So now, you’re an intern. You’re not quite drawing the salary of a working adult yet, but you’re a lot more experienced than a student now. You were close to the top of the food chain in your school, but right now you’re at the bottom of the pile in terms of occupational hierarchy. What’s more, this may very well be your first stint in your industry, and you don’t want to blow it.


But there’s a reason it’s an internship. It’s meant to be part of your education, and so you should treat as a learning experience. It might not have the structure and formalisation of lectures and tutorials, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a few valuable skills that will be very useful in your career.


1) Making A Good First Impression


In all likelihood, you probably did give a good first impression at your internship interview. But now you have to give that same good first impression to everyone you work with. You’ll only be there for a few months, so whatever impression people make of you is going to stick, and you’re not going to have the luxury of time to change it.


Learn how to give an elevator pitch (a concise summary of who you are and what you do), how to engage people (sometimes, talking about the weather is perfectly acceptable), and most importantly, how to sell yourself (why should someone even spend time talking to you). You can Google all this, sure, but your internship is the best time to practice and hone those skills. These are the soft skills that will land you a job, give you that raise, and bring you that promotion when you’re working full-time – so why not practice it now?


Read also: Internships – Better Being a Big Fish in a Small Pond or Vice Versa?


2) Networking


Now that you’ve made a good first impression, it’s time to nurture that relationship and relearn the art of soc

ialising. You’re not just making friends now – you’re making contacts. These aren’t people you’ll necessarily hang out with, but they aren’t exactly acquaintances either. These are professional relationships that are built upon on a commercial basis instead of a social one, opening up opportunities that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.

            This doesn’t mean that your contacts can’t be your friends, though. Some of your contacts may well end up becoming your closest friends. Most of them won’t, and you’ll meet them only during corporate settings.

These contacts will be able to offer you far more than you can offer them. So leverage on your youth, your energy, and your adaptability as your selling points.


3)Dealing With Difficult People

And then you’ll meet difficult people, who aren’t just dispensing your grades anymore, but dispensing your paycheck. They aren’t always bosses, but co-workers or even subordinates. But you have to learn how to address the issues and conflicts that come with the workplace, because they are inevitable.

Most importantly, don’t take it personally, and don’t take your work conflicts home with you. Leave them in the workplace where they belong, and draw a line between your personal and professional lives. There are many strategies of dealing with less than pleasant colleagues, but most neglect to mention that you shouldn’t bring these burdens back home with you.


4) Time Management And Priorities

Even as a student, you’ve had to learn how to juggle multiple modules, extra-curricular activities, and parties. But now there’s the added element of commercialisation – your time is literally worth money, both to the company and to yourself. Deadlines are no longer as comfortable (or flexible) as before, and you will have to make sacrifices and learn that

done is better than perfect.

Pick up some productivity frameworks and test them out, like GTD, time boxing or working in spurts. Just like with making first impressions, this is the time to test out what’s the best way to manage your time and figure out how to make yourself work more efficiently.

 Read also: 10 Tips To Increase Productivity At Work

5) Your Working Style

Learning what makes you the most productive is just one aspect of your working style. If you don’t already know it, your internship is the best time for self-discovery to determine how you work. What motivates you? What type of work do you like? What type of work are you good at? You’ll be surprised to find that you’re not always good at the things you like, but if you can learn to like the things you’re good at, then you’re one of the lucky few.

Your working style will determine what kind of company you’ll best suited for, and consequently whether you’ll be in for the long haul. Can you deal with tight deadlines? Cope with grey areas of professional ethics? Live with irregular working hours?


6) Industry Standards And Practices

This goes without saying. One day in a workplace can teach you more than one year in the classroom. Pick up the jargon and learn the software, because one day you’re going to be member of the workforce in that industry.

Study the expectations and what industry professionals look out for in the deliverables. The average Joe won’t have the trained eye that someone in the line will have, and you’ll need to develop exactly that to be able to identify quality.


7) Business Processes And Workflows

This doesn’t necessarily mean accounting (unless you’re an accountant) but rather, how things work in your profession. There is always a supply chain, the system that creates the products or services in your trade, and knowing where you stand in that supply chain is very valuable.

It might seem more like management level issues, but it will help better understand the expectations and deadlines levied upon your full-time co-workers, and also know where to troubleshoot when things aren’t moving.


8) Companies And People To Avoid

You’re most probably going to pick up some names of organisations and individuals that you should avoid, for whatever reason – they aren’t good paymasters, they don’t deliver quality work, or they cut too many corners. Remember them, as these are the people who could very well exploit you when you’re a fresh graduate.

You might still want to give them a chance though, it may just be a misunderstanding that was blown out of proportion. But information is power, and trust your gut feel. If something feels wrong, it probably is.


9) Companies And People To Look Out For

Conversely, there will be places and people that are highly revered and sought after. And if you haven’t been around in the trade long enough, they aren’t going to be easily recognisable if you come across them. So keep in mind those names, so that if the opportunity arises, you’ll know who you’re talking to, even long after your internship is over.

This will be the time to put all that practice at making a good impression into play.


10) Making Coffee

I can’t emphasise this enough. You need to learn how to make a good cup of coffee, or where to buy some when you need to. You will need to do this at least once in your intern life, so pick it up now. Whether it’s the difference between an Americano and flat white, or a kopi-o and a kopi siu tai, make the effort to learn, remember, and practice it.

