Category Archives: Observations

Changing Directions : Part 2

My mid-life career crisis is unfolding before my eyes. I decided I need to do something about it despite not knowing what I want to do or what I like to do.

I like to follow a logical process whenever I am stuck so I decided to at least write down what I KNOW I want about my job.

I think for most people, even if they do not know what type of job or career they want, they do have an idea of how they would like to work.

How I would like to work

1) Flexibility in hours

2) Ability to work from home when required.

3) Able to take leave without having to check my emails or be in contact every day.

4) Work that challenges me

5) Work that earns me enough income that I can lived on

I did noticed that this list has changed a bit since I started working. This is after all a mid-career change crisis. I find that I am less willing to take compromises especially in regards to flexible working hours and work that will challenge me. Also I am mentally prepared for a drastic paycut if I can find something worthwhile and satisfying to do.

Unfortunately, the reality of the current job market has decided to crash in on me. Despite a few promising interviews, I have yet to land a job yet. It doesn’t help also that most HR practices silence when it comes to giving post-rejection feedback.

I found the difficulty in getting a job really contradicting to what i am reading in the news. Which is that there are still several opened positions and companies are having a hard time filling them. I spoke around with a few friends in HR as well as with recruitment executives who had called me up. They confirmed my suspicion that companies now are extremely picky. No longer are they happy with a 60-80 percent fit in a candidate, they are now looking for a 100 percent fit. Expectations are much higher now and with more curbs on foreign workers, companies thus are having a harder time to fill positions. Yet companies do not seem to mind taking six months to

one year to find that perfect candidate.

Sigh…not good news for me I guess.

 

Changing Directions : Part 1

Changing Direction : Part 1

change

change (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

There are plenty of jobs available in this world, even in the U.S whose economy is not doing so well currently. Companies make all sort of effort to make a less glamorous job appear more appealing. Human resource personnel seem to have believed that a nicer sounding title will make up for that lousy paycheck and lack of appreciation. It’s the easiest to implement solution that has been taught and widely used by the HR practitioners.

This rings especially true for mundane, repetitive work.

Sadly the thrill of having a nice sounding job title typed in Arial 12 in your resume only goes so far to fill that hole in your soul.

When asked what is the most disappointing thing about my job, I wrote down satisfaction and appreciation.

Years of selling out to a stable job and salary have finally taken toll and I officially declared my soul numbed and quite possibly I am but a shell of a person left.

A few months back, as I faced impending retrenchment (the threat of which still looms like a black cloud above my head). I approached the threat first by panicking, second by checking if I have enough money to tide me over and for how long. Eventually I arrived at the third stage which was figuring out what I was going to do next.

I have to say I am still stuck at this stage(been probably stuck at this question for the past 20 years). Although my job is currently going to remained safe, the thought that I might get retrenched and that I would no longer be required to go into the office and be another unappreciated , under-utilized employee with no career advancement actually lifted my spirits. I attempted one or two interviews before I realized that I would just be placing myself back in a environment where 80 percent of the time I am not fully using my skills, am numb and feel utterly colorless.

This brought me back to the same question which I was not able to find an answer to all these years and the inability to answer the question held me prisoner to society’s (and my parents’) idea of how I should earn my living.

What SHOULD I do?

A job which I love or  A job which I do what I am best at.

Figuring out what I am passionate about is another conundrum. Figuring out what I do best is worst, fire sirens sound at the smoke coming out of my head.

Let’s be honest , I am mediocre.

And as Albert Camus once said “Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.”

Working without any interest or passion for your work results in the idleness of the brain and it has indeed proven lethal for my soul.

But can one who is mediocre metamorphose into something else?

To be continued….

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Deliberate amnesia

IMG_0043

IMG_0043 (Photo credit: Wong Kee Wee)

I often bring friends who are visiting from overseas around Singapore.I do this, maybe once of twice a year. Each time, I noted there would always be a new place of interest or new shopping center to introduce to them to.

Some of my seasoned travelling friends have made observations about how they felt a disconnect between the glittering city and how people behave or dressed here.

I tried to explain and paint the picture for them that Singapore had not been this glittering city for many years. It was not like Europe whereby they had taken centuries to develop to the stage they are currently at. I told my friends, how I still remember going to the wet market to see live chickens being de-feathered and killed on the spot,people going to markets in their pajamas,the power outages that would occur every once in a while as well as the buses with conductors.

I realized as I went through some of my memories with my friends that I sounded like an old woman telling young people about how things used to be. But many of the experiences and places I was re-telling were only 10-20 years old.

