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I made an interesting discovery in class today.

Many of the Secondary 5 graduating students from Pasir Ris Crest Secondary School were working part-time. While most were in service-related industries such as retail and F&B, there were others who were in data entry and IT. One was even a blogshop model!
 
This was indeed commendable because I too worked part-time when I was schooling back then.
I can immediately think of 5 benefits of working part-time while studying.

These include:
 
Honing your time management skills – this is the best litmus test of one’s ability to multi-task
 
Helping you gain real world experience – there is a REAL world outside of the textbooks
 
Building a network of contacts – I always believe your network equals your net worth
 
Adding meat to your resume – compared to your peers who have zero work experience, you are one heads up against them
 
Earning some income – I see this as the reward in exchange of the time. It is a fair trade.
 
As with all other interview skills workshop, the students really loved the mock interview bits which I incorporated into the class. After all, what is an interview skills workshop without actual hands-on right?
 
In fact, some of the students were so enthusiastic that they wanted to do another round of it…but alas we couldn’t as we had other topics to cover such as resume writing.
 
Honestly, I feel at home each time I conduct an interview skills workshop. Partly because of my past experience as a HR manager for 3.5 years and partly because it forces me to think on my feet constantly, much of whether you will get hired depends on how you perform during your interview. 
 
What you say and how you say it are both equally important.
 
To ace your interview, there are 3 common job interview mistakes you need to avoid at all cost.

 

Mistake #1: You Are Too Focused On The Salary And Benefits
 

More haste, less speed. True indeed.
 
Do not be hasty when it comes to negotiating the salary and staff benefits. 
 
When I was a panel interviewer and came across such a candidate, the first impression that comes across is that the candidate is too presumptuous as he/she is taking for granted that we will offer him/her the job. 
 
What makes you so certain you are going to get the job? Do not forget there are other similarly qualified candidates vying for the same position.
 
What you should do is to wait for the HR director or manager to broach the subject. It will usually come towards the end if a job offer is made on the spot. Or if he asks “do you have any questions for us?”
 
And if you do trend on this touchy topic, always offer a salary range so that it sends a message that you are willing to be flexible and open to negotiation. 

 

Mistake #2: You Complain About Your Ex-Boss
 

If asked why you left your previous job, never ever bad mouth your ex-boss or employer.

Remember, what goes around comes around. Adopt a more reflective mood.

Steer clear of negative comments about that working experience, however horrible it may have been.

Instead of going on a tirade, learn how to impress the interviewers by showcasing what you are capable of contributing. Cleverly focus on the task at hand and that is to zero in on the positive aspects of the position you have applied for.

Say something along these lines if you wish to. I call it a two-parter.

Here’s Part 1.
 
“Working at my previous company made me realise I thrive better in an environment that is more fast-paced and challenging.”
 
OR

“Working at my previous company made me realise I thrive better in an environment that offers more opportunities such as job rotations amongst the different departments.”

And here’s Part 2.
 
“I applied for this job because I am seeking to build a career and establish myself in the industry.”

 

Mistake #3: You Appear Too Enthusiastic


Always strike a balance between being authentic and eager to impress. It’s like trying to impress the girl during the first date instead of attracting her to want to know you better.

In this context, impressing is short-term whereas attracting is for the long haul.
 
There is a thin line between complacency and competency. So know when to toe the line.

At the end of the day, just relax and be yourself. You will reach this almost zen stage if you practise, practise and practise using the list of commonly asked questions I have handed out. There is no easy way out. Though the process may be painstaking, the end result is one you will savor with pride – as you land your dream job.

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Whether you are a first year or final year student, it is never too early to start planning for your career. In fact, the earlier you start, the better as you will have more preparation time.
 
When one mentions career planning or career preparation, we instantly think of segments like career profiling, resume writing, interview skills and networking skills. If you mentioned any of these, you are definitely on the right track.
 
Invited to share with the final year engineering students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic in today’s special segment is one that encompasses all aspects of career preparation.
 
It will indeed be too lengthy to regurgitate everything in this blog post. That’s why I’ll only share an interesting segment that I spoke about – I call it the top 5 corporate survival skills everyone must possess before entering the workforce.

 
Skill #1: Have Good Communication Skills
 
Regardless of the industry you are in, if you fail to communicate your ideas succinctly, clearly and effectively, chances are you will be misunderstood, or even sidelined.

Getting your ideas across to your bosses, team, subordinates and even suppliers is crucial as verbal communication has always formed the backbone of human interaction.

Here’s a quick tip you can adopt to up your communication skills – always only mention three keypoints you wish to highlight.

Interesting as it seems, the minds of most human beings are wired to process and retain knowledge of three inputs. Anything more and the attention span is lost.


Skill #2: Build Strong Relationships
 
No man is an island. Regardless of how strong you are, you still need a team. Think Captain America and the Avengers. Captain America himself cannot possibly save the world from another apocalypse. But together with the rest of the Avengers, he can. Do not take people for granted.

Instead, spend time nurturing your relationships with your colleagues and contacts. When a strong relationship is established, you can always count on them for help you out in times of need. Just like Captain America. He knows he can count on the Avengers when he needs them. 


Skill #3: Be Reliable
 
Much as you expect to count on others helping out, you too must prove to be a valuable asset to your organization and team.
 
The question is – are you reliable? Can you solve issues and challenges?
 
In most organisations, challenges come in the forms of a manpower crunch, budget reduction or meeting a tight deadline. Ask yourself – can you rise against each challenge and tackle them successfully? 

 
Skill #4: Have Strong Negotiation Skills
 
In today’s world, you must think win-win. Adopting a “I win you lose” mentality is just not going to cut it. That’s why you need to have strong negotiation skills.
 
Negotiation is a skill that can be mastered over time. Of course you need to know what your bargaining chips are and how much are you willing to give in order to receive?

 
Skill #5: Possess Leadership Skills
 
The importance of being a leader cannot be over-emphasised. Regardless of the position you are holding, we are all leaders in our very own ways.
 
Can you motivate and lead a team? Will you return victorious from battle or have your army slain down to the last man?
 
In all honesty, leadership is a skill that boils down to connecting with people and communicating with them. 
 
Staff want leaders who develop emotional and sincere connections with them and are clear in their channels of communication.
 
Yes, it may sound tough surviving in the corporate world but everyone has to start somewhere.

For graduating students, the learning curve may be steeper but once equipped with these 5 top corporate survival skills, the journey ahead will be a much smoother one.
 
Wishing all of you the best in your future endeavours =)

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