Core Competencies Worksheet (A)

Core Competencies Worksheet (A)

These are essays from answering the questions given in Worksheet A. The edited article The Rise of OFWs: Online Filipino Workers can be found here.

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1. Why work at home?

Identify the reasons why you opt to give up your day job and focused on working at home. What are the perks (company parties, holidays) that you have to sacrifice in the process? How important it is for you to work but at the same time stay at home? What are the opportunities you are hoping for?

I understand how people are not comfortable with the idea of working at home so whenever asked why I choose to do so, my reply would always be “why not?” It doesn’t sound as defensive as it might appear because, really, there is nothing wrong about working outside of the four walls of an office and into a virtual office. It might even be the best thing that’s ever happened to anyone’s career.

I was one of the millions of people who always thought that work will forever be done within the walls of an office building. Everyday would start early as I prepare to travel miles away to my workplace. At work, I would be counting the hours until it’s time to head back home and fall on the bed, exhausted. It would be a never-ending cycle until my retirement.

But times have changed. Thanks to technology and new ideas, new kinds of jobs emerged. Call centers introduced many to the idea of working online until finally virtual offices came and changed the entire landscape of working.

Working online is fast becoming the norm and because of very good reasons. I find that there are three perfect reasons why I prefer working in a virtual office: it’s convenient, cost-efficient and relaxing.

Working online is convenient.  It is working wherever possible and where one pleases. A virtual office could mean anywhere in the physical world—a bedroom, a hotel suite, even a coffee shop. It’s a refreshing change from the clutter and noise of a typical office. One has the freedom to decide where, how and, in some cases, when to work.

Benefitting from this form of work are parents who would like to spend more time with children, individuals who need to take care of aging parents and, most especially, handicapped people. Because of the virtual office, one doesn’t need to be perfectly normal—it’s all about the skills.

Working in the virtual world is also cost-efficient. Back when I still had a day job, I used to spend a considerable part of my salary for travel expenses alone. Then there’s the cost of everyday meals. I would be lucky if I am able to save half of my entire salary until the next payday.

Online work means being able to save on expenses and finally spending money on more important things. However, it doesn’t just apply to money. Not traveling to and from the workplace means saving time—time that can be spent on more important activities such as family bonding and household chores. Physical energy is also saved this way.

Lastly, working online is relaxing. Where else can one feel most comfortable working but at home? Knowing that I am with my aging parents and can tend to them when they need me gives me a sense of calmness. I don’t like worrying when I’m miles away from home. Also, thinking about not having to travel and spend money definitely takes away the stress.

There is another thing that I love about working online but doesn’t need any elaboration: working on the computer and over the Internet. It is worth mentioning because this technological innovation makes feel that I didn’t sacrifice any perks from various day jobs. No matter the distance, groups can get connected online and who’s to say they’re not real gatherings? There are also perks that consists of bonuses and benefits but these are already being implemented for online workers, giving online jobs an even greater advantage than traditional jobs.

It is these advantages that persuaded me to join the bandwagon of online workers. Yet I yearn for something more. More than the perks and higher pay, I would like to feel a deeper sense of purpose with my job. I would like to be able to appreciate my job even more, knowing that my efforts—no matter how small—are making a difference.

I hope to get a chance to work with individuals who are helping to change the world. It would be the ultimate job. It would be one of the greatest reasons to switch to work online and definitely the best reason to go to work each day.

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2. On foreign clients…

What was your initial feeling when you thought of working for someone virtual: someone who lives on the other side of the world, who can only be reached by email or Skype and who speaks a different language? What do you feel of accepting foreign clients now?

What are the things you never thought you knew about offshore clients? Anything you learned from them that were different from the typical local employers?

They say that to learn a country’s language is to also learn about its culture. I never knew exactly what it meant until I tried my hand in studying Nihongo. I learned so much about the Japanese culture that I was finally able to appreciate anime and understand that it is a reflection of the culture of its creators.

It was from there that I gained the appreciation for a culture that is different from mine.

Then, before graduating in college, I had the opportunity to work with South Korean foreign exchange students. I thought their culture was similar to Japanese but having the actual experience of mingling with them made me realize that they have their own quirks. This exposure eventually led me to a career in ESL teaching. Then, the English skills I developed eventually led me to working with Americans as a transcriber.

With the years of working with people from different countries and understanding their cultures, I’ve gained the confidence to work with foreign clients and this greatly helped for when I finally made the switch to working online.

One of the things that excite me about communicating with people from different countries is the knowing and appreciating that the world isn’t as big as it seems anymore. I have never traveled outside of the Philippines and though I understand that the world is truly immense thanks to mass media, it doesn’t compare to knowing that I’m communicating to somebody from the other side of the world, sometimes, in real time.

Since I started working online, I’ve met a few foreign clients through Elance and Odesk—clients with different cultures, different accents and completely different personalities. Yet I never felt that I was, in any way, different from them. As our goals are aligned with each other’s, there appears to be a mutual understanding between us. After all, they are clients who need people to work for them and I am a contractor looking for clients to work for.

It is a mutual, professional relationship that is no different from the relationship we create between our bosses in a physical workplace setting. And these clients are no different from local employers. They have strict work ethics and care for their contractors and are more than willing to help achieve a shared goal.

