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  1. One of the biggest challenges secondary school students face when applying for the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE) is the application write-up.

    I always tell my students that they have to submit a good write-up. After all, polytechnics receive thousands of EAE applications a year. If your write-up is shoddy or unimpressive, then chances are you are not going to make it to the interviews. What’s more, they are going to base their selection solely on your application (after all, they don’t even know you in person so you can’t really blame them). This is sad but true.

    Welcome to harsh reality.

    In this second-parter to the EAE (click here for the first-parter which amassed an impressive 15,770 hits as at today), I’m going to discuss how you can perfect the EAE application write-up and secure your place at the interview.


    #Tip 1: Share Your Passion

    Almost everyone will claim they are interested in the course. Therefore, be a maverick and write something different. This is a powerful strategy that I find lacking in most of the EAE application write-ups I have seen.

    Share how you discovered your passion for that particular field or industry. For example, if you are going to apply for the Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management, then you could share how you were impressed by the warmth and service extended to you during your oversea hotel stays on family vacations…letting you have a feeling of a home away from home. And in turn, you want to be able to do this similarly for others to brighten their days.

    If you are applying for the Diploma in Early Childhood Education, then share how you helped to babysit young pre-schoolers or toddlers (they could be your own little brother/sister or your neighbour’s kid)…and by doing so, how you learnt about the different behaviours that children exhibit and the basic skills needed to handle them competently.

    If you applying for the Diploma in Aviation Management, then write something along the lines of how passionate you are about flying an aeroplane as you always marvel at the fact that aeroplanes take off and land smoothly. Perhaps also include the fact that you play the flight and air traffic control simulator as your hobby and see yourself as a future pilot sending passengers safely to and from the arms of their loved ones.

    Vis-a-vis my three samples on how passion guided my choice of polytechnic course, I hope you are able to see how crucial it is to include this in the EAE application write-up.

    The bottom line is to choose only courses that you are truly passionate and not because you have to fill up the three options. It is perfectly fine to list only one course if that’s what you really like.


    #Tip 2: List Your Accomplishments That Are Relevant

    Besides sharing your passion, you should also list your accomplishment(s) that are relevant to the course so to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest.

    For example, if you are applying for the Diploma in Information Technology, show how you dabble with codes, the number of downloads you have on GitHub, the actual websites that you've built.

    If you are applying for the Diploma in Media and Communication, then you should showcase your Youtube video productions, the number of followers you have on social media platforms such as your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc.

    Remember, the accomplishment(s) has to be relevant to the course.


    #Tip 3: Show Your Aptitude For Applied Learning

    The focus in polytechnic is all about applied learning. Have you attended any activities or courses that show your aptitude for this?

    For example, if you have attended Advanced Elective Modules (AEM) or entered competitions, it would be great to list them to demonstrate your flair.


    #Tip 4: Include CCAs That Are Relevant

    Co-curricular activities (CCAs) are there for a reason. The worst scenario is to join a CCA just to collect CCA points. If you belong to this category, then I really don’t know what to say.

    Students join CCAs because they are interested in a sport, club or uniformed group. Make full use of your participation in your CCA to show relevance and connection to the course you are interested in.

    For example, if you are applying for the Diploma in Mass Communications, then you should mention you were the school’s newsletter club editor and your actual contributions.

    It is better to join one CCA and run for a leadership position (e.g. president, treasurer, secretary etc) instead of joining a bunch of CCAs and become a sleeping member.


    #Tip 5: Keep To The Character Count

    As painful as it is, you have to keep to the 600 character count. This means that every alphabet, punctuation and spacing is just as important.

    With a limited number of characters, don’t waste them. Therefore don’t include generic stuff like “I love this course very much” or “please accept me”.

    It is best to start drafting your write-up on Microsoft Word and then do a character count before copying and pasting it into the online EAE application form.

    With a 600 character limit, it is good to go way past the 500 character limit. This will be a safe range. Consider elaborating if you fall short of the character count. If you have exceeded, then you have to be more terse in your language.


