Friday, April 29, 2011

I live in aljunied grc and I shall vote with gusto!

some of the better posters! quite funny... copyright from HWZ' EDMW.

Friday, April 08, 2011

the (ahem) older men in my life

Oh, it's been a steep, steep learning curve for me this week.

I think I can say safely that this past week my gray matter has increased significantly. For those in the know, after attending countless rounds of interviews (10 with 2 cos. last month!), meeting aussies, brits, americans, singaporeans.... they have been impressed by my 'je ne sais quoi' attitude and yes, I'd be starting in X co. real soon. The only thing is that the role requires me to specialize in IT, of which I honestly admit I know peanuts about. I think, since I was headhunted by the handsome aussie for the role, I should not be airhead-like and go: 'Oh, what is 'cloud', is it the fluffy white things in the sky???'

I've always been a member of the hi-caliber mens' club (every smart woman should have her network of equally smart men) so, I decided to aggressively meet them to pick their brains. I should do some legwork before I even step foot into the IT space! (Actually, being one of the rare women in IT does have its perks, similar idea to being a 'male nurse'; more on that later when I prove my theories right.) It's also nice to learn about things I have absolutely no knowledge about (and therefore no opinion).

Amazingly, I was referred to a Professor at a reputable university, who really gave me a crash course "IT 101"that is taught to Datuks' sons and whatnot, and 2 directors in the IT space both having very different functions talking to me for hours... and I gained a valuable insider look on what's happening in IT both in terms of technical jargon and almost everything I need to know about the tech market! I can't believe they are so wiling and giving to spend time with the airhead me, plus the Professor sent me his personal slides... thanks to one fantastic and smart guy friend who just made one phone call!!!

Best of all, I touched base with one of the attractive Managers in the co, and he gave me this memorable advice:

You are smart, but you may want to add in some passion. You need to have passion for the IT industry to really learn. It’s like you do not like eat pork ribs soup and I force you to learn to eat or even cook it. You will not cook a decent pork ribs soup if you do not like the food. But it does not also mean you will not slowly like pork ribs soup in the future. So back to being related to IT. You will slowly like it when you get exposed to more IT roles and speak to many candidates from the IT industry. That is the time where you will find learning about the industry easier because passion is there.

I guess the next time I eat pork ribs soup I will be thinking of him... (I asked him if he liked to eat it, he said he did not... that makes the 2 of us!) I'm so complimented that he said I was smart, I've only met him once (one round of interview) and I wanted to work with him already. (but ended up in this other role. Long story.) Dear 30 plus year old guys, you have no idea how much you have benefited me this week! I'm going to make sure they have made the right decision to choose me for the role, and make it count!

Also, on a side note, I'm thankful that I'm unfazed talking to angmohs, especially aussie angmohs. As my friend put it, 'The gift of the (SPG) gab'. Hey, not many people are able to make them 'feel at home'... okayyy.

They may be C-level people but each time I hear the aussie accent, I feel so much at ease talking to them about my theories about people, personality and the issues I usually harp upon while gazing into their large, pale colored eyes. And then they like me so much and even tell me so. "Hey I have to say that X angmoh Manager likes you and so do I. We like you!" (I am also loving their upfront 'take no prisoners' attitude.)

Well, I had aussie English teachers (me topped the class, leh!) and lived there in my developmental age, so I guess there is an inherent value to children who had spent time overseas. And also children like myself who spent time 'block-catching' with a large group of male neighbours (only one other girl neighbor) makes me immune to the weirdness of men.

I also managed to read 3 women's career help books. I never read these things, so it was mind-blowing. And so helpful I can't believe I've not read them earlier!

1. How to make anyone like you: Proven ways to become a people magnet by Leil Lowndes
2. How to instantly connect with anyone by Leil Lowndes
3. Women, work and the art of Savoir Faire by Mirelle Guiliano (A MUST-READ!)
4. Nice Girls don't get the corner office 101 Unconscious mistakes women make that sabotage their careers by Lois P. Frankel

I'm also reading 'The Idiot' by my favorite russian author, the one whom I always quote. M.Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


The fascination that I have with observing the human species and the realization of their faux pas, mistakes, gaffes and some unlikable behavioral traits does intrigue me. Recently, I've had the opportunity to observe really high-calibre people. Successful in their career, highly intelligent... of course, there are highly intelligent, Mensa people, having mediocre jobs such as bus drivers.

And then there are the really nice people. I mean, really nice, always positive, smiling, never a nasty word to say or a complaint to utter. However, they often don't rise up to management or leadership in their respective jobs. Have you ever wondered why this is so?

I've always been taught that your network is your net worth. Those people who have 'no friends' are branded as losers, and I think, rightfully so. We lose out in so many ways when we don't have friends to give us counsel or just share some insider info over prata. I've always had the gift of making friends, or rather, the gift of the gab. I surprise even myself when I find myself talking comfortably to angmohs holding C-level positions and feel no fear or apprehension talking naturally, stating my opinion, cracking some witty jokes. I think many locals, faced with this opportunity, are often tongue-tied. Of course knowing what to say at the right time (some call it emotional perception) is another skill in itself. This probably cannot really be taught.

