What They Don't Tell You In School About The Real World

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We were all pretty disillusioned as children, don’t you think? We thought the lady behind the cashier counter was filthy rich and our family driver was the coolest because all he does in life is drive fancy cars and chicks dig them like chocolate bars.

But life turned out to be, well, not quite how we imagined it to be. By now it's become crystal clear to us that a college diploma does not guarantee a great career, nor does being in our late twenties would magically make us stable and secure.

Having been in the so-called and very isolated “real world” for almost seven years now, I, your dear and trusted tita, am here to uncover the many truths about the work force that they don’t usually teach us in school. Or if they did maybe I was spacing out then.



Expectations: In school, we most likely rubbed (smooth) elbows with people of a certain socio-economic class, or at least, were in the same wavelength as ours. We found souls to share our weird interests with, divulge our innermost secrets with, and reveal our evil thoughts with. Getting along with everyone was easy as ABC.

Thought Catalog articles on friendship breakups and such did not exist back then and we probably never even heard of such a term yet. Making friends was an oh-so-natural thing.

Reality: Out of school and into the work force, it’s not the same. Suddenly, being an introvert or an extrovert matters. You may also find yourself saying that it’s the first time you’ve encountered such a person.

But mind you, I mean this both ways. On one hand, you’ll be shaking your head in disbelief upon subjection to such poor character. But at the same time, you may also encounter people who will change your world, introduce you to experiences you would have never had with your own group of friends, and maybe, even meet a potential lover.



Expectations: Didn’t we all say to ourselves these three commandments about work and money? One, that no, no, no, it does not matter. Sweldo isn’t a priority, it’s all about loving what we do, right? Two, it’s that we will voluntarily contribute to the monthly living expenses at home, even when our parents aren’t obliging us to. And three, we will definitely save. I mean, isn't that a given?

Reality: You treat your entire family (including extended family members such as ninongs and ninangs who will now officially stop giving you monetary gifts because you can now, supposedly, support yourself) to a feast, maxing out your first ever sweldo. Your succeeding pay checks will go to shopping for a new work wardrobe (an essential for career advancement!), spontaneous dinners with colleagues (you deserve it!), and make-up (your only real splurge!).

This is absolutely normal and acceptable behavior—but only for the first few years. You will and should eventually spend on the boring necessities, like life, health, and death insurance, or invest in a Potato Corner stall (your childhood dream!).   



Expectations: We looked forward to finally earning money of our own, and especially the freedom of spending it however we wanted to! To every invite to a party, company-initiated or otherwise, we’d gladly say a loud, resounding yes to it. Being employed and having money of our own meant we could travel with friends and lovers, wear what we want, and eat out whenever we felt like it. This was freedom.

Reality: An entry level sweldo is enough (unless you’re in IT or any one of the top-earning industries), but not to live luxuriously. You’ll realize soon enough that your daily meals, transportation, groceries, and your own bills to pay will eat up most of your paycheck and that’s absolutely fine. It’s how life is. This is the part where we learn to make good use of our freedom, and think of more ways to earn and save, and live life meaningfully still. And, well, maybe occasionally still ask from our parents.



Expectations: Oh we’ve heard it countless times from our elders: the cray boss, the annoying colleagues, the office politics. And each time, we’d shrug it off thinking we’d be able to handle it like we did the bullies and mean girls in school. I mean, it can’t be all that difficult right? There can always be a way to sort it out through good communication.

Reality: You will soon realize that office politics is real as real can get and despite being an innocent, never-penalized, record-free employee, you will still feel its effects.

One day you may be a victim of it, or maybe even benefit from it. With your own eyes, you’ll see how real connections work and how powerful these are. On the other hand, office politics can get in the way of a job you love so much, but might have to leave in order to escape a culture that’s so bad it’s killing you inside.

You definitely know what to do.



Expectations: Work-related trips, a health card, a company car, and all that jazz. It’s probably what our parents have earned from working corporate jobs, and it’s natural to expect the same. 

Reality: You can’t expect the same treatment your parents had to be yours, too. It all depends on the company you end up working for, the industry, and even the time frame when you’re employed (e.g. is the company in the middle of cost-cutting or laying off a employees?). These benefits also come with a price, like, say, having car means you’ll be expected to shuttle from place to place as needed, for events, to errands, and last-minute meetings (a.k.a. deal with the traffic). But remember that it comes with the job and it's not so bad, really.



Expectations: If we did well in school, then work life will be a cinch. After all, isn't everything we memorized and mastered all we need to become great? We'll be commended for a job well done, receive a duly pat on the back, and co-workers will love us for our brilliance.

If we did poorly in school but still managed to graduate, we'll manage to get ourselves hired just as well, because we know our way around life.

Reality: It will be nothing like school at all. If anything, the lessons we've learned there will feel so distant and inapplicable to what we'll be tasked to do and most of the times we'll go "huh?" on our supervisor's feedback or upon seeing the list of things to accomplish. It's probably the grit, the perseverance, and the self-learned skills we've taught ourselves to survive all-nighters and annoying group mates that will help us survive the real world. Ultimately, there's no report card to rate how well or not we are doing in life.



Expectation: You have always pictured yourself becoming a total career woman, walking down the streets in heels and a chic, sharp business suit. You’re earning for yourself, with extra to give your family. And more extra to go shopping, to travel, to purchase your own car and home. You’ve definitely become an independent human being and can navigate through life on your own. All in your twenties!

Reality: You learn about government offices, processing tax payments, signing up for a passport or a license, medical checkups, et cetera. Behind the scenes isn’t all unicorns and flowers, and along the way, you’ll meet people going through the same thing (and you’ll be thankful for them!), or even some who might actually have it worse than you.

And then you’ll realize that even when you’re not the ideal career women you initially envisioned yourself to be, you’ll smile a the progress you’ve made so far. Cheers.


Cover photo by Miguel Alomajan.



Patti Sunio6 Comments