    The EAE application write-up is a good gauge of one’s maturity in summing up the last sixteen years of your life. Therefore you have to be succinct yet impressive. If you start thinking, researching and preparing early, I believe you will be successful in your EAE application write-up. All the best!

  2. I’m sure you know some people who have the ability to walk into a crowded room of unfamiliar faces and act with self-assured confidence...while the rest of us will require a little more effort and a bit more push to get there.

    Sounds familiar? 

    The good news is you are not alone.

    We know confidence is essential. It will get you places, introduce you to new (and influential) people, and open opportunities you never would have come across if you just chose to stand in a corner, fold your arms, keep your opinions to yourself, or refuse to step up to a leadership role.

    At the root of it all is the issue of confidence.

    Confidence is all about feeling self-assured.

    And interestingly, there are some things one can do to project it. And in time, as you continue to fake it, you’ll become it.

    Here are 3 tips you can use to boost your confidence.


    Tip #1: Pick A Role Model

    We all have someone we admire for his or her specific characteristics. That someone could be a friend for his sense of humour, a colleague for her wit, or an idol (like Ryan Gosling) for his style. And we all know someone who has that confidence and charisma that everyone responds to.

    Your job is to be like him.

    What are his mannerisms that make him seem confident?

    Does he stand tall? Does he speak clearly? 

    Identify his confident traits and incorporate them into your own.

    Just as how novice artists look to other people’s artwork for inspiration for their own, finding your own confidence needs a booster as well.


    Tip #2: Look Good, Feel Good

    >I know inside my wardrobe, there are several go-to shirts or pants that will never fail me because I will receive compliments from even my Mum.

    How many times have you put on your favourite dress shirt or top and felt so good?

    Because when you look good, you feel good.

    And when you feel good, you become more sure of yourself.

    It doesn’t have to be a new wardrobe. Rather, find something that fits you so well and doesn’t make you look like a slouch. And while you’re at it, get a new haircut, start an exercise routine and follow your timeless advice to “stand tall with chest out, stomach in”.


    Tip #3: Maintain Eye Contact

    When talking to someone or in a group, keeping constant eye contact makes you come across as confident and interested – even when you are not.

    You don’t have to stare (that’s rude). But when you are speaking or are being spoken to, look at the person straight in the eye and show that you are keen in the conversation.


    Remember:  At the end of the day, if you want to feel more confident, you have to act more confident. 


  3. I was soaking in the Mid-Autumn Festival mood along the 40m long illuminated Disney Tsum Tsum tunnel. While marveling at the pretty lights and cutesy lanterns, it was obvious that this exhibition was (yet) another huge hit.

    Disney is a masterclass when it comes to the art of branding. 

    Here are 3 branding lessons we can learn from Disney.


    #1: A Brand Must Constantly Innovate

    I remember watching the animated musical The Little Mermaid back in 1989. It was a box-office hit.

    Then came Beauty and the Beast in 1991, Aladdin in 1992, Toy Story in 1995, Monsters Inc in 2001, Finding Nemo in 2003, Ratatouille in 2007, Frozen in 2013 and Zootopia in 2016. This list is non-exhaustive as there were so many hits after hits. I just listed the ones that I could still remember after so many years.

    If a brand rests on its laurels, it will never have the impetus to seek continuous improvements. Constantly coming up with new offerings allows the brand to stay fresh in the minds of the audience. And innovation is key. In Disney’s universe, every character and plot is unique. There is no rehashing of the same old ‘been there done that’ formula.

    By constantly innovating, Disney ensures there is something for everyone. Its multiple-offerings menu – from superheroes (think Marvel’s cinematic universe) to digital animation (think Pixar) to galactic futuristic (think Star Wars) to cartoon-musicals (think Walt Disney Pictures), Disney has them all.

    Learning Lesson: Are you the disruptor or the disrupted? By constantly innovating or coming up with new versions of an existing product or service, you will continue to delight your customer base.


