Sorry, I’m Not a Believer on ‘You Can Be Anything You Want’, at Least When Talking About Career Journey

I almost finish my master degree. It feels so quick as now I need to rethink the next journey for my professional career. Although gratefully I received several job offers through my LinkedIn profile, I haven’t decided anything and will give time to myself to think carefully on several aspects.

The phrase ‘you can be anything you want’ is so attractive. You might hear this in many occasions, esp as an advice for your future in motivational sessions. In a career journey, it implies that career is ‘boundaryless’. By boundaryless, it means that career could become ‘a sequences of job opportunities that move beyond the boundaries of single employment settings’ (Arthur, 1994) or easily ‘move across the boundaries of separate employers’ (Guest, 2015). To me, this is not entirely true as career does have boundaries. In this blogpost, let me try to discuss several of them. Not to be such a pessimistic, but more on realistic context which might help us to determine our career wisely.

It’s worth to note what it means by boundaries, I would bring Ashforth’s, et al (2000) perspective on this; as he explained boundaries as limits around ‘physical, temporal, emotional, cognitive, and/or relational’. Those boundaries also have ‘textures’ as mentioned by Guest (2015). Some boundaries could be physical (e.g. location), social (e.g. discrimination), and even psychological (e.g. working preferences) which make it less visible. Those boundaries involve circumstances within person or surrounding environment (e.g. education background, difficulty in finding mentors, or lack of social capital); which somehow limits career mobility and development.

The concept of ‘you can do anything you want’ / boundaryless career emphasizes the freedom of individuals to decide their own career. However, regulation from government, education background, and social class take place in shaping an individual career. The believe that boundaryless career is driven by individuals and indeed sounds so attractive; but this thinking only benefits people with good education and high skills, but not for minorities, women, low skills and disabled people, as argued by Currie, et al (2006).

In reality, to get a job, you will need to cross such boundaries which usually involve such gate-keepers. The function of gate-keepers is to make sure that the employees who will enter the new role are suitable and most likely be successful in all the needed processes. These gate-keepers usually in form of as recruiters, examiners on chartered bodies, or managers and leaders of an organization/institution. To pass the gate-keepers, you will need to fulfill all the requirements from skills, education, previous experiences (or sometimes whether you know somebody from that particular organization/institution!).

Instead of keeping in mind that ‘you can be anything you want’; I prefer to look re-evaluate ourselves by understanding what might be such boundaries for our career journey. Once we evaluate our career boundaries, we will be able to re-arrange our situation by re-learn, re-train, re-skill, or equipping ourselves with possible new knowledge and skills to be able to cross several boundaries to obtain a ‘better career journey’. For instances, I never learned about data analytics; those are boundaries for me to pursue a career journey in tech-driven company as a social data analyst (e.g. people analytics). If only I strive to equip myself with the needed skill, I would then get a chance to cross that boundary.

Illustration: re-learn, re-train, re-skill yourself

Nevertheless, in some cases, we just need to embrace boundaries that we have. For example, I am aware that my mathematical intelligence is not as strong as my linguistic/verbal intelligence; thus I would not bother to pursue career that involves strong mathematical skills and focus to develop careers that would appreciate my other skills.

Telling ‘you can be anything you want’ for kids who’re still grow up would be fine, telling that phrase to young-adult who have more boundaries could be problematic. On some contexts, career boundaries could be less but also could be more complicated once an individual grew up. If it seems that you only have to embrace some of your boundaries, be explorative on what you have and design your best career aspirations from those. Don’t forget that you’re able to increase your value to cross more boundaries by re-learn, re-train, and re-skill yourself. You cannot be anything you want, but you might be able to be the best version of yourself.

@yosea_kurnianto

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#MayDay and The Dark Shades of Employment Relations in Gig Economy (in Indonesia)

The International Labours/Workers Day or May Day is ‘celebrated’ in many countries, including Indonesia. Various issues and demands were voiced by Indonesian trade unions in each year’s May Day ‘celebration’. Lately, the demands were predominantly around issues of outsourcing and (increased minimum) wages. The movement does indeed contain positive message in improving the condition of Indonesian working class. However, several riots and chaos situations happened during the May Day brought negative stigmas about trade unions.

