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. 😀

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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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