Perhaps the differences have to do with the amount that they are willing to pay for work done and the purpose of the work. Understandably, clients from so-called First-World countries are able to pay higher wages and people are more than willing to work for higher pay as life become even harder. The work also has a greater and wider impact as off-shore clients are more often than not, giants or emerging players in the business world.

This clearly puts the offshore clients at a greater advantage compared to local employers. And as the world of online work continues to evolve and expand, it can be expected that contractors will become even more comfortable working for clients in the virtual world.

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3. I am special

Has the image of “cheap labor” still haunts you? What are the ways you have done so far to change that mindset? Whether you are a newbie or veteran in this industry, how do you assert your value to world as a professional?

Cheap labor is one of the biggest problems of the working Filipino. It is the very reason why many choose to leave the country to work abroad.

I personally experienced one of the most depressing moments of my career—salary-wise—when I gave teaching in an elementary school a try. It was a catholic school and so I’ve come to expect that my work won’t simply be about teaching subjects but also about building children’s character. Every day, I come home exhausted but still needed to work on the following day’s lessons as well as pupil’s daily assessments.

I’ve also come to expect that the salary won’t be as much because in this country, the noble job of teaching seems to earn the lowest wage. Yet it still managed to shock me when I learned that the salary was even lower than the average wage.

Fortunately, the digital age paved the way for outsourced jobs with wages that are more appropriate for the Filipino lifestyle and stayed until the emergence of online work. Now, people are able to spend on basic necessities and still save for the future.

Freelance work maybe completely different, but some people find regular source of income from on-going projects. Unfortunately though, the platform has been flooded with jobs that clients award to the lowest bidder. It’s a sad reality but it challenges freelancers to further improve on skills and learn even more if possible.

Personally, when price instead of skills becomes the basis for winning a project, I make sure to steer clear of the job and not waste any effort bid on it. Clients need to remember that freelancers are trying to earn a living. At the same time, we freelancers—whether degree holders or self-taught—should never sell our professional services low.

In today’s digital world, both veterans and newbies are given equal opportunity to work. We have access to the latest technological innovations. We have the means to learn about different software and use them to create something that could change the world. Forget cheap labor because all of us can become professionals.

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4. Reviewing your job contract.

In your opinion, what are the items that a job contract must contain aside from the job description and salary?

If the client gives you a contract he made and you see something you don’t understand or cannot accept, how can you point this out to him?

I have signed a number of job contracts in my career so far so I’ve become familiar with information included in typical contracts. They may be very important, but I always feel the slightest amount of boredom whenever I sign them. The contract becomes merely a bundle of A4-sized PostIts filled with reminders.

The contract ties the employee to the company and that thought can sometimes be scary. The weight of the responsibility and the restrictions and demands can overwhelm the employee before he even signs the contract.

But what if there were something more on the contract to give the new employee a much-needed push, something to make it mean more than just an agreement for a daily 8-hour task?

Why exactly are we working? Beyond the salary, we provide service because we’re trying to make life easier for others. This is true for any decent job. So, a contract with stress on the importance and impact of a job could help motivate an employee to work even harder and reach the company’s goal. And as it is every company’s goal to make sure it provides outstanding service, an employee should understand how important his contributions will be for the company.

The employee benefits is a list of organizations that provide help and assistance. But what if there’s another list of benefits—benefits of working for the company?

It might also be a good idea to include what the employee can expect from the company. The company will have a lot of expectations on the employee but what can the employee expect from the company? How can it help the employee become better?

Lastly, though it’s too simple, I think a contract would be better off starting with a Thank You instead of Congratulations. It should also be a privilege for any company to have an employee that went through the tough application and elimination process. It makes an employee even more appreciative of becoming a team member.

It is important to make the employee feel that he is treated as a professional. I remember co-employees who came in feeling less. There distinction between boss and employee was so clear that they couldn’t voice out their opinion upon seeing a discrepancy in the contract. A good company will make its employee understand his worth so that such a problem will not occur as any employee can simply ask for clarification like one professional worker to another.

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5. What being a “team member” means.

The keyword “team member” is always mentioned in the Professional Development tutorials. Differentiate a typical employee from a team member? What are the things a team member responsible for? How does being a team member help the business and your career as well?

Anyone can be an employee. But not all employees become team members. With new kinds of work and work relationships emerging, there comes the need for well-rounded employees that can determine the success of a company.

In the past, most jobs only require the employee to work repetitive tasks daily. The employee comes to and from work without the need to communicate with bosses or supervisors. They seem to have a checklist in their mind, and as long as everything is checked by the end of the day, work will flow smoothly. They go to work every day simply to earn a living.

With the rise of outsourced jobs and online work however, communication has become an integral part of a company’s growth. Workplaces have been divided into teams that can only work effectively through constant communication. Along with the emergence of social media, people are more open to speaking up and making connections.

This is perhaps the biggest improvement that has happened to Filipinos who’ve always been known to be conservative and overly polite to speak their mind. As people become more confident, more opportunities for success open up. Companies benefit greatly from such employees. More than ever, employees feel part of their workplace. It inspires them to exert more effort to help the company. Their tasks do not consist only of what is reflected in the job contract but also with keeping the team together, motivating and even helping each other to complete tasks when necessary.

In this day and age, the only way to be is a team member. Employees are not just people who work for a company. They are people working with a company. The company now values its workers and acknowledges their contribution. As the company grows, so does the team member—both personally and professionally.


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