Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Am I Too Old To Change My Career?

I just had lunch with someone that needs counseling in her career. No, career counseling is not my full-time job, it was merely a favor. But it sets me thinking - it's easy for someone in their 20s or 30s to discover they are in a wrong career and make a switch. No sweat. Well, not so if you are older. Well at least that’s what that had been perceived. To a certain extent, it’s true. I tell you why.

In my job, our clients aka employers will usually specify the age range for their posts. So unless it’s a senior position in which management experience matters more, they usually won’t want to see anyone 45 and above. Ouch! Yes, it hurts.

And so if you are 45 and felt you had enough of accounting and wanted to do some programming work instead, even with a relevant qualification, employers have second thoughts of employing you. Alright, this example seems a bit far-fetched, but, I think you get my point.

But there are careers that are easier to switch to. For example, anything that can capitalize your past practical experience - think Lecturers, Trainers, Financial Advisors, Management Consultants.

Is that it? Can’t I do something I am passionate about which has no direct relevance to my current profession? Is age really such a big issue? 

It is if you think it is.

To me, nothing including age can truly stop someone with passion to pursue something he or she loves. Yes, I’m talking about starting something on your own. Perhaps no one wants to hire a Programmer who used to be an Accountant. Well, it’s their loss then because you are going to write some powerful programs and sell them away. In that case, age is not even an issue.

I read somewhere about a man who did his medical degree when he was in his 60s. When asked by his friends why he’s still doing it as he would most probably be hitting 70 when he graduated. “Well, I’ll be 70 eventually but I would rather be a 70 year old Doctor than just 70.” I say, that’s some great attitude there.

What limits us is our mindset. I like to believe if we set our mind on something, any age is a perfect age!

So you 40 and above, up for a career change? It’s never too late to do anything. Never.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tips On Working With Headhunters Or Recruiters

Today, it’s common for job seekers to apply jobs advertised by a recruitment agency or get a call from a Headhunter on a job opportunity. With the exception of some, most employment agencies or Headhunters in Malaysia do not impose a job search fee on candidates. Therefore, they do not owe the candidates the obligation of finding them a job.

But, that doesn’t mean you should not consider them as partners in your job hunting. In fact, if you are a job seeker now, you should seriously consider working with a few Headhunters. There is no guarantee of a better job but the chances are increased tremendously. Bear in mind, some jobs are only accessible by Headhunters. And besides, a good word put by a trusted Headhunter to their client carries much more weight as compared to if you applied the job on your own.

So work with your Headhunters and follow these tips:-  

1. Be open

Be honest as much as possible about your experiences, achievements, preferences and any other information that are essential in your job search. And when asked about the current or expected salary, be willing to share truthfully. I sometimes scratch my head on why some candidates are so secretive about it. Most assignments given to the Headhunters include the salary range/budget and it’s important to know whether there is a match or not. So if you decided to hold back this piece of information, you are not helping yourself.

And you should not be hiding some information from the headhunter when you are more than willing to spill it during the interview with the employer. Feedback from the employer after the interview adds as important information to the Headhunters for your next job opportunity. You must realize that your relationship with your Headhunter does not end with one job interview or for that matter, one successful offer.

2. Express your strengths and expertise accurately

One candidate remarked, “you are the Headhunter and had viewed my resume, won’t you be able to tell me my strengths?” Now hold on a second, if this is what you think a Headhunter should be doing, you are dead wrong. It is not a Headhunter’s role to tell you what you’re good at. You are supposed to tell them that. In other words, you should have a pretty good idea of what you are good at and be able to express it well to the Headhunters. The Headhunter is interested to know whether there is a match of your strengths with the criteria of the job. So help the Headhunter to help you.

3. Be nice, show you have good manners

Well, probably it’s the Headhunter’s responsibility to do what he/she is doing since he/she gets a good commission out of a successful hire anyway. But seriously, showing some good old manners should not be too much to ask. Remember, this little things count. Actions like a simple thank you say something about your attitude and who wouldn’t like to deal with a polite and grateful person.

On the other hand, please do not bombard your Headhunter with emails and smses requesting update on the latest jobs or status every other day until it becomes annoying. You might be desperate but be careful, you are sending a message that you are easily anxious, signs of an insecure person.  

4. Be flexible

This is related to compensation. It’s difficult to work with candidates that are rigid with their package. And don’t blame the Headhunter if you don’t hear from them after that.

