Would Indonesian State (Government) be a ‘Model Employer’?

In the previous term, I was asked to discuss about whether the state (in the UK) can be a model-employer or not. As I had no classes due to lecturers’ strike, I then tried to apply the same question to Indonesian context, but focused on civil service institution:

In employment relations context, the state is not as a single actor but is an ‘open system’, as it consists of various powerful actors with different function and purposes to carry out the government’s planning (Dundon and Rollionson, 2011: 168). The way the state becomes an important actor in employment relations is because the state produces laws which shape how employers and employees (with its associations) as the ‘rule of the game’ (Dundon and Rollinson, 2011: 168). Aside of a rule-maker and legislator, Dundon and Rollinson (2011: 170) further describe some other roles of the state in employment relations including a regulator of incomes and prices, an economic manager, promoter of social citizenship guidelines, a protector of standards, and an employer of its own right. This writing will focus on the role of the state as an employer in its own right. By saying that, Dundon and Rollinson (2011:170) emphasize that ‘as an employer, the state can set the standards of employment practice’.

My discussion focus here is more on civil service rather than state-owned enterprise. They’re both different in nature, as the state-owned enterprise would also focus in gaining profit; which then, most probably applying more contemporary HR management/new-public management/private-like management.

The role of states as a regulator and at the same time an implementer (as employer or work contractor) of employment law pushes it to keep some balances between their law products and their own reaction towards it. As such, some political agenda, the ideology, and believes of the leaders would influence the employment laws produced by the ruling government which somehow makes degree of uncertainty or instability in employment.

Anyway, various surveys resulted a list of organizations as best or model employers in Indonesia have been released by some institutions. Although private sector was dominating, it is interesting to see that some public sectors in Indonesia were also listed. A Sweden based global employer branding research firm, Universum, listed some state institutions, such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Tourism as big 10 of the most attractive employers in the Indonesia. It’s interesting that Ministry of Manpower, which has the ‘biggest responsibility’ on the ‘working regulation/policy’ was not listed.

Some characteristics of good, best, or model employers were designed by some firms (e.g. Universum, Glassdoor, Bloomberg, etc.) in making the list based on various concerns. As I am studying in the UK, it might be interesting to see what happened here as well. The British government was aspired to be a ‘model employer’ with some characteristics: aside of offering the best pay rates, to become a model employer, the state is also aspired to be able to ensure job security and its stability, and to employ a fair employee representation for consultation of remuneration and work conditions of its employees (The Priestley Commission, 1953-5 in Carter and Fairbrother, 1999). In 1995, the concept aforementioned was expanded to address gender pay gap.

In short, in the UK, many literatures show some working conditions in public sector (civil servants) that seems better than private sector. Some conditions such as better pay than the private sector and its pension scheme, still become a significant consideration which makes civil service/public sector institutions became one of ‘attractive employers’ in the market, despite of speculations that private sector might be able to offer better pay rates in the near future. Seeing the historical journey, especially after the Margaret Thatcher’s era, which privatization and ‘economic reform’ happened, Carter and Fairbrother (1999) argue that the previous concept of state as a ‘model-employer’ was ended. Further, it has been said that ‘model employer’ concept was gradually replaced to follow conditions in market, which recently named ‘economy, efficiency, and effectiveness’ concept, and lately as ‘best value’ as well as ‘best practice (Carter and Fairbrother, 1999).

Thus, as mentioned earlier that some conditions of wages, stability and job security, gender pay gap, and industrial relations needs to be improved to certain standards, it is unlikely to say that state in the UK has been acting as a model-employer so far.

Illustration: State Buildings (Personal Collection)

Now, let’s try to take a look in Indonesia’s situation using the previous characteristics of ‘model-employer’ that UK used: offering the best pay rates (and pension), ensure job security and its stability, employ a fair employee representation for consultation of remuneration and work conditions of its employees, and lastly gender pay gap.

