Career Resources

Valuable Guidance and Expert Tips for Career Builders and Employers from Career Experts and Industry Veterans
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4 Practical Tips to Achieve Work-Life Balance While Building Your Career

According to the Singapore Department of Statistics (Singstat) data in 2016, a growing number of couples are facing divorce at a much higher rate. Marriages in Singapore are not lasting as before with couples whom cannot reconcile their spousal relationship seeking divorce lawyers to dissolve their marriages. In view of this national social trend, being career-minded or highly driven in your work does not necessarily mean it should take a toll on your dating life or relationships with your boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, family and friends.



Aside from having a job which pays the bills and allows us to enjoy the finer things in life, we should seek to commit in healthy relationships with the important persons around us and have a balanced life. Although it can seem tough, it is not impossible to achieve work-life balance with these steps.


1. Stop Being a Workaholic

Foremost, you should understand the relationship you are establishing with your work. How much is your identity built upon your job position and title? While you may gain extreme satisfaction and be highly passionate in our careers, over-working beyond any boundaries in the long term will definitely lead to extreme stress and burn-out in your job.  Our jobs and career should not be the only thing that provides us with fulfillment in life. 

Work-life balance does not necessitate equal amount of hours into both work life and personal life. Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves whether we are working to live or living to work. You can simply strike a healthy balance between both by effectively taking time off to commit and maintain relationships with our loved ones.



As a hardworking employee or professional freelancer, you may be highly tempted to respond to emails sent by superiors or client beyond working hours. Instead of being bogged down by work 24 hours, 7 days a week, learn to “switch off’. Business deals and work can occur anytime while special memories can be created just once.


2. Prioritise Your Time Accordingly

Everyone should establish clear work-life personal boundaries so that any chance of work or relationships intruding each other can be avoided beyond your stipulated working hours. You should be fully in charge to meet your specific job deliverables during office hours and be actively present to care and concern for your loved ones outside of work. In the case when both aspects demand your attention at the same time, you should plan ahead and communicate with your superiors and families and/or friends of your expected response and obligations in these circumstances.

Be flexible and make it a conscious effort to differentiate the matters that require your immediate attention and those that do not. Learn to focus on cherishing private moments with your loved ones and be fully immersive in whatever you are doing, whenever you are doing it.


3. Schedule Your Life, Not Just Work

On the same note, you should also reserve slots of time in your schedule for leisure activities that allows you to recharge and add value to your life, such as through regular exercises, a weekly date out, reserved time for family bonding activities, and an overseas vacation. Not only will have something to be expectant about, you will possess the extra boost of motivation to manage your work hours well and be productive so that you do not have to cancel on others.  Setting aside regular time for your spouse or friends and family is very important, even if those shared moments may be brief.


4. Communicate Regularly to Build Trust

Communication builds strong trust and reassurance between couples and families. The top reason for divorce and failed relationships can be attributed to a lack of communication or the inability to communicate effectively with understanding. Over time, this will lead to mistrust and resentment which can erode a relationship unconsciously. On the flip side, struggles that you share with your other half can bring you closer together through a common vision and goal to overcome.



Frequent communication lays the perfect foundation for having a balanced relationship, one that is based on realistic expectations and commitment to each other. You are working hard to improve the lives of your family, so communicate this to them and help them understand why you work so hard. Communicate strongly so that you expand your partner’s trust in you while you are away or when things come up and you need to be understood.


Your job is not your life, your relationships are ultimately as important or not, more important than your job. Both our careers and relationships are essential to a fulfilling life, you too can achieve work-life balance with these few simple steps.  

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A Freelancing Interview with Ethan Seow

Ethan Seow is an entrepreneur, educator and musician with a love for Product Development and Business Consultancy. Originally a medical student of 5 years, he embarked on a journey of entrepreneurship since 2012 and has never looked back. His previous ventures are Home Ground Studios, Pulse of Music and The Music Salon, and is now developing his new psychology concept Thought Action Paradigm to address the need for personal and business development in the 21st Century.


His experience spans across retail distribution, music education, venue rental, events organisation and digital agency over the past 5 years. Currently, he is focusing on developing a lecture series with Funzing and a network of business owners and enterprises, to prepare people for the rapidly changing markets.



Stroff: Hello Ethan! Can you tell us more about yourself?

