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Career Advice

Paul Rivera: How to Decide on Your Next Step After Graduating

By Paul Rivera on June 6, 2015

It's 2016 and you’ve just graduated from a college in the Philippines. You’re probably thinking, now what?

If you’re lucky and hopped on the intern train before finishing school, you might already be employed. But if you’re like most, you’ve had a few weeks to let the post-graduation feeling sink in—vacations, beaches, hours on Instagram and just not doing anything for the first time in 4 (or more years). Guess what, you deserve it so enjoy this time off. It's one of the things I regret after I graduated. I literally took one week off after graduating in 2004, started working and I haven’t stopped since.

But at some point (and it’s probably right now) you’re thinking, what do I do next? What job is right for me? What company should I apply for? What happens if I don’t get the job I want?

While I can’t directly tell you what companies you should be applying for (hopefully Kalibrr is one of them!), I’m going to give you a few pieces of advice about how to think about what’s next and hopefully it makes the career search process a little bit clearer.

Corporate or Startup?

I’ve done both and there are merits in each.

Corporations offer security, predictability and a potentially solid brand name on your resume - what you give up is flexibility and the responsibility for real projects right away.

Startups are the opposite. Most are unknown and unstructured. If you join a startup, who knows if it will be there a few years from now. The pay can be strikingly similar (or maybe even more) but I give the edge to startups, especially those that are beginning to grow fast.

What you give up in security and stability, you make up for by being in the best environment to continue to learn. If you have any desire to start a company at some point in the future, there is no better way to learn than to join a startup that is trying to become a company.

Optimize for learning, not salary


I’m a big believer that you should make what you’re worth but as a fresh graduate, the bottom line is you’re not going to make that much. Knowing that, get the best salary you can, but if the other option is working for a company or startup that continues to develop and hone your skills, especially in areas like product, engineering, customer support, sales and marketing—all areas critical to creating a technology startup—that's where my vote is.

Always choose the company where you’ll learn the most rather than where you’ll earn the most. Ask your potential employers what skills and tools you’ll develop on the job. You have to understand that just because you’ve graduated from school doesn't mean the learning stops—it never does. Even as CEO of Kalibrr, I am learning something new everyday.

Your degree does not determine your destiny

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I’m a Political Economy graduate running a technology startup in the Philippines. I chose Political Economy because I have a personal interest in why countries develop and others under develop. But my passion was always in technology.

I wasn’t smart enough to be a full-time coder so I became an entrepreneur instead. The degree for me was just that—a piece of paper that said I was competent in a subject matter area but being someone who continued to learn, I applied myself to technology and entrepreneurship.

So for all you human resources (HR) graduates, just because you majored in HR doesn’t mean you should only be looking for HR jobs. Apply to companies outside of your degree area. Explore jobs where you can learn something new that interests you and always remember to go where you’re not supposed to be.

Be Patient

Success is not going to come overnight. It probably won’t come for a few years.

You’re going to want a promotion sooner than you deserve . You’re going to want to manage people and not do the entry level work anymore. You now live in a world where everything is available at your fingertips except success. Your social media feed is filled with people living the life you want right now and it makes you want success even more.

The reality is, success takes years, a ton of hard work, and some luck. It's literally the only thing in this hyperconnected world that you can’t have in an instant. You’ve just got to be patient.

Take a Risk


This brings me back to our first point—corporations or startups.

Startups are inherently risky but I believe you should take those risks early and often in your career. It's much more difficult to take these risks when you have a family and financial responsibilities.

Do it when you’re still living at home with minimal responsibilities. Look to areas where other people aren’t and identify things that might become a future trend.

The biggest risk is the one you don’t take. Remember, you’re young—when you fall, your family can still catch you. If startups just aren’t your thing, you’ll have an entire corporate world who you’ll impress with what you’ve learned. Take a risk while you’ve still got a big wide safety net in your life.

I have a few more pieces of advice, but I think 5 is good enough to get you thinking about what’s next.

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