Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Career Diaries: What It's Like Running the ADA Helpline

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Name: Ben Chan
Occupation: Programme Coordinator
Age: 31
Years of experience: 7
Education background: Diploma
Years with current company: 8 months
Top 3 skills: Communications, creativity, compassion
Best lesson learned on the job: How to empathise with people and walk with them through their emotions, and seeing their relief after their conversation with us.

How would you describe your job to someone who has never heard of it?

I would explain that I work with caregivers and hospitals with regard to dementia; I help to ensure that caregivers receive the help that they need.

Why did you become a Programme Coordinator?

I was looking for a job within the Community Care sector. Previously, I worked with mentally challenged clients – mostly younger children, teenagers and young adults – so I was interested in exploring and serving other age groups.

Was this your first job?

No, my first full time was with Charles & Keith as a fashion advisor.

Growing up, what did you want to be?

Growing up, I wanted to work with people but I was unsure how to do so, which was why I studied hospitality and went into the service line. After working for close to three years in the service line, I wanted to explore what I really like to do in life. I found passion in assisting people to help them have a better quality of life, which is why I went into the social service sector.

What are some of the reactions you usually get when you tell people what you do?

Generally, people will react with “It must be not easy doing this!” because they feel that there are a lot of emotions and work involved. Some would think that it is a job that doesn’t really offer a good salary, and that I do it just because it’s for a good cause or as charity work.

What are the expectations of being a Programme Coordinator?

We must know about all the services and the recent happenings in ADA. Next, we must be able to understand the needs of the callers, whether to offer them strategies for improvement or just lend them a listening ear. So, I would say critical thinking and a compassionate heart are key in helping us do our job well.

What is the best thing about your job?

The best thing about being a Programme Coordinator is that at the end of the call, the caller feels relieved. Sometimes, you help work out their feelings and make them understand more about dementia. Sometimes, you help them figure out what to do next as they might be feeling lost in their caregiving journey. At the end of the day, what makes it meaningful is how the caregivers appreciate us, and that knowing what we do helps to lessen their burdens.

What was one thing about the job that surprised you after you joined?

I was surprised by how much a phone call and empathising with the caller can mean to them. I have numerous accounts where the caller broke down on the phone when we affirmed what they did. We try to work through their emotions together with them.

Describe what a day in your life is like.

7.30am: I wake up and get ready for work. I wash up and have breakfast while doing some light reading. I also think of what I need to do for the rest of the day.

8.20am: I leave my house to take the bus and train to the office. I would usually play some fast-paced music to get myself hyped up for the day. I try to find the least crowded corner in the bus or train, or take the least crowded path while walking, as touch is my lowest in the love language.

8.50am: I reach the office, do the necessary SafeEntry check-in and greet my fellow colleagues while setting up my laptop.

9am: I log in to my phone and I am ready for duty. My first task of the day is to write a to-do list for the day and get a cup of black coffee with no sugar. From then on, I am at my desk and always ready to receive the Helpline calls for the morning.

1pm: I usually go for lunch at 1pm. With so many food options near our office, my colleagues and I usually decide what to have for lunch by 11am. And because most of my colleagues are foodies, we let our cravings guide our path to food!

2pm: Upon returning to the office, I continue with Helpline duties for the rest of the day. One of the challenges we face is juggling admin tasks while being on standby for calls. As we are unsure of how many calls we would receive and how long they would last, sometimes our plans for the day can be disrupted. For example, there would be days when I would be on multiple calls throughout the day, and not have time to do anything else. To manage situations like this, I do a to-do list, and rank the tasks by priority and urgency. My “strategy” is as simple as crossing things off one task at a time because it’s important to at least start somewhere. In this way, I would be done with the admin portion of my job before I even realised it.

6pm: I bid my colleagues goodbye and get ready to head home. I would usually rush home after getting some takeaway dinner, as I’m taking a part-time Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and have classes at night after work.

7pm: Classes usually start at 7pm and end at 10pm.

10.30pm: I would go for a run or do some workout. As my job requires me to sit for long hours at my desk, I try to get some steps in every day.

11.30pm: By this time, I would be resting, and my favourite things to do to unwind are to watch dramas or play mobile games.

12.30am: I like to read, so after unwinding, I usually set aside some to do some reading. Sometimes, I use this time to do self-reflection.

1am-2am: I don’t have a fixed bed time, but usually during this hour, I would be rolling on my bed and fall asleep within five minutes.

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