Sometimes I come across friends who shake in their boots while starting out at new jobs. They say I give good advice to them, but really, what meagre advice I give only comes from my own experience…and some horrific blunders! :D. I don’t really enjoy writing “how to” pieces when I’m hardly an authority, but here are a few memorable experiences:

1. The Debt Collector

Once, my employer, X, neglected to pay me an outstanding RM50 after completion of a job. 50 bucks is peanuts, I know, but to a student and a scrooge like me, RM50 is significant. I emailed, tweeted, and Facebook messaged X several times but received no reply for 2 months. Irritated by the lack of response, I posted a public message on his Facebook wall demanding my pay!

As a result? I received a terrible earful and was blocked from X’s wall. I learnt the importance of being graceful and tactful, and that ruining someone’s reputation reflects badly on yourself. I also received my RM50 immediately (couldn’t resist saying it).

2. The Baby Sitter

I was (still am, actually) a fully Chinese-educated Malaysian trying to be a competent and relevant journalist in Australia. I did not speak the local lingo. I did not get the newsroom jokes. I felt extremely inferior and extremely scared. Unfortunately or otherwise, I am also ambitious and detest having nothing to do on internships. I will do all I can to get as much exposure and experience. This conflict of fear and ambition often screws me up inside.

It was a conversation with Andy Leake one Wednesday night that changed my entire perspective and enabled me to start overcoming my hurdles.

That day, I was out with a journalist at Gillard’s election rally. He was supposed to be ‘producing’, but these days, a lot of journalism work can be done without an additional field producer. So he joked with the other journos that he was there as a lackey. I don’t know what came upon me but I said, “No, he’s here to babysit me.”

I immediately knew I hadn’t said the smartest thing. Holding back tears and relating my internship experiences to Andy over a burger later, I did not know his words would completely change my outlook in the months to come. Andy – a special Aussie breed who values submission to authority, loves Asians, and hangs out with students! -  told me it was not a matter of offending a colleague, it was a matter of growing in maturity. It was a matter of viewing myself as capable, and NOT inferior to my colleagues. I needed to be trained, yes; mentored, yes; but babysitted? Come on girl you’re better than that!

3. The Bully

Again, on internship, I was investigating downsizing and layoffs at a major mining company for ABC’s Country Hour. I got in touch with the spokesperson (whose name I will remember till I die) and did a recorded interview for radio broadcast. When I asked her how many staff had been given redundancy packages, this is how she replied:

A: The company cannot release the figures at the moment, and I already told you that.You’re just asking me the same question you asked this morning.

J: OK. Moving on…

The lovely Annabelle Homer at Country Hour later pointed out that I should have turned her statement into an opportunity to press her further – yes, I’m asking again because you failed to answer my question, instead of giving in to scare tactics. What a good lesson.

You know what, you can only learn so much reading about my experiences. You’ll learn much less from a textbook. Ultimately, you’ve got to live out your own experiences to build your own confidence and set of skills. That’s why I think 月月 deserves a break from math practice to discover other aspects of life.