Offering the Best Pay Rates (and Pension)

Looking at the salary structure of Indonesian civil servants (the version that I accessed HERE – please advise if you find the newest one), it seems that some private sectors entrance level in Jakarta would have better number than some of these layers. Yet, these numbers are only the base salary in which the civil servants have also some other statutory allowances. The base salary of a high level national/multi-national private sectors employee might be higher than a high level civil servants; yet with the allowances that the civil servants receive, the story might be different in some cases.

I am not sure how the civil service institutions do their salary survey or detail conciliation process to determine salary increase (aside of states’ financial condition and its projection), yet it’s reported that the base salary did not increase since 2 years ago (read HERE). Some news recently informed that the government plan to increase the salary and change its structure, which some degree of ‘performance management’ will be included (see HERE). Also, it’s just being reported that the pension scheme fee will be increased by 10-15% (see HERE); which means that the amount of pension for civil servants will increase as well. For private sectors employee, however, the government provides a welfare system and pension scheme under ‘BPJS’ with 5-6% monthly fee/contribution since 2016, and apparently will increase to 8% later (read HERE).

Ensure Job Security and Its Stability

I personally have never heard such a massive lay-off/redundancy of the Indonesian civil service. Yet, in 2016, the Minister of National Apparatus Empowerment and Reformation of Bureaucracy informed that the ideal amount of civil servants is 1.5% from the population. He explained that current Indonesian population is about 250 million, it means that the ideal amount of civil servants shall be around 3.5 million. In fact, in 2016, he said that Indonesia has 4.5 million civil servants. The 1 million surplus created rumors of lay-off/redundancy (see HERE).

Nevertheless, the handbook of Indonesia civil service management ensures that when it needs to be structured, the civil servants will firstly be transferred to another institution, if available (read page 108 HERE). It sounds like a pretty safe situation, doesn’t it? Yet, various circumstances might cause a civil servant being transferred to another institution without proper notifications and preparations. Thus a common jargon among civil servants would be “ready to serve (the country) anywhere”. The most heard problem in this circle of employment might be that many civil servants are in a short-term contract (that most probably continuously renewed) which positioned them to receive monthly fee, lower than the average civil servants’ wages; or named as “honorer” civil servants.

Employ a Fair Employee Representation for Consultation of Remuneration and Work Conditions of Its Employee

I saw some grievance manifestations through mass demonstration and picket lines from civil servants on some cases; one of the issues was about aforementioned “honorer” case. However, the only union for civil servants that I have ever heard is KORPRI (Korps Pegawai Negeri Republik Indonesia) / Indonesian Civil Servants Coop which firstly founded in 1971. Based on its mission statements, KORPRI also aims to provide prosperity for its members (statement number 3 – read page 8 HERE).

In regards to KORPRI’s programs and its relation to consultation of remuneration and work conditions of its employee, most of the programs are focusing of external orientation program (such as building a hospital etc.); and only 1 consultation to the government, which is about religious holiday allowance (see page 9-12 HERE). The wages numbers were also given by the government, I suppose, designed by a chosen team without any fair consultation with civil servants. Well, it actually happens as well in lots of private companies in Indonesia where employee representation is not well valued. However, in order to be a good model, I guess civil service institutions shall be giving examples on how this fair employee representation and consultation being done.

Gender Pay Gap

In general employment, the gender pay gap in Indonesia reported by ILO was narrowed from 40% in decades ago to 19% in 2016 (see HERE). One factor of this ‘good news’ might be the increase of minimum wages in manufacturing industries lately, as reported by World Bank (read full HERE). However, it is interesting to see the report of gender pay gap from the Asian Development Bank in 2014 that public administration has 33% gender pay gap between male and female (see page 31 HERE).

Seeing those data, it somehow implies that female workers most probably are yet to get opportunities to be in higher level/layers in organizations, which allow them to earn more money. Gender pay gap data is only a glimpse, a top of an iceberg, which contains lots of challenges from equality (towards opportunity), women empowerment, stereotyping, etc. Thus, seeing the fact of 33% gender pay gap in public administration, shows that the government has lots of ‘homework’ to do in terms of this issue.