Many companies started to find a way to avoid the establishment of trade unions in their company by making their own employee relations programs, to using certain employment models, such as outsourcing, zero hours’ contract, or even using term of ‘partner’ instead of employee as applied by some newly web/app-based companies.

Companies that design their own employment relations programs are tried to minimize the ‘noise’ of the employees by providing certain level of open internal communication, easily access management team, and such effort to involve employee representatives before deciding any policy. Using this way, the companies expect that employees would not feel any need to gain ‘power’ (through union) for negotiating or communicating their grievances to the management.

Companies that use the term ‘partner’ instead of employee indeed limits the ability of the workers to form a lawful union under the company, or to join any. This raising trend was marked by the development of online/web/app-based companies, which many literatures refer as gig economy.

Nevertheless, with the freedom of association as the right of Indonesian citizen and under the sense of ‘solidarity’, those ‘partners’ and/or online workers formed such ‘online workers’ association’ both in social media and even conducted such offline manifestations to voice their grievances.

Gig economy, however, is not something new and not merely in technology or digital based business. Friedman (2014) explains that ‘gig workers’ work to complete a particular task or for a defined time. This could be employed as a waiter in a restaurant, a cleaner of a building, a singer in a pub, etc. Nevertheless, Cockayine (2016) argues that gig economy is also usually referred as on-demand or ‘sharing’ economy. In his perspective, technology and digital platform strongly enhance the development of this model, which resonates the current situation in Indonesia: online ride-hailing (ojek online), online selling, etc.

Some companies who employ this ‘partnership’ model, save lots of money as they don’t need to provide any kind of employee benefits such as holiday/sick pay, parental supports, etc as ‘normal’ companies do. Yet, those companies most possibly do not have any clear strategy to manage the grievances of their ‘partners’, which might happen quite a lot as it’s believed that ‘partners’ under this employment model have weaker ‘psychological contract’ with the companies.

These kind of gig companies have been seen unable to manage the grievances in their business models, as we can observe that the disputes and grievances of ‘partners’ through ‘online workers’ associations’, were addressed to the government, instead of the companies.

It is worth noting that industrial relations involve at least 3 actors: company, employee representations (trade unions), and government. In the event where company and employee (or in this case, partner) representations failed to establish a good employment/partner relation, government would need to intervene.

In regards to that, government has significant role to both actively facilitate the growth of economy and identifying potential disputes by designing appropriate regulations and law. It’s hardly to say that Indonesian government is quick enough to properly response to any potential disputes related to employment so far. Take example on the online ride-hailing service. At the end of 2015, the Ministry of Transportation banned this service because it’s considered as ‘unlawfully established in the context of public transportation regulation’. The President, however, argued that the service is ‘needed by the society’, which then the service continues to operate. Yet, nothing to hear from the Ministry of Manpower or published comprehensive discussion from related stakeholders about the employment model caused by this service which now make lots of ‘noise’ in the employment/partner relations.

Aside from above case, it’s interesting to see that since June 17th 2016, the government, through the Minister of Information and Technology affairs, fully supported the launch of an initiative called ‘Gerakan Nasional 1000 Start-Up Digital’ (The National Movement of 1000 Digital Start-Up). Cited from a press release, more than 32.000 people registered themselves which 6500 of them joined the provided entrepreneurship training in 10 cities, resulted 123 start-ups so far. Observing from various newly digital start-ups that employ such ‘partnership’ employment model, it is important to note that those start-ups also need be equipped with the capability to manage employment/partner relations in the future.

