My name is ‘Alamoni Grace Nafe. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, double majoring in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Auckland earlier in May this year. I’m currently working for the Tongan Government, in the Public Service Commission Office, as the assistant secretary for the Performance Management System division (Human Resources sector). I started this job last month, and it has been a whirlwind learning experience.
After high school, I was given an open-category scholarship. I graduated and still had a hard time looking for a job. Often, we think with such naive optimism that as long as we study hard, we would be guaranteed a great job with the snap of a finger. The truth was a lot bitterer than what I had expected.
Growing up, seeing older cousins drop out from school, and then subsequently struggling to make ends meet as they build families made me realize that it was not something I wanted. I also have a lot of my younger cousins who dropped out of school because they said they couldn’t be bothered to do their assignments anymore, that they wanted to hang out with their friends and fakatamaiki, and they just gave up. It broke my heart, it still breaks my heart.
I thought that education would change everything. After graduating from University and experiencing a long stint of unemployment, it made me wonder what the use in the end was. It was a depressing time for me, and made me feel like my dreams and ambitions were futile.
The sense of uselessness after studying hard and not achieving anything was not something I wanted my younger siblings and cousins to see. Of course, it was an eye-opening reality of the harsh problems in the real world.
I lost count of how many applications I sent out for various positions after returning to Tonga. Ironically, at the PSC office where I now work, my supervisors told me they had seen my applications for the other positions in the various ministries I had applied for. I wasn’t selected for any because “I didn’t have the relative work experience”.
I remember feeling frustrated, how can we gain experience if no one wants to employ us?!
During my interview, my (soon-to-be) boss, had asked me “What is your greatest strength?” Without missing a beat, I told them “My youthfulness. Being young, that means I have a lot of excess energy and enthusiasm. I’m also very willing to learn, and I’m a quick learner.” One of the other questions they had asked me was “What would you like in a future boss?” I told them that I wanted to work with someone who was willing to teach me the ropes, and to bring out the potential in me.
It was a long and nerve-wrecking wait for me to finally land this job. But that wait taught me to appreciate this job so much more, and remembering all the months I wasted doing nothing motivated me to work harder and to learn as much as possible.
In the end, I feel really lucky that I’m able to work in a central government agency. I’m lucky that the office I’m working in are full of older, experienced staff, who are helpful and friendly. I’m lucky that I have a very nice boss/mentors that I’m able to work with. I’m learning so many new things, from the paperwork dealing with various cases and how to interact with co-workers, and officers from various ministries.
I’m lucky, and I remember that there are many others out there who have as much potential and talent as I do, but haven’t been given the opportunity to use and showcase their abilities, knowledge and skillset. Remembering that humbles me, and acts as a constant reminder to work hard, and to keep being a positive role model to others, and to try and do something that would be useful to others.
I really believe that tackling youth unemployment would help to address other social issues such as youth violence, youth crimes, and teenaged pregnancies.
The next big question is “How?”
-by 'Alamoni Grace Nafe-