Ethan: Hey Wanwei! Yup sure. I'm what we would traditionally call a Renaissance Man, a person who spans across multiple disciplines with no real core specialisation. This made it rather difficult for me to find my so-called "place in society". While people have classified me as "doctor", "musician", "designer", "entrepreneur", "psychologist" or a whole host of other categories, I found it hard to stick by any of these terms. There's a book released last year about this predicament, called The Neo-Generalist.


I was trained in science throughout my childhood to youth, following a classic triple science (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) track through all my education. Meanwhile, I was deep into music as I started music from the tender age of 4 and cycled through multiple instruments including the organ, piano, violin, viola and double bass. I also fell in love with the art of education because of the impact that my teachers had on me when I was in my teens, and that actually made me fall in love with medicine, where I viewed the doctor as more of an educator than simply a drug pusher.


I then came across great entrepreneurs in my young adulthood when I met the Derek Sivers at TEDxNUS where I was featured as one of the speakers with my band. From that moment onwards I knew I couldn't stay behind a safe employment mentality and was eager to explore the world of business.


That's when I truly experienced the world of freelancing - managing oneself and potentially others. I worked as a musician, sound engineer, distributed cables and cymbals, and worked with a business consultancy while teaching music. I could not sit down and focus on just one thing as I was young and restless. I thought it was business, but it really was Freelancing.




Stroff: Can you tell us briefly more about the "Thought Action Paradigm"?

Ethan: Thought Action Paradigm (TAP) was birthed during an IDEO Human Centred Design Challenge where my group members and I were trying to solve the issue of Creativity at Workplace - why people can't seem to be creative when stuck in an office. As we delved further into this issue, Thought Action Paradigm was created as a Sandbox to be able to diagnose and address this issue by matching the right people with the right frameworks under the right management systems.


It is a decision-making paradigm where it goes from Intention, which is the most fundamental needs of a person, to Execution, which is where our internal world interfaces with the external world through action. It is a rather complex process that has been highly unexamined throughout the whole development of psychology. The different schools of psychology were arguing as to who was more "right" rather than recognising that they were just viewing the same process with different lenses. TAP was created to address that.


Thought Action Paradigm can be scaled from a single individual level all the way to a society/civilisation wide level, where the same decision-making paradigm takes place as long as humans are involved. It is important to recognise this process so that we know what is missing between Intention and Execution, to allow for more congruence.


When one freelances, one needs to have great levels of self-management or one would be stuck repeating the same cycles and not progress in terms of the quality and value of work. TAP is an effective tool to identify where one stands, and how to improve self-management - it is all about how we assess our Frames (also defined as Values and Perspectives) and how to adjust it to be more in line with our Intentions.


Stroff: How do you think freelancers can stand out in an economy that is changing rapidly?

Ethan: There is a core skill set that makes freelancers indispensable - creative solutioning. The outside-in view that a Freelancer has that an internal team will never have is the ability to integrate their outside experience and knowledge with the specialisation of the internal team.


Gone are the days where hourly rates define how much a person can and should finish. Technology makes the majority of these repetitive, inefficient work obsolete. Freelancers are no longer just contracted workers just to finish up work that overwhelmed the internal team but instead are functioning more like consultants in specific fields. The world still wants to do things by the hour because old habits die hard, but with automation, the real value comes from seeing things people can't and creating things people can't even imagine.


That's what I focus my energy on - creating people and products that do things no one else can; because we don't need more robots. Freelancers need to know what value they provide - the eyes and ears outside of the company that gives rise to innovation tunnel-visioning would never be able to create.


Stroff: How do you think freelancers can protect themselves financially, so that they would also have enough in old age? Can you give them three tips?

Ethan: It's all about self-management. How much money do you actually need a month to survive? How much money can you save? What would give you mileage and a nest egg? How do you automate what you do?




A majority of Freelancers who earn good money are blinded by their success and believe that the money will keep flowing as long as they keep working - and that's precisely the problem. They are not planning ahead because they might not realise how their career might be limited by many possible Acts of God.


I learnt this from a friend who gave me tips on financial planning, and this became how I manage things for the future:


1. Earn The Money: Keep trying to explain to people what you do best, you'll find your way to the best explanation one day and people will demand you because of it. And because you'll be focusing on what you do best, you can keep the money earning in this area going strong if you brand yourself through this method.


2. Find Passive Income through Collaboration or Referral: Work with others so that you can create products or refer them clients so you can get money with the minimal amount of effort. Best part is that this helps the whole network of Freelancers you are part of, which means you can develop a richer, deeper value for your clients when you work for them.


