In a developing economy such as Cambodia’s, starting a job by yourself after spending four years at university is quite challenging. The insecurity of freelance work and self-employment is intimidating to many people, but to others it is an opportunity to do the work that you want to do and design your own schedule.
“Freelance jobs are good in that you have to learn how to manage your time, since all work has a tight deadline and you must be really professional by delivering the work on time,” said Lay Vicheka, who began working on his own when he was a second-year law student. The 26-year-old added that “time management is the skill that you must learn as a freelancer”.
More and more students are becoming frustrated by not being able to secure a job after spending their parents’ savings on university. Vicheka originally took whatever jobs he could get. He worked as a project manager, translator and writer for various print and online publications and was even a project superviser for Heritage Watch International, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation of Southeast Asia’s cultural heritage, before he even graduated.
Despite having the freedom to work from home or in air-conditioned cafés, Vicheka warns that “you may not get full benefits, in terms of financial and personal development, that full-time staff get. Freelance jobs seem to get higher pay than the full-time job, but I personally do not endorse them”.
To explain the different nature of salary positions and self-employment, Vicheka, who has been writing for local and international publications such as Cambodian Management Journal and Africa-based Journal of Law and Conflict Resolution, said “fixed-term contract jobs are better since I can access the full benefits of my employer in terms of finance and human capital investment of the company, like internal training and joining local and international conferences. I love responsibility, so fixed-term contracts are good for me”.
Despite recent setbacks due to the worldwide economic meltdown, Vicheka said that prospective employees should remain optimistic. “Never give up, there is always room for you and if you make yourself the right candidate, there will be an employer to hire you.” Currently a law consultant, he advises students to “go beyond just your text book, talk to friends, professors, join seminars, go to the library, search the internet to find the way to reach your dreams”.
With several years of experience doing freelancing work, Vicheka will graduate with a master’s degree in law later this year from the University of Cambodia, where he also obtained his bachelor’s degree.
According to Ana Nov (on the left in the picture above), who estimates that she has worked for over 30 employers in the past 10 years, fresh graduates need more than what they learned at schools. “To be able to work for yourself, you need to know a lot of people in different workplaces.
Some of them are your potential sources of information, and they can hire you to do some work,” said the freelancer-turned-entrepreneur whose years of work experience proved to be an invaluable asset for her to establish Ang Khmer Group, a public relations and translation company.
“When you indulge in your school life, get to know people in your class; this honest relationship with people in your early career will last. They may become your business partners or help you in many ways in having jobs to do,” she advised.