perks in the industry. In some cases, however, this is not a big deal, especially when an applicant possesses hot skills that are difficult to find elsewhere.
Most of the time, this happens because some employers that are hard-pressed to hire key talent must actively engage in the war for talent. In that case, when a person is considered a superstar in his field, at times, he sometimes asks for a big package to compensate for his lost seniority at the old job.
I’ve met a lot of balikbayan who are oozing with confidence. Of course, when you’re in the job market, you can’t afford to be shy, nervous and anxious. Self-confidence is a pre-requisite, but you must be willing to eat your humble pie when the time comes, particularly when you’re looking for a job.
Rather than giving you an edge against other job applicants, your CV could be a handicap. It could intimidate hiring managers who may not be properly equipped to handle your job application. This is not to say that you should tone down the content of your CV, but be prepared to counter the anxiety or nervousness of hiring managers.
First things first. Don’t talk more than your share. Let the job interviewer direct the pace of the job interview rather than the other way around.
Perhaps your best bet is to start with US multinationals who might better understand your situation.
ELBONOMICS: Objectivity or subjectivity is in the eyes of the beholder.