    #2: A Brand Must Be Good At Storytelling

    Disney tells stories. Every character has a personal story behind him or her. In many instances, we have a hero who is flawed in many ways. Through his struggles, trials and tribulations, he is made to journey along to seek that breakthrough and resolution. And when he has fulfilled his destiny, he returns with new powers to claim his rightful place in this universe.

    Does this sound like the storyline and plot from The Lion King? Yes, the young Simba had to rough it out and become more matured in his ways before returning to reclaim his throne as the rightful King. How about Judy Hopps, the female bunny from Zootopia? She had to go through so many rejections, tests and challenges before achieving her childhood dream of joining the Zootopia Police Department.

    Learning Lesson: A personal story always tugs at the heartstrings. Craft a good one and then share it with the world.



    #3: A Brand Must Have A Signature Core Product or Service

    Now this is a crucial. Think of Disney and what is the first character or movie that comes to mind?

    I can bet you 9 out of 10 people will associate Disney with Mickey Mouse.

    Mickey Mouse is the signature icon.

    Similarly, does your brand too have a signature core offering? That offering could be a product or a service.

    Being that iconic signature of Disney, Mickey Mouse has endeared himself to generations of people. 

    Learning Lesson: Do you have a signature product or service that gets everyone excited? I have. Hope you have one too =)


    PS: And boy was I tsum tsum-ed tonight! 

  4. Junior college (JC) or polytechnic (poly)?

    The JC or poly decision is a constant debate that the graduating students of secondary schools have to address. Not only are the students themselves involved, so too are parents, teachers and friends.

    Having had the privilege to engage thousands of students from the secondary schools, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities through my workshops over the years, let me share my thoughts on this perennial topic. After all, I was also a product of Singapore’s education system.

    In my opinion, there are 5 considering factors one should bear in mind before making that sacred choice between JC and poly.


    Consideration #1: The Learning Environment 

    In all respects, learning at JC is much more conceptual. It’s always about concepts and theories. So you really have to be someone who loves such stuff.

    For poly, the focus is more about applied learning. There is direct relevance between study and work. It is an open secret that almost all poly courses now have a compulsory internship for Year 3 students ranging from 6 weeks to 6 months. In comparison, there is no internship for JC students.


    Consideration #2: The Curriculum

    Choose JC if you are the academic type and prefer to dive deeper into a content area (e.g. Science, Maths or Humanities). This offers you a wide range of options for university courses thereafter.

    Choose poly if you are passionate about a specific area that is related to your career aspiration. Some secondary students know exactly what they like to dabble in (e.g. coding, model aeroplanes, video production etc) that leads them to choose a poly education as there are diploma courses that are directly related (e.g. Diploma in IT, Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering, Diploma in Film, Sound & Video).


    Consideration #3: Future Aspirations

    This is a big one.

    JC students graduate with an “A” level certificate. And the premise is that it is a stepping stone to university. But I have seen “A” level students who fail to make it to the university. In other words, if you don’t make it to university, then the “A” level certificate is pretty much useless.

    Poly students graduate with a diploma. And poly life prepares students for work life. While some poly graduates continue further studies at the university, a bigger portion of poly graduates start working immediately upon graduation. The yearly Graduate Employment Survey for poly graduates is testimony to this as it compares the drawing salaries of the different poly courses for graduates.

    I have yet to see a Graduate Employment Survey for “A” Level grads.


    Consideration #4: Time Management

    I see a JC education as an extension of secondary school. Classes typically start and end at the same time everyday (excluding remedials and CCAs). You continue to wear a school uniform and engage in daily rituals like flag raising in the parade square.

    JC students enjoy a structured time table, study the same subjects and take a summative examination twice a year. So if you are someone who loves things planned out for you, then go for it.

    Poly students have more freedom to decide how they plan and use their time. There is no uniform so you have to decide what to wear each day. More importantly, there are foundation modules (in Year 1) and specialised ones (from Year 2 onwards). This means you really need to know your inclinations and manage your time wisely. The polys adopt a modular assessment setting (similar to universities).


