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  1. I'm privileged to be invited as a guest speaker for Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Career Fair 2017. Regarded as THE event of the year for the varsity, this year's edition is spread over 3 days and will see more than 240 employers descend on NTU grounds to share about their organisations, job openings and scholarship opportunities.

    Speaking on all three days, I was happy to engage the students who had signed up for this talk and seated patiently in the Crimson Room.

    I recall with fond memories the time when I too was an undergraduate myself (from NUS). I wished I had made better use of the career fairs back then to build networks and explore different career opportunities. How often can you walk up to an organisation of your choice and just fire away at them with questions you have always wanted to ask? 

    Today's blog is dedicated to the art of business networking. Networking sessions have mushroomed over the recent years like new sprouts after a rainfall. Everywhere we turn, we see people organizing and other people attending.

    What exactly is business networking? And how do you ensure you survive that business networking?

    As the saying goes, “your network is your net-worth.” Others come to get ideas, find potential partners or promote their services.

    Let me discuss 3 tips to business networking which, if mastered, will put you in a different league. Whatever your aim of attending a business networking is, bear in mind these three tips as they will help you enjoy the next networking session.

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    Tip #1: Arrive Early

    If you have signed up for a business networking session, make sure you arrive early. There are many advantages of arriving early. Let me list three of them for you.

    Firstly, it allows you to relax and check your attire again. First impressions matter and what you wear (including how you wear it) speaks volumes even before you open your mouth to speak.

    Secondly, arriving early gives you the rare chance to soak in the environment. Singapore is such a fast-paced society that we fail to stop to appreciate our surroundings. I mention this because although business networking sessions take place in a room, some of these rooms have beautiful outdoor views looking towards the city skyline or new downtown. You can also do a quick scene appreciation of the venue and decide where you want to position yourself. One place you certainly do not want to stand is next to the door.

    Thirdly, as I mentioned earlier, food is almost always served. Arriving early or on time allows you to have a proper dinner. The latecomers will only be greeted with the crumps. Business networking sessions may stretch and end at about 11pm. That’s definitely not going to help with your dinner plans. So why not settle your dinner first during the networking session before you get down to real business?

     

    Tip #2: Wear A Smile

    This is one of my secret weapons which I always adopt when meeting both friends and strangers. A smile. 

    A smile breaks barriers and transmits a message that you have noticed someone’s presence in the room. It also indicates your willingness to start a conversation of sorts. Only friendly people wear smiles on their faces. The smile transcends all languages, cultures and religions.

    Frowns on the other hand have been greeted with sadness and disapproval. You certainly do not want to wear a frown the whole night because if you do, you will just be wasting both your time and money at the business networking event.

    When you appear friendly, people naturally gravitate towards you and let down their initial defences. Friendliness breeds friendliness.

     

    Tip #3: Build Rapport

    Yes there is normally a buffet spread. But that does not mean you keep your eyes fixated on the food. Instead, you should work the room. Working the room simply refers to a three-step process.

    Firstly, engage in small talk. No one talks politics or big world issues at networking sessions. Neither do you appear narrow-minded by talking about the increase in transport fares or petrol prices.

    Secondly, do your introductions. Very often, you are meeting another business owner or aspiring one for the first time. Mention something memorable about yourself so it sticks in the mind of your listener. 

    Thirdly, exchange business cards with others. With that business card in hand, you will know the other person’s profession, industry and areas of interest. If you decide to exchange business cards, ensure you keep in touch with the gentleman or lady. It is pointless collecting a stack of namecards.

    Whenever I attend business networking sessions, I make it a point to move from person to person. You don’t want to be stuck with the same person for the entire evening. While some may argue that you have finally found someone who really clicks with you, my point is that there are plenty of opportunities after that evening to continue networking. You certainly do not want to give up the forest for the trees.

    Happy networking people! 

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  2. I’m back at Hwa Chong Institution today to share with the JC1 students on the importance of personal image management. 

    It is interesting the junior college decided to have two separate sessions of personal grooming talks – one for girls and one for boys. Well, splitting them up is not without its merits as I can focus specifically on each gender. And it was evident the audience appreciated this as well.

    There is an important distinction we need to make between image and perception. Very often, the image you attempt to project is not how others perceive you. Simply put, you may dress like a lion with full mane and strut with majesty. Yet others still view you as a kitten. After all, both lion and kitten belong to the feline family.

    Here are 3 tips how you can enhance your personal image. I call it the 3D principle.

     

    Tip #1: Dress Sensibly

    Make sure your clothes are clean and properly ironed. Whether it is your school uniform or clothes for project presentation, the importance of being neat should never be taken for granted.

    There are many connotations attached to one’s neatness. Chief of them all is that your neat appearance sends an indirect message that we can expect a certain high standard from your work or presentation as well. This is crucial in today’s economy. 

    You are more likely to command better respect and win over your audience too.

    So, if I can see visible sweat stains on your shirt or dress, then you know you should do something about it immediately.

