I began my National Service on September 27, 2012 at the Sunyani-West District office of the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC). Originally, I chose the Greater Accra region as my preferred national service destination but I was instead posted to the Brong-Ahafo Region. Nevertheless, I learnt some very important lessons during my national service days that have stuck with me to this day.
Accept the call!
I wanted to serve in the Greater Accra Region, in the national capital because I thought it would be easier to land a job there after the period of National Service. As fate would have it, I ended up at the Sunyani-West District in the Brong-Ahafo Region. I had a lot of reservations about my work place the very first day I reported. At that time, the EC in the Sunyani-West District operated from a building that seemed to me more appropriate for a store than an office space. The office door was made of huge iron bars that had to be kept open all day to allow the circulation of fresh air. Prior to reporting at the office, I envisioned working in a modern office with air conditions, computers on every desk and everyone smartly dressed. To my surprise, the only computer in the office at the time was used by the secretary but kept in the District Director’s office. Initially, it was difficult to accept the conditions at the work place because I had very high expectations. It took me some time to accept the reality of the situation and accept the call to serve. I realised that, not until you accept the call to serve and all that come with it, you are not ready to serve; that was my first lesson.
Don’t wait to be invited
I still struggle to remember exactly my job description during the National Service period because I did a bit everything. As a service person, I had no desk of my own not to talk about designated duties. I had to invite myself to the party all most all the time. Strangely, I began to enjoy the place once I got myself busy. Being a small office, I worked closely with the secretary and the District Director. I accepted every task; I considered nothing above or below me. I stayed on with the office staff when we needed to close late or attend a function. Many times had to crush the party, and I was happy I did.
Maintain the momentum
Speed is good but momentum is best. During the first few weeks of my National Service, I reported to work regularly at 8 am. After the first month, my reporting time changed to 9 am or later because there was virtually no supervision. It took concerted effort and introspection and to win back the enthusiasm with which I began the service. Slowly but surely, I readjusted; reported early, worked throughout the day and waited until the official closing time. In many National Service posts, supervision is low and service personnel must remain discipline and self-motivated at all times.
As a young man with the dream of working in a large multi-national organisation, I could not imagine serving at the Electoral Commission would be of any benefit to my long-term career goal. I simply found no link between ballot distribution and communication practice (my professional training). But I was wrong! Today, I pay more attention to detail, I am more proactive, I keep records well, I even type faster and file better. I learnt all these and many more during my National Service days. At the time, It was a bother learning to do all these clerical duties but it has served me well. If only I knew that someday I will remember my service days with this much pride, I would have learnt even more.
Don’t be afraid to move on
After the stipulated period of service, I was fortunate to have stayed on at the Electoral Commission for 3 more months because it was an election year. Even when the additional 3 months elapsed, there were still other opportunities in view, but I was not afraid of moving on. I wished to stay at the EC longer, but the directorate obviously had no plans for me and I had learned enough to survive elsewhere. The transition from National Service to finding employment can be very challenging when you either wait too long to start looking for other opportunities or remain undecided about what to do after National Service. When it was time to leave, I was ready for that transition into another organisation because I planned for it.
My office colleagues at the Electoral Commission still invite me occasionally to join them in one exercise or the other when I have the time. This is just because I continued to nature my relationship with them even after the service period. Am currently resident in Winneba and Accra but anytime I visit Sunyani, I make it a point to visit the office or call my former office colleagues to check on them. I realised that this particularly helps when you still have an eye on working with the organisation you had your National Service with. This last lesson has particularly stuck with me. I try to apply my National service credo in every organisation I’ve worked with and the results have been really nice.