Above all, be professional at your internship. It’s the closest chance you’ll get to working without requiring as many qualifications and certifications, and also your best chance at a getting a good job before you graduate.


Internships are a fantastic way of getting some solid working experience. While you might have a particular career in mind during the course of your college life, having an internship in that field might be the perfect way of testing the waters and really knowing whether you want to pursue this path. The question is: Would having an internship in a small or big company be more beneficial for a clueless, wide-eyed young person? Or in other words – is it better to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond?


Big Pond: Great Opportunity, Narrow Tunnel Vision

Big corporations typically pour buckets of money into their internship program, hoping to secure the best and the brightest to come under their wings and groom them to be the next company superstar. Naturally, their internship programs are also incredibly elaborate, with clear job scopes and goals to be achieved at the end of the program. Do well here, and your path to the big time will be paved out nicely.


And yes, having a big name on your resume really does make it look prettier.


The downside is that what you learn from these internships will largely be limited to the scope of the project assigned to you. With supervisors looking over your shoulder and breathing down your neck, you will find yourself spending the bulk of your time working hard on your achieving the goals that your project has limited you to, and less time actually getting an all-rounded look at what the position actually entails in general.


Additionally, you will find that big shots in big corporations hardly have time to spend with the executives below them, much less an intern. Because of this, you will, for the most part, be unable to learn much from the best in the business at all.


Small Pond: Real Impact, Increased Stress


Small businesses usually have about 10-15 employees. Start-ups, in particular, might only have 3 – the two co-founders and a jack of all trades. What this means is that whatever work you do is probably the real thing – that is, it has a real impact on the rise or fall of the firm you are working at. When small businesses hire interns, they usually do not have a fixed project for you to complete, or goals for you to meet. Instead, they usually immerse you (slowly but steadily, or unceremoniously) into the deep end of the role you are interning for.


Having interned at a start-up, I found that the title I was given (Creative Copywriter) was probably a typo the bosses had made when typing out the advertisement. Far from just writing, I found that I had the opportunity to do many other things. Of course, don’t be surprised if you have to do some administrative work as well. In a small company, everyone gets their hands wet and dirty in every area. And that is the fun of it – you get to learn so much.


On the other hand, because of your “all-rounded-ness”, an internship of this nature will likely not be an accurate depiction of your job scope in the future (unless, of course, you join a start-up). Also, knowing that the work you push out could likely be the downfall of the firm could potentially be fairly nerve-wrecking. On the whole, however, such a wide array of pressures is certainly more beneficial than harmful for one who likely has no idea what he or she wants to do in the future with absolutely certainty.


At the end of the day, however, it all depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. Are you looking for a well-defined experience, or one that allows you to try your hand at many areas? Each has its pros and cons.

fathers day work tips

Fathers come in different types, shapes and sizes, but all of them have one thing in common. Each of them has invaluable advice to share, learned in life through their own footsteps.

With 40 years of experience in the workforce, my father is the best adviser whom I can turn to, for guidance on how to survive in the workplace. Experience is priceless, and this is something which can be earned only with sweat and time. I am grateful that my father had so willingly imparted such invaluable advice to me, based on his years in the workplace.  Since Father’s Day is around the corner, I’ll like to show my appreciation through words, by sharing the 10 tips which he taught me, which I adhere closely to:


1)      Be helpful and get along with your colleagues

Colleagues are more than lunch khakis. It is important to bond and get along with them, because having helpful colleagues will certainly facilitate getting things done in the workplace, especially when you need to retrieve information or data from them. Thus, thoughtful gestures such as helping a colleague to carry some of her heavy stacks of meeting materials can go a long way.

2)      Don’t reveal your dislike

Even if you hate your colleague and know that he has stabbed you in the back countless times, do not have it written all over your face. Honesty is not always the best policy. Making a friend is better than making an enemy. Hence, there is no need to empty your cards and reveal all that you know to confront the colleague since the backstabbing has already been done. Open confrontation will not benefit you in any way and it will serve only to ensure an awkward working relationship with the colleague which you might continue to work with, in many years to come. Thus, be aware that he is not someone whom you can trust, but there is no need to tell him or anyone that. Continue to lunch with the colleague as usual.

3)      Be firm and confident

Be firm in what you stand up for. Displaying confidence in your proposal during a presentation will not only make a difference in the outcome of whether the bosses agree to a proposal, but also how they perceive you as an employee. Confidence is half the battle won.

4)      Don’t admit to a mistake if it’s not done by you

Don’t succumb to pressure and apologise or take up responsibility for a mistake which was not committed by you. We are paid to work, not to be scapegoats for other people’s mistakes.

 5)      Pay no heed to gossip or rumours

Every now and then, there will certainly be some office gossip which makes the rounds to your ears. It does not hurt to listen, but take everything with a pinch of salt and do not let the office rumours influence your decision or the way you work in any way.

6)      Be nice to your subordinates

The foot which you step on today may belong to the ass which you kiss tomorrow. While it may not lead to such a dramatic twist in the workplace, but it certainly helps to be nice to your subordinates or support staff. They will be more willing to go the extra mile for you, especially when you need to rush to meet deadlines.