To maintain a positive relations and its stability, (gig) companies have to understand the importance of providing a continuous communication with employee/partner representations and to act on it. For instances, an Indonesian e-commerce based in Jakarta establishes a community for its online sellers. The community is maintained through an online platform and several offline meetings across the country to develop ‘selling skills’, but also as a platform of grievances mechanism from the sellers to the platform provider (the management). This model is also possible to be adopted by (gig companies) in transportation and education services to better manage their ‘employment’ or ‘partner’ relations.

It is believed that 3 actors of industrial relations have to establish a harmony. Some argue that trade union might not be the best form of employment representation in the near future because of the transformation of employment model. Yet, whatever the form of employment representation: could be trade union, establishment of work council (e.g. in Germany), or even softly’ managed by the company; both government and companies shall carefully provide accessible communication mechanism with the workers in creating the best working condition that could be achieved, although there might be tension of interests from each actor.

@yosea_kurnianto

The Partnership for You: an Investment or a Cost?

I attended the Chevening Partnership Reception on last Wednesday, March 21st 2018 at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). A diverse networks of corporate and university partners gathered to receive such appreciations from the FCO for their contributions to the Chevening Scholarship Programme. A number of Chevening Scholars (from the Partnerships) and alumni were also attended to this event. The reception was started at 6pm and finished at around 8pm. The Minister of State for Asia and The Pacific at the FCO, Mr Rt Hon Mark Field MP, delivered a speech to thank the organisation partners. Also giving speeches, Ananda Lakshmikumani, a Chevening HSBC Scholar, and an alumni representative.

It’s truly an honor for me to join the good crowd there, as in my Chevening ID card, I don’t have any specific support from a partner organisation, in regard to this context. I was invited as the part of the Chevening Social Media Ambassador for this year. So, yeah, I arrived in London at around 4pm by train from Manchester. Got a chance to have a coffee in LSE with a friend of mine, and headed to FCO to join the reception. During the reception, I met and talked with several organisation partners such as a global media company and a global oil and gas company.

Chevening Partnerships Reception (Photo: Personal Collection)

It is interesting that not all organisation representatives who came to the event were already became partners. The global media company has been a partner since years. However, this global oil and gas company, for instance, told me that they’re willing to be part of the networks and currently exploring the best way to partner with the Chevening Scholarships. As this company representative is part of the Government Affairs department, she told me that after the event, she would need to discuss several aspects with their HR team as well as the PR/Marketing team to follow this up. Well, I hope their discussion will be fruitful and soon become one of the Chevening partner 🙂

Anyway, I was then recalled my short experience in helping my previous employer to reshape its partnership strategy. Well true that partnership does need strategy; or in other words as partnership strategic plan. Partnership, however, will need such amount of resources, or frankly, money. This money spent for establishing partnership could be a good investment or ended as a cost (liability). As a company, we might really think how to make this money for making a beneficial partnership. The benefits could be in several forms: employer branding (corporate reputation), attracting high quality talents, market positioning, business development, strategic networking, etc. Therefore, it’s important to align the partnership strategic plan with the business goals (short term & long term) as well as organization philosophy and values, etc.

In the other hand, I was also reflected to myself, as how can I be a responsible partner. It’s important to note that in this context, the partnership is not only between the FCO and the organisation partners; but also with the scholars. I believe that the selection process, which resulted to select this year’s scholars, intend to ‘produce’ such a fruitful investment; not to spend a cost (or liability).

So, I came back to Manchester right after the Reception finished by a train from Euston at 9pm. During the journey back, I used the time to contemplate about how far I have tried to ‘produce my best’ from that ‘good investment’. Not only from this Chevening Partnerships, but also ‘investments’ from anyone that I met and spent time (or money) with. Well, indeed sometimes cost is needed and inevitable; yet it’s always good to bear in mind that we live so far by any kind of ‘investments’ from others. Thus, it’s important to always try our best in proving that what they give to us is a ‘good investment’ not a cost (liability).

You can see my short video about this event here:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

To know more about Chevening Partnership, click here: http://www.chevening.org/partners

@yosea_kurnianto

Is Posthuman (or Superhuman?) Resources Management Needed?

