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Thursday, January 03, 2008

let me tell you about my new job, finally

It started with a freelance project.

So there I was, rehabilitating from my host of stress-related illnesses, depression and anxiety. I had left the stupid NGO, and I was on a mild lookout for another charity-related job.

It had not been easy coming to terms with things. I had made a big leap, changing industries into something more directly humanitarian. Which was what had been beckoning me so much it hurt. So I joined this NGO, working in a capacity which was perfect for me - managing resources through training, equipping workers and volunteers to serve others. It was superb, because there were many ideas, I was good at my job, and most of all, I loved my colleagues to the point they became friends.

But then I realised, it crashed the day I couldn't even get out of bed. That was when I decided I needed to take a break from the job which was a farce, a stunt to my growth, and a cul-de-sac. It was wearing me out, but not in a satisfying 'oh I work so hard' kind of way. It all sounds very clear now when I am relating about it, but at the time, I felt like I was free-floating in the galaxy, lost and pointlessly adrift. Thus began the second worst major depressive episode in my life. It was a major disappointment because I felt like I gave up so much for a promised land purportedly filled with milk and honey but upon arrival, after the la-la-la wore off, it was a barren land with retreating rivers and sinister monsters. Death basically.

But I wanted to be doing humanitarian type of work. Yet I was under-qualified (no speak Thai/Viet etc, no medical or environmental specialist knowledge, no social work degree). I wanted to be involved in a Singapore-based NGO, so I trawled the sites of Habitat for Humanity, World Vision, TOUCH, Mercy Relief, Red Cross etc. Not very many Singapore-based NGOs. Not very many positions. Those that were vacant, I applied, I got rejected. I looked at other avenues. I don't mind working for a local social service agency too, especially those involving management of projects and initiatives. I applied, I got rejected. I could do jobs related to corporate social responsibility in for-profits too, but that usually stems from corporate communications, not my specialist area of training or experience. I am a generalist.

Then one day my friend Simon sends me an instant message over MSN, asking me if I knew any freelance writers to write his company profile, among other things, for his start up business in financial services. I was free, so I did it for him for cheap, and plus since he is my friend, and I have been in the financial industry before, so I took on his assignment for some fun, cash and distraction. I told him that as long as I am free I will write his stuff. This was the freelance project that started things.

Simon loved what I did for him and he asked me to keep writing for him, which over MSN I said I will as long as I could find the time. With that plan in place, I asked him to refer me to his marketing person so I could work with her for the other publishings required, like the newsletter and the website. He asked me if I wanted to be his marketing person, because, well, he didn't have one!

My career plans were clear, I wanted a career in the charity industry. So he asked me to work for him on a contract basis till I found my job. He also needed someone to do HR, I could do that too.

What happened then was a series of events that happened so fast I can't tell for sure which came first.

Before this conversation, I did toy with the idea of bringing corporate volunteerism and cause-related marketing to his company for him. Corporate social responsibility is a win-win situation for the company as well as the beneficiary organisation. It was a fleeting thought.

I was about to say this to him on MSN, in fact I was typing this very thought out. Before I could complete it and hit 'enter', Simon's IM came in first, saying, "Actually I would like to build a socially responsible group too. It is important that we do community projects and trips. You could do that for me too."

In retrospect, I now see very clearly how Marketing, Human Resource Management and Corporate Social Responsibility are closely-knit together. CSR is great for building the company's image, and superb for the nurturing the employees well-being.

Anyway, I told Simon I would be keen, but I was sick. He said it was okay. So, here I am. Helping a friend out, doing work I love and hopefully good at, growing and learning, recovering, and having fun.

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