3. Keep Upgrading: The world keeps changing, and if you're not always upping your game, someone will kick you off whatever throne you thought you own. Even till this day and age, every great business person is learning something new, developing a new technology or product, or finding a world problem to solve. The moment you stagnate you're out of the game. But that doesn't mean you're not allowed to rest - even through play you can find your growth, just learn how to integrate new knowledge from new random areas of your life.


Stroff: How can freelancers negotiate for higher rates? Do you have a strategy to share? 

Ethan: It's all about how you sell yourself. Build your credibility through a strong portfolio, be clear to explain where you fix their problems and how much they save, then charge a good price for the work that you do.


Know what problems you solve best and fastest and build your portfolio around it. Make sure to get testimonials and examples in the process. Meanwhile, if you can speak, get a higher profile to command more money. Either that or use your specialisation knowledge to streamline what you do and take more clients while working fewer hours per project, so you can get more per hour. There are many ways to get there.


I'm personally going down the path of portfolio + speaking + doing a niche that no one else does to build my credibility and value so that I can demand higher rates.


Stroff: What is the one thing about freelancers that most people think they know, but they don't actually know?

Ethan: The value of their skill sets. Most either overvalue or undervalue their skill sets. The best effective freelancers often undervalue, and the good self-marketers often overvalue. Neither are in touch with reality because their focus is often in another area. We are often convinced by the markets what our value is, but I disagree.



For example, I believe I'm of a certain value that the market might not be willing to pay yet, but I know where I stand once I work my magic, therefore I'm just trying to educate the market about the work that I do. If I depend on what others think of my work to decide my value, it'll fluctuate depending on whether someone knows how to appreciate my work, and that's what often happens to Freelancers.


I had a friend who both undervalued and overvalued her work. The market did value her a lot, but she felt like an imposter because she actually didn't value her work. It became a very confusing experience for her when she realised it. I believe her value is very real, but she had not found the best way to describe what she did, and therefore she went through a crisis of identity.


This is a very real problem for Freelancers.


Stroff: Can you share with us some stories you have about your interactions with freelancers? They can be funny, downright ridiculous, strange or unreasonable encounters. 

Ethan: Nothing off the top of my head most of the time as I minimise such negative encounters as much as possible. I feel for a lot of Freelancers who have tons of talent but a lack of clarity of their value. I often realise that they keep getting stuck because they don't know how to evaluate their worth nor do they know how to manage their productivity, so I often have to let them be.


However, I have met plenty of Freelancers who overinflate their worth, this is thanks to the multi-level marketing models and motivational speakers/coaching circuit.


A lot of them are re-packaging whatever products were trickled down to them through the system, and they are effectively freelance sales people. They keep selling the "business owner" or "freedom" perspective that is just annoying to deal with, and their lack of self-awareness worries me dearly for those who end up buying from them (I was one of them).


Oh and freelancers who quit their day job so that they have more control over their time and end up working a lot harder and more for a lot less, with no planning for the future. And it's always hard to get it into their skulls that they are limiting themselves.


Stroff: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?

Ethan:  Freelancing is basically being your own boss, sales person, manager, accountant and everything all in, you need to know a little bit of everything. Any gaps in knowledge would cause you to be functional but not as effective as you can be. It is important to grow and think like a business owner eventually to really develop your career and your financials.


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What It Means to Work for a Startup (As a Fresh Graduate) - Part 6 of 6

Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. In my previous four articles as part of this 6-part sequel, I have shared about my personal experiences as an undergraduate and fresh graduate. In this final article, I would like to share the ups and downs of starting my career in a startup. Choosing the unconventional path takes a lot of courage and by sharing my own story, I hope to encourage you in finding the career that you desire. 



Is The Startup Life For You? 

For young, ambitious working adults with a sense of adventure, a startup proves to have immense opportunities for growth and learning. 

Are you at the cross-junction, deciding whether to join a startup? 


One important check is to identify your own personality and career aspirations. In order to understand if a startup is really suitable, you need to be honest with yourself. 

Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, understand your current family circumstances and very importantly, your priorities and key considerations. 


If you have clearly set out to embark on a lucrative career with structured progression, then a startup environment is unable to meet your goals. 

Or if you are looking forward to a stable job to support your family, neither will a startup be suitable for you. 