7)      Follow instructions

Do as you are told. Instructions from your boss should be acceded to, even if you think you can do the tasks in a different and better way. Following instructions reflect respect to your boss, and you can do the tasks your way if you become the boss in future.

8)      Manage your time well and prioritise your tasks

Since work will always be streaming in, do not procrastinate your tasks and prioritise them accordingly. Just like Animal Farm, where “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”, all tasks are urgent, but some are more urgent than others. Learn to categorise your tasks and prioritise them according to their deadlines and importance.

9)      Trust no one (in the workplace)

A secret is no longer a secret in the workplace if you tell someone about it. If there is a secret which you do not want anyone in the office to know, keep it that way and do not tell anyone, not even your most trusted aide in office. Walls have ears and relationships can mutate. Your most trusted aide in office today may not be so tomorrow.

10)   Leave the office on time

There is no end to work. Hence, when it is the time to knock off, do so because there are other important matters to attend to, like family. After all, the company can hire another competent employee but the family will not be able to hire another competent daddy.





These are tips which are applicable in every workplace. My personal favourite advice from my father is point 10, because not only does it serve as a reminder that while we should work hard as responsible employees, we should also remember to spend time with our families, it also warms my heart that my father remembers to make time for us.

employee engagement

Bessie is a freelance writer and has 10 years of HR experience. She is currently a Regional HR Business Partner with a US MNC. 

There have been many discussions on the benefits of employee engagement and the importance of companies investing in them.  Even so, we see that there are still companies who remain sceptical of such investment given the cost and time involved. Some are unsure of how they could get started; while some give up after few attempts.

As HR professionals, we have to understand that employee engagement is a long-term investment. Besides emphasising on the benefits, you have to ensure that your management understands that it is not about waving a magic wand and seeing the benefits the next week or month. However, it does pay to wait patiently for the company would subsequently benefit from its investments. Some of the key benefits of employee engagement include:


  • Increased Productivity

A survey conducted by the Hay Group observes that companies with more engaged employees are much as 43 percent more productive.

  • Increased Retention Rate

Engaged employees tend to be more committed to their job and company. They are the ones who are more loyal and will stay with the company. They can also be the positive energy within the company that help to boast the overall morale and work environment.  A study by Towers Watson shows that Similarly, 72% of the highly engaged said they would prefer to remain with their employer if they receive a new opportunity.

  • Increased Business Success

Employees who are not engaged will not be doing their best. Key findings from Gallup indicates that employee engagement result in 21% higher productivity and 22% higher profitability. A successful company requires committed employees who continuously strive for the best performance and encourage others to do so.

Now that we are aware of the benefits of employee engagement, the next question will be on how to get started on it. Below are some tips on how you can take the first step to employee engagement.

 Read also: Using Social Media to Hunt for Talent

Getting started

There are numerous employee engagement activities that a company can organize but you should ensure that these activities meet the needs of your employees.  It is pointless to carry out numerous activities and observe that your talent attrition rate is on the rise.  Carrying out activities without understanding the gaps or needs will only waste your time and deplete your energy.

The first step is to conduct an employee survey.  Conducting an employee survey will enable you to find out where changes within the company are required. Consider if you have the budget to engage a consultant to draft the specified survey questions or provide you with the template. There are many consultancy firms which offer such service including collating the result as a third party provider. This will ensure anonymity of the participants where employees will feel most comfortable. Do remember that majority of the employees will not want to see their feedback about their managers landing up on their manager’s desk. This would backfire on them and your entire engagement plan.

If you have limited budget, it is still possible to draft your own survey questions. You will be able to find plenty of possible survey questions online but you should decide on selecting and using the correct type of questions. For instance, the question should be clear and direct and not too ambiguous. Upon selection, you can use free survey website to create the list of questions that you have selected. One of my personal favorite is but the basic membership will limit the number of questions and responses that you can create and receive. Such survey website will be able to collate the results whereby you can generate it as report and graphs for analysis.

Analyzing the result

 Analyzing the result is the most important part of deciding what action plans are needed after the employee survey.  In my opinion, some of the sections that usually have poorer scores are the following.  Since every company has its own culture and challenges, the action plans will also differ to meet the situation. From my experience, the following are some of the sections that typically have lower scores.

Common issues:

    • Compensation and benefit:  It is not unusual to see compensation and benefits as one of the top concerns since most employees believe that they are not paid well. As HR professional, you should not neglect this especially if the score is extremely low. You should re-examine your salary structure and benefits programs to make that they are competitive within your industry.
    • Teamwork: You should aim to promote team bonding through various activities.  It would be wishful thinking if you believe that all you need is to organize a one-time activity and expect everyone to work well together after that. Like trust, team work needs to be built and established over time. In my previous company, it took us 3 years before we observed a significant improvement in our team work section!
    • Management: If management is one of the key concerns, you should share this information sensitively with the management team since some feedback may be against them. My suggestion is to share and discuss these findings with your General Manager before sharing them with your management team.
    • Work life balance: You should identify the potential group of employees who may have provided this feedback. The highest possibility would be the ones who tend to work overtime on a regular basis. Discuss with their manager potential solutions to ease their workload or streamline their current process. Consider if you intend to roll work life balance strategies on a company-wide basis.

