I loved JR Santiago’s “Dear Young Person in Government” post in Facebook that I was inspired to write this version of “Dear Person in the Government who have Served for a While”. “A While” is relative…It could mean 10, 15 or even 20+ years in service. But I’m drawing from my own experience from year of service (10 years, 7 months, 5 days to be exact). Here it goes:
Dear Person in the Government Who have Served for a While,
Congratulations! You have made it this far. You’re still in a sector that has a very direct role in improving the lives of our countrymen. Here are some things I’d like to share with you which I hope you can keep in mind as you continue with your public service:
1. Be a mentor and be open to new learning. There are young ones who have the right heart and mind for service. They just need mentors who will be willing to guide them and show them by example the right values. They may also have fresh perspective which you do not have. I hope you will be willing to still learn.
2. Be humble and listen. Higher positions, better educations and awards should not be used as an excuse to power trip or frighten young ones. Rather, these achievements should be used as means of illustrating how your work can impact others and make a change. Also, young ones are colleagues whose inputs deserved to be considered for whatever output your team is supposed to deliver.
3. Be kind. Just be kind and the world will become less suffocating.
4. Be patient. Young ones do not have the same understanding of the processes and system as you do. They may not be efficient as you are. They will have a learning curve. Be patient and teach them. See coaching and training as a long-term investment.
5. Learn from young ones. They know a lot about technology that can make jobs easier. They can make your presentation visually more appealing. They can make data analysis more efficient. They can make your life simpler in so many ways.
Yesterday, after a very toxic day at work, I ran somewhere. I met up with a friend and we had a bowl of ramen for dinner. Because I was pretty much not myself anymore, I managed to spill a lot of sesame seeds in my ramen. Imagine what my tonkotsu ramen tasted like! It wasn’t very bad but it was definitely crunchy. Afterwards, we each bought a scoop of ice cream and walked around the streets talking about random things.
I told my friend, “This is possible, huh? Take a break in the middle of the week and let some steam out?”. She nodded and replied with a smile.
When people ask me these days what I fear the most, my answer would always be “to belatedly realize that I have already become part of the system I abhor”. In the Filipino language, it’s better known as “nilamon na ng sistema”.
It’s not only me who have this fear. After meeting with high school and college friends lately, I realized most of us have this fear or worry. Our common denominator is we are all in our late 20s or early 30s, struggling to climb our respective career ladders and general “in between” either in our respective communities and workplaces.
I got out of the van and looked at my wristwatch. It was 8 pm already. I had a very long week and today was no different. I also barely slept the previous night.
I can see the mall from where I stand. I crossed the street and debated on whether I should still eat dinner and buy some groceries. I was too tired to do both. I decided to just go home.
It was still quite a long walk…12 mins I think. On my way home, I thought about the things that need to be done for work. There are a lot. I cannot even fathom where to start and I cannot imagine if there is an endpoint.
The other week, my classmates and I were joking on our Facebook group what we would award each other for our upcoming graduation this July 25. One classmate said he would give me a “Master Procrastinator Award”. I was appalled so I asked him why.
He replied, “Because every time I am cramming for our paper or an exam, I would see in your posts that you are either in Korea, El Nido or some random beach. You don’t seem to be bothered by school or work at all”.
Am I one?? (Image credits to keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)
I was surprised that some of them had a perception that I am a “procrastinator”, so I clarified that when I am on travel, I bring my iPad and laptop. I study while waiting in airports and ports. I write papers at night or during the wee hours of the morning. I always put my phone on roaming to make sure I don’t miss anything work or school-related while I am overseas. Simply said, I multitask.
I always get questions related to this: How do you juggle things? How do you manage to keep up at work and school and still get to travel? So I thought I’d share of some of “tactics” of how I managed to do all three for the past years:
1. Multitask but do so efficiently. This is inevitable. I am not someone who can let go of my day job just to prioritize school or travel. I don’t have someone who I can say I can lean on in case I get into financial trouble. I don’t want rely on scholarships either because in the Philippines, more of often than not, stipends are delayed. I also still send money to my family back home every once in a while. Multitasking is not ideal, but to be able to do all things I want to do and have to do, this is the compromise I make.
I am lucky enough that my classes are online. So while on travel, I can still participate in class discussion late at night or write papers at dawn. When I have something important for work that coincides with my travel, I usually check my email at least three times a day to make sure my workmates would still get the information they need from me.
One lesson I learned from my freelance writing jobs is I should not commit to an assignment if I can’t beat the deadline. The same goes for writing about topics which I am not very familiar about. But sometimes there are unavoidable situations which cause me to submit a paper late or in worse case, request it to be reassigned to another writer. The price I paid was steep. The fee for reassigning the paper to another writer was deducted from my salary and I was put on probationary status. Since then, I have been more careful in selecting my assignments and I have always tried to finish a paper at least an hour before a deadline even if it meant not sleeping for 24 hours straight.
