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Decisions for Progression

Gabriel Lee
July 29th, 2020 · 3 min read

For the longest time, since the start of the year. I’ve been contemplating on what I want to do in the future. Partially due to two factors, having served in the police force for <10 years straight out of national service. Throughout the 10 years in service, there has been many ups and downs and learning lessons which has eventually shaped my thinking.

My Past Experiences

I made many mistakes and learnt it the hard way, being young and not knowing what life has to offer. I was tempermental, hot-blooded and ignorant. I lost my direction, like any typical fledgling, I focused on needless entertainment from gaming and neglected my studies. I didn’t learn my lesson even after retaining for a year, and still indulged in having fun rather than getting serious to make up for the lost time against my peers.

Reflecting back on this as a learning lesson, now that I have a family. It would be best to guide my kids such that they would not follow the path and make the same mistakes that I did. For that to happen, I had to make changes to my life, I needed to improve myself and to prove that it is never too late to make amends to the mistakes of my past.

Analysis of my Life

By picking up a skill which I learnt haphazardly during my youth, I managed to develop my skills in Graphic Design and Basic Web Development 3 years ago. However, I soon realised that there is a limit as to how much I can progress internally. In Singapore, paper qualifications(degree) is still an necessity to get well paid jobs or just to meet the entry criteria. People who do not have those are immediately thrown into the bin by HR personnel. Even if you had the chance to get an interview, the interviewer would tend to ostracise you and give curt remarks (that was what I experienced with a government sponsored programme). It was a rude awakening to me, that made me realise that the skills that I valued is not relevant in what the actual industry required.

The reasons for deciding to switch my career is due to the fact that, I don’t see a future serving where I am currently. Though, I have very supportive supervisors who appreciate my skillsets. Due to a series of unfortunate events, and the realisation that my peers (those who joined at the same time as me) and those who were my juniors has overtaken me by 2 - 3 ranks already. For each progression in rank, I’d have to wait 3-5 years per rank which gives me an increment of SGD120 only.

If I were to analyse this objectively, the pay increment will always be behind the general market rate. There is of course an argument that working in the civil service is equivalent to an iron rice bowl (铁饭碗). From my existing salary scale of SGD4364 (before CPF), and an average annual increment of $120. It would take me another 5 years to reach SGD5000 without promotion, or another 4 years to reach the SGD5000 gross salary mark.

I can decide to be satisfied with my life and just be another contented civil servant just doing the bare minimum and retire at the age of 58. Howevever, that is not my character. I still want to fight and fight for a chance to be able to better my life for my family and to make up for the lost time during my youth.

Steps to improve

Obviously, if I had a choice I would go the traditional path of studying for a degree and restarting my career. However, the circumstances, commitments and support I have is all down to myself. Hard decisions and sacrifices had to be made, the drive to learn and motivate myself.

First, I had to go back to school and this time get a degree. The best option I had was to study part-time, picking the subject was easy. I wanted to enter the IT field, programming was something that I felt I could relate to well enough.

Second, pick up courses for self-improvement. Which I did so, I learnt a new programming language, tried to understand more about IT in general. Understand the different aspects of what IT encompasses.

Thirdly, because the government has introduced many initiatives/traineeships/apprenticeships/subsidies for Tech. I applied to a multitude of programmes, but had successes for 3 of them due to the fact that I am still employed.

Conclusion

Ultimately, my desire to improve myself now will not stop. I still fondly remember the words of my trainer, ‘learning never stops’. It is with this constant reminder, and the drive to improve that I decided to resign from the force in an attempt to write a new chapter in my career. Hopefully, in the coming months I would be able to make the career leap successfully.

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