The Making Of A New OBS Instructor
THE MAKING OF A NEW OBS INSTRUCTOR:
Instructor Jeffrey Tan builds up to build others!
Jeffrey Tan, 28, joined Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) as an Instructor in June 2010. An optometrist by profession, Jeffrey left his career of four years in the eyecare industry to pursue his true love and passion for the outdoors! We caught up with Jeffrey to find out more about his training journey with OBS as a new Instructor.
Why did you leave your job in Optometry?
I was dragging myself to work everyday back then. Job satisfaction was eluding me. After four years, I decided optometry was not what I wanted to do. My career switch to become an OBS Instructor had involved a pay cut, but I think it was all worth it! I was on the lookout for a job where I could feel good about making a positive impact on someone’s life. This was something significantly missing in my previous workplace.
Have you joined any OBS programmes before?
I attended a 5-day OBS course in 1998 when I was in Secondary Three. In the year 2000, I went for an overseas OBS course in Sabah; whilst I was with the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC). In 2001, I went on an OBS expedition to Brunei as a volunteer leader with NPCC. All those OBS courses left a deep impression on me. I started to appreciate life more through these expeditions.
What aspect of being an OBS Instructor did you found to be most attractive?
I personally believe that outdoor education is a powerful tool. By joining OBS as an instructor, I can be instrumental in extending a unique OBS experience to participants at an early stage of their lives. This motive truly drives me.
Could you share with us on your experience during the OBS Instruction Selection Process (ISP)?
I had a vague idea of the ISP before I came for it. It is infamously known as ‘hell weekend’ by many in the OBS circles…and rightfully so! I still vividly recalled how my team of candidates ended up lost at sea one pitch black night during our cross-island kayaking challenge. This was during the last phase of the ISP and we were navigating in the dark with no reference point. Our leader did not know what to do and everyone was tired, on edge and wanted to get out of the place. We had been paddling for over 12 hours and were drifting in and out of sleep. I will never forget that night!
In your opinion, what is the rationale behind such a grueling selection process?
It was only after completing the ISP and being recruited as an Instructor, that I understood the need for it to be pitched at that tough level. I now realise how effective the selection process was in assessing the character of the candidates; especially when they are tired. It was an ingenious programme which helped identify if the candidates had the qualities of a good instructor ie, those who are not only capable at handling difficult situations but are quick to display compassion and care for people even during times of struggle. These are important qualities that every Instructor should posses. Let’s look at it this way - If I were a parent whose child is coming on a programme with OBS, this stringent selection process would surely affirm me that my child will be in capable and responsible hands.
You have just completed your Instructor’s Training. What was unique about this training?
The entire training took six months from June to early December 2010. Though I was equipped with outdoor skills like kayaking and rock-climbing prior to joining OBS, the training did not simply focus on the mastery of these skills. Instead, the training prepared me to instruct and coach others with those skills; and how to be a good leader in the process. Strangely, I was only able to appreciate this perspective of my training after I became a full-fledged Instructor.
Could you share a high point during your Instructor’s Training?
The Kayak 4-Star training that I attended two months ago in Ramunia, Malaysia, was truly memorable for me. Having trained mainly in local waters, the pounding waves in the open waters of Ramunia was indeed a humbling experience! It was only when I was paddling frantically in the midst of the plummeting waves, did I realise how valuable my Instructor’s Training had been. The training also taught me how to keep my attention focused on my participants should the weather conditions turn south.
Has the training impacted your life in any other ways?
The soft skills I have picked up have definitely influenced the way I see and appreciate life. I have become more steadfast in my approach towards meeting goals that I have set for myself. I am also able to handle mistakes, failures and trials in a more emotionally intelligent way. I can communicate more clearly nowadays and I sensed that I have more empathy for people. As such, my outlook becomes more positive. The hard skills I have acquired have shaped me to be more proactive and responsible in the ways that I make decisions. I am careful to consider my actions and the impact they will have on myself and on others. All these are a treasure trove of significant values that I have gained…they are simply priceless.
What are the challenges you face in the line of your work?
As an Instructor, I have to take on different profiles of participants every week. It’s crucial that I customise my programme delivery to suit each of these profiles. I can never use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ template. As such I am impelled to continue honing my instructional skills to benefit the participants. The training provided by OBS has provided me with a solid foundation. Moving forward, I feel motivated to read up further on my own and to seek guidance from the more experienced Instructors.
Being more of an introvert, I also tend to take a longer time to process my thoughts before communicating them. I am currently learning to be more astute in my reactions to dynamic and fluid responses from my participants. My determination to engage them optimally fuels my drive to overcome my current limitations.
What excites you about your role as an OBS Instructor?
I look forward to tuning my delivery to suit each group of participants that I take up. I hope that through the programmes, the participants can become mentally and physically rugged individuals with a strong sense of community spirit. When after the programmes, the participants went about to apply their new learnings in their lives, then I would have met my objective. Outcomes like these excite me and energise me.
I certainly see myself identifying strongly with OBS values. This is essentially the reason why I love the job that I do. Gone are the days when I dragged myself to work!