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
Photo Credit: barrettrose.com

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).

Each week, we bring you interesting reads from all over the world to bring new perspectives to your work. Enjoy!

1) An Inspiring Message for Graduates

Mashable, Matt Petronzio

A cute cartoon which illustrates how learning is a life-long journey – it’s all about creating your own hoops and redefining your limits.

message to graduates
By Grant Snider, Incidental Comics


 2) Debunking the ‘No Friends At Work’ Rule: Why Friend-Friendly Workplaces are the Future

Forbes, Dorie Clark

Do friendships have a place in the office? Yes, says this article. Given that work makes up majority of your time on weekdays, your relationship with your colleagues do matter. It’s argued that friendships with colleagues can potentially hinder decision making and doing what is best for the company since the friendship is at stake. A friendly workplace has it’s benefits – advantages include increased work satisfaction, greater productivity and better employee retention.

3) Awesome Places to Work: These Startups Have Better Perks Than Free Food Or Beers On Tap

Business Insider, Julie Bort

If you love your job, your company’s culture probably played a big role in that. Here are 10 startups, noted for their interesting employee perks. One company, Commerce Sciences has the tradition of having the last person to join the company to create a ‘starter’s kit’  for the company’s next hire. The kit is personalized, containing anything creative and funny to help get the newest employee get started at work. Another cool company, HubSpot,  has their staff switch to a randomly assigned desk every 3 months. This encourages employees to mix with other colleagues and forces them to clean up their workstations.  I find both ideas to be the most practical and fun (at least in the context of Singapore).



Mandy Webb is a career and workplace expert and an experienced course instructor on Job Seeker topics. She has worked in both Singapore and Australia and specialises in Resume and Interview Skills.

A resume is the first impression and contact you will ever have with a potential employer. As such, it is of paramount importance to ensure you present an excellent image just as you would with any person you are meeting for the first time in real life. In my experience as a course instructor, I have edited hundreds of resumes. Most of them unfortunately commit similar mistakes that could very possibly eliminate them from being considered right away.

Here are the top 4 common mistakes that you should avoid in your resume:


1. Irrelevant Personal Details

A broad spectrum of categories lie under the umbrella of Personal Details. I have come across countless job seekers, young people especially, who often get carried away with listing personal details. It is certainly apt to include personal details such as your full name, address and contact details. However, your resume, being a summary of your professional profile is often not the appropriate platform to list your hobbies, interests, political affliations, religion and even your age.

Do note though that there are exceptions where listing hobbies and age would be beneficial. Let’s take for example, a situation of a fun, creative marketing company searching for a suitably outgoing individual. In that case, you could list relevant hobbies to highlight your fit with the organization. Similarly, in cases where a company is searching for a junior intern, it is apt to list your age. Otherwise, there is really no need to list your personal hobbies or age if it is not relevant and does not contribute to the overall image you want to give.

Also, do remember that the aim of a resume is to score you an interview to prove your suitability for the position. Listing irrelevant personal details that might unknowingly allow you to be discriminated by the employer’s own personal preferences will only serve to defeat the purpose.

 Read also: 5 Tips on Preparing for a Job Interview

2. Inappropriate Email Address: What Impression Does Your Email Address Give?

Most people would have email addresses in this day and age, making email addresses a very common contact listing in resumes. Unfortunately, most people do not seem to pay much attention to their email addresses. In my career as a course instructor, I have come across various inappropriate email addresses listed on resumes. These inappropriate email addresses can contain swear words or evoke an unprofessional image that you do not want to give (For eg. Partygirl_5201@yahoo.com.sg). Given that a resume is your chance at a first impression and the first point of contact you will ever have with a potential employer, I strongly suggest creating a simple and professional email address. Something as simple as your full name will usually suffice.


3. Length: Does Your Resume Exceed 3 Pages?

The average employer can receive well over 30 to 50 applications for a single position. In my career, I have had opportunities to interview and work with employers, many of whom have confessed to only briefly browsing through or not even reading resume applications simply because they are too busy. Keeping your resume at a strict maximum of 3 pages will not only encourage your potential employer to read through but also reflect your understanding of resumes, ability to summarize main points and critical thinking skills. I once had a University Professor who was made redundant submit to me a resume of 7 pages, listing every single one of his proud achievements and endeavours in detail. Remember, a resume is a summary of pointers relevant to the employer – do resist the urge to pen down your entire life summary!

