TO MOST graduates, the next hurdle is the search for the most rewarding job. Every year, first-time applicant’s brave the hustle and bustle of Makati and Ortigas hoping to land that dream job.

Competition is indeed fierce in the job market, with some four million Filipinos unemployed. This leads a Thomasian to ask: Is being a product of Asia’s oldest university a guarantee to a high-paying job?

The Thomasian Courier, the newly revived bulletin of the Public and Alumni Affairs Office (PAAO), stands firm that UST produces graduates “that comprise and are considered human resource assets of various corporations here and abroad.”

UST alumni agree. According to advertising and public relations executive Ramon Osorio, one of this years The Outstanding Thomasian Alumni awardee, Thomasians do have “better job opportunities in all fields.”

“For example if you are a Communication Arts graduate of UST, I (will hire you as) a possible copywriter or a media planner because I know you are trained under a very progressive setup,” Osorio said in an interview.

Top pharmacist Jose Gallardo, another Total awardee, believes Thomasians excel in many fields especially business. Knowing that UST offers a Catholic education, companies have a “special inclination” to hire Thomasians who are generally considered “reliable and qualified.”

Thomasian humility: Boon or Bane?

Humility is a Thomasian virtue, but it could also be a liability when UST graduates compete for a job opening.

Joey Bermudez, president and chief executive officer of
Chinatrust Philippines Commercial Bank Corporation and another Total awardee, told the Varsitarian that Thomasians would have to confront with the harsh reality of the “very competitive job market.”

While Thomasians may be able to “hold their own in the job market,” they still have to contend with the general perception the best graudates come from the so-called that “Big Three” , namely the University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University.

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“Thomasians are made to compete with the graduates of these three schools. We have to prepare thoroughly if we want to stand a chance against them,” Bermudez said.

For UST Graduate School Dean Dr. Lillian Sison, Thomasian humility is an advantage. Employers are beginning to recognize the “quiet efficiency” of Thomasians, she said.

“They are not very assertive initially. But when the work is given to them, it gets done and it gets done very well,” Sison said.

However, PAAO Director Prof. Anna Maria Gloria Ward said extreme humility coupled with poor communication skills put Thomasians at a disadvantage. It’s like marketing, she said: the salesman with the louder voice is most likely to clinch the deal.

“We can’t express ourselves that people think we are shy. Sometimes when we know something, we keep quiet,” Ward said.

Moderation is key. For Ward, there is a difference between humility and aggresiveness. Therefore, Thomasians should learn to be more assertive.

Once they learn to assert themselves, Sison believes Thomasians would have much to offer, much to say, and much to contribute.

Ward hopes Thomasians learn to master their language of choice such as graduates of other schools have done. UP and Ateneo have their graduates speaking well in Filipino and English, respectively, she claimed.

Toward a more responsive curriculum

Job incompatibility is another difficulty new graduates must overcome. Ward wants for stronger ties with industry to make sure Thomasian graduates are suited to the jobs they apply for.

“(People from the industry sector tell us that) what we produce in the University is not exactly what they are looking for,” Ward said.

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The problem of job incompatibility is experienced throughout the country. Ward related the story of one Engineering graduate who sells credit cards for a living.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, he probably earns more. It just hurts you a little bit because the University wishes that they would really find jobs that they were trained for,” Ward said.

Nonetheless, Ward acknowledged the hard times. She asked graduates not to be too choosy, while those who are already employed but are discontented should think twice before resigning unless they are sure to get another.

“Many companies are closing and you’re lucky not to get retrenched. Better to settle for a lower salary than to lose the job,” Ward said.

For UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery professor Dr. Rolando Songco, the quality of education has gone down nationwide.

“My daughter is interviewing residents in the States and she complains that graduates are very poor in basics. Dapat sana ang UST hindi nagbago ang standards pero mukhang bumaba,” Songco said.

What employers want

During the job interview, Bermudez said Thomasians must be able to show mastery in classroom learning as well as practical application.

“When you are able to create the impression that you can actually apply what you were able to learn, then you stand a chance in this very competitive market,” Bermudez said.

As an employer himself, Bermudez said he looks for self-driven applicants who have discipline and potential. Most employers look for employees who will be considered company assets eventually, he said.

Intelligence is not the key factor in getting hired, Bermudez added. An employee must be willing to go beyond what he is used to doing.

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“I think you are better off taking in somebody with average intelligence, even average scholastic achievement but who obviously has a lot of drive, has a lot of initiative. He is the kind of worker who will do positive in the company eventually,” Bermudez said.

Distinctive Catholic education

Thomasians, with their Christian formation, make good employees. But they make better employers, according to Ward. A lot of Thomasians who were able to work their way to the top are now heads of their own companies, she said.

“We’re very good followers and in that sense we are very good bosses. We’re not going to be bad employers (because) we’re very compassionate, very God-fearing,” Ward said.

Thomasians only need to believe in themselves and to project to the “real world’ what they can do.

“Dito pa lang sa school you should get that kind of confidence. So when you get out you are not shortchanged,” Ward said.

UST has a name and it is prestigious indeed, if only Thomasians realize. Ward wishes that soon Thomasians would “take care of each other,” like La Salle alumni do.

“This is my prayer to the alumni, if ever you find a UST graduate applying, believe in him. You should say to yourself, ‘This person received the same kind of education I have received and if my employers were able to believe in me, then I have no reason not to believe in this guy,’” she concluded.

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