Career Path

Sending the message across

by Grace Chan

Ip Chi-chuen (left), senior postman
Tong Cheuk-kit, postman
Hongkong Post
Photo: Wallace Chan

After a few years of job-hopping in the early 70's, Ip Chi-chuen decided that it was high time he held down a decent job so he joined the Hong Kong Post Office (currently Hongkong Post) as an assistant postman in 1975 when the government resumed recruitment after the stock market crash the previous year.

Like the majority of Hong Kong's working population at that time, Mr Ip benefited from the job security and financial stability generated by the subsequent economic boom of the mid-1970s through to the late 1980s.

"The employment terms offered by the Post Office were particularly alluring," he notes. "Aside from the stable working environment, it's the job satisfaction that still keeps me passionate for my job."

Personal touch

Mail delivery gives all postmen a sense of mission, Mr Ip says. "What we do constitutes part of Hong Kong's daily life and the operation of the post office doesn't run like clockwork. There is every people element in it so in addition to physical stamina, postmen also need to master some interpersonal skills," he adds.

Mr Ip bears witness to the transformation of Hongkong Post from its "Royal Mail" era
Photo: Courtesy of Mr Ip
Postmen are usually assigned to a permanent location but Mr Ip has worked in several, including Sai Kung and Tseung Kwan O. For this reason, he has been able to expand his circle of friends and broaden his personal horizons.

Over the years, he has had many opportunities to witness the transformation of Hong Kong life. "There have been times when I delivered mail to elderly people in person because some of them dwelt in remote areas and they couldn't access their postboxes due to physical disabilities," he recalls. Such simple gestures can develop friendships, and once helped to save someone's life.

"During one of my routines I found an elderly person on the floor, so I immediately called the ambulance service. Being able to help people gives the job more meaning," he stresses.

As a civil servant, Mr Ip has been able to secure opportunities for his children. In particular, he took advantage of the chance of a UK education for them.

Changes in Hong Kong's socioeconomic landscape also provided Mr Ip with career advancement opportunities. "Four years after I'd joined the Post Office, the position of assistant postman was merged with that of postman and I was then promoted to postman, with a generous pay rise." A few years ago, Mr Ip was again promoted to senior postman and he is now responsible for providing training to his successors.

Training for postmen comprises a range of technical and soft skills, including delivery and customer service. AV (audio-visual) technology plays a major role, and operational guidelines are strictly enforced.

"I'll be retiring in four years' time so I hope to pass my experience on to the next generation of postmen," he says.

Rain or shine

Disorganised postboxes pose a challenge for Mr Tong and his colleauges working in Cheung Shan Wan
Photo: Wallace Chan
Today's postal services face stiff competition from large international logistics companies. "It is therefore crucial that postmen deliver the best service possible," says Tong Cheuk-kit, who joined the Post Office in 1987 for a reason similar to Mr Ip's.

Mr Tong spent his first few years with the Post Office working in Central. About five years ago he was transferred to the Cheung Sha Wan Delivery Office.

A typical day starts when he arrives at the delivery office in Cheung Sha Wan at 8am to sort mail and then he begins his delivery round at about 11am. It usually takes him three to four hours to finish delivering all the mail to about 1,300 households.

Along Castle Peak Road there are still many tenement houses in conditions that are far from being desirable. Postboxes are arranged in an appallingly disorganised manner. It took Mr Tong a month to get used to the new environment with the help of a mentor who taught him the delivery skills needed for that particular area.

"Working conditions in commercial buildings are definitely better, as there are lifts and air conditioning. Most importantly, most postboxes are properly installed and addresses are printed clearly on the envelopes," says Mr Tong. "However, we expect to work in all weather and different environments. Perseverance, tenacity and a sense of professionalism keep us going."

Interacting with people provides him with great job satisfaction, as well as the opportunity to get an insight into their lives. "Cheung Sha Wan is a densely populated residential area. The pace of life is slower than that in Central so people tend to take more time to relate to each other," he points out. "I've enjoyed this aspect of my work tremendously."


Taken from Career Times 03 July 2009, p. B8
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