Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Force is Strong with The Portuguese

In the beginning, there was Adam.

I've been back in Singapore for about two months now, but only started actively searching and applying for jobs after Ben returned to Dubai last month. While he was here in March, his friend (let's call him Mike for semi-confidential purposes) mentioned that his company was hiring, and he set up an appointment for me to meet his Boss. So we met, but they were looking for the more 'hardcore sales' type, which she and I both agreed wasn't me at all. She did however allow me to submit a marketing proposal for a mock project, to see if they might be able to find a fit for me within their Marketing department.

So for the next three nights, I pored over marketing-related books borrowed from the library and photocopied articles about market trends and other scary sounding terms that I've always overheard while passing the business-yuppie types congregating around a copy of the day's Financial Times or Asian Wall Street Journal. Terms like ROIs, KPIs, SWOT analyses, commodities, gains and such, that send shivers down any Arts-type person's spine. I surfed the Net like I've never surfed before, getting only a total of 4 hours of sleep in that stretch of 2 days and 3 nights.

By the 3rd night, I had only a sad excuse for a proposal, but reached a point where my brain could no longer function. No budget, no timeline... but close to 20 pages of research. I was embarrassed and really felt that my best effort came up short, looking like a silly high school project. But since Mike took the trouble to get me the interview, and since his Boss was kind enough to spend an hour chatting with me, I submitted my marketing 'research' minus proper proposal, and left it as that. I didn't even dare write Hope to hear from you soon cos it would seem too thick-skinned lah.

However, two weeks later, one of the managers there called me in for a "casual chat". She said the Boss wanted her to get to know me better, and if they could fit me into her department, or tailor a position according to my abilities and what I would be "willing" to do. So again, chat chat chat. They weren't actually looking to hire in their department, but apparently my juvenile efforts were recognised and highly appreciated, and these non-design agency sorts aren't so used to us creative creatures of the night, so receiving an email from me at 4.45am kinda made a big impression.

They didn't mind that I had no experience or skills in Marketing cos all this could be picked up along the way, and all that mattered was having the right attitude. I thought this was kinda cool? Cos it means an employer wants me for just me? Anyway, they didn't really have a position for me. So that was that.

The End...... ?

So Ben went back to Dubai, I applied for a few more jobs, ranging from Marketing to Graphic Designing to Teaching. I got a Graphic Design job within 2 weeks, and am due to commence work with my Future Company this Monday.

When I first told Ben about this company, he immediately advised me not to take the job, because of the work-you-till-you-pengsan-and-vomit-blood stereotype associated with these type of family-run *particular-race* companies. But I seemed to get a good vibe from this place, and the two interviews I attended here went well. They seemed genuinely impressed with my portfolio and work experience, which related very well to the various projects that the company is managing.

Some friends gushed about the low pay and long working hours - 9-to-7! Yes, SEVEN! Others gushed about how lucky I was to get a job so soon when times are supposed to be "so bad" right now. And all gushed and huffed and puffed at how I didn't put up a fight for a better package.

Even my Mom advised me not to sign anything with them last Monday as planned, cos my Tua Ee happened to be flipping through The Almanac and noticed that Monday was a "VERY BAD DAY" for me and a very bad day in general for people to sign important contracts, etc. But I told her that I couldn't just postpone my appointment at the last minute, and that if this was a lousy company, it wouldn't make a difference if I signed on a 'good' or 'bad' day, cos they'd still be lousy anyhow. So my Mom resorted to lighting some super-power holy candles during her daily prayers and intercessions.

I didn't mind the salary that they offered actually. It's actually 'up-to-standard' for such a position, but low for my 10 years of experience lah. I was only concerned about the benefits, or lack of it actually, and I'd have to travel quite a bit to get to the office. But there are 15,000 jobless souls in Singapore, so I musn't be choosy lah right.

So, I accepted their offer, and signed my letter of appointment on "Bad Monday". And sure enough, right after I signed, I got a Han-Solo-Luke-Leia-kinda "I gotta BAAAAD feeling about this" afterthought. Looks like The Force isn't too strong with me these days - getting wrong vibes or unable to sense The Dark Side in stealth mode.

During the interview, the managers said they'd be getting me a work station and asked what my basic requirements were for graphic software. Simple: Photoshop. Illustrator. InDesign. Dreamweaver. Now that I've signed at least 10 hours a day to The Dark Side, they say Photoshop is no problem, we're looking into the other two, and getting Dreamweaver is not possible right now. Part of the Letter of Appointment also states that I would have to work additional retail or restaurant/bar hours as and when necessary.

So I went home that day feeling that I'd just been 'screwed over in advance'. Like I just signed a Permission-To-Kena-Screwed slip. I told Ben that this was the first time I started looking for other jobs right after signing a contract and even before commencing work! But I think Ben got a bit impatient with me.

I think he thinks I'm only having second thoughts cos I'm lazy and too used to being a bum and housewife, and that I really need this job to kick-start my 'work mode' again. So the whole week, I've just been trying REAL hard to psyche myself with positive thoughts about this company and this new job, even though I feel so rotten inside. It's money in the Bank, Berns. It's money in CPF, Berns. You've been a bum for way too long, Berns. Ben thinks you're spoilt n lazy, Berns. You might actually really love this, Berns. The office is not THAT far, Berns. Use The Force, Berns... You can do it!