 Read also: 5 Questions to Ask at the End of a Job Interview

4. Over Generalised Resume Content: One Size Does Not Fit All

Every job advertisement features different criteria, even if they are of a similar industry. I have come across resumes that listed attributes such as  ‘easy going’, ‘friendly personality’ for a Manager position when keywords such as ‘leadership’, ‘communication’, ‘people management’ would be more apt. Simply copying and pasting a list of keywords will do you no favour as compared to moulding your resume to the listed criteria for every different job advertisement.

In summary, it is crucial to remember the purpose of submitting your resume – you want to make to make a good first impression and obtain an interview for an opportunity to demonstrate your fit for the role. Be sure to make effective use of your 3 pages to list relevant points and create a good impression!

career job fair

Here is a list of career fairs that are upcoming for the rest of 2013. Prep yourselves! These are great opportunities to network with your potential employers, learn more about their job vacancies and drop off your resumes.

Learn more about the employers that you will be meeting by reading work reviews shared by actual current and former employees. Click here to get a good sense of what salary to expect from your potential employers too.


1)       TechStartupJobs Fair Singapore 2013

If you are keen on working in this vibrant start-up scene, this job fair is for you. This will be a great place for you to meet and network with founders, and young start-ups. Up your chances of being hired if you demonstrate passion and come with technical/marketing skills. Who knows – you might just be joining the next Facebook or AirBnb.


Details as follows:

Venue: Plug-in@Blk71

Date: 28 October 2013

Time: 6pm

Click here to learn more.


2)     JOIN STARTUPz! Job Fair

Organized by StartupJobsAsia, this is the place for entrepreneurial-minded job seekers to connect with many cool employers and be part of the dynamic start-up scene.

Venue: 1 Marina Boulevard, Singapore 018989 – Microsoft Auditorium, 21st Floor

Date: 14th November 2013 (Thursday)

Time: 3 – 8 PM

 Click here for more information.

Sign up here.



Here are the details for career fairs that are already past to keep in mind for the next year.

 1)      JobsCentral Career & Education Fair 2013

This was held on 24 – 25 August 2013 at Suntec Singapore Convention Hall.

Click here for more information.


2)      STJobs Career & Development 2013

This was held on 13 – 14 July 2013 at Marina Bay Sands.

Click here for more information.


3)      Employer and Employability Institute (e2i)

This was held on 29 – 30 May 2013 at Braddell Heights Community Club.

Click here to view all their job fairs.


4)      CAAS Aviation Open House 2013

This was held on 25 – 27  July 2013 at Max Atria @ Singapore Expo.

Click here for more information.


5)      Asian Career Fair with Japan

This was held on 15 June 2013 at Raffles Town Club.

Click here for more information.


6)      SEMICON 2013 Job Fair

Leading semi-conductor companies exhibited at this fair with numerous vacancies for technicians, engineers etc. It was held on 7-9 May 2013 at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre.


7)      WDA Job Fair & Carnival

This fair is mainly targeted at those who are thinking of rejoining the workforce, with workshops and sessions to prepare job seekers for interviews as well as providing career guidance. It was held on 7th April 2013 at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub.


8)      Social Work Career Fair 2013

Employers that took part include Ministry of Health, Singapore Prison Service and more. Event was held at NUS The Shaw Foundation Building on 19 March 2013.

Click here for more information.


9)      Early Childhood Career Fair 2013

This was held on 20 April 2013.

Click here for more information.


10)      Singapore Actuarial Society

This was held on 22 March 2013 in Singapore Management University.

Click here for more information.


11)      Varsities

Most universities and polytechnics hold a career fair for their graduating batch of students each year. Here is where students find internship opportunities and learn what fresh grad jobs are available.

  • Nanyang Poly

The exact dates of the event have yet to be announced, but it’s likely to take place towards the end of November. In 2012, the career fair was held on 30th Nov which hosted 60 over participating companies and education providers. Job seekers can even have their resume photo taken at a small fee.

Click here to learn about  last year’s event.


  • Ngee Poly – Advance 2013 Further Studies and Career Fair

The job fair took place on 25th Jan 2013.

Click here to learn about last year’s event.


  • Republic Poly

The event is already over, which saw over 70 employers. It took place on 5th February 2013.

Click here to learn about last year’s event.