If you are hungry to learn and are willing to forgo some aspects of work-life balance, then a startup is worth considering. Just be mindful that every startup also has its own culture and management style. 


Understand The Startup Before Joining

While it is mostly true that startup can offer many learning opportunities, be vigilant in knowing the direction and long-term plans of the startup during your interviews before jumping in. There are many startups that are growing rapidly, with some emerged as successful business models, but also those that are struggling to survive. So take the necessary steps to research about the company’s profile and validate the information you have gotten before or after the interview. 



Managing Your Work Life In A Startup

If you have arrived at the decision to join a startup, then begin with an end in mind. 

Be willing to work hard for the company and treat yourself as a member of the core team. 

Being part of a young and dynamic team also means that you should be willing to take on duties outside of your expected job scope and help your colleagues whenever required.

It is okay to make mistakes because you grow and learn from them. But as much as possible, avoid making mistakes that could impact the company. Every decision and action of a member in the team will affect the company far more than in a MNC setting. 


In the event that you are really too overworked, be willing to communicate with the management team and try proposing feasible solutions. A major plus point of a startup is its flat hierarchy and open communication, so find out if the management team really values its employees and are willing to communicate openly. Should you realise that things have been taking a turn for the worst and communication is not doing its magic, then move on to consider a change of environment.


What’s Your Other Options? 



Consider alternative options that offer similar learning opportunities or environment as per a startup. Explore different company setting to identify the best fit, such as MNCs with small local offices that share a startup culture, or SMEs with a flat hierarchy (relative to big corporations) but offer more stability than a startup. Between startups, the culture can also vary depending on the founder and its origin country. Find out what’s the best fit for you!


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What It Means to Work for a Startup (As a Fresh Graduate) - Part 5 of 6

Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. In my previous two articles as part of this 6-part sequel, I have shared about my personal experiences as an undergraduate and fresh graduate. In the final two articles, I would like to share the ups and downs of starting my career in a startup. Choosing the unconventional path takes a lot of courage and by sharing my own story, I hope to encourage you in finding the career that you desire.  



Choosing The Startup Path 

My decision to work for a startup was not favoured by many relatives and friends. 

Salary, job security and career progression were shaky. 

Personally, it was also contradictory to my initial goal of securing a good-paying job. 

And frankly speaking, a low starting pay was a huge concern. I’ve heard common advice on how a low pay in my first job will affect the next job offer (I hope not!)


As many put it, working for a startup is not for everyone. 


Sacrifices in The World of Startup

Choosing this unconventional path came with tremendous risks and stresses - mental stress of having to manage multiple roles and huge workload, physical stress of working long hours (during peak period) and financial stress of having to survive on an intern pay for some months. 




Many sacrifices had to be made - be it personal interests, material wants or social life. 

It takes a lot of passion, determination and discipline to keep up. 

Work benefits were minimal, progress (in terms of advancement) was limited. Given a volatile startup environment, hard work is not necessarily proportionate to returns. Being overworked and underpaid is common. 


With the fast turnover rate, manpower was hardly replaced and workflow was unstructured. 

I had to adapt fast and manage the additional workload - ranging from marketing, simple designing, sales and events etc. I had to be extremely organized and well-paced to continue performing at optimal amidst the “chaos”. 


Working hours was not necessarily long everyday, but I was never truly out of work. I was constantly on social media and handling email correspondences after working hours, during weekends and holidays especially when it’s event period. Not that it’s a must, but I felt accountable (you’re likely to feel it too).


Food For Thought: How Ready Are You to Work for a Startup? 


Opportunities in The World of Startup 

Of course, sacrifices came with many diverse learning opportunities, and growth. 

I challenged myself in ways I could never have imagined should I have chosen the “safe” path.

I was immediately put to test during my first week of work (as a fresh graduate) to roll out marketing and promotional efforts for the company’s largest festival of the year (close to 1,500 people!) 

I was challenged almost every single day, constantly learning about marketing trends, social media strategies and business dealings to accelerate my learning. 


It was stressful. 

I was constantly accountable for event ticket sales, website traffic and social media engagement. Any mistake I made could affect the company greatly.



But there was something new everyday.

I liaised with sponsors, vendors, influencers, media and experimented with different social media tools.  

I learnt about digital marketing, events liaising and management, sales pitching and fostering partnerships.

I took part in many events and met inspiring entrepreneurs!


Food For Thought: Are You Looking Forward to The Opportunities? 


