• John K E Tan

Get a REAL job!!

Get A Real Job!!!

I lead a youth-serving charity that I help found some 21 years ago.

I have always viewed myself a youth worker although I've gradually taken on more and more administration and policy responsibilities (a necessary "evil").

Through the years, I've noted some things about the paid youth work staff I hired.

Firstly, everyone comes on board wanting to make a difference in the lives of youths we're trying to reach. Some, though, had romanticised ideals of what it'll be like. These, I noticed, soon burn out and fall out on the wayside, with some even harbouring resentment, sadly.

Secondly, my paid staff do the work definitely not for the money.

I do work very hard, though, to ensure that they get fair wages. But what is fair? My staff are more than ably qualified. When compared to their college mates pursuing other careers, their pay may seem rather low, especially for an expensive city like Singapore. It's cold reality that "professional" youth workers receive scant recognition. Which leads to my next point.

I have had several staff come to me, many in tears, reluctantly tendering their resignation. Why? They really loved their jobs but just can't pay their bills with their salaries. Some had, for the longest time, resisted intense emotional pressure from their families to land "real" jobs - meaning jobs that offered better pay.

What is a real job? To me, working among and for youths is as real as real can get and be. Youths don't fall for the BS sometimes vaunted and even feted in some other job settings. Youths can spot and sniff out a "fake" from a mile out. So what's really real?

Perhaps, youth work is not so much a job but a calling. Really.


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