Singapore has changed and is changing so fast that its own people are unable to keep pace with it.

People I meet who are just a few years younger than me are not even able to share the same memories of a place or experiences with me. The difference in ages between people who causes the disconnect of shared memories and experiences seemed to be getting narrower and narrower. It is no longer a generation of people who can share the same recollections, rather it is the year that you are born.

It is one thing to renew and another to preserve simply for tourism. It is as if Singapore strives hard to wash the slate clean every few months. History is for the romantic while the pragmatic sees only the future, the past need not be remembered, unless of course, lots of profit can be made off it. (Check out Chinatown for a concrete example of what I mean)

Singapore sounds callous (hey, voted most emotionless country! I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed of this fact) but then again I have never known anyone or country to do middle ground well.

In a small island with limited space, can we really be afford to be sentimental or it is just inevitable that what are just old buildings for many, would have to go and make way for taller and more space efficient replacements.

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Travelling- going at it alone

There’s a saying that God protects children and fools.

I wonder whether women traveling alone classifies them as fools.

If I have a choice, I would prefer to travel with friends , but often when you are single and most of your pals work in media production, you tend to end up making travel plans alone.

I have a number of guy pals that like to take trips alone.

They are compelety baffled when I tell them when I travel alone, there are places/countries which I can’t go and things I can’t do.

They will be waving their hands at my concerns and insist the whole planet is safe.

Its understandable, since they are not born with a sign on their body brightly indicating to criminals that they are easy marks.

There are several disadvatages when travelling alone.

1) Obivious point would be your lodgings are much more expensive.

2) You need to reserach everything yourself.

3) You tend to end up looking at groups and couples milling around you at the tourist sites.

4) There’s only so much food I can eat in a day and when you travel alone, it cuts down the variety and choices, which means you miss out on so much more interesting local cuisine.

5) You are lugging around your 50 litre backpack and you need to go to the toilet. Need I say more?

It’s not all bad though

1) You get an intineary that is completely to your liking

2) You don’t have to worry about other people you know seeing you buy tourists tack

3) You don’t have to worry about taking a dump in the shared toilet

4) Other travellers tend to approach you to chat if they see that you are alone

5) No need to deal with sulking friends (reasons for sulky could include not a morning person, hate the weather , hate the people they are travelling with)

If you decided to take the plunge and make the solo trip, here’s some tips base on personal experience.

Top 5 tips on Travelling alone (mainly for women)

1) If you are lazy to do too much research like me, just get a general knowledge of which areas you want to visit or things that you want to do. When you stay at a hostel, you tend to be able to chat up other travellers and they are a good source of which places are worth visiting and what food to try and avoid. I tend to find hotel travellers a bit more formal and stiff, but the hotel lobby tends to be a good ice-breaking locale.

2) I keep a list of emegency contacts of the country like the embassy, the airline, the hotel,the hospital and the police telephone numbers. I also keep some sort of identification as well as family contact numbers on my person that can be access.(keeing them in your smartphone and locking the smartphone is not considered accessible)

3) Bring along something that can occupy your time, there will be moments you need to while away time. I usually have my tablet or a sketch book.

4) Food is an issue, it feels strange to dine alone. But no matter which country I visit there are  always small cosy cafes/shops of sorts that makes eating alone poetic rather than pathetic. These are also excellent places for observing local customs and even chat up some local people. Worse comes to worse, most countries have Macdonalds.

5) Don’t take any unnecessary risks. Includes taking cab rides alone in a country or city known for high crime rates.

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On Lifts

I take the lift everyday.

lift bij Den Haag centraal

lift bij Den Haag centraal (Photo credit: Gerard Stolk (peint la maison))

You probably find this statement mundane and bears no mentioning, but I don’t take the lift everyday when I was in London or Japan.

Living overseas made me realised just how much lift-taking I do here in Singapore.

Intelligent Lifts

The building in which I work is pretty ancient.
I heard they upgraded the lifts a few years prior to me joining the company.
It still takes forever to get down 32 floors especially during peak hours (lunch and end of the day).

Anyone who has worked on the upper levels of a tall building will know what it is like to squeeze into a lift and see at least 10 buttons lit up beneath your own floor.
Old buildings are being torn down and new buildings are sprouting up all around our building.

A visit to some clients recently brought me to some of these shiny new symbols of modernity. Security for new buildings appear to be pretty tight.

Most require identification cards with a photo and all information are scanned and saved.

Some even require the employees of the company to come down to the lobby to escort guests up.

But what has amazed me thus far is how the new lifts are built for effiecncy and speed.