Other Aspects and Conclusion

I believe there are some other aspects we can see further to define a ‘model-employer’ these days. In this particular context, some indicators like, whether civil servants receive equal opportunities to learning and development process (or in contrast, experiencing ‘de-skilling’), whether civil servants well-being in working are well-managed, etc. However, in this writing, looking at 4 categories above: offering best pay rates, ensure job security and stability, employ fair employee representation, and gender pay gap; as well as putting those aspects in political tensions as part of the government which produces employment law and needs to implement it; the Indonesian state would be hard to be an ideal model employer.

Wait, but why the admission number for being part of civil servants were so high? I guess you have the answer for this?



Make the Dots, Connect Later …

Today is the first day of the second term for MSc Human Resources Management and Industrial Relations program in Manchester Business School (@lifeatambs), sponsored by the Government of the UK through Chevening (@Cheveningfco) Awards program. I was so excited in joining the International HRM course in the morning and Employment Policy and Practice course in the afternoon. What I really like from today’s lectures is the way the lecturers delivered the sessions (and indeed other previous sessions); by not telling what have to be done in organizations (based on best practices etc.) but by equipping the students to understand why certain things have to be done based on several contexts we need to consider.

This, in my perception, is an attempt to equip the students to have (higher level of) wisdoms in making decisions in the future career. Of course ‘best practices’ based learning sessions would be interesting and beneficial as well, but gaining knowledge, understanding, and wisdom on why certain HR policies and practices need to be designed, again to my perspective, is essential. Yet, you know that owning wisdoms (for decision making in organizations) is not easy. A nice quote from Confucius said “by three methods we may learn wisdom: first by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest”. Well, I am not going to discuss the Confucius way, but I was trained to do a reflection on almost everything that I see, hear/listen, feel, and experience.

By reflection, I am saying that everything that have been known and already happened, planned or unplanned, would give more understanding, lessons of life, and wisdom. It’s too hard to do a reflection for what’s not happening yet (and indeed for the unknown). Just like what famous commencement speech from Steve Jobs in Stanford University back in 2005, he said “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards”. So, what to reflect or what to connect if we don’t have our (significant) dots? Thus, it’s important for me to always remind myself to make the ‘dots’ in every opportunity that I have.

Illustration (personal collection): we can only look backward to connect the dots

I never know what will happen in the future, but I always try to experience as much things as I can, based on my value and goals that I review in every certain periods of time. My job today, as a young learner and early HR practitioner and consultant, is to make as much ‘dots’ as I can, so then in the future I could look backwards, connect them, and (hopefully) gain more wisdoms from the reflection of connecting those ‘dots’. It’s basically the reason why I always try to join learning sessions, forums, conferences, networking, volunteering, and other initiatives which I think will be good and significant ‘dots’ in my career and life journey.

I recently attended my very first ‘Connecting HR Manchester’ (#ConnectingHRmcr) event in Manchester. The idea is to provide an offline platform for HR Professional in Manchester and its surrounding area to meet and to connect. Unlike other events that discuss certain topics, people who come are allowed to talk about anything related to HR and related people issues. And of course with some drinks, as the meeting is (usually) in a bar. How relaxing!

I heard that this initiative is organized 3 times a year, firstly by Coach Ian Pettigrew (@KingfisherCoach) and some of his colleagues since years ago. I get connected with Coach Ian initially in twitter and then LinkedIn. I saw the registration link for this event and decided to come along once I read the event description. I asked Coach Ian if student(s) would be welcomed to the event. He said yes. So I filled in the registration form and spread the link out to my classmates through our Facebook group. Nobody seemed really interested – they might have plan for the scheduled day already, they might not see this as a good opportunity to learn, or they might think they didn’t need it now. But no worries, I used to be a kind of ‘outlier’ in an event or forum 😀 – in this, a student who attended an event for professionals.

I was so grateful to be at the event, although honestly as a student and first timer, I needed to be extra confident to speak with professionals in the forum. I got some chances to connect and to talk with professionals in recruitment, learning & development, HR generalist, HR tech consulting, and also employment law. I learned quite a lot, not only from the talks, but also from observing people (their interactions etc.) and some other things (how the event was organized, etc.) on that evening.