Decide on action plan and time line

 Once you have identified the areas for improvement, decide on the action plans and timelines for them. Ideally you should focus on 2-3 areas for improvement for a year so that you can have detailed action plans for each of them. You should also share the plans and timeline with your employees so that they are aware that the company is serious about engaging the employees.

Tapping on available funding 

As a HR professional, I can clearly understand the challenges of securing a budget from the management for employee engagement activities. You may want to know that the Singapore Government offers various funding which companies can tap on. Depending on how creative you can be, they can actually be very useful in your employee engagement activities. Two of my favourite funds are the Workplace Health Promotion Grant and the Workpro fund.

    • Workplace Health Fund is is a funding scheme offered by the Health Promotion Board (HPB). The grant provides financial support to help organisations start and sustain their workplace health programmes.  With the funding, you will be able to promote team bonding through healthy activities within the company. I would see this as killing two birds with one stone! You can obtain more information from
    • Workpro fund (used to be known as WOW fund) by MOM supports work life initiatives to improve work-life harmony; job-design; age management initiatives and many more.

Now that you have the tips and the tools, I wish you and your organization luck in implementing a successful employee engagement program. Do believe that the effort invested will certainly pay off in the long run.

discussing salary with colleagues

Bessie is a freelance writer and has 10 years of HR experience. She is currently a Regional HR Business Partner with a US MNC. 

Many of you were informed during your 1st day orientation with Human Resource that discussing salary is a taboo under the company policy and should be avoided at all cost. Nonetheless, many employees continue to discuss salary openly during and after working hours. Whilst you may be curious to what others are getting, would it be even wise to discuss salary with your colleagues?

Over lunch time, you learn that your colleague doing the same job as you is getting $500 more than you every month. You concluded right away that the company has an unfair pay scheme and contemplate resigning from the job. Feeling enraged, you shared this information and your salary details with other colleagues. As an employee, you believe that you are not obliged to treat salary information as confidential because the company told you to do so.

Take a step back and reflect on these three points: “how would you feel personally when you know what others are earning?”; “how would people react to you when they know what you are earning?”; “how do you determine the information that you are hearing is accurate?”


Different Generations                                                         

In an organization, we have different generations at work and they hold different perspectives about discussing salaries. Employees from generation X and Y tend to have no qualms about sharing their salaries openly; while baby boomers believe strongly that salaries information should be kept strictly confidential.

Don’t feel obliged to share your salary if you belong to a certain generation. Do remember that this is your personal information and you have no obligation to let others know.

Read also: How Companies Determine Salary for New Employees

Check the Accuracy of Information

Saving Face (面子)

If you choose to engage in such discussion on salary, how do you determine that your colleague is telling the truth? In the Asian context, the concept of “saving face” is still very inherent in our culture. Employees who take the initiative and are very open to share information may be the ones who need to feel good about themselves at the expenses of others. I had a past experience whereby an employee told another that he was getting $10/hour when the normal rate for others was only about $8/hour. The word got around quickly and a few co-workers stormed into the HR department to demand an understanding for such unfair pay scheme. It turned out that the employee who was boasting about his high pay was getting only $6.50/ hour due to his tardiness and poor performance.

Years of Experience

In addition, we have to consider employees with relevant experience in other companies. In many occasions, employees complain that a new hire is getting a higher salary than them, without knowing that the new hire has far many years of relevant experience in previous companies.

It is normal for everyone to make assumption but do you think it is worth allowing such unverified information to affect your feelings?

Read also: How to Handle Salary Questions During Your Interview

Knowing Your Colleague’s Salary Can Incite Negative Feelings

Salary can affect one’s job satisfaction and performance at work. You feel good when you are earning much more than your co-workers. However, upon learning that someone else is getting a higher salary than you, you may tend to feel dissatisfied.  If you dwell too much into that information that you are hearing, you may develop into other harmful feelings such as jealousy towards your colleagues or resentment towards your manager. Once that happens, your work performance and satisfaction can be negatively affected. These negative feelings can even spill into your personal life.

If you opt to participate in such salary discussion; you allow such “culture” to be further established within the organization. Subsequently, others will also know about your salary and may develop negative feeling towards you.

What Motivates You?

Marslow’s Need Hierarchy

Besides salary, there are many other motivational factors at work.  There have been many motivation theories to understand how employees are motivated. One of them is the Maslow’s need-hierarchy theory (Maslow, 1943). According to Maslow, employees have five levels of needs: physiological, safety, social, ego, and self- actualizing. He believes that the lower levels needs had to be satisfied before the next higher level need would motivate employees.  The lower needs include basic issues of survival such as salary and job security.

Once these basic needs are met, the employee will to be accepted socially in the company. After that, employees would seek recognition; progression and achievement The main concept of this theory is that employees’ needs are constantly changing and transforming. Salary can never remain as a carrot and stick approach to retain and motivate employees.

Herzberg’s Two-factor Theory

In Herzberg’s two- factor theory (Herzberg, 1968), motivation is categorized into two factors: Hygiene and motivational factors.  Hygiene factors include salary; job security etc while motivator factors include recognition; job satisfactions etc.

A simple illustration: In a company whereby there is high hygiene and low motivation factors; employees will regard their jobs as a paycheck with low motivation. On the other hand, a company with low hygiene and high motivation are jobs which are challenging but low salary. The ideal situation is to have both high hygiene and high motivation factors.