So on Thursday, I try a 'practice run' to my Future Workplace. Woke up at 6.45am, caught the 7.40am express bus to town, transferred to another bus that brought me to the building next to Future Workplace by 8.40am. And it was set. This would be my Future Morning Route to work.

I continue my journey to Tiong Bahru, as I have plans to meet my Mum-in-law here for breakfast since she lives nearby. As I cross the road from the bus stop, I see what appears to be a vision of someone familiar coming down the steps of Tiong Bahru Plaza. His Jesus-hair billowing in the morning breeze as rays of the sun reflect off the plastic bag of bungkus-ed breakfast in hand. No! It can't be! No way!

It is Adam. Not first man Adam, but Adam I know from Church in PJ. There's always this awkwardness between us cos there may have been 'something' there before... but like way, way back lah. Back when he looked tamer, without a mane of curly, shoulder-length locks. Back when I actually thought Lars Ulrich was kinda attractive and Body Glove t-shirts were the thing. Now this fella is always popping up all over the place. Whenever I make a trip back to PJ, sometimes just once or twice a year for a few days, I always seem to bump into him lah. Strawberi cafe ada. Bangsar ada. Raju's ada. Now Tiong Bahru also ada!

He's just as surprised to see me. I knew he moved to Singapore just a few weeks back cos Nat told me last week. But there are so many PJ people from school or church who have been here in Singapore but I've never bumped into them all these years.

So we make the usual awkward small talk, exchange numbers, and we part with me feeling that this was such a WEIRD coincidence. I also envy how he gets to wear a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers to work, but maybe once you're a hotshot (or 'kickass' as Jamie puts it) copywriter or Creative Director you can wear anything you want lah, even wear your hair like Shakira.

So I meet Mum-in-law for breakfast. I tell her I'm starting work in 3 days' time and we chat about other stuff. Now, when I thought my encounter with Adam was weird, little did I know that it was just the start of what would be the weirdest day ever.

The following takes place between 10.30am and 11.00am on the Weirdest Day Ever. Events occur in real time...toot...tit...toot...tit......

10.30am: My handphone rings but I'm too slow and miss the call. The number seems familiar, and I check if it's Future Company, but it isn't. Then I realise it's a line from Mike's office. So I call him.

B: Hey 'Mike', did u just call me from your office?

M: Uhh no...

B: I just got a missed called from your office. Do u know anything about it?

M: Uhh no... Just call them back lah. Did u take the job at that *particular-race* company?

B: Ya, I signed already! I start on Monday.

M: What?!!

B: Nevermind, I can just give 7 days' notice...

10.34am: I call the number but there's no answer so I leave a message. I tell Mum-in-law that if Mike's Boss offers me a job, I'm in a dilemma cos I wouldn't know how to turn down Future Company. I don't wanna be the type who just doesn't show up on the first day of work. At the same time, I'm the sort of person who doesn't know how to negotiate for a better offer, yet alone reject people, so I have no idea how I'm gonna grow skin thick enough to call Future Company and say "Podah-lah. Wa mai zho liao!" [Tamil translation: Get lost lah. Hokkien translation: I don't wanna do already.]

Just then, my phone rings again!

10.38am: It's not a number from Mike's workplace, but again, the number looks familiar. It's HR from Future Company!

HR: (Wants to know if my graphic software is on a laptop, that I could use in the office for work, cos they don't have a workstation and computer for me. Apparently, they're waiting for some fella to podah in 5-6 weeks' time, and then I can use his station that only has Photoshop...Ooooh)

B: No, all my graphic software is on my desktop.

HR: (Asks if they could push my start date back 4 or 5 weeks since I'll have nothing to work on if I start on Monday)

B: Ya sure, that's fine. Just let me know by tomorrow, once you have a new start date confirmed.

I turn to my Mum-in-law in disbelief to tell her who just called and what it's about. Then my phone rings again.

10.45am: It's Mike.

M: [whispers] So how?

B: I called but there's no answer so I left a message. The *particular-race* company JUST called me. They said they wanna push my start date back about 4 weeks!

M: Whaa... I told u... These *particular-race* companies ah... Anyhow ask u to start then ask u to wait 4 weeks!

B: Anyway, whose extension ends with --?

M: (Checks and confirms it's "X" from HR) [whispers] She's at the board now... Oh! She's walking back to her desk! Call again, call her now!

10.50am: I call "X". She offers me a position with their company. I accept. She says she'll let the Boss know, and the Boss will call me to officially offer me the job.

11.00am: So now I have a job that is halfway out the door even before I'm due to start, and at the same time, one foot in another. Exodus before The Beginning? Or literally, I'm in between jobs.

I'm still wondering if perhaps waking up at 6.45 that morning left me in a part-zombie state, and I sleepwalked-sleep-took the bus to town and it was all a dream... Encounters with a Miranda, a Nonis and a Galistan... Fishy Portuguese connection, really extreme coincidence, or divine intervention?

...Hmmm... curious...... most curious.


Shari said...

Gosh, what a fascinating day! At least you have options. Good luck in the new job! =)

Bernadette said...

Yes it's been a crazy few days! Thanks! Hope things on your side are looking up too?