My first job

12 more days before I return to work.

This is probably one of the last few (or last) times I get to sit in a cafe to stare into space.. until, I don’t know, perhaps, a few years later? 😂

The hubs asked me to join him for breakfast near his office, and we managed to have a decent conversation in the car and in Yakun before I took the train to Bugis and wandered around for a place to sit down before my hair cut and color appointment.

I’m now sitting in the Starbucks I used to frequent when I was working in my first company.

I’d drop by to buy a cup of iced vanilla espresso, that came in a very tiny plastic cup but cost like $6, before walking to office.

I can’t find this item on the menu anymore. 😅

On hindsight it is probably a bad idea to spend so much on coffee at least twice a week.

I was a project and research executive in a research agency, earning S$1,900 a month.. more than a decade ago.

It was the company I interned at for six months in my second last semester of university. They invited me to join the company as a full-time employee after I graduated and I accepted the offer without looking for other jobs.

The economy wasn’t so good then, and I figured I just had to start somewhere.

It was a very challenging job because I had to do everything.

Client servicing, research design, programming, data entry, interviewing, coding, analysis, presentation decks and whatever the clients or bosses wanted me to do.

On weekends, I spent time transcribing interview tapes, i.e. listening to interviews over and over again and typing out, word for word, everything that was said.

The hubs used to be my “part-timer” helping me with the transcripts and earning a small fee for doing them. 😆

I was also an interviewer and moderator, and would spend time out of office doing corporate interviews, or in office, with consumers getting their views and feedback after watching certain commercials.

But I was an introvert, still am.

So while I enjoyed talking to and learning from people, it tired me out.

I used to go back to office telling my manager and colleagues back then, that I’d used up my word count for the day (so please do not talk to me unless it was absolutely necessary 😂).

I could do that, because I was the youngest in the company, and it was a very small and close-knitted group.

One of my most memorable experiences was when I handled a particularly difficult respondent, who simply could not answer the questions about the commercial he watched.

As a moderator, it is very important not to ask leading questions and not to interpret the responses in the interview room.

So I did the best I could to phrase my questions so I could extract his responses in the most objective way.

It so happened that the clients were observing the interview in the back room, and my manager was breaking out in cold sweat because of the respondent.

But at the end of it he said to me, “Oh my god, I’m so glad it was you inside the room doing the interview!”

So I guess I did well, even though I didn’t like talking so much. 😂

I learnt a lot in the 6 months as an intern and 6 months as an official enployee.

But it was also very stifling.

I wondered if I’d be spending my entire life in this job, barely earning $2,000 a month and giving tuition over the weekend to supplement my income, transcribing interviews and working on presentation decks I’d never get to present.

Presentations were only done by the chief operating officer (my manager’s manager) whom I respect very much, as well as the two owners of the agency, a husband and wife combination – and I didn’t like the wife very much because she was rude and taught me nothing except what colours to use for my charts.

I decided to look for other opportunities.

It was scary, and I often wondered where I got the courage from, to job hop after just 6 months.

What would employers think?

(Of course it’s a different story now. People change jobs all the time.)

I guess I got the courage.. from youth.

Just being young and carefree and positive.

So I left and did a very short stint at an NGO before joining my ex-company where I met Auntie O and L, my favorite “Jiejie”s in the company lol.

I could probably write an entire series about the ex-company but this is not the point of my entry today.

Nowadays I seldom think about my first job, and it’s funny how, of all things, Starbucks reminded me of it today.

It was my experience in this first job and the crazy job at the ex-company that got me into my current company, which used to be my dream company to work in.

I remember feeling really fortunate to be hired despite having already worked for nearly 3 years, because my current company used to recruit only fresh graduates with no more than 3 years of working experience.

Yet without the work experience I doubt I would have been able to get through the rounds of interviews which asked very specific questions about problem solving and what-nots.

(As an interviewer now, I actually feel it’s tough for undergraduates to be able to answer the same questions!)

Now that I’m returning to the workforce again after a 7-month hiatus, I feel a mixed bag of emotions.

It almost feels like I’m starting anew, from the bottom, all over again.

I wish I still have the courage and positivity and faith, back when I was bright-eyed and young in my first job.. but I guess I’ve lost it somewhere, along the way, in the middle, of nowhere.

I hope I’ve at least accumulated enough wisdom to make up for the lack of courage and optimism.

It’s not the season for “me” now, but I’ll make the best out of it.