Over the years, I'm glad for such friends who introduce me to their friends as well. I did stop going to events and making new friends for a while, but these months, I've made so so many. They are all nice! I don't really consciously seek out people, rather, it's the 'chemistry' that makes one person memorable to you from another and I find them interesting enough to continue the connection. Of course, being friends at this stage, we have not seen enough of the 'deal-breakers', enough of them to like them for the long run. Best of all, these newfound friends are my new support group. Sometimes, old friends (unfortunately) know you too well that they cannot give objective advice. They cannot tell you to go for it, for some things they also don't have the personal confidence in, where others can. And of course, most will give unsolicited advice that may be detrimental to your personal choices. I say this with kindness, because many times, I wish to say things to many of my old friends, just that I don't really know how to. Maybe keeping quiet is the better option. Women usually have so much to say, but I guess we don't accept criticism or feedback that well. And of course, all these stems from a particular incident that provoked me to become more self-confident, assertive, friendly, open, in essence, bringing out the better qualities that was within me that no one had ever told me about but I recognized it as being very attractive to me and in other people. Since having that self-confidence, I've been less shy, more 'aware', and the most surprising thing of all, keep attracting similar people. Well, I'm savoring the attention...

Now, the next step, how to turn friends into something else, only if you want to.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

how to get headhunted

In my line of work, I have the opportunity to quietly observe how local people communicate, mostly, over the phone and over emails. I'm not an expert in any way but after only one year of experience I hope these tips can help my friends get ahead, in life, work, just some simple commonsense reminders.

1. Make people feel good.

I'm impressed by the way high-level, go-getter people communicate. They can be any age, but I can tell they are high-level and eventually, will go far in their career by a few simple ways. In fact, it is so simple so many people fail to realize this small thing - it's how the people feel when they 'meet' you. Number 1, make them feel good or better than before they met you. They will surely remember you with a good vibe. I'm not saying go overboard with lavish comments, but everyone feels better when you notice and compliment their nice dress, or even just letting them take the time to drink their coffee and not make the meeting seem so rushed. I personally subscribe to this, and I always make it a point to give a small tip to my manicurist - the prices are so low I can afford it, and the service is always impeccable at my usual place, plus, it gives me a pleasurable feeling to see their eyes light up when they receive it! A kind word always helps to make people feel good, I always cheer up when people message me after a trip, even a short trip - I never expected them to remember I'm back, and it really brightens up the gruelling journey home! So many people forget to thank the people who have given them an opportunity to go for an interview, the HR Manager, the headhunter. Even though you didn't get the job or the deal, a thank you note goes a long way...

Those who sent thank you notes to me are few and far between, I would have to say sadly, most are foreigners or foreign-educated.( And birthday cards seem to be going out of fashion too...) Conversely, some people phrase their emails for their job-search in a rather rude way. I really have no idea what sort of response they are looking for... it's quite sad that I see this most often in graduates as well. If we are asking people to help us to do something, in social or work settings, in this case to get ahead in their career, there is a nice way of asking that makes people really want to help you.

2. Bad branding or Non-branding does not get you to the place you want to be.

An example of bad personal branding would be constantly updating your social network status with work issues or emo issues so that everyone can see what a scary person you really are inside and no one, even a good friend, would dare to recommend you for a position in X company that would be a great career for you. I've seen topless party photos (male) and goodness knows what not. Of course everyone is entitled to their personal freedom as to what to write and post. But maybe some can ask a more senior-level friend what their impression would be on their status and photo posting. I'm sure all of us are thinking about some clueless friend of ours who could benefit from this...

On another extreme there are some people who are so private that no one really knows what they work as... I think for friends and acquaintances, a good gauge would be when your friend or contact introduces their other friend to you and they have some things to say about you, your life, and your work. I think most of us do not like to be 'pigeonholed' into a stereotypical image of our job, nor like to broadcast what we work as, but I think your circle should at least know your vocation, or if you're looking to change jobs, for that matter. If they hear about an open position which matches your interest, at least they will let you know they saw it in the papers or heard it over the grapevine, I think that is always good. No one likes someone who always blows their own trumpet, but once in a while, it would do you good to quietly state your accomplishments. Most of my friends know I belong to the 'first-class' club and I've worked really unbelievably hard for it, made many sacrifices, yadda yadda... that is why I'm not ashamed of the fact I have got the top honours. There is some mental image that people conjure up in their heads when they think of your name, we are all typical that way. So many times I've seen on Facebook or email some things that really is bad for making an impression on others, if only they knew... ...

