When graduating from university as a young and fresh twenty-something, choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life might seem like a daunting task. This is why, more often than not, the memes have it right. Most of the Chinoy — or Asian — youth enter adulthood by stepping into one of three career paths: business, medicine, or law.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a “conventional” career. We’re sure that many people find themselves satisfied with overcoming corporate hustle and saving people’s lives. But have you ever imagined yourself doing something else? Have you ever wanted to direct a movie, become a professional aerial dancer, or break records as a national athlete?
The truth is that, most of the time, we’re too afraid to do more than wonder about careers that don’t seem realistic. And that’s why Project Offbeat exists.
Offering a deep look into career paths less trodden, Project Offbeat is a podcast launched by Matt Yu and Lance Cham, two corporate well-doers who aim to share stories from realms outside of your typical office set-up. The idea of the podcast series first came to be in August 2021 and was set into motion in October, when Matt and Lance found themselves in the limbo of being in between jobs — a time that became the perfect opportunity to discover what lay outside the corporate world. Although Matt and Lance have since respectively found employment as a pricing analyst and project manager, this passion project carried on.
Now on its third season, Project Offbeat has spotlighted a wide variety of notable personalities from international award-winning conservation photographers to best-selling vegan cookbook authors. Sharing their own story with CHiNOY TV, Matt and Lance reveal their insights on opening job perspectives, chasing off-beat careers, and pursuing their own side passions in the midst of a global pandemic.
You’re hosting a podcast about different careers outside of corporate life. What brought up the idea for the project?
Matt: The podcast, basically, began as a desire to meet people outside of our corporate circles. At the time, Lance and I just resigned. We were in between jobs. But then we realized that we haven’t been meeting that many people outside of our corporate circles. And wala, we were thinking of ideas to create something that we could produce. We realized during the process of brainstorming that there’s something so incredible about people who pursued the unconventional route instead of the safer bet, which is more corporate, especially for Chinese Filipinos like us.
Lance: We were thinking to ourselves, ‘What was the simplest output to start with?’ And alam mo naman napakahirap maging vlogger or video editing. So we thought audio-only content would be easier to start with. And that’s why it’s a podcast right now. Not a lot of people do it compared to bloggers and maybe TikTok influencers, right? But we think that if it fits the mold that we want — the storytelling — we can get as many people as we want.
Have you had plans to pursue other careers in the beginning, or did you just plan to go into corporate right away?
Lance: I think when I was a child, perhaps I dreamt of becoming a doctor. Because the illusion [is that] being a doctor is a very lucrative career. You can heal lives, cure lives, whatever, right? But when I arrived at high school and college, I felt like I couldn’t study that long. I didn’t like it anymore. I [wouldn’t] like to be in school that long. So corporate, I think, is always the safest route. But for me, it was always becoming a teacher, becoming a lecturer. Kind of fit what I aspired to be. That’s where the world needs me. And that’s where my skills are as well.
I didn’t expect that an opportunity [would come] about agad. I think three months after graduation, a fellow professor called me and told me there was an opening in Ateneo. And I took it. I told myself: this opportunity won’t always be there. So now, we’re soul searching pa rin. We’re at our quarter life, but we’re soul searching pa rin. And that’s why nagpopodcast kami and meeting new people in hopes na may makita rin kaming career doon na magiging interested kami, right? So yeah, I definitely don’t see myself as a 100% corporate guy. Before I wanted to be a CEO, but now, parang you aspire for something else. You aspire to make these stories — to make an impact.
Matt: Ako naman. When I was younger, I was very fascinated with ships and boats. I wanted to be a pirate. I wanted to be a captain. Tapos, as I grew up going through high school, I was very interested in art. And I liked drawing. I liked taking photos. So when I went into college, I kind of created vlogs and posters on the side. I felt like at the end of the day, I was still going to go through a corporate career. It never really dawned on me that I would fully go into any other career. It was just really fun to create and dabble into. When I went into corporate, for the longest time, I guess I was looking for a creative outlet as well, so when side hustles came up, why not try this out — maging content creator — who knows what is going to happen? Who knows where this leads?
What’s your opinion on what a modern Chinoy identity is?
Lance: For me, kasi parang pwede mong sabihin na iba ‘yung generations natin with our parents and grandparents, right? But not necessarily because iba ‘yung pagka-Chinoy nila and iba ‘yung pagka-Chinoy natin. It’s just an age difference, right? We were brought up differently. We had that different environment. Ngayon sobrang interconnected din natin.
They didn’t have that technology to aspire to reach the world. And that’s what we have now. And your question earlier: What is the modern Chinoy? I think it’s really someone that capitalizes on what we currently have right now. Even if you are Chinoy, even with the boundaries of your parents telling you not to do this and not to do that. Hey, it’s a different world, it’s a different era, you have the laptop for it, you have the wifi for it, go do it. Definitely, the traditions are still valuable, right? The traditions are still there to keep you who you are. But at the same time, you have to make your own path. And there’s really no stopping you from being modern.
Matt: I guess it’s, in the simplest sense, not fully conforming to tradition. Because I think if you’ve fully conformed to it, you kind of lose your humanity in a way, but it’s [not about] truly rejecting it either. So you acknowledge your roots. What I don’t want is for Chinoys to just blaze their own path and never look back. You know what I mean? It’s tricky because it’s always very hard to find a balance between them, but I think that’s why the notable Chinoys, in our podcast — parang they have that kind of balance. They’re pursuing unconventional careers that their parents may not want for them or might be against the grain of what Chinese-Filipino people want, but they still exhibit the common values that we were brought up with. There’s still that sense of tradition, but you don’t fully give into it and lose your personality.