McKinsey & Company (2016) released a research based article entitled “Where machines could replace humans – and where they can’t (yet)”. The conclusion they made were involving analysist of 2000 plus activities from more than 800 occupations from US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net. It is worth noting that the report was not considering only the jobs but rather the details of activities (within the jobs). Activities were categorized based on their feasibility to be automated by current technology and machine, such as robots and artificial intelligence. In conclusion, jobs that involve predictable (routine) physical work (78%), processing data (69%), and collecting data (64%) might be replaceable. In another side, jobs that involve unpredictable physical work (25%), stakeholders’ interactions (20%), applying expertise (18%), and managing others (9%) are still less likely to be automated with currently demonstrated technology.

Frey and Osborne (2013) from Oxford University Engineering Sciences Department and the Oxford Martin Program argue that 47% of total employment in the US is in the high risk category. By saying high risk, Frey and Osborne (2013) refer to the automation expectancy at a decade or two. It is true that computerization has already taken some tasks with explicit rule and routine based activities (Autor, et al., 2003 in Frey and Osborne, 2013). However, big data, artificial intelligence, and robots are rapidly entering the area of pattern recognition for doing non-routine tasks, even enhanced with senses and various skills which previously were done manually (Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2011; MGI, 2013 in Frey and Osborne, 2013). Thus, it is believed that nature of work in various industries and occupations will be changed significantly, although Frey and Osborne (2013) see that some bottlenecks of computerization and automation will make the process longer, especially in the activities and jobs that involving perception and manipulation, creative intelligence, as well as social intelligence.

In other released article, McKinsey & Company (2015) stated that less than 5% of whole jobs can be automated using current technology. Yet, 60% of jobs could have 30% or more of their activities to be automated with current technologies, including robots and artificial intelligence. In other words, most jobs would need quite significant redefinition as well as business processes transformation in the near future. Bessen (2017) argue that based on the data of manufacturing employment in the United States since 1950, there is a strong evidence that the view that automation eliminates jobs wasn’t always true, with consideration of globalization as well. This statement is supported by other evidences, for instances from Gaggl and Wright (2017) which stated that “technology tended to raise employment in wholesale, retail, and finance industries, but had no statistically significant effect on other sectors, including manufacturing”. Gregory, Salomons, and Zierahn (2016) find “that automation of routine tasks tends to eliminate certain jobs (activities), but that net employment increases”.

As a scholar in human resources management and industrial relations, who have been working for 4 years as an HR practitioner and consultant, some reflections related to that issue will be discussed in this article. I will try to deliver two important perspectives related to whether HR jobs will still be relevant and what kind of HR leader is needed in the future.

In a book entitled ‘Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow’, Harari, (2016: 56) argued that “Human species is not going to be exterminated by a robot revolt. Rather, human is likely to upgrade itself step by step, merging with robots and computers in the process…”. He added that ‘humans will make a bid for divinity, because humans have many reasons to desire such and upgrade, and many ways to achieve it”.

Sophia, a robot that received a citizenship from a country. Photo source & article: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/11/an-interview-with-the-artificially-intelligent-robot-sophia

Clearly, Harari believes that human species (in his term Homo Sapiens) would continue to experience kinds of evolution to be ‘more than human’ or I will use the term ‘posthuman’ in this writing. ‘Superhuman’ could also be an alternative term, yet more references and previous writings by scholars we found using ‘posthuman’ term. The term ‘Posthuman’ is actually not a new concept. The origin of it was at the cybernetic movement in 1940s. It became quite explosive in 1990s because Donna Haraway’s Simians Cybors, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature in 1991. Haraway’s doesn’t use the term ‘posthuman’ in explicit way, yet her believes that boundaries between human and other creatures (in this context is technology) is ‘no longer secure’, and is able to be a hybrid, or cyborgs. However, in this age of technology, posthuman is being used to describe “a time in which ‘human is no longer the most important things in the universe’, where ‘all technological progress of human society is geared towards the transformation of the human species’, and where ‘complex machines are and emerging form of life” (Pepperell, 2003:177 in Gane, 2006). The term ‘posthuman’ gains various critics in previous years, but it becomes clearer today that “a new culture, in which the ‘purity’ of human gives way to new forms of creative evolutions” is being more acceptable (Gane, 2006).

