The BPO industry has sounded its call for talented youth, and the youth have responded. Its appeal include higher salaries compared to locally available jobs and higher starting salaries for fresh graduates. People can opt to stay in the country and not have to be an OFW to have relatively comfortable lives. Of course there are compromises like having to deal with the abnormal shifts and the work load and other things, but these to some people are reasonable compromises.
It is not for me to judge other people’s decisions. Assuming that they have really thought about their choice of a BPO career then I do not have the right to say that they have made a bad decision. Yet my gripe about the whole thing is this: the Filipino youth (with the exception of those from the upper-classes) are not given much opportunities to explore and develop their potentials. The typical upbringing still usually involves only doing well in academics to get a good job and to earn a lot to have a better life. There is nothing much to make people feel that they have achieved or contributed to something that is bigger than themselves, something which they can be proud of to say “I contributed to this great success!” Of course there will be the usual school, church or community activities and contests, but the general attitude towards these is “only if we can afford it” – that is, if your academics will not be affected, go ahead and join the swim team, or the church choir, or the summer basketball league. But at the end of the day, those who do well in school end up with better jobs and better lives.
Who cares about your great performance in a school play or as a member of the school sports team if it will not lead to a good life in the future? What are the chances that such a performance means a successful career in the performing arts or sports? For middle-class families who cannot risk much in terms of the time, money and effort it takes to train for such careers, it seems better to just choose something else which will likely result to a relatively high-paying job in the future unless the young person is extremely talented to get scholarships.
This way of thinking, I think, is the result of the previous generation’s survival attitude towards life. What we do in life is only done to survive. We are born, we grow up, we get married, have children, grow old and die. meanwhile, we have to survive and we need a job for that. There is not much emphasis on living for something, on contributing to the greatness of humankind. Such things are left to other people – whoever they are. How many young people have grown up thinking they want to be a scientist who makes numerous amazing discoveries or a world famous artist or the best athlete who wins several Olympic gold medals only to end up gradually becoming more practical about their lives?
Some young Filipinos choose (or are made to choose) to be nurses so they can go abroad and earn much to benefit their families. Judging from the number of advertisements for nursing board exam reviews, there must still be a lot who choose to do this. Now at least, those who did not make a specific choice in entering college, those who chose to study the general academic subjects like English, Social Science, and so on, still have the chance of receiving good pay from a BPO job.
I’ve seen the attitudes of those who do well as BPO workers, those who are usually commended by the client and their peers. They have a sense of accomplishment, as if they are amazing achievers. They work hard even if they have had only little sleep and brag about that fact. They have so much passion in what they do.The BPO has given them their meaning in life and they pour their souls into it.
Yet if given the chance to be passionate about a different kind of career, would they choose the BPO?
If they have not been given much choices and opportunities growing up, would they know what those other things are like? They could have been passionate about something else and poured their souls into this something else and become great. They could have been great artists or scientists or chefs. They could have contributed something to the greatness of humankind instead of just their companies. People can brag all they like about their BPO achievements but I think there is a difference between saying that you have sent the correct paycheck to all 100,000 of your client’s employees and saying that you have won an Olympic medal for the Philippines, or helped improve the conditions of society, or invented something ingenius. Not all, of course, will pursue such noble accomplishments and many will settle for the relatively ordinary like their own thriving business and be passionate about it; yet for those who seek something greater than themselves, it will be easier for them to choose to contribute to their BPO company’s achievements because it is right there under their noses telling them they can be great. And if ever they realize later in their career that they could do something else, there’s that sense of time wasted, of extra energies that need to be found. The exciting BPO career becomes fulfilling enough for them.
My point here is most young people in the BPO industry have varied backgrounds. They studied Arts, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Languages, and so on in college. They dabbled in all sorts of things. Now they are in the BPO which is a relatively easy career path to get into since they generally do not require a specific specialization and only seek general skill sets. Those who have strong personalities will not allow themselves to be easily influenced by their circumstances and while they may choose a BPO career after graduation because they need the money or because they don’t know what else to do, they will likely move on to something else and find a way to accomplish that. Yet for those who get easily influenced by something they can be passionate about, the BPO becomes a dead end. Such people no longer explore other possibilities and they consider themselves happy with their current choice especially when coupled with relatively good pay.
If this characterizes most people, then most of the youth will give their potentials to the BPO companies. Again I am not criticizing people who make this choice as long as they are truly happy about it. What I dislike is how Filipino middle-class educated society still generally focuses on survival – education as leading to high-paying jobs which then lead to better lives for their families. This is in a way a good thing yet if the same attitude remains forever, society suffers in the long-run from the lack of people pursuing human greatness and the Filipino ends up, as usual, ordinary – alive but ordinary.
How do we cope? I struggle now for the future and if my government will not be able to, I will seek for the ability to give my children all the opportunities for their improvement. I will encourage them to explore their possibilities. Extra-curricular lessons require money, and my children’s education will be very expensive, but I will NEVER tell them that all they need is to get good grades and get a good job to have a good life.
On the other hand, the educational system needs to be revamped. The attitude towards life as merely survival needs to be destroyed. I think the BPO boom in the Philippines is a manifestation of such attitudes. Only the desperate would agree to work at such odd hours and accept the compromise of migraine, hypertension, sleep disorders and many more due to the nightshift.