Good luck!  :)

Check out the available Jobs in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and around Klang Valley

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Lost Art Of Honoring What You’ve Signed

You were offered a job. And a letter of offer was issued. At the end of the page, you will see the last sentence that ends something like this:-

I, ________________________________(NRIC No.: _______________________) have read, understood and agreed to the aforesaid terms and conditions of service and I hereby accept your offer for the position of xxxx with ABC Sdn Bhd.

How many job seekers truly understand the seriousness of what’s stated? I guess not much in view of many that do not honor what they’ve signed.

Welcome to my world.

In my line of work, I had witnessed more occasions than I care to admit when job seekers simply did not take what they had signed seriously. Employers have every right to make a legal case out of this but not many are willing to go that far citing a waste of time. I don’t blame them. It’s even more disheartening when employers waited for three months to be told by the candidate that he/she is no more interested in the job.

And this was exactly what happened to my colleague recently.

It was for a Head of Department post with an educational institute. The offer letter was signed. The employer was excited to finally fill this new position - purchased a new PC, getting the office ready and all ONLY to be told, “I’m not joining!”, a couple of days away from the commencement date. Needless to say, our client was furious. We are equally bothered. Hey, this is a senior post, not a job for a fresh graduate!

What's wrong?

That’s the problem. Not many people see this act as wrong - that the right word to describe is - Breach of Integrity.

I personally encounter candidates that tell me they have accepted another offer but would still like to try for the job that I am working on. No eye blinking, no tinge of embarrassment in the voice – as though this is totally a normal request.

Job hunting ethics, does anyone know they even exist?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Are You A Rhino Or A Hedgehog?

I learned something about resolving conflicts recently - in a marriage course. We all know about conflicts – that they are inevitable and its difficult to resolve because we tend to have different opinions and we are naturally selfish. But most of us fail to handle anger properly because we are either rhinos or hedgehogs.

Rhinos or Hedgehogs?

This is rather new to me but by knowing whether we are a rhino or hedgehog helps. As most of us might know, rhinos have a reputation for being extremely aggressive and they charge readily at perceived threat. That’s their instinct and it was observed they charge tree trunks and termite mounds without giving a second thought. That’s who they are – can’t change that.

On the other hand, hedgehogs are small little animals that have stiff, sharp spines (similar to porcupines). They are small enough to fit in our hands but too prickly to hold. When disturbed or under threat, they will curl up into a tight ball, with its spines sticking out in all directions. And it will take an incredible amount of effort to get them to uncurl themselves.

In a conflict when we are upset or provoked, we can react like a rhino that launches an attack without thinking or we can be like the hedgehog, withdraws.

It’s good to find out what are we as well as those that we are working closely with. That would be the first step towards resolving a conflict.

So, after the exercise, I discovered I’m a true hedgehog. The "withdraw" reaction comes out in the form of silent treatment, needless to say my better half has never appreciated that much :p

So, what are you?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Time Is Money

Took this picture to depict time is money. And lo and behold, found a nice poem to go with it. This is so random and I like it.. :)

Quick pace,
Quick pace is what wins the race.
In life there is only stuff to get done
so you can just move onto the next one.

The list never ends
and if one does another begins.
Never enough time, but always enough to do.
In life what you get done is what you get judged by.
Nobody cares how you feel
but more of what you've accomplished.

To be important you must have money,
and to have money you must be sold.
Sold on something,
so much that it impresses people.

There is no time to balance,
you must just blast away,
day after day, after day.

Because time is money
and to waste time is to waste money.

{Poem by Aaron H.}

Thursday, September 20, 2012

He that Would Have The Fruit Must Climb The Tree

You want to eat? You got to work! You can’t rely on hand-out, not in Malaysia for sure. Today my mind kept going back to this woman – a divorcee with two young kids. And she was out of job recently. Her last pay was RM1600. Can a family survive with that? Sure it can… well, she did. And she’s aware of this truth – he that would eat the fruit must climb the tree! She's not sitting on her laurels, but hunting hard for a job to put food on the table.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Running, Migraine and Mental Strength

Most people get into exercise because they wanted to lose some kilos. Not me. I’m blessed with a slim figure, a tad below weight in fact, so I get into exercise purely because I wanted to sweat. But I’ve also been fairly lazy in the past two to three years. I used to golf every week but somehow other priorities took over and my golf club had been sitting pretty in the store room ever since. And that was when my bouts of migraine started. I knew one of the answers to fight the migraine is to be fit physically. But my legs and hands refused to budge.

I equate that with weak will. And I don’t feel good.