Some evidences show that the process of this kind of upgrade or creative innovations are already happening for marking the ‘posthuman’ era. Gray in BBC Story (2017) uses a term of “another level of convenience” to describe how an employee of a software firm Mozilla was voluntarily being implanted with a rice-grain-sized microchip, which enable to open doors, log in into computers, and contain his all contacts address. Further updates related to this matter, the New York Times reported that on August 1st 2017, employees in Three Squared Market, a technology company based on Winconsin, were offered to be injected a chip in between their thumb and index finger. Once it is done, anything related to RFID jobs such as accessing office building or make payment for foods in office cafeteria can be done with waving the hand. It was not a compulsory, but as much as 50 out of 80 people were voluntarily being injected with the microchip. This program, as believed to be the first in the United States, was cooperated with a Swedish Company, Biohax International, which also already applied in another Swedish Company, Epicenter.

Despite of the debates whether it’s risky or any other perspectives among employees and society in general, this phenomenon is as exactly as what Harari (2016) mentioned above. Slowly, human will upgrade and evolve themselves to be integrated with robots, that would enable them to redefine jobs, create new employment systems / environments, and transform existing business process. Indeed, this will not be happened in a day or in a year, but slowly, the ‘posthuman’ will be new normal.

Reflecting to aforementioned two perspectives related to HR and referring to automation feasibility from McKinsey & Company’s report, some activities within HR related jobs are already automated (personnel administration, payroll, some parts of learning and development, some degree of recruitment process, and some of compensation and benefits). Yet, some other activities that involve managing others (e.g. talent management), stakeholder’s interactions (e.g. industrial /employee relations), applying expertise (e.g. organizational development, employee selection), and even unpredictable physical work (e.g. organizing employee events) might yet to be replaced by robots and artificial intelligence. With the raise of ‘posthuman’ in the making, HR practitioners will also need to be ‘upgraded’ in order to be relevant and to be able to shift from human resources management to posthuman resources management.

Before going deeper to posthuman resources management, it is important to note that HR team would be dealing with managing people in business transformation process affected by robots and artificial intelligence. As some predictable and routine activities and jobs in, for instance, manufacturing are replaceable by machines, HR team would be in charged to determine redundancy (laying off certain number of employees) or design and implement relearn / reskill for its employee to be allocated to other activities or jobs in order to avoid redundancy. This indeed will depend on business strategy, financial condition, and board management’s goodwill.  Nevertheless, high level skills of project management, communication, interpersonal, and emotional intelligence would be needed to be equipped by HR team to make sure the process run smoothly.

The Circle movie, starred by Emma Watson and Tom Hanks which released on April 2017, tells a story of an employee in giant technology company and how she’s worried about damaging implications resulted by the company. Albeit receiving many negative comments and critics because of its story plotting and flat content, some movie segments show the condition of how current technology transform some HR related jobs such as performance management, employee engagement, as well as integrated employee health, compensation, and benefits. In the time forward, when business transformation came into its shape by embodying robots and artificial intelligence in most sectors. AS posthuman are coming to the workplace, a new face of posthuman resources management needs to born.

In 2015, The World Economic Forum, in cooperation with Accenture, released a report entitled “Industrial Internet of Things: Unleashing the Potential of Connected Products and Services”. One of the highlights is discussing how the emerging job market will demand new and different skill set of the workforce. This ‘new skill set of workforce’ is underlined with an emphasize of ‘new mindset’ towards the emergence of robots and technology. By saying ‘new mindset’, posthuman resources management leaders need to equip themselves with the understanding of posthumanism and how to collaborate with them in making sure the organization’s goals are achieved.

