You could say that by trade I am a scientist, having swayed this way during my A-Level years I then went on to study molecular genetics at University.
Looking back at this now I would probably put this choice almost entirely down to my outstanding and very inspirational A-Level biology teacher who’s teaching style was full of energy and who had a clever knack of drawing out your thirst for knowledge. We all hung on his every word and my biology homework was always impeccable and on time through fear of being a disappointment. So, for all you teachers out there, please never underestimate the impact you can have on your students if you really truly care.
It was a shame that he didn’t also teach my degree course but, if I’m really honest with myself, I knew very early on that it was not going to be my choice of career. I was never as talented or ambitious in this field as my friends. Don’t get me wrong though, I continued to learn and develop and I look back with fondness on the many hours spent in the lab mixing agar and completing one polymerase chain reaction after another usually to find out why the previous one hadn’t actually worked. It has shaped me into the person I am today, a little better than the agar I used to pour!
I now know that people interest me, not cells, and if I could do my time again I would study psychology. I might still do this one day. But I’m not dissatisfied that I haven’t already done so because I get countless opportunities to do this every day. It satisfies a small part of me which longs to learn more about why people behave as they do. Over time I’ve accepted that life is an oxymoron. Often the people who are overtly confident and self-assured are actually filled with self-doubt and longing for acceptance by others and it’s actually the quiet, unassuming individuals (often overlooked in favour of the former) who really have confidence in their own ability and do not need anyone else’s approval.
But it’s definitely anger which really fascinates me. I think that it’s fair to say that much of the anger I deal with in this role stems from vulnerability. Vulnerability originating from a feeling, or fear, of not being in control; not being able to control what’s happening right now or possibly at some point in the future. You also cannot fix things for someone who is angry, they have to be calm first…or at least on the way there. Once I realised this it made my job easier, I took things less personally and found empathy.
I think that it’s alright for me to admit now that during my first few months here I was terrified of answering the phone; every time it rang I felt like the next contestant on ‘Just a minute’, about to have to speak with no hesitation, deviation or repetition on a subject I knew far too little about! Of course, the prize was more fundamental than applause from the audience.
So, with every positive experience my confidence grew and now, if I get the chance, I will always pick up the phone and call someone who’s not happy. I do this because the author of even the most venomous email or letter is human (they do not have two heads or breathe fire) and so am I.
Though you first have to let go of your own defensive behaviour – naturally I don’t like being shouted at, listening to abusive language and sarcastic comments or being told that I am 'claiming my wages under false pretences' (this did actually happen) but sometimes just the act of allowing someone to vent their anger can help release the pressure. If you stay calm and lose your ego great things are possible from that point forward.
At the end of the day I will judge myself not by the many lovely things I get to do in this job but by the way I deal with the few very difficult things.
Sarina joined us in 2008 as our customer services co-ordinator. Among other things, she manages our national customer service team, complaints procedure and requests for information made to the Trust. She says that the most important thing to her is to be able to go home and feel as though she’s achieved something, however small that might be. Her job is hugely satisfying, widely varied, full of deadlines, immensely interesting, sometimes challenging and no day is ever the same, although some are surprisingly familiar!See more blogs from this author