What would you define to be a good career?
Matt: This is a very cliche answer. It’s kind of related to the podcast, but a good career is a good story. Because it’s like you’re evolving and you’re growing to become a better you. That’s what I’m thinking. There’s no perfect path. There aren’t a lot of people who will stay 10 or 20 years in a company. There aren’t a lot of people who will go from employee to CEO level, right? As long as you understand that and establish yourself in whatever field or industry you go into, I feel like as long as you have a story to tell, and you learn a lot from it, and you have a lot of insight from it, I think that’s the essence of a good career. Professionally, socially, and personally, you find fulfillment from it.
Lance: Sa akin naman, I’d like to quote [a professor] sa Ateneo. He talked about how work or trabaho is the one that gives dignidad sa tao. [If] you give them work, you give them a career, and they find another dignity to what they are as a person. What’s wonderful about a career is that you’re able to create something — you’re able to put something to life. Even if you’re working for a company, even if you’re working for your own [business], you’re trying to build something, and you’re trying to make the world a bit more wonderful. I think that’s what a career should be. Sometimes, when we’re so lost, we look back: That career of mine allowed me to make this. You find your dignity in it. You are able to create something that’s very meaningful for a lot of people.
Do you have any favorite stories from Project Offbeat?
Lance: I always tell Matt, sa lahat ng guestings namin, ‘yung favorite ko talaga before is Nicola “Ber” Reyes. Kasi kami diba, we’re corporate guys, when we look at a cosplayer: What are they doing? Why are they in SM Convention Center parading around in their costumes? What does that do for a person? Why is that so powerful for some people? And she told us that it was actually her outlet to cure her insecurities in life. Imagine parading around as a cosplayer. May mini-skirt ka kasi you’re trying to portray an anime character. She would have never done that ever in her life if not for cosplay. And ang ganda lang for me because ‘yung career mo can actually get you through all of your insecurities. And ang galing lang. For me, that’s the most offbeat thing I’ve heard. I never saw cosplay people the same ever again.
Matt: I’m going to give two answers. The first one is the obvious one: EJ Obiena starting out in the slums of Tondo, finding his footing, getting scholarships, going out to Italy on his own, training under one of the most legendary coaches, spraining his ACL, being decommissioned for maybe two years, then coming back stronger than ever. And we filmed that episode kasi prior to the World Athletics Championships. That was like two weeks before? I felt like I was a part of the history. Like at that point in time, we were talking to a person who wanted to be the best of the best and wanted to compete as one of the best of the best. And flash-forward to a few weeks later, the week that we were going to post that episode, he gets ranked [third] in the world. So I feel like I was part of that personal history with that person.
Pero another good story that I would like to highlight is Gab Mejia. So imagine this: He spent his early life as a mountaineer with his dad, and he got exposed to nature and the wilderness and the beauty of the Philippines, basically. As he was growing older, he realized that not many people knew about it, so he pursued this life of being a conservation photographer, even when the first conservation photography contest he joined was in college. But now, he’s like what? Forbes 30 Under 30. Recognized for his efforts to conserve all around the Philippines. I feel like that’s very noble. Imagine going to the marshes, going under the sun. It’s wet. It’s uncomfortable. Baka ma-sunburned ka pa and whatnot. And it’s such an inspiring story because not a lot of people go for that.
What kind of advice do you have for Chinoys who want to pursue careers outside of the corporate world?
Lance: First of all, Project Offbeat does not tell you that a corporate job is not a viable option. Me and Matt, three years or four years in, we’re still here in corporate. Definitely, if you need stability in your life, go corporate. You could say that it’s the easiest path to a career. Kasi ang daming supply and demand for it. There are so many companies that can offer you that.
But for those aspiring, feeling that you’ve tried out corporate [then] one or two years after, it feels like there’s something wrong there. You don’t like the fast pace, you don’t like working for someone, you don’t like waking up and working 9-5 and sitting at a table. I think, first of all, you’ve got to expose yourself to the potential careers out there. Doon ‘yung pinaka nahihirapan ng mga tao when they’re trying to pivot. Because, for example, if you ask yourself what are the careers that you know of. Probably you heard that YouTube influencers make a lot of money. Celebrities make a lot of money. PBA players make a lot of money. But andaming pa palang sobrang ibang-ibang careers na pwede mo rin pasukan. You can be a vegan recipe developer like Jeeca. You can be a cosplayer like Ber. For me, try to expose yourself first with the potential careers out there. Don’t settle for one agad.
Matt: Actually, my initial advice is to listen to Project Offbeat. Because the advice that I might share is basically the same one that our guests have been sharing. Sometimes, I feel like I’m not at the best place to say because I haven’t really pursued anything outside of the corporate world aside from this podcast. But I think, at least based on what Lance is saying, parang you don’t need to go 100%. You can always try it out on the side. You can go 50-50, 75-25, it doesn’t really matter. We’re going to be having [a director guest] in the upcoming weeks. Sabi niya, [it’s] very important kasi the support that you have before pursuing these offbeat careers. Think of it like a rubber band. If you want to go pursue an off-beat career, you kind of stretch yourself towards one direction. Okay lang. Pero kung hindi talaga kaya, and you can’t stretch any longer, you can always find your center. And that’s where your support is. And of course, there’s no shame in returning and saying that maybe it’s not for me. The important thing is that you stretch yourself, you look for what’s out there, then return if it’s not working for you.
Want to listen to this exciting podcast? Head over to Project Offbeat on Spotify right now!