    My best advice for this is to always keep it cool with natural fibres in hot weather. Cotton remains my all-time favourite and it never goes out of style. Avoid spandex at all cost. You have been warned.

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    Tip #2: Dress With Confidence 

    Remember, no matter what your body shape may be, the cut of your clothes is always meant to flatter it. Pump up your confidence by playing up your best features. 

    For example, if you have wide shoulders and slim legs, avoid details, embellishments and horizontal stripes on top. Also consider wearing darker colours on top and lighter colours at the bottom.

    For girls, the hem of your skirt should not be so short that it threatens to slide up further when you sit. 

    For guys, there should not be too much excess fabric down at the bottom of the pants. 

     

    Tip #3: Dress Quality

    As e-commerce becomes increasingly prevalent, we have seen the proliferation of more online shopping portals.

    While this is exciting news for us consumers because there are other options besides the brick and mortar shops in the malls, always remember to think quality.

    Some online shopping portals offer ridiculously cheap prices. But do not be enticed because the quality may be lacking. 

    After all, why pay money to look bad?

    Here’s what you can do.

    - Check the quality (as there will be many vendors or merchants selling similar items)

    - Check the reviews of past consumers (if any)

    - Check if the online shopping portals have any return policy (just in case what you ordered doesn’t fit or the quality is lousy)

    I operate with this one rule – I would rather spend as much of my clothing budget as possible on quality garments, and not on adding new items to the wardrobe. 

    Think quality, not quantity.

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  3. Chinese New Year is fast approaching…And needless to say, I’m naturally excited because it’s a great time to catch up with both distant relatives as well as friends. Well, everyone’s busy with his or her schedule so Chinese New Year is the perfect time to play catch up.

    Today’s blog post is inspired from the interview which I did for a reporter from The Sunday Times for an article that was published middle of this month on Chinese New Year etiquette.

    It’s an open secret that Chinese New Year is also that time when we get asked all sorts of personal questions (some too awkward for comfort) from well-meaning relatives (think 3rd aunt and 6th grandaunt).

    Lest you get uncomfortable and develop sweaty palms, fret not as I have answered all these questions for you. Incidentally, they were the same questions I was asked in the newspaper interview.

    Learn how you can navigate each and every occasion skilfully using my tips. I call this Chinese New Year etiquette made easy. Read on to find out more…

     

    Q1. I meet my husband’s relatives only when we visit them during Chinese New Year. How can I get the conversation going? What are topics that I can start with? What should I avoid?

    A1: There are two ways to get the conversation going. For relatives who are single, you can pay a sincere compliment on topics such as their hairstyle, complexion or choice of clothes. 

    For relatives who are married, shift the focus of the conversation to their kids. [e.g. "wow, (insert name of kid here) is now all grown up! He's so tall now...So what did you feed him?"]

    The 3 taboo questions to avoid are “when are you getting married?”, “When are you guys trying for a baby?” and “When are you going to lose some weight?”

     

    Q2. I have a tanned complexion and don’t look good in red. How can I pull off an “auspicious” outfit when visiting the elderly folks? Also, what are other colours to consider?  

    A2: Consider wearing an outfit in any other colour (avoid black of course) with a dash of red. This can be in the form of red motifs, prints, stripes or dots. You can also choose to accessorise with jewellery. 

    If you have a tanned complexion, consider wearing warm colours instead. Good examples include gold, orange or yellow. These colours are considered equally auspicious.

     

    Q3. My cousin’s kindergarten-going kid decided to open the ang bao I gave him, and declares to his parents that there is “only $4”. What can I do to diffuse the embarrassment, both his parents and mine? How should I decide how much to give?

    A3: I would smile and share that 4 is a super auspicious number as in Teochew, it means everything will go smoothly (事事顺利, 事事如意) for the receiver. Then I will quickly redirect the topic to the rationale behind why adults give ang bao to kids and the blessings they receive (红包的含义).

    You can decide how much to give based on the relationship between the giver and the receiver. For immediate family members, the amount will be more generous, followed by relatives, friends and acquaintances in this descending order. 

    A good tip would be to sort the different denominations into different ang pow packet designs so you don't end up fumbling through your handbag.

     

    Q4. His relatives have been asking when my husband and I are starting a family, which I feel is very intrusive. How can I be tactful yet firm in fending off these questions?  

    A4: Try being playful, find an excuse or just go direct to the point.

    Playful version: “Who knows... maybe I’m pregnant? I'll let you know when I pop” (say this with an evil grin on your face and tap the tummy a little)

    Finding a situation (and using that as an excuse) version: “Well, we have discussed but will only start a family after ___________ (insert excuse here).”

    The excuse can be anything ranging from a job promotion, settling down in a new job or the big move to the new house.

    Direct to the point version: “It's really very kind of you to be concerned. But right now we're not planning on having kids but you can rest assured that you'll be one of the very first to know when we do.”

