Eight years ago, Aika Robredo shared an email her father, the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo penned. The letter, written in 2008, was meant to comfort Aika who was then a fresh graduate struggling with figuring out the next steps in her career. Aika’s dilemma is familiar to anyone who has ever felt lost in life. She described herself as “clueless, whiny, too idealistic, and entitled” — much like us when we expect to wake up with everything figured out. But the older Robredo’s words proved a sort of dim light at the end of the tunnel and it’s something every burnt-out young professional needs to hear.
Is the grass greener on the other side?
“It is too early to tell what you are meant to do, but quitting this early will not be good for you,” wrote Robredo. That single sentence alone resonated with thousands of fresh grads pushed into the reality of life outside the walls of their schools. Their first job isn’t what they expected. The bosses are too harsh, the job too demanding, and the pay too little than what they would like. They might be drafting resignation letters every day in their heads. But should they quit? Should you?
“If I encourage you to quit early, the next time you feel the same discomfort, you will not learn to cope but quit again,” added Robredo. For him, Aika would be taking the easy way out if she leaves at the first sign of inconvenience. Life isn’t always smooth sailing — how else would you build character?
Should looking for happiness be your number one priority?
Most young professionals want instant gratification — promotion in six months, a six-digit salary in one year — and if they don’t get it in a snap, they can become bitter. They mope around and complain about their jobs, creating an atmosphere of negativity and ungratefulness. What’s Robredo got to say about this? “The more unhappy and discontented you are, the more you will dread every day you work.”
Being happy about your job is important but not everyone is 100% happy about theirs all the time. That’s just the reality of life. There are ups and downs, adjustment periods, and trials to overcome before you get to the point where you’re calm and you’re sure of yourself.
“I think sticking on to your job for a significant amount of time is a good idea. It will test your ability to cope with something you are not too happy doing. The sad reality is that we have to bear it because it is part of the learning process,” added Robredo.
But if you really want to quit, be responsible
The purpose of Robredo’s letter wasn’t to invalidate Aika’s feelings. It was to guide her and help her make a wise decision with the help of her father who has accumulated wisdom throughout the years. While Robredo advised his eldest daughter to “give it time,” he also told her she should “actively look for other options.”
“If you do decide to quit, be responsible enough to find another job before quitting,” he wrote. “It will not look good if you quit without any definite job waiting.”
Young professionals, you can leave your job once you feel that it doesn’t align anymore with what you want for yourself, but don’t neglect your responsibility. Make sure you have somewhere solid to land on once you jump ship.
Give yourself a break
In the letter, Robredo acknowledged that Aika is going through a burnout phase, something that we’re all too familiar with. He advised that she should take a break from everything in order to recover her energy. You should too. Taking a break means hitting pause to internalize, analyze, and organize your thoughts. So you’re burnt out — give your brain the rest it needs. You can’t keep putting out fires if your bucket is empty.
Seek support from people who love you and care for you
“I will always support you in any way you want me to,” wrote Robredo. “Do not be afraid to make the decisions you think that best suit you. Lagi lang naman kaming nandito.”
Not everyone is blessed with parents that are as supportive and loving as the Robredo couple but that’s okay. You can find this warmth in friends, siblings, and people whom you know you can trust. Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to find the beauty in staying put or take leaps of faith while holding your hand. Seek them out and draw strength from them.
Practice gratefulness even if you are not where you expected to be
Lastly, Robredo reminded Aika that “many people would love to take her place, given the opportunity.” That’s something a lot of young professionals should remember whenever they feel discontented. Wherever you are right now — a corporate employee working 60 hours a week or a fresh grad earning less than what you would’ve liked — somebody would love to take your place. So honor your place in life. You may not be where you want to be yet but you should still be grateful for how far you’ve come.
Maybe someday, like Aika, you’ll look back at those days when you spent your days confused and frustrated, and you’ll be glad you stayed your course.
You can read Sec. Jesse Robredo’s whole letter to Aika here.