I was inspired by my friends and hubby who did 10km run a few months ago but it was short-lived as I realized the amount of hard work one needs to put in. So I let it go. Besides, I simply don’t have time. Of course, that’s an excuse. We simply make time for things we care about and I blame it on photography as that was what I really cared about in the past one year :p Anyhow, deep down I know I need to do something, else how do I get rid of my monthly migraine love affair? Cafergot should not be my long term rescue remedy, right?

The turning point.

I was holidaying at Pangkor Island Beach Resort. They have this beautiful 1.2km stretch of white sandy beach. It’s supposed to be a relaxing holiday so the whole afternoon I was doing nothing except immersing myself with Kafka On The Shore. I needed to get up and do something. It’s almost evening and before the sun set, I decided to run along the beach - bare-footed. And lo and behold, I managed to run the stretch of 1.2km back and fro without stopping. Perhaps it’s the beautiful beach or the lovely breeze or maybe the build-up energy but whatever, the feeling was incredible! I wanted to do it again. So the next morning when most holiday makers were still in bed, I woke up early and repeated the run - back and fro and I tell myself, hey, I can do this!

Need to get the momentum going.

When I came home, I told myself to get serious with my new found delight. So, one fine morning before I went to office, I did seven rounds at the park next to my house. One round is approximately 450m. Yes, I surprise myself for managing 3km. But how can I motivate myself further? I mean I can always maintain a 3km run as long as I do it regularly. That's some form of exercise, isn't it? But that would not do for me. Okay, this seems silly but I thought tweeting about it might inspire me to set higher goals. And believe me, it did.

Two days later, I aimed for 5km. When I was on my eight round, my mind was telling me to stop because my legs were crying to stop. They were truly exhausted. I told myself, I don’t have to hit 13 laps to get that 5km. It’s okay I don't achieve it this time…there is always next time. But another part of me said, I can do it! Girl, don’t allow your mind to hold you back. It’s achievable. Be focused!

Finally, my better self conquered!  I did it!

Basically our bodies are much stronger than we think. So the challenge is really not our legs but above the shoulders, our MIND. Mental strength is so crucial at those critical points and I believe that’s what it meant by Mind Gym – we got to work our mental strength first and if that is conquered, almost anything is achievable. Ah…now I earn a bit of bragging right but the story is not finished yet… my next target, 10km!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Wife Earns More And She’s Pouting

I was listening to the radio the other day and they have a show on solving dilemmas. A man called up and said he had lost his job six months ago and since then, he’s been sitting in the house taking care of their son. His wife on the other hand enjoyed a promotion recently. It should come across as a relief when one partner is out of job and the extra cash would act as a relief. Unfortunately, such turn of events does not augur well in the marriage. The man claimed his wife has started to treat him differently by giving him silent treatment and sometimes, sulked at him without any reason.

Obviously, the man is depressed.

Of course, the DJ tried to give some advice and said the best thing to do at this point is to have a heart-to-heart talk with the wife to find out the underlying change of attitude.

I suspect this is what he is going to get. “Get a job. You have to try harder!” “Don’t let me be the only one slogging hard for the money!”

But what if the husband did try his very best to hunt for a job but has not been so lucky, would that justify her attitude?

Probably not. Not in today’s terms.

Welcome to the modern world when women are earning as much if not more than their "stronger" counterpart. And employers will not be looking at your gender when deciding who to fire or lay-off. But that’s the problem. Women would want to fight for equal pay and benefits in the workplace but when come to family, there is still that traditional thinking that husbands are supposed to provide for the family, to give the women a sense of security.

Time to adjust our expectations.

Many marriages broke down because they don’t see this coming. I have a girlfriend that feels like she’s the ATM in the family because she pays everything. For a while, she felt bitter about the huge responsibility on her shoulders. Did she give her husband silent treatment? It's not silent treatment in her case. Words from a bitter woman are usually unkind and hurting, to say the least. What’s the outcome? I shudder even to think about it.

Times had changed and we have to evolve according to times. But I think some things need to be established. For example, we have to say more money doesn’t equal to more power. It doesn't mean you get to make all the decisions in the family just because you are earning more. And secondly, to approach issues as a team rather than fighting for who's the alpha in the family. We can be equal but our roles are different and sometimes, switch roles too if need be. Say husbands should really help out in the house chores when the wives are working, whether less income or not. You have to adjust. Otherwise, you really can’t blame the wife from pouting.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Passion Verses Money

Do a job you love and you do not have to work a day in your life! 

The above has been quoted by sages and management gurus for ages. We envy people who love their jobs or make a living out of what they love doing.

How come some people can be so lucky and I’m not one of them!!