Back to previous discussion: if I look forward, I wouldn’t be able to reflect / to conclude why did I came to that event or in another perspective, what did I got (as a student) from that event? Up to this moment, I am happy that I learned a lot from that event. But, I am sure I would learn more by the time I could connect what I learned from this event to another ‘dots’ in the future.

Well, I know we might also connect some dots that we didn’t make by ourselves (through reading people’s stories, etc.); yet I suppose connecting our own dots would be more exciting as it contains our own life stories and to reflect our own journey.

So far, I enjoy (and feel grateful) to connect my own dots from my childhood until this age. However, I would love to have more remarkable dots to be connected in the future. I don’t know how it will be, but for now, my task is to make the dots to be connected later, to be wiser and to be able to contribute more.


To be Happier at Work: Craft Your Job, as this Son of Desert does

The Harvard Business Review released an article entitled ‘To Find Meaning in Your Work, Change How You Think about it’ to end the year of 2017. Written by John Coleman, the article suggests some steps on finding work meaning. Those steps are to connect work to service, to craft your work – make work a craft, to invest in positive relationship, and to remember why you work.

I am interested to discuss more about craft your work (job), as I did this discussion for one of my assignment and found out that the other steps mentioned by Coleman are actually part of job crafting process (refer to cognitive crafting below). Aside of that, in my recent trip to Morocco, I met a tour guide named Yosef (yep, almost similar to mine) and learned a lot about how he crafts his job at the Sahara Desert.

In one of their article (released in 2011) Wrzesniewski and Dutton defined job crafting as individuals’ proactive behavior in changing their physical and/or cognitive aspects of the task or relational boundaries of the job to modify meaning of the work and its identity. By meaning of the work, it relates to our understanding of the purpose of work or what we believe is achieved in work. By work identity, it means how we define ourselves in work.

It is believed that employees are not passive jobs recipients but actively redesigned their jobs from what have been given by the organizations. We will try to see how this could be done.

This job crafting activities have 3 types, namely task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting. Task crafting talks about an activity when employees adding or dropping tasks, modifying efforts in various tasks, as well as redesigning how a task could be done. Relational crafting happened when employees change their intensity or quality of interactions with other people in their work. Lastly, the cognitive crafting comprises the moments when employees modify their cognitive boundaries to ascribe meaning and tasks and relationship purpose of their work.

We might choose the type of crafting based on our personal and situational boundaries. Here, boundaries refer to limits around “physical, temporal, emotional, cognitive, and/or relational” aspects. Other scholars described that boundaries might be in physical, social, and psychological forms.

The way we deal with boundaries and crafting the jobs reflect our values, motivation, and preferences. Yet, we might also be influenced by structural constraint such as cultural, social, and economic environment where we are working. It is possible that some factors might trigger stronger influence than the others in the way we craft our jobs. As an example, those who have less work experiences might not be able to do much on task crafting, and prefer to occupy cognitive crafting. Those who in the mid-level might apply relational crafting for being able to ‘stay longer’ in an organization. Yet those in senior level with low social skills might occupy task crafting then relational one.

So, back to Yosef, the son of desert that I met in Sahara. On the night after we enjoyed our dinner in the tent, we sat around the camp fire and shared our personal stories. A visitor from Netherland started to ask Yosef about his daily routine. The questions then continued to whether he enjoys his job and whether Yosef is willing to go abroad or not.

Yosef, our guide in the Sahara Desert

Yosef confidently told us that he enjoys his job in the desert. As for your information, he meets the tourists from the assembly point outside the desert, and guides them for 90 minutes’ camel ride into the tent inside the desert in afternoon. Arriving at the tent, he would help other team to cook and serve the dinner for tourist, play music around the camp fire, and sit and talk with the guests until everybody sleeps. The next day, he guides all the tourist to ride the camels out of the desert, started at 6 am. Everyday.