  • Temesek Poly

The fair was on 7th Feb where there 65 participating companies.

Click here to learn about last year’s event.


  • Singapore Poly

Over 80 employers took part in last year’s job fair which was held on 21st Nov 2012.

Click here for more information.


  • NUS Career Fair 2013

Over 200 companies came to recruit and network with the students. The event was split into 2 days (29 Jan 2013 and 1 Feb 2013) with 2 sets of companies exhibiting on each day.

Click this link for more information.


  • NTU Career Fair 2013

The event featured more than 200 companies, held on 22 Jan 2013.

 Click here for more information.


  • SMU Career & Internship Fair 2012

It was held on 11th Oct 2012 at the Concourse T-Junction of SMU.

Click this link for details.


  • SIM Job Fair

It was held at the SIM Headquaters on 14 March 2013.

Click here to see more information.

All the best for your job search!


  • MDIS Career Fair 2013

This was held on 26 – 27 Sep 2013 at MDIS Campus (SAMTAS HALL)

Click here for more information.


resign from job

One of the most unpleasant things you’ll ever have to do in your career is resign, but everyone has to do it at least once in their life. It feels like you’re rejecting a relationship that you’ve spent time to build up, but it’s important not to view it so negatively.

Instead, look at it constructively. If you’re not satisfied at your current position, you won’t be bringing out the best in yourself or the organisation. Leaving will benefit both – you’ll be able to maximise your potential at another organisation, and the next person who comes in will have a chance of adding greater value to the company as well.

Just as with a job hunt and accepting a new job, exiting your current employment requires a lot of preparation and effort. Here are the steps to resigning effectively:


 1) Talk To Your Supervisor/HR

Reasons to resign can be broadly split into push or pull factors, but regardless, you should always try to talk to your supervisor or human resource (HR) manager first to resolve it. All things being equal, it’s usually better to stay in the same company for a long time, rather than spend short amounts of time in many different companies, simply because less time is spent acclimatising to a new environment and more time is spent being productive.

Pull factors in this case would be a better salary offer or a more interesting job scope. If it’s for better pay, let your HR know that you’ve been given a better offer, and let them match it. Or if it’s a more interesting scope of work (don’t confuse this with job description), talk to your supervisor and let them know. Chances are, you’ll receive a similar or even better counter offer. You won’t know if you don’t try.

Push factors are a little trickier – it’s most likely to do with an unpleasant supervisor, colleague(s), or work environment. If you’re unable to speak to your supervisor, try HR; if you’re unable to speak to HR (or HR is your supervisor, like in a small company), then try your best to get a third party to mediate your issues. But don’t bring up resignation yet.

If you’ve tried your best, and the push or pull factors still remains – then you’ve got to prepare for your resignation.

 2) Look For Another Job First

If you’re leaving because of a pull factor, you’ve got it made. Skip this step.

If you’re leaving because of a push factor, you’ve probably got a lot of pent up energy inside you. Channel that energy into a search for another job. Especially if you’ve been out of the job hunt for a while, you’ll need some time to sharpen your interview skills, tweak that cover letter, and polish up your resume. And you don’t want to pick up just any job – find a place where you’ll fit and shine.

Practically speaking, it’s also wiser to look for another job first, because it’s difficult to explain a gap of unemployment on your resume. And if you’ve been employed for a long time, the sudden shock of unemployment can be both jarring and depressing.

Once you’ve got a job offer, it’s time to begin the resignation process.

 3) Check Your Company Policy

The actual resignation is (usually) easy. It’s the lead up that’s difficult, especially reading up on company policies – these are things you don’t usually read until you have to leave. Follow this checklist to make sure you’ve got all your facts right.

–          How many days of notice you have to give (it’s either in your contract, or HR booklet).

–          How many days of outstanding leave you have (it’s the amount of leave days you’re entitled to and how many days of leave you’ve taken).

–          When you’re getting your bonus payout. If it’s soon (one or two months), consider waiting until you’ve gotten your bonus before you leave. However, check if there are stipulations for staying on if you accept the bonus.

–          Your payday. Consider scheduling your last day of work after your payday (in that month), to prevent any issues with your last drawn salary in the company.

–          Other miscellaneous claimable benefits. Once you’ve tendered your resignation, these benefits will most likely cease, so consider claiming them before you leave.