Personally, I do agree that salary is one of fundamental motivators but it is not the only one. If you happen to know what your colleagues are getting, you should never allow that to be the key factor to leave your job.  You should think of other factors that motivate you at work.

After reading this article, do you really think it is wise to discuss salary with your colleagues? Will you be more motivated after knowing what others are making? Does it bring you any benefits revealing your salary to others?

puntual at work

Punctuality is important because it reflects your personality. Being late for five minutes for a meeting with people for the first time can create a lifelong impression on these same people.

Being on time for work and appointments reflects mastery of your time and good self-discipline. It also shows credibility in getting things done within the stipulated deadlines and respect for others. As quoted by renowned American author Karen Jay Fowler, “Arriving late was a way of saying that your own time was more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you”.

Unfortunately, a lack of punctuality is a common HR sin that many employees are guilty of at the workplace. How can we ensure that we turn up for work on time? Here are some tips:



1)      Understand why you are perpetually late

late for work

What are the reasons that cause you to become a habitual “latecomer”? Do a self-evaluation. For example, is it difficult for you to wake up in the morning because you slept late the night before? Were you held up by a task which needed to be completed before setting off for the appointment? Or, is punctuality simply not important enough to matter? If there are specific reasons which are causing you to be late, address them. Sleep early. Give allowance time when you plan your schedule and set off earlier. Make punctuality your priority. A change in behavior starts from a change in mindset. Understand also that by being late, you are in effect being unfair to your employer, whom you have agreed to on contract to come at a set time.



2)      Set your alarm early and have your “snooze” button on

Isn’t it amazing how five more minutes of sleep can feel so precious in the morning? Do not give in to the temptation and get out of bed immediately, once the alarm rings. However, if it is really very difficult for you to wake up immediately when the alarm rings, set your alarm to ring at least 1 hour before you need to leave your home and use the “snooze” button to give yourself a few “extra” minutes of sleep. Place your alarm or phone walking distance from your bed. It forces you to get onto your feet and turn off the alarm.  If this fails, get a good and reliable friend to call you up.

3)      Prepare the attire for work in advance

Do not waste time in the morning on deciding what to wear when you can have everything ready the night before. Have your clothes and shoes to be worn decided and laid out properly the night before. This will allow you to be more prepared which saves time.

 Read also: 10 Tips to Increase Productivity at Work

4)      Set aside allowance time

Set aside allowance time and leave your home earlier, to give room for possible delays, to ensure that you reach your work place on time. For example, heavy traffic and crowded trains are to be expected during peak hours. Hence, do be prepared and expect the travelling time to be delayed. Similarly, do keep a schedule of your day-to-day activities and have a safe estimate of the amount of travelling time required in order to make it for the next meeting punctually. Do not fix another task before the meeting time if the intervals are too short, as the task might take longer than you expected to be completed.


5)      Consider a car pool

To facilitate your efforts to ensure that you will be on time, you can consider taking up car pool services available which will provide efficient and timely transportation from your home to your workplace daily. Such car pool services might be more costly than the average transportation costs via public transport but they save you the hassle of squeezing onto the sardine-packed train or bus every morning. The additional costs just might provide you with the added motivation to be on time. Besides, having to meet your carpool buddies at that fixed time each morning makes you liable for their time, adding extra pressure on you to be on time too.


6)      Keep your watch/clock accurate

Do ensure that your watch/clock is accurate because you will be referring to it constantly when planning your activities. If necessary, you can consider adjusting your watch to be five to ten minutes faster so that you will always be “ahead” of time.

In work and in business, time is money. By being punctual for work and in attendance of meetings, you are showing your bosses, clients and colleagues that you respect time, understand the value of timeliness, and how it quantifies into dollars and cents. At the end of the day, if you cannot be trusted with time, how can you be trusted with other tasks? 

Don’t let a few minutes of lateness affect your lifelong prospects. Be punctual from now on.



Money happiness

I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of advice about how to increase your salary – job hop, make sure you get at least a 20% increase between jobs, don’t reveal your current salary, and so on. And we do this all in the hopes of being happier, because we’ve been ingrained with this idea that salary directly correlates to happiness.

Does it?

More money doesn’t make you happier – to an extent

According to this article, there is a solid benchmark at which money stops making you happy – USD75,000. That’s approximately a monthly salary of SGD8,000, meaning that any increase in your salary after that won’t necessarily make you any happier. But as the article cautions, before you rush out to chase after that magic figure, remember that there are many other factors that affect your happiness.


Also, since we need to deduct 20% for CPF, that ideal figure for your salary is probably closer to SGD10,000.

Since the dawn of time, there have been sayings that money doesn’t equal happiness, like “money is the root of all evil” or “money isn’t everything”, and it feeds our innate belief that a higher salary isn’t going to buy you happiness. What this research study proves is something that humans have always believed, that material value will not equate emotional joy.

That answers the question, doesn’t it? A higher paycheck won’t necessarily make you happier because there are other, more important things in life. Check out Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – once you can fulfil basic physical needs, material things cease to be of value. You need to self-actualise, that is, do the things that you were born to do.