It is lovely to hear his statements that through his job, he meets people from around the world, listens to their stories, and learns many languages and histories. He also mentioned that although he is in the desert, his imagination goes beyond the tent through the stories from different people he meets every day. Sounds like happiness takes place in his job!

Nevertheless, when we pushed him to answer our question about willingness to go abroad, he started list some of boundaries he has such as: needs of visa and amount of money needed. We stop our questions on that issue, as it might turn him down, and we came back to questions about what are the most memorable things he found from the tourists he guided, etc.

During the conversation, I imagined if I were Yosef and whether I would deliver the same response for such questions. I was impressed by the way Yosef ‘craft his job’, on this case that I observed the most were cognitive crafting (by thinking the other side, that he doesn’t need to go abroad because people from around the world coming to him), relations crafting (by sitting around camp fire until everybody sleeps to talk with different people every-night), and by task crafting (by walking outside the tent with some of us to enjoy the stars on the sky).

I reflected and contemplated during my way back to Manchester: we might not be able to abolish all the boundaries we have or we face in the workplace. Yet we indeed have the ability to ‘play’ or ‘to modify’ things we have – started from how we think about it (cognitively). Before deciding to resign or to quit for something, try to be happier with your job or responsibilities by crafting your job. Push until the limit. When you find no more happiness even after you craft your job, then you might consider to continue your journey with other kind of adventure 😉

Good luck!


Time is Ticking

I arrived at a restaurant where my friend and I agreed to meet for an end of year dinner. We did not book our seats at the restaurant, yet knowing that the restaurant allows customer to spend only 90 minutes for a buffet menu and 120 minutes for another buffet menu. I arrived at around 15 minutes earlier than my friend and met the restaurant manager. He offered me a table for the 90 minutes’ buffet menu, but I said that I needed to wait for my friend. In less than 10 minutes, the manager came to me 4 times and asked if I was ready or not, with a convincing sentence on the last as he said, ‘time is ticking’.

This kind of restaurant relays on the time power, which few minutes does matter for them. Yet that sentence from the restaurant manager stuck on my head until now, reminding me that in this very limited time of life, we can do many things. However, we need to consider that just because we can do things, doesn’t mean we should do those things.

It is interesting to observe how people use their time, as meaningful as they believe. It is indeed will be varied from one to another as different people have different perspective in seeing time and seeing their meanings of life. Yet, the way they construct those perspective and meaning would be good to listen to.

Time is ticking: Where do you want to go? What will you do?

I was just spent a week traveling to Morocco and met an old friend of mine in the desert trip. She quitted her job to live her dreams by working abroad and travelling all around the world for almost 2 years now. We talked about how each of us make use our time and found so many differences between us. As she currently has more flexibility than me, the way she organizes things are not in as tight as me. Yet, I met some people from some open trips in Morocco that I joined, who brought their laptops and worked while they were traveling. After talking to some people during my trip here, I realized that how people define their life goals and its values strongly influence the way they manage their time.

Some people said that they want to do good things for society and start for volunteering, some others want to achieve such a high career path and stay up late in the office, some others would believe on saving money and prefer to stay at home, while some others go everywhere but don’t really know what to do with their life. Such definitions would help people to prioritize activities and manage their time to achieve things, in every condition. Thus, those who want to excel in their job but also need to travel might still do their work on the roads. Those who want to do good things for society while traveling would stay in a location longer and be involved with local initiatives. Some people do more than 1 thing in their very limited time.

Those who travel know that life could give more than they deserve, as they meet various people and experience various things in the roads. While traveling, people can get inspired or even feel bad about their own life. These kind of feeling might redefine their life goals and values. As time is keep ticking, we might consider to look back our life goals and values and how we manage our time to make use of it so far. And before we judge how others manage their time, it’s always better to contemplate ourselves. We always can improve our life; we always can be better than who we are today.

Follow @yosea_kurnianto for more photos of my journey in Morocco!

Why You Should Join the 21st Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Summer University? Registration is Now Open!