Once you have all this information on hand (and you’re prepared to resign), you can prepare to (but not actually) resign.

4) Prepare An Answer About Your Resignation

Think about what you’re going to say when asked why you’re resigning. If it’s a pull factor, that’s pretty easy. But if it’s a push factor, it’s usually wiser to be tactful about why you’re leaving.

If possible, try to mention the pull factors that are making you leave, like a better job offer (even if you did seek out that job yourself) or even a more interesting industry that you’re entering.

Also, being Asians, it is usually best to mention that you have another job to go to after you leave. Leaving without having another job is usually seen as an act of spite, pettiness, and defiance, and it’s not an impression you want to leave behind at your old company.

 5) Prepare Your Resignation Letter

resignation letter

This is easy to Google, but remember you can set your own last day of work in your resignation letter. You can also include the amount of leave outstanding if you wish, but that HR will also calculate that for you.

Make two copies of your letter, one addressed to your supervisor, and one addressed to your HR manager. Make three copies of each letter, and date all your letters. Keep one copy of the letter for yourself as a spare.

Give one copy of the letter to a colleague you trust. If that’s not an option, mail the letter back to yourself (so that you will have a date stamp on it). This is to verify your intent to resign. It’s important, in case the resignation conversation turns sour and you are terminated. In that case, you have proof that your intent to resign came before the resignation, and will aid you in such a dispute.

Of course, place each letter in an envelope, and address it to the relevant person.

It’s best to prepare your resignation letter at least one week in advance.

Read also: How to Draft a Graceful Resignation Letter (a.k.a. How Not To Burn Your Bridges)

 6) Resign

Schedule a private meeting with your supervisor for at least an hour, but don’t let them know it’s because you want to resign (that’s what the meeting is for). If they press for a reason, let them know it’s HR-related. Most of the time, supervisors will have a sense of what the meeting is about.

Bring the letter in with you (in an envelope), and let your supervisor know that you’d like to resign. The first question will probably be why, which you will have prepared earlier, and the second question will probably be about your future career plans.

Be polite and humble when resigning. Although you have indicated your departure date in your letter, be as flexible as possible about your last day of work. Remember that your duties and responsibilities will still have to be fulfilled by someone in the company, and they will need time to find your replacement. Be as helpful as possible in that respect, because you want to leave on a good note.

Be prepared that your supervisor might be unhappy about your decision, and maintain your cool if that should happen. Ideally, everyone should leave the room with a positive mindset about moving forward, but if it doesn’t happen, stick with your decision.

 7) Your Last 30/60/90 Days With The Company

Regardless of your level of seniority, your last days at the company will have a lot of impact on your colleagues. How you conduct yourself during this period will probably be magnified in the memories of your coworkers, so be extra careful about your behaviour during this period.

Finish all outstanding projects before you leave. This is a given, but it also means not taking on new projects if you don’t have the time to. Be polite when you refuse. Your colleagues might not be happy at the time of refusal, but in the long run it will benefit you to have completed all the work that you were allotted before leaving.

Be proactive and helpful as much as possible. This is to dispel the mentality that people who are serving notice have a less responsible and less hardworking outlook. In turn, this will help improve your colleagues’ impressions of you (remember, you can’t change that once you’ve left).

Archive your work and make it as easy as possible for the next person to pick up from what you’ve done. Filing may be dreary administrative work, but put yourself in the next person’s shoes – wouldn’t you want a good handover?

 8) At Your Next Company

Don’t ever badmouth your previous company, even if you left because of push factors. It doesn’t reflect badly on the company, it reflects badly on you. And remember that your colleagues haven’t gotten to know you yet, so there isn’t the benefit of context to see your grousing in. If you don’t wish to talk about your previous company, then don’t. People will understand.

What If I Receive A Counteroffer After I Tender?

It’s entirely up to you.

If you accept it, make sure the counteroffer meets or exceeds your requirements. Don’t settle for a mediocre counteroffer, because this reflects upon your own standing as a person – you’re easily bribed. Also, remember that accepting a counteroffer brings another set of possible expectations – that you’re only doing this job for the money, that you’re scheming. Be prepare for such impressions to follow if you accept a counteroffer.

Remember to keep this positive mindset throughout the whole resignation process – resigning benefits both you and the company you’re leaving, by reallocating resources more effectively. With such a perspective in mind, you’ll be able to resign both peacefully and effectively.