Read also: Passion vs Paycheck


But wait – more money does make you happier

However, a more recent article debunks that theory, and proves that no matter your income level, a bigger increment will make you happier. Which makes sense, when you think about it – why would the rich want to be richer if they’re already achieved the maximum amount of happiness that money can buy?

The problem with this article is that it goes against our fundamental belief that happiness increases in direct proportion to wealth. It indirectly says that human beings are, at heart, mercenary creatures who crave pleasure above all else. It implies that humans are no better than animals, in that sense. It insults our sense of self-worth as people, because we always think we are above our basic desires.

But a bigger bonus does make you happier, doesn’t it? You can buy more things, it gives you the sense of more freedom and you have to worry less about cost. Happiness isn’t always so easy to see in others, but their number of worldly goods is. We assume that the more stuff someone has, the happier they are.

Read also: Find Meaning in Your Job

Which one is right?

With these two conflicting studies, what is the answer? After all, the studies have been conducted by reputable institutions, and they both clearly have the evidence to back up their thesis. Both make sense, and yet they can’t both be right, can they?

Can money buy you happiness?

I believe that question can only be answered individually, not on a mass, homogenous level. And to answer that question, we must answer another question first.

To figure out whether money can buy happiness, we must first ask ourselves what happiness is. And that’s the fundamental problem – happiness isn’t universally measurable. Different things contribute to happiness in different ways for different people. A chai latte certainly doesn’t make every drinker equally happy, just as a café mocha isn’t everyone’s drink of choice. Remember the old saying, “one man’s meat is another man’s poison?” We were all wired differently, and hence we all have different preferences, favourites, and (Facebook) likes.

However, because we assume that what makes us happy will make everyone else happy as well, we project that definition of happiness on to others. We see other people possessing things that would make us happy, but then we see that those people don’t value it as much as we do. We then come to the assumption that they don’t value it as much as we would, because they have so much of it and are therefore much happier than we are.

We don’t realise that they look at us the same way. We have the things that they would like, but we don’t value it as much as they do. They then think we don’t value it because we have so much of it, and are therefore much happier than they are.

Perhaps we have been projecting our version of happiness on other people, when in fact, all of us place a different value on different things. 

And so was born this misconception that with more things, come more happiness. This is simply because we all value things differently.

So what’s the answer?

It’s not how much money you have, but what you do with it, that makes you happy. Unless you’re Uncle Scrooge, who loves money for the sake of it, a fat paycheck itself won’t bring you happiness.

Don’t get me wrong – more stuff isn’t going to make you happier either. It’s practically the same thing as money. What will bring you happiness is, as Maslow pointed out seven decades ago, is self-actualisation. Doing the things that you were born to do.

What that means is to create. To make art. To help others. To make or do things that brings others happiness. To add to the collective happiness of the world. And not doing this as a one-off or only when we have time, but doing this constantly, on a regular basis.

This translates into doing a job, being in an occupation, and having a career that hinges upon adding happiness to others, instead of being based on how high a salary that job can give you. Ultimately, this means that your line of work is much more important to your happiness than how much you get paid. Make it a career that you can be proud of, an occupation that lifts up other people instead of manipulating them.

Because it’s when we make others happy, that we bring true happiness to ourselves.


When we were young, our ambitions were simple. Do what we’re interested in. When we grew older and had to buy our first meal, things changed. Money is important simply because everything has a price. Thus was born the dilemma of work – to do it for passion or the paycheck?

It’s an eternal struggle for almost everyone out there. You’ll always see someone who earns more, someone who loves their job more, someone who is happier than you. And that is when you question yourself – why do you work?



Passion for work
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It’s a very noble reason to be working for passion, because it hearkens back to a more idealistic time of your life, when a career meant doing something you loved. But passion doesn’t always equate to success, materialistically or otherwise.

That’s because the reason for work is altruistic – you do your job because you want to. And because of that, so much of yourself is invested in your work that success is so much sweeter, but failures will sting harder and closer to the heart than if you did your job for a paycheck.

We all have to pay our dues, and when our failures accumulate, it’s natural to look on the other side of the fence. See all our peers who work purely for income. And realise that their salaries are so much higher than your own. There will come a time in your life when you equate your self worth to your net worth. And you will ask yourself: is this worth it?



Cold Hard Cash paycheckWorking for cold, hard cash is the answer, then. It’s a practical, respectable reason for work. Our parents had only one rationale for employment, to support themselves and their families. Indirectly, or directly, they’ve passed that mentality to us. Working for money is good, moral, a Confucian ethic.

Except that that the money has a cost. Your time. You are using time to pay for your money. Time that could be used to pursue your interests. To spend time with loved ones. Most importantly, time that could be used to develop yourself as a person.

It’s nice to have this nest egg. But one day you’ll look at your bank account, and you’ll wonder if it’s all worth it when other people seem to be happier doing what they’re passionate about, for so much less.

Passion or Paycheck?

The reasons for work are not so binary, of course. Other people stay on in their companies because they love their colleagues and the environment. Some stay in their jobs simply because they don’t know what else to do. Many stay and work because the company offers them good work life balance.

But all happy people have one thing in common. They know what’s important to them and they pursue them. You see, no two people are alike. Money may be important to me, but interest may be more important to you. Having time to spend with family may be important to a one, but good colleagues may be more important to another.

 Read also: Find Meaning in Your Job

What’s Important to You?