An exciting news, everyone! The registration for the 21st Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Summer University is now open! Well, you might ask: what is it, for who, when and where, and why should I join? LOL. Okay, here we go:


Nah, basically the ASEF Summer University (ASEFSU) is a 2-week experiential learning journey and ‘interdisciplinary innovation’ for Asian and European students and young professionals. It is designed to foster cross-cultural exchanges and networks among youth. It also offers opportunities for students and young professionals to broaden their horizons, deepen their knowledge on contemporary issues, and propose concrete solutions to societal challenges. You will be traveling, learning, and, at the same time, finishing some cases/challenges given to your group.

For Who?

This program is for students, entrepreneurs, academics and professionals; all between the ages of 18 and 30 years old from any of the 51 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Partner countries. You must have strong skills of English both verbal and written. Don’t worry, this program is designed to also accommodate those with disabilities!

When and Where?

This 21st ASEF Summer University will be held in Melbourne (Australia) and Christchurch (New Zealand). The event will be executed at 27 January – 10 February 2018. How exciting it is to explore Australia and New Zealand with fellow young bright-minds and positive energy!

How Much?

There is no registration or participation fee: the organizer will cover accommodation and meals for the duration of the program, plus a travel subsidy from your country of residence to the starting point and back.I might say it’s free, unless if you want to buy meals/things outside the program – you will have to use your own money for that.

Why Should You join?

Alright, on this point, I might use my personal experience to convince you that this program is super cool and a lifetime experience! I was a participant of the 20th ASEF Summer University, taking place in China, Russia, and Mongolia last year. The participants were 47 young people from 45 Asia and Europe countries: almost each country was represented by 1 person, except Belgium and United Kingdom with 2 reps. Anyway, we spent 21 days (and more, for those who extend for several days) and travelled together for +8000KM in those 3 countries. Our theme was “Gateways of Asia and Europe: Connectivity by Land, Sea & Air”, in which the word ‘connectivity’ is seen from 3 lenses: Human Connectivity, Trade and Economic Cooperation, and Transport. As a young professional in Human Resources Management, I was included in the ‘Human Connectivity’ lenses.

Our group facilitated a learning session inside the train! (Pict: ASEFEDU Facebook Page)

We moved from Beijing (China), Harbin (China), Vladivostok (Russian Federation), Chita (Russian Federation), Irkutsk (Russian Federation) and Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) – then back to Beijing (China) again. In each city, we were hosted by a University and Youth Organization where we did our seminars, workshops, and other fun activities. Not to mention that some of learning activities also happened during our journey inside the train, especially on the Trans Siberia train in Russia. Aside from the professors and experts from the universities and countries we visited; all participants were divided into some groups based on their expertise and interest, and each had to host/facilitate a workshop/seminar based on the topic related to their respective expertise.


Welcomed by a dance and cultural dish in Chita, Russia Federation

It’s a balance between learning, doing some projects (solving challenges), as well as traveling and enjoying the cities we visited. There were so kind student-volunteers from the universities and youth organization who whole-heartedly hosted and acted as tour guide for us to understand more about the cities. Those universities were Beijing Jiaotong University (Beijing), Harbin Institute of Technology (Harbin), Vladivostok State University Economics and Service (Vladivostok), Trans Baikal University (Chita), and Mongolia Youth Federation (Mongolia).

After the event finished, we made a WhatsApp group; and surprisingly is still very active until now. So many ‘mini reunions’ happened and might happen more. As for example this 2017 new year, I visited Bangkok and Phnom Penh and met ASEFSU alumni there; and now I am studying in UK and already met 3 other program alumni. Let see if I travel to Europe during my academic break next year, will certainly arrange some meetings with other program alumni!

Well, these are some benefits that you will get if you join this program: learning experiences from various topics, expertise, and backgrounds; having new (nice, crazy, bright-minded) friends from various countries across Asia-Europe; traveling to places you might never imagine before; understanding the culture (and various factors/dimension behind it); etc – will somehow change the way you see people and the world. And of course, how you will learn from things happen around you will very much depend on whether you’re able to reflect or to contemplate to grasp something from those.