In attempt to be a future leader in post-human resources management, some skills and technology augmentations need to be done. Organization design might be different in posthuman era, in which some kind of structures might be needed, some others might need to be dismissed. The recruitment process would also need to be improved in selecting the most suitable ‘posthuman’ with the new form of jobs. The learning and development process might be integrated into certain database embedded in ‘posthuman’ individual, and would be continuously aligned with the business processes. The performance management system would be easily assessed and recorded, yet needs to be adjusted with the posthuman conditions in new jobs era. The form of compensation, benefits, and even pensions might need to be transformed into different types of packages.

In conclusion, I don’t feel worry if my job as an HR practitioner (or at least I don’t feel anything yet) would be taken by robots and/or artificial intelligence – as from the perspective of ‘can’t do anything except to embrace’. It is believed that human species will be continuously evolved, transform themselves with creative ways, and being integrated with the robots (Harari, 2016), which in this writing is referred to ‘posthuman’ era (Gane, 2006). Thus, the HR management field of jobs might also be evolved to PostHR management or any kind of it. Towards becoming a future PostHR practitioner, I believe that owning a ‘new-mindset’ which allow to open more learning processes in all HR management spectrums from organization design to compensation, benefits, and pension scheme. At the moment, it is important to keep being relevant by following the updates and gaining understanding of what is happening, as well as being relevant with the updates of technology in HR management fields by being connected with employers and related innovators.

The next question might be whether the new set of ethical leadership / management is needed for this era. Will see 🙂

@yosea_kurnianto

Commentary: Lecturers’ Right to Strike and Students’ Compensation Demand

Today is marking the first day of lecturers’ strike action in several universities in the UK, including mine. I received some emails from my lecturer earlier this week to confirm their participation on the strike action upon their grievance related to their changing pension scheme. You can see the updates of today’s rally and picket lines HERE.

I was informed from one of my lecturer’s email on this matter. Here is his explanation:

USS (ed: read more about USS HERE) is a pension fund set up to provide a decent retirement for staff. Now our pensions are under attack.  Employers want to end guaranteed pension benefits so our final pensions would depend on how the stock market perform. That means huge uncertainty and a reduced retirement income for all. A typical lecturer will lose £10,000 a year in retirement. Our union has repeatedly tried to negotiate with employers to no avail. So now we have no choice but to strike. 88% of UCU (ed: read more about UCU HERE) members voting supported for this strike in a legal ballot.”

I was personally surprised to see how strong is this action as it involved 88% of the union members. As far as I know, the renewed Trade Union Act (2016) which seems to ‘weaken’ the power of union by setting a 50% threshold and 40% support from its members for a strike to be happened. I also observed some online discussion and found a comment in a financial times article (read HERE):

“Last year in our department, a grand total of 1 person out of 25 in the union (and 37 in the department) heeded the call to strike. This year 23 are intending to. Not only is that more than half the department, but it is also the half that are more teaching focused. On one module I am currently teaching for example, the entire second half of the module is going to be missing.”

I personally fully respect this action as it is indeed a fundamental right, as long as lawful and align with the industrial relations guideline. However, if there is nothing happened (negotiation or etc.), the strike will continue in these days: Feb 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 27th, and 28th also March 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 12th, 13th , 14th, 15th,  and 16th (total of 14 days in 4 weeks).

Nevertheless, not all lecturers and staffs are in favor of this strike action. It seems that not all lecturers in the UK is eligible for the USS pension scheme. A lecturer from the University of Sussex, for instance, shared my Facebook post related to this issue with comments:

Whilst I feel guilty walking past the picket line this morning, I will not be eligible to draw any pension for at least another thirty years. Meanwhile academia seems pretty determined to deny me a permanent job, and I have kids to feed. I also don’t want to let my students down, and have sent emails confirming that my seminars will be running as normal. I don’t know whether they will be pleased or will chant “Scab!” at me when I walk in.”