     

    Here's wishing everyone a blessed and bountiful year of the Fire Rooster ahead. Gong xi fa cai =)

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  4. How quickly time flies. Today is the tenth run of the resume writing and interview skills workshop for the nursing students of Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

    It has been a wonderful journey getting to know the students and in the process helping them to craft their winning resumes and hone their interview skills.

    In today’s blog post, I would like to share how you can actually use your body language to your advantage during an interview. After all, we all know our non-verbal cues speak volumes. 

    So here’s the mighty 7 ways. Master them and you will ace your interview with flying colours.

     

    The Eyes

    Remember, your eyes should not be darting around. Nor should they be surveying the room. These are give-away signs that you are not serious.

    Instead, your eyes should only focus on the interviewers seated in front of you. You will literally have your eyes on them.

    Like a car windscreen wiper, shift focus from interviewer to another (in the case of panel interview) as a stare is construed as rude in the Asian context.

     

    The Ears

    Isn’t it interesting that we were born with two ears and one mouth? Well, perhaps that is an indication that we should listen more and talk less. Indeed, this is true as listening is a highly valued skill we should all possess.

    Instead of being too eager to answer the questions right away, pause to think for a few seconds (using any of the delaying techniques I shared in class) and then answer confidently.

     

    The Lips

    Here are the three NOs. First, don’t lick your lips. Second, don’t purse your lips. Third, don’t frown. 

    What you should do it is to wear a smile. This helps loosen up your facial muscles and reduces tension. 

     

    The Shoulders

    Do not slouch in an interview. Neither should you round your shoulders. Either one non-verbal cue sends across a signal that you cannot be bothered.

    Keep your posture upright and yet relaxed.

      

    The Arms

    Do not cross your arms. It is a defensive posture that suggests you are rude and at the same time hesitant about the job you have applied for. In short, think of it like a defence mechanism.

     

    The Hands

    Don’t fidget or play with your hands. Avoid unnecessary gestures such as the following:

    - Rubbing your palms together
    - Running your fingers through your hair (especially for ladies)
    - Touching your nose excessively
    - Biting your nails
    - Over-gesticulating to the extent that it resembles a Teochew opera

     

    The Legs

    Remember this is an interview and you are being evaluated on suitability for the position. Therefore, do not sit like you would laze on the family couch at home.

    For ladies, always sit with your legs crossed (one over the other and straightened down).

    For guys, it’s best to sit both legs straight together because it’s interesting to watch how many actually start shaking their legs should they put one leg over the other.

     

    At the end of the day, it’s the subtle signs like your body language that actually decides the eventual victor in the interview. Do not jeopardise your own chances especially when you know you are not the only one applying for the job.

    Best of luck and I’ll love to hear your success story =)

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  5. We live in an age defined by inter-connectedness, where our online persona is becoming increasingly important to not only our social life, but also our career. More employers are beginning to value the importance of evaluating candidates’ credentials not solely based on their resume and interview performance, but also based on their image online. If done well, a positive online presence can boost your personal brand and increase the odds of employment.

    Thus, it is vital to build a positive online presence. After all, it's all about first creating your brand and then promoting it.

    In today's personal branding workshop for Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduates, I shared many strategies. Out of all these strategies, there are 3 I deem the most powerful. Here are the 3 powerful tips which you can immediately put into practice.

     

    Tip #1: Be Congruent

    Your online presence should be seen as another form of a resume, offering a personal touch that potential employers might value. Thus, it is important to present a positive image, and be consistent with what you are presenting. Contradicting material will lead employers to question the reliability of this online persona you have crafted.

    Being congruent also emphasises the message, making it almost synonymous with your name. If portrayed in a positive light, this can greatly increase your desirability as a potential employee. Remember, your words and actions have to be consistent.

     

    Tip #2: Post Regularly 

    It is crucial to first establish presence online before that presence can be of any help. Social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat all operate on the theory of providing updates in a chronological order as they are posted. While it is important that your posts be of quality, quantity too plays a key role in making sure your posts are not in the shadow of others.

    Scheduling your posts properly will be vital to ensure you have a constant stream of quality posts. Since most people will not have happenings to post about everyday, space out your posts to keep them regular. Thrice a week will be good. Posting regularly allows people to interact with your posts, comment and also share if they connect with it.

    Besides posting on your own social media accounts, you should also actively post on business and personal profile sites. You want to be selective on where you post and what you post so as to be taken seriously. This also opens opportunities for you to network with people from all over the world. 

     

    Tip #3: Keep Your Profile Current

    Choose a maximum of three social media networking sites and then take time to maintain them. Imagine if a headhunter or recruiter stumbles upon your online profile, views it and realizes you haven’t updated it in the last four years. Keep your profile current by updating it consistently. If you have had a new internship experience or played a new sport, include that. If you have graduated or embarked on part-time employment, add those in too. 

    In recent years, social networking sites have evolved to become tools for employers to assess a potential employee based on their personal interactions, making it crucial that you present a good image. Leveraging on social networking sites to build a positive online presence can help you stand out in the pool of potential candidates.