Sadly, the same kind of penalty cannot be imposed for friends or relatives who do not keep their word. After all, friendship and any other form of human relation are complex in nature and cannot be caged in boundaries and rules that apply for instance in our work. We can always go back to the “we are just human” argument that we can’t control people, situations and decisions. We can’t always expect things to happen the way we imagined them.
A few days ago, I experienced what could have been the biggest slap to me so far as a public servant. I accompanied a client to a cashier of a department. Unfortunately, there was a problem in the documents brought by my client. Instead of properly explaining to us to resolve the problem, the cashier simply shouted at us and said, “Ibalik nyo yan! Di yan pwede! (Return that! That is not acceptable!)”.
I was so embarrassed because my client had to go back all the way to Manila (we were in Taguig) and return again just to address a matter which could have easily been solved if she allowed us to explain. I was so pissed but I decided not push the matter because my client could be placed in more jeopardy.
This is not the first time I encountered “scary” or “rude” government employees. But most of the time, I just let it go because these people may have reasons why they have such attitude. I also learned through experience that if I talk to them in a nice and patient way, they will also treat you nicely. Of course, there are exceptions. There are simply people who are too rude and filled with bitterness for the world.
Another travel post! I don’t plan on turning this site into a travel blog but since it is what has been consuming my life lately, here’s another travel post. Last October 19-21, 2012, I was in Davao City to attend the 23rd annual convention of the Philippine Society for Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology. It’s very memorable because aside from the fact that it was my first time in Davao, it’s also my first official travel outside of Luzon. I handle big R&D projects but since most of them are based on Metro Manila and nearby provinces, I rarely get a chance to be on official business outside of Luzon. So when the opportunity came to go to Davao, I immediately grabbed it. I was blessed enough to come with my boss and my two officemates, Io and Ate Pearl, so the whole trip was not so lonesome.
Another satisfying achievement to add on my list.
Nowadays, everyday life easily translates to work for me. It does not necessarily mean that my life only revolves around work but it just that most hours of the day is devoted for working. It can be tiresome. At times, I just want to curse every process that makes my work even harder. Life is like that. There is no such thing as free lunch. However, you should not allow yourself to drown in the process. Thankfully, I have people at work who share my burden. There is nothing to celebrate about suffering together but let’s admit it: it’s easier when you see it’s not only you that needs to put your feet forward.
November is just around the concern and what does this mean? Trip to Bicol to visit those who have already gone ahead of us. For working people like me, it’s like hitting two birds with one stone as I get to have some vacation too.
There was a time when I totally loathed November. Why? Because it’s the month that one of the most important people in my life was taken from me. November is a painful reminder of what I’ve lost and how my life has turned upside down. But time is kind. Wounds heal. Pain subsides. People mature.
Nowadays, I am looking at November with more optimism. It’s because I’ve also received so much blessing during this month the past years. My mom celebrates her birthday during November. I have enough reason to thank God for giving me such a good mom. November 2011 will also mark my 2nd year at PCHRD. While I feel I am getting farther and farther from where I initially imagined myself, I could not ask for better workmates.
So November, come fast! I can’t wait for you to come.
Excerpt from Dr. Philip E. Humbert’s “The Innovative Professional Letter”:
It was the invention of factories that made people began thinking about how many hours they worked, and it wasn’t until after World War II that the average person owned a watch.
Think about how life has changed because digital watches now tell us it is 9:57, rather than “about 10 o’clock”. I typically have clients call at exactly top of the hour, and if either their clock, or mine, is a few minutes off wee we end up apologizing to each other for being “early” or “late”.
Imagine living any time in the past 10,000, before you got your first watch. When the sun came up, you got up and went to work. When the sun went down, it was time to quit. In the winter, there was less light, and workdays were short. In the summer, with more light, there was more work but also more time to swim play or plant and harvest.
I like (yeah not exactly love) my work right now. I also love my officemates. What I love about my work right now is I get a glimpse of myself working outside of a lab. I also get to meet a lot of amazing people and attend mind-cracking meetings. Most of all, I am working for a council that monitors the health researches in the country, so I am able to give back something to the Filipino people whom I owed my education for 11 years.
Despite enjoying my work, I am beginning to miss the lab. I never thought I’d say this in my entire life for Chemistry was never my calling. I guess perspective do change. I really miss AAS, UV-Vis and all the instruments I have worked on. I told myself that I should be back in a lab within one year. BUT… If I do that, then that means I will not be in PCHRD. Oh life what a conflict. I want to know what things are waiting for me in PCHRD but I also feel that the more I stay, the more will lab skills slip away. Yeah that’s how I feel right now. I am a chemist by name but not by practice. I guess I have to decide soon what path I should take. If not, then I’d only be wasting time. Continue reading