I've also made the mistake of telling everyone a job change when that role turned out not to work out well for me... I informed happily my new position to most of the people I've worked with in my previous job, including some top-level directors at government spaces... to my chargin I had to leave that place sooner than I've expected, which in turn would lead to a barrage of questions from well-meaning people. I could have saved myself the trouble if I only informed the closer ones and only later when I got my footing to brand myself in the role. Well, lesson learnt!

A side note, for your boyfriend/girlfriend, please be proud to introduce them to the people you inadvertently bump into, unless it's a secret that you are dating. Your other half will like you all the better for it if you just say, "Oh, by the way, this is my boyfriend Bert! Nice to meet you here!" to those hello-goodbye people. We do the same with our parents and our good friends (I hope) so if you're lucky to be attached to someone you love, don't give him/her the invisible treatment. So many times I can see the other friend looking at a couple who are seemingly a couple, but they fail to introduce themselves as one, and the other friend has question-marks going through their head... Is it a brother? A friend? A boyfriend? Lol. It shows a mark of confidence in the relationship too, I've noticed.3. Bad writing does not get you anywhere. (Or, some CV writing tips.)

I've received horrible and hilarious CVs and it's a wonder why those candidates did not spell-check, or 'google' for some tips on CV writing. I heard there's a whole book of tips you can buy at our friendly Popular... ...anyhow, some rules of the thumb is, it's always better to address the email to the person-in-charge, no "Dear (fill-in-the-blank)". I've received emails addressed to me as "Dear Richard", "Dear Sir", best, "Dear Mr Rachel"... sigh. It's also good to state what job you are applying for in the email title (surprise, a lot of people fail to do so) and never, never, state you are applying for 'any job'...sigh.

For local contenders, I commonly see such bad writing as well:

-Career Objective : it's now replaced with 'Profile', do you see any managers putting down 'Career Objective', of course not!

-'References will be provided upon request' : Duh, of course you will provide if they ask for it. Take out this redundant line.

-Leaving out your contact number or email address or not answering your phone or worse, switching it off: Yes, I've encountered this. When I emailed one lady about not having her contact number in her CV, she emailed me back thanks. But she still did not leave her number...okayyy. Never switch off your phone because most recruiters call you twice in the day at max. We are busy people. Always try to pick up when you can. Yes, there are people who do that...It's best to leave an alternate number in your CV if you have one.

-Hobbies: I had a chap who put that his hobbies include "fishing, singing KTV, snooker"... first thought that came to my mind? Ah-Beng! Imagine what your future Manager thinks if you put 'window-shopping', or 'sky-diving', or, say, 'Wing Chun' as your hobby? Just don't put any, no one will accuse you of being boring and I've not seen any interviewer quiz you about why you did not put any hobbies in your CV either.

-Please don't put your Edusave awards in primary school (there are many people who put that, okay)... or such long-ago achievements. Do list down work achievements, a few for each of your last roles.

-Use a serious photo. You have no idea how many funny photos I've seen. It's a wonder why they put the photos they put.

4. Ace the interview!

Be prepared. Outfit check. For non-fresh graduates, try not to wear a black skirt, white blouse/shirt combo from the local cheap suit store. It's very freshie. You know la. If you have many years of experience, I'm sure you can afford to dress more 'atas'. Unless you apply for a bank front office role in which I definitely say wear a suit at least, you can wear some more color and tasteful jewelery...shift dress...pumps... go google 'what not to wear'... never never never carry any flashy logo branded bag. I've seen that sabotage many interviews. When in doubt an envelope clutch or any business like neutral color bag.Nice shoe.

All interviewers ask a variant of the same questions.
It's not about the questions, but the underlying questions...
This part is rather hard to explain. But surprisingly, I can always tell through the phone conversation who can ace it and who can't. Besides making point 1. of letting the Managers like you, really like you, you have to come across as responsible, efficient, not desperate for a job 'any job', highly desirable, clever, and someone who brings benefits to the company's revenue bottom line. The C-level people are always looking for staff that makes a difference that way. They are looking for hires to make a difference in the short-term, 1-3 year duration, at LEAST.

The HR Managers main concern are people they'd like to retain. Retention of staff is their top priority. It's hard to retain good people. They will be wondering if you are the job-hopper type, a waste of their resources and training...

And the direct line Managers are looking for people they'd love to train and work with, also demonstrating good team player attitude amongst others. It's so easy once you keep this in mind while answering the questions in the interview. Not many people have this mindset though, and therefore they lose out, and waste many others' time. And for goodness' sake, when they ask if you have any questions, ask, but don't ask excessively...'no questions' means you aren't really interested, or boring, or just not an attractive being. They are used to answering the same questions to dozens of candidates so maybe you can ask it in a different way... =)

I wrote this for a friend who had the initiative to ask me how to revamp his CV. For most people, going to interviews is a once-in-a-few years thing and therefore there is that fear there. But it's quite easy once you know the basics. It's a good year for a job change too!