Not all people have that kind of luxury. Yes there is a handful that live out their passion and that’s great. But the rest of us should not view it as a failure that we do not do what we love for a living.

Being a practical being and due to my background whereby money is scarce, I do not have the luxury to choose what I love to do immediately after my high school. The post high school study that I had chosen has to be one that’s reasonably priced, locally available and promised some kind of career security. The latter is absolutely important as I or at least the people from my generation are expected to “pay back” to our parents via monthly allowances when we start working. I know lots of people from the younger generation might not be very familiar with such “commitment” but that’s how it is.

So, I’m not ashamed to say that money is fairly important in choosing a career but I’m not ready to say that I’ll let money to have the final say in my decision-making. So yes, there is a middle ground here but I guess one can choose to do something that combines money and passion (well, at least not something that you dread doing) but along the way, if you believe your passion can get you somewhere, go for it.

Furthermore, I truly believe passion can be cultivated over time. Don’t box yourself up and buy in the idea that certain things are just not my cup of tea. In desperate times, you don't have the luxury to choose. So I don't believe being a whiner! I believe in making the best of what is available for me. And don’t underestimate our ability to adopt and adapt. You might amaze yourself :)

I like one blogger that says you are a practical person who knows that no one can do the stuff they are passionate about if they are worrying about food and rent. Support yourself somehow first, and then explore your passions from there.

I personally feel one is very lucky to even have a passion to start with. There’s always a choice whether you wish to put money or passion first. So either way, you are in a fortunate position. Anytime better than people who do not have a passion for anything – that I would say a sad state indeed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don’t Interrupt Candidates or Finish Their Sentences

Are you one of those that like to interrupt others or finish their sentences? Most often than not, we did not realize we actually do that until someone pointed out to us.The act might have become invisible to us.

I have to admit I did that, not all the time but enough to realize I actually did it. It happens at times when I encounter someone that is a bit slow in his speech. To speed the conversation, I’ll finish off the sentence knowing that’s probably the word or words he is struggling to verbalize. It’s a bad habit. I’m ashamed of it.

And bad habits like this unfortunately do not remain in your personal life but invade our professional realm too. So for the longest time I have unconsciously let this bad habit slip into my job interviews. And the outcome is usually not a good one. Imagine when I hurry someone along, interrupt someone, or finish his sentence, I made the candidate and myself hurried in our speech and that makes two people rather nervous and irritable at the end.

And truly, how can an interviewer really listen to what the candidate is saying when the interviewer is speaking for that person?

So if you are like me, let’s remind ourselves to be patient and wait.

Enjoy the conversation rather than rush through them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Where Do You See Yourself Five Years From Now?

I know some people find this question annoying because it's impossible to predict the future. But if you understand the question correctly, it is not about predicting the future. What the interviewer is truly interested is your approach towards the question. As such, there is no right or wrong answer but if you are not careful, you might come out with a bad one.

If you say anything like, “I would not give a d***.” Or “I have no idea.”, you have just successfully disqualified yourself from the job.

If you say something like, “I hope to replace you.”, you are not that street-smart, aren’t you?

And if you say things like, “I want to have my own business.”, you better get ready for a good explanation after that.

What is the best answer? The best one has to be something that you believe is true for yourself as much as advancing your chance of getting the job.

So firstly, do you want to see yourself growing in your career, whether it is in terms of knowledge, skills, position and paycheck? If yes, that’s exactly in sync with employers’ aspirations. Who doesn’t want a motivated workforce, right?

Thus, something safe as well as a smart thing to say would be along the lines of,

“I’m not exactly sure the position I’ll be holding then but I would like to see myself doing something challenging and contributing positively to the organization by achieving the goals set for me. I’m sure if I’m contributing to the company’s success, my personal growth and advancement will take care of itself.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What Happened To The Last Person In The Job?

A legitimate question.

But asked not often enough by candidates.

You need to know this.

If the last person was fired, find out the circumstances. It is better to seek clarification before an offer than finding it out the hard way – when you are already in.

If the job was vacant because the last person was promoted, ask to speak to that person before you accept the offer. I’m sure such proposal would not be declined. Smart employers will view you as a candidate that takes your job seriously before making a commitment. As for you, you want to learn as much as possible about what you are getting into.

If the person left due to own accord and can’t be reached for comment anymore, well, you have at least done yourself a favor by asking. Who knows? The hiring manager might volunteer to give you some information that you otherwise would not obtained if you did not ask.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Workaholism – The Socially Acceptable Addiction

When talk about addiction, what generally came to mind would be drugs, coffee and alcohol. It is an addiction when you have difficulty saying no to it. Instead, your mind is preoccupied with the thing or activity all the time. For a short time, I was addicted to golfing – for instance, I can play 36 hole of golf a day and can go on for another 9-hole of night golfing if I can have my way. So, I know exactly what I’m talking about.

