Feeling appreciated

I have been working since 2000. Contrary to my coursemates who applied for prestigious jobs in the cities once they graduated, I decided to work as a research assistant in the university and do my Master of Science (Environmental Science) at the same time.

It has been 17 years since then, and I have worked for all manner of employers, from tiny three-person companies to sizeable international ones, but somehow, the interest wanes after one to two years, and boredom sets in as I do the same thing over and over again, year after year. In my last job, in my fourth year, I tried to apply for a transfer to another department to have a change of environment and job scope, but my application was unsuccessful. I then did the next best thing. I set out on my own, choosing to become self-employed.

Of course, this does not mean self-employment is for everybody, nor do I recommend it for anyone who is having issues with boredom at work. Self-employment is a major life-changing decision, and can only be made after careful consideration of all important aspects of one’s life, and everybody’s life is unique and different.

There are many pros and cons in relation to being employed by a company, but I feel the top reason why employees stay on even though they are unhappy is perceived job security. Sometimes, the only reason they bother to wake up and go to the office is to get a pay cheque at the end of the month. It has become a mechanical action for countless people every day – to get up, dress up, and show up. And that is how they pass their time, year after year, decade after decade, till retirement. The retirement age in Malaysia used to be 55. Now, it is 60. Maybe 10 year later, as the workforce ages progressively and costs of living rises steadily, the retirement age might be raised to 65. Who knows?

However, in these trying times of economic uncertainty, I sometimes feel that job security is somewhat of an illusion. Terms like ‘retrenchment’ and ‘VSS’ are becoming increasingly common. Even though staff do not want to think about it, it is there, lurking in the dark corners of their mind.

In times like these, it would be useful to pick up a new skill, or learn a new trade, or even take a hobby to the next level. Perhaps, the new experience might spark passion in a previously undiscovered area, and lead to a new direction, and hopefully more interesting times ahead. Let’s face it. How many people will not get bored working in the same job for 10 to 30 years?

Another area of concern for me in full-time employment is the lack of appreciation from employers. Since staff are paid for their time and effort, it is easy to take them for granted, treating them as if they owe the company, simply because they are paid to work. It is like deja vu. In large organisations, sometimes staff are like hundreds of cows or sheep. The top management simply thinks of their workers en masse, and not as individuals with unique aspirations, interests and needs.

Strangely, I have found appreciation in other areas, all of which do not concern full-time employment. Since a young age, I have always had an interest in volunteer work, serving the community and environmental conservation and protection. It is the organisations and individuals in this area that are the most appreciative of my contributions.

In 2008, the Selangor Branch of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) gave me a branch award in recognition of my contributions as a volunteer.

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About 10 years later, our MNS Selangor Branch chairperson Pasu brought back a certificate of appreciation from the recent national AGM in Langkawi for me. It was a pleasant surprise that an award was presented to me at an AGM that I did not attend. ūüėÄ

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Even though I will not likely be awarded any long-service awards by any organisations in the future, these NGO awards will always remind me that I have contributed meaningfully to worthy causes and people have taken note of my contributions. And that is how I would like to be remembered.

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My first volunteer experience with the Nature Guides

In September 2017, I volunteered with the Nature Guides for the first time, helping them to conduct nature walks in the gardens of Carcosa Seri Negara, as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme in conjunction with Malaysia’s Independence Day 2017 celebrations. I wrote an article about my experience, and it was published in the Pencinta Alam November 2017 issue.

Here is the article, as published in the newsletter. Pencinta Alam is the national monthly newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

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Here is the text version for easy reading:

On the Trail as a Nature Guide

Article by Khor Hui Min
Photos by Angeline Siok and Norazmir Mustapha

In all the years I have been a member and volunteer of the Malaysian Nature Society, I had never volunteered to be a nature guide. I had joined various walks conducted by nature guides once in a while, and found it interesting. The wealth of information about nature, beneficial plants and animals the nature guides had was enough to fill volumes of books, I imagined.

At last in September 2017, I finally volunteered myself to assist the nature guides to conduct walks as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme at Carcosa Seri Negara.

I missed the initial briefing for volunteers on 19 August due to other commitments, but reported for duty on 16 September, which was Malaysia Day.

‚ÄėJalan Merdeka ‚Äď Traversing the routes to Merdeka‚Äô was an exhibition on our country‚Äôs journey towards Merdeka from 1896 to 1957, showcasing the historical Carcosa and Seri Negara buildings, which were next to the Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. Jalan Merdeka was organised by the Asian Heritage Museum, and ran from 1 September till 31 October 2017.

Being a nature guide is not easy. There are a lot of plants and trees to recognise and remember, and we have to memorise their special qualities, medicinal uses, as well as other interesting facts, all of which are supposed to be interesting to the visitors joining the walks. After my briefing on 16 September, I could only remember half the plants, to my disappointment.

After some revision, and following on guided tours conducted by seasoned nature guides, with notes in hand, I finally conducted my first tour on 22 September, which was the following weekend. I was finally like, ‚ÄúWhat the heck. Just do it.”

It went rather well, which was a pleasant surprise for me. The large group of visitors, consisting of a mixed crowd of nature enthusiasts and casual drop-in visitors to the
exhibitions at Carcosa Seri Negara, spread out rather too much somewhere in the middle of the walk, so I had to wait for the people at the back to catch up with the people in front, but the weather was good for a walk, and I thought they rather enjoyed the fresh air and their morning exercise.

There was no prepared script, and we decided whether to share more detailed information or stick to the basics, or even shorten the walk, depending on the interest
shown by the visitors who joined each walk and whether they were in a hurry. Furthermore, I was not naturally good at public speaking, and did not need to speak to
customers at work, so this volunteer opportunity took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to talk (albeit rather loudly) to strangers. Thus, it was an opportunity
for personal growth and development, which was beneficial to me.

By taking the effort to recognise and remember plants, their flowers and fruits, and to memorise interesting information about them, I learnt so much more about our
garden plants over two weekends than I had ever done so in school. All in all, it was a good learning experience for me, I enjoyed spending time with the nature guides,
and I would definitely do it again.

ūüôā