What do ‘legit’ career firsts feel like?

MANILA, Philippines – Life is full of first times, but it’s the "legit" ones that tend to be the most memorable. 

Take for example learning to ride a bike, having a good time at a party, or mustering the guts to ask a girl out. For instances like these, the real first time happens when you learn your lessons: you get bruises and scrapes, you get a hangover, you get rejected.

Legit first times can happen in your career as well.

We asked two average* guys to talk about their favorite breakthroughs in their respective professions. As development worker James Roman and football player Graham Caygill have learned, a legit first can be pretty life-changing.

James Roman: Discovering a new way to help

REACHING OUT. James Roman hangs out with local children at one of his foundation's housing worksites. Photo from James Roman

REACHING OUT. James Roman hangs out with local children at one of his foundation's housing worksites.

Photo from James Roman

Government employee and Taguyod Bayan Foundation's founder James Roman has always wanted to help people.

“Even when I was in college, I wanted to help people,” the 25-year-old shares. “For me, I just want to do something where I literally go down [to areas in need], find my discomfort, and see how I can be of contribution to this world.”

As a political science student at Ateneo de Manila University, James was part of a political party that represented the marginalized sectors of the school’s community. During natural disasters, he also spearheaded relief efforts with his college buddies.

James’ calling to help others and to "find his discomfort" led him to a job with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) after graduation. He became a project development officer for the organization’s conditional cash transfer program. This role took him to remote areas of the country where he experienced first-hand the situations of the Moros, the Lumad, and the Ifugao.

Everything changed when Typhoon Yolanda hit in late 2013. James recalls: “I was [in Tacloban] two or three days after [Yolanda struck]. We carried the dead bodies. We did the dirty work because the DSWD was really frozen at that time in that region.”

James’ college buddies also wanted to help. They asked him where they could send their money and relief goods. “I directed them pretty well. And then I told them: ‘Let's not be impulsive here. Let's plan. Let's plan something sustainable.’ That does not just mean canned goods and bottled water and soap for them to bathe. I wanted something more sustainable that will affect [the victims’] lives permanently,” James says.

Their effort carried over into mid-2014. James used the DSWD’s targeting systems to find an area that badly needed the help he and his friends wanted to offer. He found Sara, Iloilo. Their group saw first-hand how some of the thousands of displaced families in Sara were forced to squat in bus terminal bathrooms just to survive.

The devastation was overwhelming, especially for James’ friends who didn’t have experience in in development field work. This almost-helpless situation inspired them to help out in their own way.

“If we want make this sustainable, what can we do about it? Tweak it? Do we just solicit funds for people to donate to Gawad Kalinga or Habitat For Humanity? Or do something on our own? So we took it as a challenge. We did something on our own. We wanted to do housing,” James says.

TEAM EFFORT. James Roman started Taguyod Bayan Foundation with his college friends. Photo from James Roman

TEAM EFFORT. James Roman started Taguyod Bayan Foundation with his college friends.

Photo from James Roman

Together with his friends, James started building what would eventually become the Taguyod Bayan Foundation. The foundation builds disaster-resilient housing in disaster-prone areas. By September 2015, James and his six friends have built sixteen homes in Sara.

Though he already had development work experience before he started Taguyod Bayan, James considers it his legit first big career project due to the challenges involved. “[Taguyod Bayan] was something we built from scratch,” he says. “I would say that experience was very enriching in each and every aspect of the work involved.”

Graham Caygill: Discovering a new passion

ON THE FIELD. Graham Caygill during his days as a player for the Loyola Meralco Sparks. Photo from Graham Caygill

ON THE FIELD. Graham Caygill during his days as a player for the Loyola Meralco Sparks.

Photo from Graham Caygill

“Passion is something you really care about, something built-in that you love that you want to go out and get, and that you can’t control,” says Filipino-British football player turned host Graham Caygill.

The 26-year-old Graham first found his passion for football as a young boy living in England. It’s the same love for the game that saw him migrate to the Philippines to turn professional. In Manila, he spent a few years playing for the Loyola Meralco Sparks in the United Football League. As a popular player, he faced the microphone and camera many times.

Then his handlers convinced him to try being the one holding the microphone. As a lifelong footballer, becoming a host was the furthest thing from Graham’s mind. His agents won out though, and they talked him into auditioning to be one of Gameplan's new hosts.  

Graham recalls: “A few weeks into the process, I had to do an actual audition and read out lines and answer questions in front of a panel. After that, we went to a field audition and we actually filmed a show with all the other potential candidates. The first audition was the first time I met [the Gameplan team]. They interviewed me and then when they actually asked me to host, obviously I was nervous but luckily I had one of my agents with me.”

Though he had some experience presenting in front of people as part of his tourism business, the audition was Graham’s first time do it for a filmed show. Luckily, his first take was successful and he was chosen as one of the new hosts.

For Graham’s first legit hosting experience, Gameplan featured the Football for Peace program, which aims to get children from war-torn areas in Mindanao off the streets and onto the football field. The episode showed the children taking part in a clinic hosted by Graham’s old team, the Loyola Meralco Sparks.

ON AIR. Graham Caygill hosting his first episode of Gameplan. Screengrab from YouTube/Gameplan

ON AIR. Graham Caygill hosting his first episode of Gameplan.

Screengrab from YouTube/Gameplan

The idea of talking for the cameras in front of his former teammates didn’t sit well with him. “When I got told my first episode was going be with my old team, I wasn't happy,” Graham says. “I called my agent saying, ‘I can't do that. This is my old team; they're going to be judging me. They’re my friends and they're going to make fun of me.’” 

Graham managed to suck it up and go on with the episode. Afterwards, his fear of being judged gave way to a renewed spirit. “It's a relief to get the first [hosting gig] out of the way because with me once you've done one, I know I can do another one,” he says.

How you can survive your own legit first

If you’re about to take on your legit first in your career or personal life, take a few tips from these passionate guys.

James wouldn’t have built Taguyod Bayan without his friends. Teamwork and trust were very important. “Everyone has something to bring to the table,” he says. “We never knew that this team, this bond, could force [itself] to contribute to the concept of what Taguyod Bayan wants to become.”

Graham says that a healthy dose of positive thinking can help you weather anything. “I never thought I would be a host and now I'm doing hosting, so why can't I do anything?” he says. “I don’t set any barriers on myself and I’m open to try new things from now on.”

Both guys agree that good grooming is also a crucial part of the success formula.

In a career where you spread hope to those who need it most, James says being presentable sets a good example. “You can't look rugged when you're trying to propose to fix something. I'd say that you have to be well-groomed because you want to appear as someone not just respected but someone who's organized,” he says.

As a host, it’s important for Graham to not just to be eloquent, but to look good. He says: “[Grooming] is important, especially with Gameplan, [where] they don't really give me any make-up, so I really have to do my best in other ways. I like to keep well-groomed and especially if we're playing football, we're going surfing, we're doing activities like that, we’re going to look haggard by the end of it. So we really need to take care of our appearance.”

Circumstances will vary, but everyone will get to experience their #legitfirst moment. To make yours count, make sure that you’re mentally and physically prepared to enjoy and learn from the experience. A well-groomed look and a clean shave won’t hurt, either. – Rappler.com 

*i.e. successful, sincere, and mildly good-looking.