But seriously, can anyone be addicted to work? Of course, it is absolutely possible.

However, a work addict seldom gets condemned. In a way, it’s one addiction that is socially acceptable. For instance, you would be excused when you missed a family function because you need to work late…again. Tell them any other reason, you’ll get a lecture for sure.

Bryan Robinson, PhD, one of the US’s leading researchers on the disorder and author of Chained to the Desk and other books on workaholism has this to say, “Yes, workaholism is an addiction, an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it's not the same as working hard or putting in long hours."

The problem is since it’s socially acceptable, no one really cares about the danger of workaholism.

It was said in Japan, “death by overwork” caused 1000 deaths per year, nearly 5% of that country’s stroke and heart attack deaths in employees under age 60.

So, if work consumes you and destroys your personal life and death in the instance of Japan, is it worth being an addict?

I don’t think anyone wants to die prematurely due to work. But majority of us do not even know we are already an addict.

In Working Ourselves to Death, Diane Fassel describes several dozen characteristics of workaholics. Generally, the most common ones include:

Denial – the common excuse: “I need to provide for my family.”

Multiple addictions: if you study most workaholics, they have other addictions too such as food, cigarette, alcohol and etc.

Restlessness: some people simply can’t relax. They think about their work all the time even when they are with the family.

Obsessiveness: Some people tend to be obsessed with perfection. Everything must be done according to their expectations and consequently, no work is ever finished. And they also have problem with delegation. Think Steve Jobs.

Self-centeredness: Work addicts think too much about themselves and possess a sense of their own importance, sometimes in exaggeration.

Too much work like any addiction is bad for an individual. And having employees work long hours does not necessarily promise greater productivity for the company either.

Now, there is a difference between hard work and workaholism.

Bryan Robinson said it best, "Hard work put us on the moon and discovered vaccinations and built this country. But hard workers generally have some balance in their lives. They sit at their desks and think about skiing. The workaholic is on the ski slopes thinking about work."

Friday, February 3, 2012

What Is The Thing To Pursue – Excellence Or Success? {inspired by 3 Idiots}

I was watching 3 Idiots last night and this is one movie that leads us to question our motivation. For example, do we go to college to get a degree because we can get a good job and lead a comfortable life thereafter or simply because of the joy of learning?

I suspect the former reason describes most of us.

“Who was the first man that landed on the moon?” Everyone in the class shouted, “Neil Armstrong”. Who was the second man? No one replied. The professor then went on to explain the importance of being the top and never settle for second, and that life is literally a race. And getting good grades is important to reach there, to be somebody. So, we chased after degrees and upon graduation, we chased after positions and status. We buy houses and cars, and accumulate possessions and we compare ourselves with one another. The more we have, the more successful we are – that’s the measure of our success. We want to retire earlier and reward ourselves, "Ah, I'm the smart one." But when we are not there yet, we pumped ourselves harder to get there.

Now, is it all about getting there?

Have we missed the meaning of learning?

Have we forgotten the importance of putting our hearts and soul into something, to excel in it simply because of the joy of doing something meaningful?

I like to believe that when we pursue excellence or follow our passion, success will follow. And it’s a success not defined by what others think it is for the meaning of success is subjective. But it’s a success according to our own definition when we are doing something that we are passionate about and meaningful.

Ok, enough said. To get more inspiration, go watch 3 Idiots.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stop Doing It!

I read somewhere about the late Frank Sinatra that he was excellent at giving up the things that did not move him closer to his goal. One of the sayings, “Frank Sinatra doesn’t move pianos.” This does not mean he is vain or found manual work too undignified for him. It simply means he understood his fame and fortune rested on his singing ability, not his ability to get the stage ready for him to sing! He did what he did best and allowed others to perform their best on things they did best.

As most of us are hard-pressed for time, the way we make use of our time is important. Otherwise, our goals can never be achieved. For example, a Customer Service Manager’s goal is to be a General Manager one day. But if he spent most of his time attending to customers’ queries and not on “managing” his team by developing and coaching them, his goal of becoming a General Manager can never be achieved or might take longer to be realized. So even though he is excellent in customer service, he should STOP doing it. Instead he should invest more of his time and energy in the activities that are focused toward his goal.

It is and has to be a deliberate act. Are you going to include this in your resolution this year?