1 out of 4 courses’ lecturer of mine in this semester declared that he would not join this strike action. This lecturer once said that he’s respecting the action, but didn’t want our classes to be missed as he thought that his job is to ‘serve’ the students.

Illustration: Classroom (personal collection)

On this stance, I basically try to respect both lecturers who join strikes and who keep ‘doing his job’ whatever the reasons are. Yet, I thought I would only experience 3 days’ strike action by my lecturers in last semester (previously was about redundancy). Yet, now is even longer (and I might say, worse) than before. Although am studying with a scholarship, I could imagine how it feels to pay a lot for an education in the UK (esp. for international students) and lost 3 weeks of classes and opportunities to have a proper interaction with the dissertation supervisor. In my degree, for example, UK and EU students pay 9000 pounds while the international students pay 18000 pounds for a year master degree. This my vary, based on the courses and universities. No wonder that compensation call is amplified by lots of students (read more HERE)

In my university, an online petition for students’ compensation via change.org was circulated and gained more than 5,8K signs (and counting) from the students (see HERE). The online petition was firstly created by a student named Melis Royer, which later she sent a message to thank the supporters with a statement, “You wouldn’t pay for a meal you didn’t eat so why should students pay for 3 weeks of teaching we didn’t receive?”. It is worth noting that this students’ demand was not a form of not supporting / respecting the strike action, but more on a sense of balance transaction in economic process: you pay what you get.

I am personally not sure if the universities would be willing to give the compensation (refund) to the students for losing some classes, as ‘business might be in trouble’ if they spent lots of money to refund the students. Although, the university is not paying the lecturers’ whilst striking. Thus, if the university is not paying the lecturers but also not refunding the students’ fee, I don’t think it’s fair enough.

The universities are in pressures from both the lecturers and the students. I have no idea what might be the decision of the universities: the students’ demand/pressure might be used by the universities to ‘blame’ the lecturers, but can also be used by the lecturers to strengthen their position (to press the universities for making a ‘desirable’ decision so they get back to work’. The basic ideas of strike, which are to create a disruption in the system and to raise ‘public’ awareness seems achieved so far. Yet, I wonder if this action would also drive to ‘desirable’ decision and situation for both parties; and wonder what would happen next if the ‘desirable’ decision was not made by the universities.

@yosea_kurnianto

‘Good’ Questions, ‘-Bad- [The Other Type]’ Questions

I just received some results of my first term exams. I personally have more confidence in doing case study / discussing an issue and making / delivering presentation in front of examiners; rather than writing an academic essay. Thus, I know how to set my expectations when I submitted my papers and received the results. Anyway, I started to contemplate as I don’t think the important part is how much the score that I received; but how much I learnt from the processes (to be applied in ‘real/professional life’).

As much as 3 out of 4 courses’ exams in the first term involved academic writing (essay). The other 1 was actually quite the same, but the students needed to sit in the exam room to answer few questions in only 2 hours. The lecturers gave us several questions related to the courses’ contents and the students were allowed to choose 1 question to be explained in maximum of 3000 words. Here comes the considerations and dilemmas of choosing the question. Some people might choose the question that they think the ‘easiest’ one (or that they ‘master’ in) so they could expect high score, and some other might choose some questions that would help to learn more things related to the issue but with an uncertainty of score.

If it’s a competition, and I really wanted to win, I might not need any further discussion since I would definitely choose the easiest one (or that I ‘master’ in). However, in this context, I might be too skeptical with an assumption that those who achieved the highest score in class were not necessarily have the guarantee of smooth career progressions in the professional journey. Although, receiving highest score (or at least a good one) is kind of pride as a student, as a form of responsibility to be shown to our sponsors (might be our parents, scholarship organization, and even ourselves), and also a good start to show to the employer that we ‘have something’. So, before I continue, I need to say that achieving a high score (or at least a good one) is really important, but to me, is not the most important one.

