TIPS: ON CAREER GROWTH & SUCCESS


By the time you’re 30, your salary should be P120,000

– by Dan Magallanes

Philippine Daily Inquirer (October 7, 2007)

YES, you read it right. By the time you reach the age of 30, your salary level should be four times your age. If not, go and check what’s wrong with your career. See a career doctor. Don’t trust your self-assessment.

imageIt is not a do-it-yourself thing. There was a time I was experiencing a severe stiffness in my neck and I was supposed to meet the CEO of a multinational company over dinner in Hong Kong. On my way to the airport I dropped in at Lourdes Hospital to see its director, Dr. Jose M. Pujalte, a world-class orthopedic surgeon. He prescribed a tiny tablet which cost me more than the price of an Emma Shapplin CD. But presto, upon reaching the check-in counter at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I felt relieved and ready for the short flight and brain boggling meeting that very same day.

Lesson in life–don’t trust yourself in areas beyond your competencies. Farm it out. Hire a professional consultant. I am a consultant myself, but beyond my expertise, I hire only the best. I am prepared to pay the high price because quality for me is expensive. Career planning has being done in the first world a long time ago. In the Philippines, we don’t do it that’s why we still remain in the third world class. It becomes a dictate from home.

When the boom for nursing employment in the US and UK hits the country, everybody wants to become a "nurse." This is motivated by the dollar syndrome and the opportunity to bring the whole family to the land of milk and honey–a promise of comfortable and easy life. Even licensed doctors are burning their brows again to study nursing and swiftly get to the US. High school graduates are no longer given the chance to pursue a career where they will eventually become happier.

Of course, it is the responsibility of the parents to guide them on what course to take in relation to their capability and interest. But it is still the best move to hire a professional career consultant. Planning should start from the time you pursue a degree. But it is not too late for you now if you will only keep an open mind.

A group of friends of mine from abroad who are experienced professional career consultants pooled themselves together and established a career consulting office despite of my objection that it will not prosper in the Philippines at that time–or even now. Seven months later, they all decided to pack up and head to where they uprooted themselves. In my history as a headhunter for 17 years, I only got three appointments for career counseling. One was an executive of a mall, the second of a well-known television entertainer and the third, a very popular clothes designer in the ’80s.

I have observed that most of our executives and professionals at any point in their career would rather buy a high-end mobile phone or an expensive designer bag than pay a career consultant for their stagnant or sagging career. They tend to forget that they have to live on a parallel lifestyle based on their position in the company and of course their take-home pay. If you are bent on having a good career, you have to focus on how you will attain it at a certain paradigm. It is not wanting but not doing anything.

On one occasion that I was invited to speak before a huge audience composed of young managers. I asked them to raise their hands if they want to become successful in their career. Everybody did. But when I asked if they have made a thorough check on where they were heading, no one braved the challenge.

I have interviewed hundreds and hundreds of executives and professionals in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, USA, Europe and even as far as Samoa and I have seen why only a few are successful. New graduates, forget about where you got your degree. I never look at the so-called "top universities." I claim to pioneer in promoting this attitude with my multinational client-companies.

Have you ever wondered why this 38-year-old guy who earned his degree from a not-so-known college in the southern part of the country got a job which offered a whooping basic salary of P500,000 per month plus dizzying perks? You read it right: half a million pesos on the 30th day of every month.

This executive bested nine other candidates who are mostly graduates of "top universities" in the Philippines fielded by other headhunters. The interview process was tedious. First interview was done in Manila; second in Bangkok; third in Singapore. Then there were only four shortlisted candidates. The fifth interview was done in Hong Kong. A week later, I got a call from the chair of the company in the US and was asked to send my candidate to the US on a first-class seat that very same week for a courtesy call with the big bosses. He got the job. He was given a signing bonus of $50,000.

The secret? MBA? No, he does not have one and does not aspire to have one. It was his attitude, the quality of his experiences and accomplishments, capped by the desire to make things "happen" now.

If you do not have at least 10 years of meaningful work experience occupying a manager’s position in your current employ, then you don’t need an MBA. Most of the top executives I placed do not carry graduate degrees. Being an honor graduate is likewise unimportant. I do not look at the transcript of records. I often wondered why most of the summa, magna and cum laude graduates do not make it to the top. My profession has shown me the reasons.

One: honor graduates tend to be perfectionist and idealistic.

Two: they have high career expectations within a short period of time because they know they are the best.

Three: they have little patience. Since they are intelligent, they want things done their way, within their time frame which is impossible in a corporate arena. People skills matter. Team work counts. You are not alone in your department.

I once plucked a 28-year-old guy who works as communications officer for an international NGO. Impressed with his impeccable oral communication skills, I again concluded this fellow is a graduate of a so-so college.

True enough–he obtained his bachelor’s degree from an up-town college in the south. He speaks with elan.

At a young age, he has already published a book on corporate social responsibility which is being used as the guide book of all the worldwide offices of the NGO where he worked with. He was asked by his employ to travel to different countries to speak about the topic he had written. I advised and moved him to a more responsible position with a blue-chip company for three times his present salary.

The company where I placed him was taken over by another giant. He called me up for advice. I coached him to move to another assignment. Other managers in his level decided to stay on. For three months, he could not find a job better or even parallel to his previous compensation, experience and qualifications. He started to get nervous. He dropped in my office one late afternoon and invited me for coffee. After a thorough analysis of everything in his career life, I told him to capitalize on his creative juices. Put on a new pair of shoes–be an entrepreneur. That was three months before Christmas.

On his first month, he already earned his salary for the first quarter of the following year. Capital? No. It is trusting the expert to do the thinking for him. His fellow managers who remained during the acquisition process were later advised on redundancy of their position. They lost their jobs.

It is true that career professionals move for better pay. But it should not be the monetary consideration all the time if you really want a high-flying career. Don’t move just because the work is near the place where you live. Don’t move because you just want to move. Pay an expert the way you pay for a nice-looking Louis Vuitton purse or a top-of-the-line mobile phone.

The best career is in the Philippines nowadays. Blue-chip companies are coming our way. This is the place to become successful. The most comfortable life is here. You leave the country because you feel you cannot make it here. If you cannot make it here, you cannot make it anywhere. Be a winner in your own country.

Remember, by the time you reach the age of 30, your salary should be four times your age.

(The author is CEO of Headhunter Manila, an executive search firm. He consults for blue-chip companies and lectures on moving your career up. He also coaches executives and professionals. Feedback at dan@headhuntermanila.com)