This year’s theme is “Youth with Disabilities: Shaping Inclusive ASEM Societies”. I am pretty sure that the program will be fulfilled by thought-provoking lectures with group research and experiential learning. It’s also listed that the ASEFSU21 will cover 8 thematic areas: Mobility, Rights Protection and Legislation, Economic Security and Employment, Inclusive Education, Health and Well-Being, Participation in Society, Access to Information, also Attitudes and Perceptions. Sounds like students and young professionals from various backgrounds can be related to those areas of interest!

So, is it you who will represent your country to join the 21st Asia Europe Foundation Summer University? Register HERE before December 10th! If you want to see more of last year’s photos, click HERE!








Not A Believer on Work-Life Balance, What About Student-Life Balance?

I remember on the first week of my study, the program director showed some list of HR issues and asked the students which issues might be the most ‘interesting’ to discuss in these days. A student answered that ‘aligning HR and business strategy’ is currently a ‘hot topic’. Well, that’s somehow true – yet, I was actually expecting that ‘HR Technologies’, ‘People Analytics’, or ‘The Diminish of HR’ would be on the list. Other students, I guess plenty numbers of them, said that ‘work-life balance’ would be interesting to be discussed.

I personally am not a believer of work-life balance, in the sense that it should be 50-50. I mean, I try to see that working is part of my life journey. So, what I need to do is actually trying to harmonize or to create such orchestra of all things that happen in my life, including work. I was fortunate enough to have really good experiences in my previous jobs about this respective topic. The flexibility that I had, the egalitarian leaders and friends who feels like family, and the meaningfulness of the job that I did, help me to avoid to say ‘No’- when it comes to working overtime or over the weekend for several times. But again, it’s indeed a personal view, it might change based on some conditions. For instance, some of you who made a commitment to marry and/or already have children, might define this ‘balance’ differently. It’s indeed about your personal choice, some ‘given’ conditions, as well as maybe a bit of mindset.

Anyway, that’s not the main topic I want to share from this piece. Hahaha.

So, recently I met a friend in my university. She looked really tired. With her sleepy eyes and very low energy, she said to me: ‘Oh, I am so tired of studying. I want to go home and sleep’. Yet she didn’t go home and remain the campus. LOL.

Surprisingly, I heard that this friend was actually come to the university from 8am to 5pm every day – in the reading week! Such a learning dedication, in contrast with me or some other friends who traveled or did the reading elsewhere outside the university during that week.

I was intrigued by her statement that she was really tired of studying, not because of my impression to her learning dedication (sorry about that, LOL). But, the fact that she was doing a writing (an assignment) about ‘Work Life Balance’ while saying that. Oh, what a lovely irony! Yet, thanks to her. I was then contemplating whether I am doing good enough or not in harmonizing my student-life ‘adventure’. I truly respect her dedication to learn things, but I might not be able to be like her in studying.

I believe we all have our own way of studying/learning. Some of us enjoy to sit in the library to read books, some others prefer to watch videos to understand better, and some people might also listen to audiobooks while doing morning or evening jog. In another perspective, each of us do also have different way to ‘enjoy the life’ – might be cooking, travelling, hanging out with friends in a bar / café, or having a ‘me’ time. Understanding the best way on how we study and how we enjoy our life, and harmonizing both of them to make the most of our journey will be so important. Otherwise, we will keep grumbling about what happen to us.

We might be familiar already with terms of mindfulness, consciousness, and self-control. I don’t want to talk about their definitions, but making sure we are able to apply those concepts in our daily life will be useful. We are surrounded by time limitation, constant changing of contexts, the variety of emotions, as well as the demand and supply of interactions. Being aware of all of those dynamics will help us harmonizing the life that we have in some respective contexts we are in: it can be both work-life or student-life.

Harmonizing and Celebrating Life!

Again, my ‘balance’ definition on work-life balance or student-life balance is not 50-50. It’s about becoming fully aware that we will not live forever in this world, then we need to make the best harmony or orchestra of life – based on your goal, based on your call.



Coming Back to University, after Several Years of Working

It’s a reading week (self-driven learning activities) in my university. Marking a half of the first semester from my 2 semesters master degree here in the UK. As you may follow my journey, I am currently studying MSc Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations in the Manchester Business School. ‘How’s your life in the university?’ – somebody asked me.