Learning, to my believe, should not (only) be measured by the exam score. The exam score itself is somehow needed as learning is being institutionalized. By saying institutionalized, an ‘economic’ process of learning happened in which then results need to be measured (and shown by score / grade / rank). However, beyond institutionalization, the process of learning within an individual shall not be limited with score or other written/tangible results. An individual will experience the process of learning, re-learning, and unlearning within their minds during the processes. Thus, it is important to be aware that as students, our role is not only to learn as part of the institution, but also as an individual (with goals, dreams, desires, etc.).

Going to ‘School’

Back to the topic of exam questions above, when I received the questions from the lecturers, I was fully aware on how much my skills and capacity in academic writing, yet I also wanted to learn more from the question that I would spend my time to discuss about.

I avoided to choose the questions that previously I had worked on (from studies or works), and tried to explore more the questions that I have never worked on and/or would be important for my future career aspirations. Nevertheless, in making the final decision, I reconsidered my choice of question with my capability of academic writing, so still could balance my role as a part of institutionalized learning and as an individual. In results, I am currently not having any kind of disappointment with my score (although not the highest) and also with my learning experiences.

To close this, I believe that the questions from the lecturers were all good. Yet, it indeed depends on our perspectives, needs, and contexts/situations. Some of us, in a situation and a need, would prefer to choose the ‘easiest’ question (or that we ‘master’ in) to achieve high score, although we might not learn much things from the exam process. Some others, in this case, including me, might prefer to explore the ‘challenging questions’ in order to ‘maximize’ the learning opportunity.

@yosea_kurnianto

An Old Q: Is Any Job Better than No Job?

‘Normal’ discussion topics among last-year undergraduate or graduate students would be ‘have you applied to jobs?’ and/or ‘have you been accepted for a job?’. I assume that those who got a job before finishing their study would be having certain higher level of pride than those who still look for, or even don’t have any plan yet. To reach this kind of pride, I suppose, many graduates might consider to take any job they were offered. Although some reasons would also determine this decision, such as a financial condition as he/she might have to earn some money for living or for supporting his/her family. But, this old question remains: is any job better than no job?

Last week, I attended a discussion from Work and Equality Institute in Manchester, entitled “Work, Health, and Stress: Some Observations”. Prof. Tarani Chandola, a professor of medical sociology from the University of Manchester shared some perspectives of his research and thoughts on how job and stress can relate each other. It is interesting to know that based on medical data that he collected (in civil service): the lower the grade of the job, the higher its job mortality. It’s indeed because of several factors such as financial, relationship stress (with bureaucracy), etc. Yet, that data actually shows ‘the myth of executive stress’. It is argued that stress of the executives is only being perceived, but not ‘as bad as’ it is on medical data.

Good Job or Bad Job?

Another finding from the session was that people with ‘bad jobs’ increase their happiness some years before retirement; but those in ‘good job’ remain no significant differences. However, it is actually contradicting with an argument that ‘retirement is beneficial, but only for those in the top / good grades (jobs)’. Those with bad jobs might face another ‘episode’ of stress after that short-term happiness, as the might not have an enough pension/fund for living and since they would be ‘unemployed’ again.

Somebody said that, ‘the worst work status for health is unemployment’. But, is it true that any job is better than no job? Well, from the medical measurement as what Prof. Tarani did above, it might not be entirely true. Some people might be ‘healthier’ with no job rather than doing ‘bad job’. The term bad job here could be assumed as job with under/minimum pay, job with bad relations with managers, etc; and I guess you might have some definitions on what good or bad jobs for you based on your interest, skills, passion, and other dimensions.

It is important then, for me and my fellow graduate students, to really think about jobs to do after finishing our study. Again, some factors might determine or even push us to some decisions in taking a job; but whatever the decision is – make sure that we’re being mindful and consciously know the consequences. Some organisations or companies might try to help its employees to reduce stress at work by assigning a Chief Happiness Officer or some ‘fun internal events’; but it might be useless if we have a ‘bad job’ (structurally or emotionally). Good luck for (y)our career journey!

@yosea_kurnianto