Different people value different things in life. Sports, friends, family, religion, money, passion, power, prestige – the list goes on. It’s identifying what’s important to you that is the key to your happiness. The question isn’t whether to work for passion or the paycheck, but whether you’re working to fufill the goals that make you happy.

Ask yourself what’s important to you. If you don’t know, try. It’s OK to make mistakes, to try every possible reason to work, and to not have all the answers. That’s what life is about. But once you know what’s important to you, everything will fall in place.

And then you won’t just be working for passion or the paycheck. You’ll be working for your own happiness.


LWE, which stands for “long weekend”, has become every Singapore employee’s favourite acronym in our acronym-besotted country. And it should, because a few strategically placed leave days virtually ensures that every public holiday results in a LWE.

According to MOM’s website, the public holiday dates for 2014 are as follows. They even come with their own unique icons!


Public Holiday Date Day of the Week Icon
New Year’s Day 1 January 2014 Wednesday  new year
Chinese New Year 31 January 2014
1 February 2014
 chinese new year
Good Friday 18 April 2014 Friday  good friday
Labour Day 1 May 2014 Thursday  labour day
Vesak Day 13 May 2014 Tuesday  vesak day
Hari Raya Puasa 28 July 2014 Monday  hari raya
National Day 9 August 2014 Saturday  
Hari Raya Haji 5 October 2014 Sunday (the following Monday will be a Public Holiday)  hari raya
Deepavali 23 October 2014 Thursday (actual date will be reconfirmed when Hindu almanac is available)  deepavali
Christmas Day 25 December 2014 Thursday  christmas

With just six days of annual leave (2 Jan, 3 Jan, 2 May, 12 May, 24 Oct, 26 Dec), almost every holiday (except National Day) becomes a long weekend. But the real question is: what should I do over that long weekend?

1)      Shoot your very own YouTube video

With the advent of YouTube and the ability to create your very own channel, why not shoot a funny YouTube clip of your own? Three days is just nice – one day to script and plan your story, one day to film everything, and one day to edit and update your video. All you need is a camera phone, any video editing software (like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker), and a YouTube account.

And if you’re very good at it, YouTube will even pay you. A little extra income on the side never hurt anyone!

2)      Do a movie marathon

Have you watched every Star Wars film? Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings? There’s no better time to do a movie marathon than a long weekend, simply because you’ll need a long sleep after that to recover. Especially if you watch all the extended DVD editions (and really, what’s the point of a movie marathon if you don’t?), each film can be upwards of 3 hours. For a trilogy, that’ll take at least nine hours to finish.

Pick up one of those collected movie editions at either Kinokuniya or Amazon, and your weekend is all set.

 3)      Volunteer at an orphanage or old folks’ home

Give back to society and donate your most precious resource – time – to the needy. It’s a worthwhile cause to be spending your time at, and you will find no lack of appreciation from the people you help. Sometimes we overlook the less fortunate in our race to the top, and it helps us realise that there’s a strata of society that really needs our help.

Take a look at SG Cares for volunteering opportunities, or call up your nearest nursing home to see how you can help.

 4)      Go trekking overseas

Visit a volcano, swim under a waterfall, and climb a mountain. Southeast Asia has so many opportunities to get in touch with nature (and disconnect from Facebook) that you only need a short flight or coach ride to get to one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Just remember to bring your camera for your trekking trip so that you can upload all those pictures once you’re in Singapore again.

Check out Southeast Asian Backpacker and Rough Guides for a list of places to go trekking and what preparations you’ll need to make.

 5)      Watch a concert overseas

Take a short plane ride and watch your favourite band perform in a completely different environment, with crowds of fans that more expressive, excitable, and energetic than they’d ever be here. As a bonus, after the concert you get to do supper in a foreign land, and that’s another adventure waiting to happen in whichever city you go to. Remember to book your tickets early though!

Visit Concerts in Asia for a list of concerts happening in Southeast Asia.

At the end of the day, remember that the weekend is meant for rest from your job. You might be a worker but don’t be a workaholic and spend so much time maximising each long weekend that you end up more tired than you began. It’s okay to slack off once in a while – that’s what long weekends are for!



Scared Graduate

It’s your final year of school, and soon you’ll have a full-fledged degree on your hands. In the next few months (or even shorter, hopefully), you’ll be a working adult, and be counted amongst the 3.4 million people in Singapore’s labour force.

But wait! Before throwing that mortar board in the air and framing up your degree, don’t forget to make the most out of everything your university or polytechnic has to offer you. Once you graduate, chances are, you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits (some of which you might not even have realised) of being in an educational institute.

Here are some of the things that should be in your checklist:


1) Start Applying for Jobs 6 Months Before You Graduate 

apply for jobs
Photo Credit: Cartoon Stock


This may sound like common sense, but it’s important to get a head start on job applications. It usually takes a month before employers get back to you on your applications, so starting early means you’ll have job offers before you graduate. A month is a long time to be doing nothing, so why not start early while you’re still studying?

Also, practice makes perfect. Your first few job applications will be spent fine-tuning your CV, rewriting your cover letters, and honing your interview skills. You probably aren’t going to ace any salary negotiations right off the bat, and having a few job interview experiences in the belt will give you the confidence you need to be able to negotiate better terms and benefits for what will likely be your first full time job.



