Career Advice on Surviving & Thriving

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Author, Syaiful Hilal

It is no secret that many of us consider studying overseas can provide a better chance to enhance our professional career. Hilal, our contributor, scored his dream job after graduating his master’s degree from the University of Auckland. Through this article, he is not only sharing about his current professional career in a mining company, but also his method of survival in Auckland by doing part-time jobs. Let’s check his experience through this article.

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Studying overseas is a dream for quite a number of Indonesians. One way to accelerate, to set us ready for the world-class job, is through higher education. Considering its appealing benefit, no wonder some of us will try our best to study overseas. I just graduated from the Master of Energy programme of the University of Auckland and currently working for PT. Antam Tbk. Back in Auckland, I also took a chance to get a glimpse of working experience in New Zealand. Although it’s only for a short while, as I need to return to Indonesia soon, and merely petite jobs but I still managed to obtain take-home lessons that I would like to share with you.

The job I did while waiting for convocation

I finished my master’s degree in December 2017; although my scholarship donor allowed me to stay until my convocation in May 2018 they would not sponsor my living allowance anymore. It was 6 more months to go until my convocation day. My survival skill, to maintain financial security by myself for 6 months, was being challenged. I must take measured steps on how to come through. First of all, I left expensive Auckland city and moved to the suburb, New Windsor, for cheaper accommodation and free parking. Second of all, the actual survival key was to find a job so I could manage to stay until convocation. Not many people want to share their working experience as a low-skilled worker out of shame, but I think ‘why not’? I believe this is an important story to be told, so others will be informed about its existence and its benefit.

I started as a cleaner. Yes, you read it correctly: a cleaner. I got paid as little as NZ$13 per hour. What? Why on earth did you say it was ‘little’, Hilal? NZ$13 equals to, more or less, IDR 125,000. Isn’t it OK? No, it’s not OK. The minimum wage in New Zealand at that time was $15.75 per hour, so I was underpaid. But, of course, I got to start somewhere, didn’t I? The perk was from that cleaning job I made friends, built a network and, later, also landed a better job as a tour guide with higher hourly pay around NZ$20. We all know that New Zealand trip is very beautiful but also super costly, but as a tour guide, I could travel around amazingly beautiful New Zealand for free in addition to the good payment I received. So what’s not to love?

It’s all about how you think

In New Zealand, we can work up to 40 hours per week; that said, these jobs I did were more than enough to support my living i.e. covering the accommodation rental cost, putting food on the table, filling fuel to my car tank, and paying for my tertiary needs. I also could fly both of my parents to attend the convocation all the way from Indonesia to Auckland. Their happiness was priceless and I truly cherished that moment. The proud look on their faces had fully paid all my sleepless nights due to assignments.

Talking about these low-skilled jobs such as cleaning, dishwashing, etc., some people probably may disrespect this kind of job, think small of it, or even judge its disconnection with my master’s degree, but I have to clarify a few things. One, it is common to do low-skilled jobs when you are studying in foreign developed countries. I am not the only one; you can find a lot of students proudly expose their part-time or full-time jobs. So, do not be shy of doing this type of work when you are really in need of extra bucks. Two, you gotta set your goal higher and merely consider this job as a temporary. Your dream job should be more than this. In the end, it’s all about how you think about it.

Two inseparable things: Higher education & the dream job

If there is one thing I learn from my study experience was the day I understand how – most of the time – education becomes the main tool to score our dream job. When pursuing my degree, I took a chance to discuss with as many people as possible, from a really diverse background, about too many different topics and curiosity. One subject that attracted me the most was the reason why they decided to do a post-graduate degree. A friend of mine pursued higher education as a mandatory requirement to become a researcher or a lecturer, her strongest desire.

Besides other driving factors, getting the so-called ‘dream job’ and having a settled life are two things that have long motivated them to take a post-graduate degree. I, too, am a man who thinks this way, that higher education is a tool to help me win a good promising job afterwards. Only then, I can apply the knowledge I have gained in class to the real-life setting; hopefully, I may also use my skill set to contribute to a greater good for humanity. I considered this job searching very seriously that I started looking for the opportunity right after I wrapped up my master’s degree in December 2017.

Being enthusiastic to search for the most suitable job

In 2017, when I finished my study, Indonesia’s economic situation was not in favour of the mining and energy sector. Hence, it was quite challenging for me to apply for the right job. Fortunately, I managed to get the information about a job vacancy in one of the biggest mining companies in Indonesia, PT. Antam Tbk. Although it was not coherent with my master’s degree and skill set as a geologist, this kind of opportunity was not to be missed. Another opportunity comes from PLN, the sole energy distributor in Indonesia, of which my master’s degree will be fully coherent.

Author and his workmates at PT. Antam Tbk. Exploration division
Author and his workmates at PT. Antam Tbk. Exploration division

Without further ado, I ended up applying for both companies. I prepared my application wholeheartedly and submitted way ahead of the cut-off date. I could find time to prepare my job application before or after doing the part-time jobs in Auckland. Later in February 2018, when I was doing my cleaning job, I heard from both Antam and PLN that I proceeded to the next selection phase. In March 2018, I returned to Indonesia to join the next selection phase and even advancing to the medical examination for both companies. Long story short, I am currently hired by Antam and really enjoying my day-to-day workloads.

Contributing to the beloved motherland

Author and his workmates during work visit into a gold tunnel at Pongkor Gold Mine, West Java, Indonesia
Author and his workmates during work visit into a gold tunnel at Pongkor Gold Mine, West Java, Indonesia

The salary I received as a young professional in Indonesia is, for sure, nothing to compare to the low-skilled job I did back in Auckland, but my inner thought has made me very glad about my current work and life. Everything needs money, but money is not everything; I guess it is true. I notice that there is something more important than money itself. Money is less important when it comes to passion and idealism. Now, after several months of working for Antam, I am relieved that I opted to work in Indonesia.

Working in New Zealand gave me more money but it was only about spending my time to achieve the company’s target without actually utilizing my skill set, what I was ever learning in classes and what I was built for. For a short period of time and when I was in financial need overseas, yup I might do this. But not for a long time. Whereas in Indonesia, I can devote all of my knowledge, skills, and time to not only reach the company’s goal but also to contribute directly to Indonesia’s mining sector. Also, with the experience I got during post-graduate, I am keen to bring a brand new breeze to Indonesia’s mining industry through Antam. I know very well that me alone will not enough to deliver a significant development towards a better Indonesia so I am hoping that all of us can work together, hand in hand, to ensure a better future for our motherland.

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Photo source: Syaiful Hilal