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Hey, congrats! So I heard you were invited to your first job interview. Well, that’s a positive start.

But wait, do you know that many fail to make it past this stage? I’m not trying to scare you but it’s true. As a seasoned ex-human resource manager who hired and fired back in my corporate days, I can tell you this is the truth. 

And here I am sharing this truth and other more insights with the students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Health Sciences (Nursing) in this instalment of the resume writing and interview skills workshop. 

Nothing hurts the ego more than failing to get your dream job…especially since you have come this far through the years.
 
On the bright side, there’s really nothing to worry about. You just have to start preparing yourself well. 
Let me show you how you can shake off those pre-interview jitters by learning how to answer some commonly asked questions sensibly. 
 
I know there’s a long list and if I were to touch on each and every one of them, it could probably become material for my second book. So let me just choose the 3 commonly asked job interview questions.
 
 
#1: Tell Me About Yourself
 
Don’t say: "I live in Ang Mo Kio and I have two older brothers."
 
Instead, try saying: "I graduated from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma of Health Sciences (Nursing) with a grade point average of 3.9 out of 4. During my third year of school, I sought out an internship at a multinational IT term for eight months. In my free time, I get involved in my neighbourhood’s Resident Committee activities which are targeted at organizing events for our senior citizens."
 
 
Sorry folks, but I don’t really care how many siblings you have as it has no direct bearing on your current abilities or future potentials. With this question, you really have so much leeway to play up your attributes – especially your academic background, work experience and community involvement. You want to demonstrate you are a well-rounded person. 
 

#2: What Are Your Strengths?
 
Don’t say: "I feel I am responsible and enthusiastic." 
 
Instead, try saying: "My strengths include responsibility, enthusiasm and being able to build rapport with people easily. If I were to choose, my greatest strength would be being able to build rapport with people easily. In my various work experience such as being a nurse intern at local hospitals or barrister at Starbucks, I had to deal with different customer demands. And this includes placating unhappy customers and convincing them we were doing our utmost best to resolve issues such as a long waiting time."
 

Relying on your feelings ain’t gonna help you nail the job interview. Feelings are arbitrary. Worse, feelings are hard to measure or quantify. How you feel may not be how I feel. 
 
I know as Asians, we tend to be a little reserved and don’t like showing off. But this is not the time to be humble. Instead, identify a few of your strengths. You may then highlight your greatest strength and share a real life example of how it exemplified your greatest strength. This could be in any aspect of your life – school situation, work life or family matters.
 

 
#3: What Are Your Weaknesses?
 
Don’t say: "I like to procrastinate."

Instead, try saying: "We all have weaknesses and if I really have to choose one, it would be procrastination. That has caused me some opportunities in the past. Painful as it may sound as you watch the opportunities fly you by, I have since learnt how to prioritise my time and focus on activities that are important first, then followed by urgent. This has really helped me with time management." 

 
If you like procrastinating, then I as the interviewer will also procrastinate in deciding whether you are the right candidate for the position.

Remember, you are not the only candidate vying for the job opening. If you look at the official statistics, thousands of students graduate from the polytechnics and universities each year. So competition is stiff.

I always advise my students to use this two-step strategy in answering this weakness question.

First, you present a real weakness (don’t stage it less it comes across as fake). Then you show you have taken concrete action to overcome it. This is to say you turn that weakness into a strength or neutralize it.
 
The full-day workshop at Ngee Ann Polytechnic today was a fun-filled one. Sharing nuggets of advice followed by mock interview sessions, I’m gratified the students loved every moment of it. More importantly, they are now equipped with lifeskills that will prepare them well when they walk up to the interview room in the months ahead. Here’s wishing everyone best of luck at the upcoming interviews!
 
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I remember the days when I was still a student back in school. A teacher was like a parent. And the number of hours I spent in school (including both the normal curriculum and core curriculum activities) was sometimes even longer than when I saw my own parents.
 
As teachers instruct and share knowledge, they also play the role of motivators and educators to their students. As students, we always look up to our teachers as role models. Till this day, I am still grateful to all my ex-teachers who have taught me important values in life. 
 
So it is with this sense of gratitude that I enter the gates of Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) as I am invited to give a grooming talk to the teachers.
 
Yes it’s the school holidays but for this select group of teaches who have taken the effort to come back to campus grounds to learn, I salute them.
 
Much as teachers set an example to students as far as character building is concerned, I’m sure you will also agree with me that school teachers must set an example in grooming and etiquette too. 
 
Imagine if a teacher shows up in class looking disheveled, sloppy or inappropriately dressed, he or she will immediately become the talk of the entire school. 
 
Grooming for teachers differs from grooming for students. This is because students need to wear the school uniform and adhere to the school rules (with regard to length of hair, skirt, accessories etc). This, however, does not apply to teachers.
 
I have male school teacher friends who shared with me that as long as they turn up in a shirt (it can be long or short-sleeved) and pants, it’s considered acceptable. For female teachers, they definitely have to cover up. So no plunging necklines, a neck full of accessories, heavy perfume, see-through pieces or Afro hairstyles. As long as teachers dressed appropriately, it would be acceptable.
 
If you always thought teachers to be strict, you have to really erase that notion. Truth be said that the teachers who sat in for my grooming talk were fun-loving, self-deprecating and ever so keen to learn new dressing tips.
 
Less you think all teachers should dress in a standard manner, let me share 3 tips that all teachers and educators should take heed to boost your image quotient. Now, who said teachers cannot be style icons? 

 

Tip #1: Comfort Is Key


As teachers work long hours (with remedials, meetings and other special projects thrown in), dressing comfortably is definitely the key. You wouldn’t want to create an impression in your towering heels only to suffer from sore calves when you get back home.

For men, nothing too loose-fitting (don’t you even exercise, teacher?) and yet nothing too muscle-fitting (are you an A&F model, teacher?). In Singapore’s hot and humid weather, short-sleeved shirts are fine. But always tuck them in.
 


Tip #2: Professionalism Is A Close Second
 

Always remember your mission is to mould the next generation of young minds and talents. 
 
As I have shared many times in my other blog posts, always dress professionally for the occasion, audience and image you want to project.
 
A professional teacher will have some simple makeup on – think powder and blusher. For some added colour, she may use a lipstick (not crimson red or deadly black). But she will ditch the mascara and false eyelashers simply because she is not Lady Gaga. Much as students nowadays lament how stressful school has become, I personally feel teachers could help alleviate the stress factor by wearing colours on their face. 
 
For male teachers, you will use some hair products for your mane – think either wax or gel. But you will spare your hair follicles of hair spray, gum or mud. And polish your leather shoes – they are supposed to be either black or brown.

 

Tip #3: Expressing Your Individual Personality Is Acceptable
 

Like what I wrote earlier, there is no need for all teachers to look alike or dress similarly. We are not in the North Korea regime where everyone has to follow the Leader’s bowl-like hair or grey hues. 
 
If teachers wish to express their individual personality through their dressing, they are certainly welcome to. In fact, I would strongly encourage teachers to start thinking what fashion look suits them best. This of course boils down to choosing the right styles, shapes and colours. In the grooming universe, this is the holy trinity that one must follow.

If you want to express your individual personality yet you are in doubt, I would suggest you stick to classical styles and colours as they tend to trend on the safer sides. It’s kind of risky if you play with colours unless you have attended my colour analysis workshops previously.

 
So there you have it. Follow my three tips to dressing professionally as a teacher and I’m sure you will be putting your best foot forward, gaining the respect of your students and approaching each day with confidence.

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