New intelligent Lift systems has a keypad instead of a up or down button.

You press the floor that you are going to on the keypad and it assigns a lift number to you.

The next person might be assigned a different lift number depending on the floor he/she is going to.

To further impress guests, the receptionist at the lobby can also pre-press the floor for you at the desk and inform you which lift to take.

The new lifts are not only efficient (since you bunch up people going to certain floors together) they are also extremely fast getting to the top floors.

Most of these new lifts also comes with television screens to entertain you so that you don’t have to just stare at the digital numerals changing as the lift takes you to your designated floor.

When I first saw the keypad system, I thought about the sweet old lady who lives a few floors beneath my flat.

Although lift technology has been in Singapore for quite a few years, there appears to be a group of people that thinks the lift will come up faster if they press the up button even if they want to go down.

Due to this novel way of using the lift, I often see someone in the lift when it comes up to my floor and follow me down to the bottom and vice versa. And when the lift stops at again at the floor which this person came up from, it often closes again with the culprit acting puzzled as to why the lift stopped at a floor with no one at the landing.

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On Newspapers

I work in an industry that many have described to be following in the footsteps of the dinosaurs.

Slow, clunky , resistant to change and inability to change is slowing and surely rushing it to its certain death.

There’s even this website.

A dying Trade?

Apparently people are no longer willing to pay for news and advertisers are leaving as readership drops.

It doesn’t help that the shift to digital is inevitable. Newspapers that are shifting to the Internet and successfully moving  their readers to the digital platform are not making as much revenue from advertisers per reader as compared to print.

New business models for News companies

The crunch appeared to have churned out three new business models for the news industry thus far.

1) The pay wall model

The two most “successful” implementers of this model has got to be The New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Their increasing digital readership show that people are willing to pay for news.

One thing to note though, these two news publications are the creme of the crop in the news business, it’s not just ANY news the public will pay for , its quality news.
But the companies may have to look at other sources of income or change the way their operation works instead of depending on digital advertising revenue to cover the lost revenue stream.

2) The survival via charity model

If running it for profit does not work then what about running it as non-profit?
It’s not known conclusively if this is feasible in the long run.

Ford Foundation recently pledged 1.4 million to the ailing Los Angeles Times and the term philanthrojournalism is not a dirty word whispered by the capitalists around water coolers.

3) Make it free and they will come model

Across the pond, newspapers like The Guardian and *The Mail have decided that they will take the opposite route from their U.S counterparts and offer their digital news for free.

As a fan of Guardian’s news reporting, I support this decision by visiting their site almost daily. I sincerely hope that their strategy of offering quality content for free in exchange for a huge readership and thus translating to advertising dollars plan will work.

Thus far, the company is making a loss.

*The Mail has moved to a Paywall model.

It’s not Dying, its Evolving. But the dinosaurs will have to become extinct.

Everything evolves, nothing stays the same.

But the newspapers that did not, refused to or simply unable to change their business model are dropping like flies.

In a way, culling is occurring and whatever value is being said about content, people DO appreciate good content and news reporting.

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On Women and Baskets

During the last Xmas corporate party, I won a lovely Marks & Spencer‘s hamper along with some colleagues.

One look at the hamper filled with organic tea, chocolates and egg rolls, and I called chops on the basket instead.

There’s something about a nice free basket that makes women want it.

Evidence of point, my colleague who had to bring back the hamper, since he was the only one who had a ride and will not need to lug the hamper back to the office in public transport, said the basket wouldn’t made it to the office if his wife saw it.

The cleaning lady who later in the week saw the basket on my desk , asked if she could have it , my boss who saw it also wanted it.

So women of all ages and backgrounds desired the magical lure of the free basket.

Its not just the basket, but apparently nice tins have that effect too. Whenever I buy cookies to share with my colleagues, someone will ask me if I want to keep the beautifully designed tin or not. It’s a useful gimmick used by food manufacturers, spend more on designing the tin so that people would buy  your not so tasty cookies for the tin.

There are quite a lot of psychology studies on packaging and its influence on women as well as vice versa. Businesses use these studies to find out how to get women to buy more or pick their brands. But I have yet to see anything about the psychology of why it is mainly women that have this tendency to keep boxes,tins and baskets. Could this desire actually come from a mild hoarding behavior that leans mainly towards things we deem pretty.

Yet, we seem to reach out mostly to things that has a storage capacity, no matter how big or small. Could it be that hidden amongst this need to keep that pretty garbage, we need to convince ourselves that it is useful and thus justifying what is simply a hording behavior.

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