    Consideration #5: Working With Others

    In JC, students stay with the same group of people throughout their two years. In this way, you can build stronger bonds.

    In poly, students have to work on projects with different people. This is how the system works and will suit you to a T if you are a people-person.


    At the end of the day, there will always be supporters of both the JC and poly education system. As an educator myself, I say perhaps the best way to help you make that final decision is to attend the open houses of both JCs and polys to see if you like what you see and can adapt well. Adaptability is important as you do not want to waste the next two or three years of your life feeling miserable.

    All the best!

  5. Like it or not, we will all become leaders one day as we climb the corporate ladder. That is a fact. Whether you have a team under you or you are mentoring a group of interns. 

    Interestingly, leadership requires distinct behaviours and attitudes. It does not operate the same as how you may operate now.

    Think about this - before you are a leader, success is all about growing your own career. But once you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

    In this leadership branding workshop specially curated for the insurance industry, attendees included both the seasoned financial consultants and aspiring agency leaders.

    So if you want to be a leader but you missed my sharing, fret not. Let me recap the 3 proven ways how you can build your leadership brand.


    Tip #1: Know Your Leadership Style

    As a leader (or aspiring one), you should first start by discovering your leadership style.

    Different leaders lead differently. Some lead by example, others by encouragement and surprisingly, some by fear.

    Knowing your leadership style is important because you need to know how you normally act and react to people. More importantly, knowing your leadership style allows you to adapt your style to different situations.

    All leaders have a preferred leadership style. But do note that leadership styles are not static and should not be. All leaders should be adaptive and flexible to comfortably switch between styles. It depends on the situation, who’s involved and what’s at stake.

    For example, when dealing with an imminent crisis, a leader should adopt a more directive style and not appear to be wishy-washy as the team is looking to him for leadership. 

    When interacting with newer financial advisers or younger managers, a leader would be best off with a coaching style.

    As a leader myself, I personally choose among three leadership styles which I can transit effortlessly.



    Tip #2: Express Your Leadership Story

    Ask yourself why people should choose to follow you instead of someone else.

    If you cannot answer this question, then you must do some deep soul-searching.

    All leaders have a brand story. What’s yours?

    Each time you share your brand story, is it able to excite, captivate and attract the right audience? If yes, congratulations! Remember, you need to attract talents into your organization or agency (for this matter) in order to grow.

    In between the breaks, I spoke to some financial consultants who were kind of shy to openly express their leadership brand story. But hey, if you remain shy, then you will be steamrolled by the other agency leaders out there. In any industry, competition is stiff…what more the insurance industry.

    A good piece of homework you can work on is to craft your leadership brand story and say it out loud. Are you excited, captivated and attracted by what you just heard?


    Tip #3: Get Your Leader A.C.T Together

    All leaders must possess a certain set of values. Of these values, I recommend authenticity, credibility and transparency. Put together, they form my acronym A.C.T.

    When leaders get their A.C.T together, magic happens in the organization. Consultants, executives and managers are invigorated because they know the leader walks the talk. He also encourages open channels of communication and there is mutual trust.

    I would love to work in an agency under such a dynamic leader!

    Conversely, imagine you are sloppy, unprofessional, temperamental and worse, you show favoritism openly.

    For each touchpoint, I personally make an effort to ask my team for their honest feedback individually (so no one feels obliged to engage in groupthink). In this way, not only can I improve as a leader, but it also helps uplift the entire mood in the company knowing that I am also constantly improving.

    Remember, leaders are humans and not Gods. The day you stop learning, unlearning and relearning is the day your team (or agency) gets overtaken in the competitive race. And the basic fundamental starts with getting your leadership A.C.T together.

    Leadership is an ongoing and constantly evolving journey for everyone. But the safest and surest way to ensure you are on the right track is to work on your leadership brand =)