Monday, July 13, 2009

THE BIG LEAP: FINDING STRENGTH IN THE MIDST OF RECESSION

Months ago, various mass media forms were bombarded with reports on companies downsizing because of a worldwide phenomenon called recession. It all started in the United States and now has spread to countries all over the world.

While the big bosses and business owners are jolted by the sudden onset of such economic slowdown, we can’t deny that the hard working, dependent and fragile employees are the hardly affected by such financial crisis.

The whole world has felt the recession terribly. Many HUGE and “thought-to-be-unsinkable” companies closed down. As an aftermath, a lot of overseas workers were sent back to their mother country. 


Obviously, with these bleak imageries, recession has not only changed the financial map of each nation, but shockingly, it has created massive psychological fear and anxiety on everyone. Of course, no one would want to lose his/her job especially if there are mouths to feed and a long list of bills and mortgages to pay.

As an overseas worker, at first, I was positive that the recession would not affect the country where I work. Yes. I work in Brunei for a year and three months now. As they say, Brunei has a stable economy because of its oil and gas production. That status has made me confident and felt secured on my job. 

Then again, I do not work under such oil-producing business. I am a copywriter in an advertising agency which is dependent on international market. I was blinded. I was numb on the worldwide phenomenon. And so, in a blink of an eye, a vivid nightmare happened. The invincible claws of recession hit my company.


It was November last year when my boss talked to us about the status of the company. He admitted that we are slightly affected by the current US recession. The root of it, he mentioned that HSBC, as our major client, will centralize its production of advertising collaterals to save costs which means a loss profit on our company. 


Truth be told, although we get projects from local companies, HSBC is our lifeblood. With this reality, our company created some restructuring. As an initial step, overtime was adjusted. Ironically, as 2009 came, despite the recession, our bosses bought another company to accommodate new set of clients. They even hired a copywriter and some graphic designers. Looking at the situation, it seemed, the company was coping well and smoothly moving.

Surprisingly, just this month, a shocking truth was fired in the open air. Our company is on the verge of bankruptcy. Yes, that’s what they told us. So as a result, a restructuring shall again be made. Now, our company has to lay off some staffs (for there is a list), a 10% off will be deducted on our salary, OT pay will be cancelled but shall be converted to leave, medical coverage shall be limited to 40 dollars, and a lot more conditions. Capping the declaration was the letting go our receptionist. Fear was painted on our faces and wounded our hopes and ambitions.

At first, while our newly-hired manager was laying all the cards, I felt disappointed. Thoughts came running in my mind. I knew that there’s an on-going recession around the globe, but the questions of why us, why me and why at this very moment were inescapable. My fingers were so itchy to blame someone but that I thought wouldn’t help. All we can do now is to keep our fingers crossed that we can recover from a deep fall. 


But then again, everyone felt like we were like a mouse trapped in a rut. We were shot. We were imprisoned. Hopelessness emerged. Soon, we all signed a pseudo-contract stating all what had been discussed.

I can’t deny I panicked. Yes, I panicked a lot. I thought of leaving the company as soon as possible for I see the 10% cut down was unfair. I thought of making a back-up plan which included accepting the job offer from another company which was “calling my attention” since last year. I thought of checking my bank accounts if I have sufficient funds just in case of being jobless for the next months. Thankfully, as the day ended, I composed myself and pondered on the situation.

I can’t deny I had a sleepless night on the day our company slashed our salary. I was packed with fear and anxiety. To me, everything was perfect not until the face of petty misfortune popped out. For a time, I was battling with homesickness which I championed, and now, it’s a brand new haunting feeling that is pulling me down – the fear of losing a job and the comfortable life. I can’t trade that. And as I thread all the possibilities and worse scenarios that may occur, I found light at the end of the tunnel. I have nothing to fear.

That night, after the hard-hitting reality spanked everyone, I spoke to my dad. He was very supportive, even my siblings. My friends also comforted me. And as the uplifting words piled up, it made me look on the bright side of things. Yes, I am so blessed in so many ways. At the forefront of such blessing, at least, I still have a job and I earn enough for myself. In fact, I should be grateful coz I get to save, my family is at least financially stable and healthy, and I have no bills to pay (remember, free board and lodging at our staff house?).

As of the moment, I have already started my back up plan. Seriously, a 10% cut down on our salary is BIG, and I can’t afford to lose that because I want to save more. As a result, I started knocking at my connections in Brunei to cover up the loss. 


Thankfully, some “rackets” have materialized over the past week. Good thing, the company allows “sidelines.” On top of that, I am considering options of possible transfer. Hopefully, I get to finish my contract as for a good record. The extension in my company has been temporarily shelved. As my colleagues put it, until further notice.

In terms of my expenses, I started to tighten my wallet. I have a new mantra: buy things “only” when needed. Hopefully, I can follow that. Then again, from time to time, I reward myself with a hearty meal, a good book and a fabulous flick. Control and sacrifice are the keys at these challenging times.

Since I’m starting my graduate degree this second semester, I began to budget accordingly. I know I’ll be paying more - my tuition fee and the shipping of books. But here’s the thing, no matter what happen, I’ll pursue my studies especially that I’m still young and my memory is at its best. The reason I’m so passionate about this is not only because I want to go places, but more importantly, I want to fulfill my dream of becoming a professor someday especially in the field of mass communication. Okay Earvs, one day at a time!

Above all, I still thank God for the strength and guidance he has been giving me. Despite the saddening situation, I have more reasons to be thankful for and enjoy my life – I still have a job, options are coming along my way, my family and I are healthy, my talent gets to be recognized which provide me sidelines, I have real friends, and a lot more. For now, I just have to be positive and make a sound back-up plan. As long as I’m confident with my skills and capabilities topped with a lot of prayers and support from my loved ones, I can go further and succeed in all my plans. Carpe Diem!

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