I recalled my conversation with somebody who sat beside me during the orientation week. Let’s call him Mike. Mike has been working +8 years before coming back to study again and reached a good position as a head of HR division in a well-known company in his country. We had a small talk while our program director explained to us about what would happen during the year of study. Seeing the reading list and the academic assignments that we have to do, Mike said to me, ‘I start to question my-self on why I decided to pursue master degree in a formal education again’. I thought, I couldn’t answer as what he might expect me to answer.

Another day in the same week, I met another friend, let’s call her Ann, who also said the same thing to me. Ann has also been working for +10 years as a head of IT infrastructure division in a multinational bank based in her country. ‘You know Yos, my friends previously asked me: are you sure you want to study again? – and I was thinking that I would be alright. Now I am questioning myself.’ Not much words I could say to Ann, except helped her to realize that a decision has been made – and the only option now is to finish what she’s started.

Coming Back to University!

I can relate to both Mike and Ann, although I never regret my decision to study again (at least until now, LOL). I know that my working experience is less than them, I have only 4 years of working experience, but in these 5 weeks of studying I got some challenges I need to handle, in regards to coming back to study after several years of working. Here are some of my challenges in the beginning of my journey here:

  1. UK Weather Strengthens the Relationship between Me and my Bed

I arrived in the UK when autumn is in action – with its gloomy, cloudy, windy, rainy, and cold. It was a moment when wake up in the morning and get off from the bed became the hardest thing to do in life. I had to really push myself to take a bath and to do activities. LOL. Sounds ridiculous? Yeah, it was that ridiculous.

  1. What? Reading list? Academic writing?

In the orientation week, our program director invited almost all lecturers to introduce each courses that we will learn. As usual, listening to the course descriptions was far easier and enjoyable than experiencing what has been described. Pages of reading list and bunches of academic writings (essay) become your (no-other-option) menu for the days. Those +XY years working experiences who worked in corporations with no requirement to write academic writing to gain total rewards & benefits or highest rank of performance appraisal, would be sick because of this.

Not to mention that you need to fully control yourself, as in most of the time you will need to apply what so called self-driven learning. ‘I missed undergrad, everything is organized. I am tired to push myself to do self-study’ – said my British classmate who did her undergraduate in London.

  1. Sorry, we are in an Academic – Situation Talk

In the first seminar, I asked a ‘too technical’ question to the presented group. The members of the group, who I knew after – are all fresh from undergraduate, hardly understand the context of my question. At the end of the session, the lecturer explained to all of us that in MSc program, we basically discuss 2 things: how to do and how to analyze (how to think (e.g why things happen)). Yet the course is basically will be run with ‘how to analyze’, which means that from that moment I had to change the type of questions I need to ask in the course. LOL.

Having an ‘academic mind’, after several years of working, might not that easy. Every time I attended a lecturer, I always drew the topics into their ‘practicality’. Even sometimes challenged the theories with the reality. However, I slowly learn to balance it with the academic – situation thinking.

Classroom Sitting

  1. Embracing diversity: ‘know the limit’

The context of diversity here is, again, about working experiences that (most probably) differ the degree of contextual understanding: some students continue their journey directly from undergraduate degree, some of them have been working for months or years. And even those who have been working, might have different understanding (and belief) about things related to the topics being discussed.

I once had a group discussion to prepare a presentation. Being interested in a case in a country where my friend is coming from (since I think the information would help me to design an HR policy in the future), I started to probe more questions about it. Surprisingly, my friend answered: ‘I don’t think we need to discuss it since it’s not in the questions list that we need to answer.’ LOL. Okay, I have to know the limit – since the context of discussion between my friend and I were different in this case.

Well, I realize that nobody could help but myself. I am trying my best to adapt and to develop myself to fit in the academic situation, step by step. I talked to my academic advisor and to some lecturers, I asked them to help me in my learning journey. Several months to go, will see how I can survive here! LOL.