Read also: 3 Steps to Discerning Your Career – A Fresh Grad’s Reflection


2) Ask Your Teachers and Professors For Testimonials and Referrals

While you’re still fresh in your tutors’ minds, ask for a testimonial from them. This will help your future employers get a better idea (and impression) of you before they hire you. Remember that your teachers also have other commitments as well, so offer to write the testimonial for them if they like – this also means that you get to put what you think are your best qualities in the testimonial.

In addition, most job applications require that you list down two or more character referees. Rather than asking friends and family, have your former professors be included as character referees. It looks more credible and impartial.


3) Get a Certified Copy of Your CCA Record

Most tertiary institutions will provide a certified copy of your CCA (co-curricular activity) record upon request, but it’s usually not automatically given to graduating students. Check with your institution’s CCA department to see how you can obtain a copy.

It might not seem that useful at first, but there are two benefits to having a school certified copy of your CCA record. First, it provides validation for all the CCAs listed in your CV. Second, it might remind you of some ECA that you took part in but forgot, and thus help boost your resume as well.


 4) Get Your Resume Vetted

Photo Credit: Ari Agency

Every university and polytechnic has a career guidance department, which is a good place to start if you want someone more experienced to vet your CV. No amount of Internet advice and resume help books can boost your portfolio better than a person who’s seen and improved hundreds of resumes.

Sometimes it’s the choice of words or the way you present your educational and work experiences that makes all the difference between a cookie cutter CV or an outstanding resume. A well-trained eye will be able to spot these differences, and don’t forget, that’s what the career guidance department is for. So walk on in and ask a career guidance counsellor to check out your curriculum vitae!

Read also: 4 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Resume

 5) Attend Career Guidance Workshops

career guidance
Photo Credit: TASI Online

Towards the end of your final semester, your inbox will start getting bombarded with emails for resume workshops, job interview seminars, personal grooming talks, and many other sessions that offer free advice and training for prospective job applicants.

Sign up for them, especially if they’re free. They might not seem important while you’re rushing out your final year project or mugging for that one last paper, but you’ll be thankful for the extra skills and knowledge they bring when it comes down to your future employment opportunities. Also, they tend to make you think more about your upcoming career paths and how to present yourself, which is always a good thing.



6) Sign Up With All Your Alumni Clubs/Networks

Again, this is especially so if membership is free. These networks tend to provide freebies, possible job openings, and other opportunities (provided you read their emails). It’s likely that you’re going to be automatically subscribed to them anyway, but always take the chance to maximise your networks.

This will prove especially useful in future, if your job requires you to tap on your networks to access a broader base of potential clients, consumers, or even employees. These alumni clubs are usually very helpful if you need to broadcast (relevant) information to like-minded people, and are often your foundation for future networking.


7) Maximise Your School’s Print Facilities

Photo Credit: Laser Age


Many tertiary institutions have discounted printing prices (as compared to printers outside of school). You’re going to need to have at least ten copies of your resume on hand, as well as copies of all your relevant certificates and transcripts for job interviews. This adds up, especially when you’re an unemployed student. So appreciate the low printing prices while you still can.

Just watch out for those printer jams!





8) Research Potential Employers and Industries

Remember how I mentioned you should start applying for jobs six months before you graduate? This is an excellent reason why. When you get called in for a job interview, use your free access to your school’s subscribed databases to read up about your future company as much as possible.

If you’ve never used these databases before (how did you do any research papers?), start with your school’s library website. You probably won’t get a chance to have unlimited access to JSTOR, Lexis Nexis, and Factiva after you graduate (and your account is shut down), so use it as much as you can now.

Going into a job interview having thoroughly researched the company will give you the additional confidence and knowledge to answer any potential questions the interview might ask, and also prompt you to ask the right questions as well. Google is useful, but paid databases will give you the edge.


9) Make More Friends and Invest in Them

enjoy the friendships

This may sound slightly mercenary, but this will be the last time you can make friends as easily and quickly. Firstly, you won’t have the chance to be exposed to as many strangers as you would be in your classes. Secondly, the people you meet will be more wary and guarded, since it’s difficult to be friends with your colleagues at the workplace. 

Treasure the friends you have. Get to know more people, even if it’s your final semester. Just like signing up with your alumni clubs, this will help your broaden your network. And you never know when you might meet your soul mate, or best friend, along the way.


10) Enjoy the Last Semester of School

Most importantly, enjoy your last few months as a student. Don’t be so caught up in maximising every last minute of your academic life that you forget to stop and smell the roses. You may not know it now, but this will be the “good old days” that you talk about in the future.

Sign up for that mountaineering trip that you have been procrastinating to all these years. Accept every invitation for a meal with your schoolmates. Ask your professors out for coffee. Form a team and take part in your varsity’s sports day. Support your friends at school performances. Organize cook-outs at your place for your classmates. Perform in a school play.

A time like this will never come by again. You’ll have a lifetime to work after you graduate, and the older you get, the less your education matters (although it’s still important) in your resume. But you’ll never be able to access as much free stuff, get to know as many different people, or have as much freedom as being a student.

Have fun as your education draws to a close. And always, always keep your student pass/ID – the amount of discounts you can get with it is staggering (provided you still look like a student).