Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Mokuls Café

One day a friend told me how lucky he was since he'd never been losing job during his 20 years of professional life. Two years after that very day, he was laid off due to restructuring.

Losing job is unfortunately a quite common phenomenon these days. Just end of last month, October 2006, right after Lebaran Festivities, 600 people were axed after the company lost its biggest principals. Ten senior executives of a big distribution company in Asia recently resigned due to irreconcilable differences with the top management.

Just yesterday a product specialist came to me to tender her resignation with no firmed job. She couldn’t cope with the pressure imposed by her direct superior.

***
In 1989 when my daughter was less than a year old, my boss lost his only principal to another big distributor. The company was then closed down, and threw me out of the door to the dusty street of Jakarta.

It was during this difficult time that I honed my computer skills. I got a job partly because the marketing director was impressed with a “selling message” that I sent through a simple batch file in a floppy disk.

In 2002 the company I was working with experienced another organization changes. The position of country and business managers in Southeast Asian countries were eliminated.

Then I was offered to be business manager SEA for infusion therapy . The business director for pre-analytical, however, persuaded me to stay with him. Finally I declined the infusion therapy offer and joined the pre-analytical business.

It turned out to be a wrong decision. The infusion therapy Business Director was promoted to a president position reporting directly to CEO, while things were not so smooth with me.

New country manager and HR SEA joined in. My previous boss was transferred to US. The autonomy management style I enjoyed during his era was gone. To make things worse, I had different strategic approach with my counterpart who resided in the Philippines. She eventually resigned, and a few months later my position was eliminated. It was August 2003, I was jobless again.
***
A few months before my appointment for the SEA position, I had a series of job interviews with a respected lady, owners of a publicly listed Indonesian company engaged in the production, distribution and marketing of herbal-based and natural cosmetics, herbal drinks and other related activities; and also with her daughter and successor. It was for a General Manager Marketing position for the Herbal Medicine business.

During one of the interviews her assistant came in and handed over a piece of paper, she signed it, and then she told me that it was an employment agreement, and asked me to sign on it. I was shocked.

In fact everything was ok, except that I was in the process of the regional appointment. Finally, almost whispering, I told her that I appreciated the offer very much, but I needed a day to think it over again before making final decision.

It was one of the most difficult moments in my life, since I respected her so much and I didn’t really want to disappoint her. The following day I called the Managing Director to apologize that I couldn’t accept the offer. The lady called to question me and I sincerely apologize for the inconveniences occurred, and she wisely didn’t push me further.

A few months afterwards I was asked to meet her again. I came to her office and spent maybe 2 hours, mostly discussing about her business. She was happy with the discussion, and I was still happy with my job.

Of course when I lost my job, I had never thought to come to her to ask for the job that I had politely rejected.
***
People usually try to hide or disguise the unemployment history in their CV, including myself, fearing that it would reduce the chance to get a job interview. It’s not the right thing.
Jobless can also be a blessing. My favorite phrase: it’s how you see it, and thus it’s a mind-game.

I shouldn’t be proud to be an unemployed person, but I shouldn’t be ashamed either since I did nothing wrong. I committed no crime. My only crime was I had no income. Besides, I could get and do things that working people might not be able to get or do. The struggle to survive was one of the most precious experiences in life.

However, one thing is true: when losing a job, things changed dramatically. No nice office, no company’s car, no free lunches, no overseas trips, no health insurance, no subordinates, no income. Nothing.

***
One of the most difficult things as a jobless professional is to find a place where one can go out regularly in the morning, away from home, away from curious eyes of neighbors, while hunting for any job opportunities.

A friend inspired me to name this kind of place the Mokuls Café. Mokuls is from Indonesian words of Modal Dengkul, modal is capital and dengkul means knees. It means that you have no financial capital at all. The only capital you have is your body, which is actually not enough when you open the real one.

While the name is merely to attract people's attention, but things materialized most of the time because of the existence of strong will. When you have a strong determination to achieve or to do something, capital that you need will follow. Not the other way around.

In this Café, the jobless professionals are warmly greeted. They are encouraged to get to know each other in a familial atmosphere, forming kind of a club. Free internet wireless hotspot is provided. Open and hidden job information from various companies and headhunters are collected and shared. Franchise business owners are welcome to leave brochures, or come to talk and discuss in person. A pool table is provided to kill time after hunting. The Mokuls Café blog will soon be created to share information on-line.

Nobody owns copyright of the Mokuls Café. It belongs to the jobless professionals, the noble hunters. You don’t need to pay for a franchise fee to open one. The more Mokuls Café we have, the better it will be for the society. Sure, the name need not to be the Mokuls Café, you can choose whatever name you like, but the spirit hopefully remain the same.

Today, I’m grateful that I’m still working, but who knows what will happen tomorrow. But with or without job, if you have opened a Mokuls Café somewhere in Central or East Jakarta, please let me know. I will go there to greet you and the noble hunters. Who knows that I have some information to share.

3 comments:

  1. "When you have a strong determination to achieve or to do something, capital that you need will follow. Not the other way around". Never heard of this before. But I want to believe it.

    Is it sort of aphorism you quoted from a wise man or you invented it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bung Alex:
    It was based on experience and observation. Steely will rules.

    ReplyDelete