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Ina Teves, Organizational Development Consultant

Ina Teves is an organizational development consultant with a change management firm dedicated to making a difference wherever it goes by journeying with the client through the entire process of organizational transformation. Email your questions to ina.b.teves@gmail.com.

From Family Business to Another Company:
 

Dear Ina,

A pleasant day po. This is my problem: I want to apply for work for another company because for the past several years I’ve been helping my father in our little family construction business. My duties and responsibilities include typing quotations, acting as office secretary for my dad, calling all the clients, handling payroll with our construction employee, procurement or contacting suppliers for the materials to be used onsite, handling SSS, Philhealth (remittances, salary loan, calamity loan, etc.).

We have about 30 construction workers right now. We used to have an office in Makati, but due to some financial problems, we moved our office to a place beside our house. Now our business is not well, our projects are not the same. We have only a few, minsan wala pa [sometimes we have none], but at least we are surviving. But this is our family’s bread and butter.

The point is if I applied for another company, do you think it is better to tell the truth that we have a small family business or should I lie and tell them that I used to work for another company, baka sabihin mayabang ako, kaya ayoko [they might think I’m bragging that’s why I do not want to]. We used to have four engineers and three office staff, excluding my siblings and me. Now they all resigned because there is no project anymore. They are embarrassed that they get their salary kahit walang ginagawa sa office, kasi regular sila [without doing anything at work because they are regular employees]. Now it’s my dad, my siblings and me that run our business.

Ms. Ina, I’m also getting bored. I’m not learning anymore. I want to explore and meet other people, to experience working with other international companies. If I will be able to get a new job, I can still help my family in our business after office hours, or even on weekends kung walang pasok [when there is no work]. My other siblings work while I stay in the office the whole day.

My dad gives me my monthly salary even if we have no projects. I’m afraid baka hindi ko kitain sa other company yung sahod ko dito [other companies might not pay me what I’m earning here], but I’m willing to find other jobs just for me to explore. I’m not happy doing nothing all the time. Sometimes I only work twice a week because projects are onsite and not in the office. I’m getting older; that’s why I don’t want to waste my time doing nothing.

Even my other sibling is getting bored; he wants to explore a new world. We have only one client. It is difficult to look for clients because we no longer have our other regular staff. They just go in and out of the projects - it depends on whether we win in biddings. The nature of our business is constructing boutiques in malls, architectural works, engineering, and some renovation works. I would also like to know what is my specific job description, because right now, I have so many functions - payroll, purchasing, etc. I’m not sure what to write in my resume whether payroll assistant or purchasing assistant. Please help me to answer all of this.

I tried to look for a job before but I cannot answer some questions like “What is the worst problem you’ve encountered in your job?” I couldn’t think of something, so I just lied and said, “They rushed me to finish my job because I have to do another job for my absent co-worker.” I can’t think of something because I have not experienced any problem at work because we’re the bosses in our office. Even if I had one, it’s just a petty problem.

I’m sorry my letter is disorganized and I have lots of questions. Please advise me on what position I should apply for --purchasing or payroll. I tried it once, but I failed. I want to focus on purchasing rather than payroll. Is that possible?

Thanks a lot for your time reading this and more power.

Lheng


 

Dear Lheng,

You have three main concerns:

  1. Should you tell the truth that you worked for your small family business?
  2. What should you put in your résumé with regards to work experience?
  3. What job should you apply for?

As you yourself have discovered, it is difficult to invent a story about doing something you’ve never done before, which is, working as an employee in another company. A good interviewer will know that you are not telling him or her everything, and a good interviewer will do a background check.

Tell the truth. You have nothing to hide. Working in a family-owned business provides you with many skills that many employees do not have. What you need is to organize your résumé so that you will highlight these skills.

So, what official title should you put in as work experience? You mentioned handling payroll and being involved in biddings and with suppliers. In many small companies, they call a person in your position the administrative officer. So you could type:

Administrative officer
Name of company
Start of employment to present

Areas of responsibility:

  1. Purchasing
    1. Networking with suppliers
    2. Preparing documents for bids
    3. Going to bids
    4. Coordinating with clients
  2. Payroll administration
    1. Handles computation and disbursement of payroll for x number of employees
    2. Handles SSS, Philhealth, etc

Those are just examples. You have to put down exactly what you did. List three to five major tasks under each category. If you attended any special conferences or seminars, put those down under Seminars/Workshops attended. If you have completed any certificate courses after college, write those down also.

Your résumé should also have a cover letter stating that you are interested in a position in purchasing and that you have X number of years experience in this area.

The next thing you have to do is prepare for the interview. Your interviewer will most likely ask you the following questions:

  1. Describe what you did at work. Focus on what you actually did. You could say: “As administrative officer, I prepared…I coordinated…I handled….”
  2. What problems did you encounter in the course of your work? Another way of asking this question is: what challenges have you encountered in purchasing and payroll? You do not need to talk about short lead times or absentee officemates, if those were not problems. What the interviewer wants to see is how you were able to solve any problems related to your skills. For example, in purchasing, the challenge might be coming out with the right package for your client so that you would win the bid.
    The interviewer’s follow-up question would be: how did you solve that? How did
    you handle that? One way to answer: is you researched, you talked to suppliers,
    you researched on the competition, you prepared the quotation, etc.
  3. Why do you want to work for us? Prepare your answer to this question by researching about the company. Know about their products, their competitors, their customers, and their history, and base your answer on that.
  4. Why should we hire you? Sometimes the interviewer would ask: what do you have that other applicants do not have? This is your chance to enumerate your entrepreneurial skills. You could talk about initiative, resourcefulness, imagination, willingness to work late to achieve the company’s objective, networking with different kinds of people, etc.

Your last question is: What position should I apply for?

Be prepared to anser several other questions: What are you good at? What is it about purchasing that you like that payroll does not have? What is your plan for the next three to five years? Give time to answering these questions so you could plan out your next steps and not waste time job-hopping.

Another thing that could help you while looking for a job and while there is a lot of free time in your dad’s office is to learn something new. Attend seminars on entrepreneurship. Attend short courses related to purchasing. Learn a new skill that you could later turn into a small business. Many employees would envy the idle time that you have. Going to these seminars or courses might give you more ideas about what you really want to do and how you should go about it. If, in the end, you still decide to work as an employee of another company, at least, you will be better armed with new knowledge and skills that would be nice to put on your résumé and useful to your prospective employer.

Always,