How The Startup Life Nurtured Me

Every decision, no matter how small - and every member, no matter how new - are rudimentary to the company’s survival. 

Being part of a young and dynamic team, I was given a say. I could give feedback and meet clients on my own. I was constantly communicating very openly and working very closely with the management team, as well as being introduced to valuable insights of how businesses were managed. These translated into very useful skills and experiences that I could share and display during meetings, interviews and networking sessions. I believe the best story we could ever share, is our own personal experience. They’re unique, enriching and inspirational. 


3 Key Strengths I’ve Gained 

While I’m in the process of searching for a new full-time job, I’ve grown a lot from where I was six months ago prior to my working experience in the startup. 




As a problem solver - addressed customer dissatisfaction, proposed constructive feedback to improve workflow and system, crisis management

As a versatile learner - tested and validated my ability to pick up new roles fast and manage multiple projects simultaneously in a fast-paced environment

As an effective communicator - more confident to network, foster and manage relationships with clients 


The market is tough right now, I’m feeling it as a fresh graduate. But with valuable learning experiences in both startup and agency environment, I have learnt to present and articulate my thoughts better during interviews. 


Food For Thought: How Do You Wish To Grow?


What I’m Currently Doing

I’m actively on the lookout for suitable job openings, attending more interviews and meeting more people. 


Every interview attended is a door unlocked.

Every networking opportunity taken is a relationship forged. 

Every conversation with prospective employers is a lesson learned. 



I am constantly understanding what companies are looking out for and what the different industries entail. As much as I’m dealing with potentially more rejections and disappointment, I strongly believe that every journey is worth taking.

I keep myself abreast of new opportunities by utilising job search portals and updating my presence on fast-growing career platforms such as Linkedin for networking, Glassdoor for industry and company insights and Stroff for useful and applicable career guidance tips. 


Food For Thought: What Are You Doing To Help Yourself?


End of Part 5: Career Guidance for Fresh Working Adult


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What I Went Through as a Fresh Graduate - Part 4 of 6

Hi there, I am Agnes Goh, a recent graduate of NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information and University Scholars Programme. Through my 6-part sequel, I will like to share my personal stories during my university education and post-graduation. Following my first article where I shared about my experiences as an undergraduate, I will be sharing some of the personal struggles I faced as a fresh graduate in my fourth article. Trust that you are not alone in your journey, enjoy the article.



Fresh Out of School - What’s Next? 

You are exhilarated by the moment of glory, wearing the graduation gown on stage.

The next moment you find yourself overwhelmed by feelings of insecurity. 

You start experiencing the realities of job search. 


There’s so much to start preparing yourself for - applications to send, series of interviews to attend, questions to ask.. 


There are many questions which, at the moment, you don’t have an answer to.

What exactly do you want as a career? 

Where should you apply to?

Can you get your desired pay? 


Job search is hardly smooth-sailing. It takes effort, patience and perseverance. 

Even if you are desperately looking for a job, give yourself some time to identify suitable opportunities instead of rushing into one (really, don’t rush into it). 


Think Broad, Research More 

If you are really lost at the start, think broader and widen your options. Based on the list of job postings you have encountered, start eliminating those industries and jobs which you definitely do not want. 



Come up with a list of job options that you are willing to take up. 


If you are not sure of what specific skills you can highlight in your resume, start identifying the available job positions with prerequisites that you satisfy (based on your degree, past internship experiences, softwares learnt during your coursework etc). 


As you view more job postings and send in more applications, you will soon get a better sense of important skill sets that are highly sought after by your prospective employers. To improve your chances of securing an interview, personalise your cover letter and highlight key experiences that the specific employer has listed in the job posting. 


Practice Makes Perfect, Even For Interviews


Being shortlisted to attend an interview is a good start. 


Other than making good use of online resources about interview tips, experiencing them first-hand is also an effective way. Meaning to say, as you attend more interviews, you perform better. From there, you familiarise yourself with the common interview questions, interview flow and structure. You find yourself getting comfortable in a seemingly stressful setting. You will gradually feel less uptight about having to over-prepare for the interview. Just know, what they want to find out is actually just YOU. Yes, you.


Be ready to share more about yourself - Your past education, internship experiences, personal interests and aspirations etc. That’s most likely the very first question they’ll ask. 

Unless the role requires demonstration of technical or specialised skill sets which involves tests and assessments, most interviews will have a personal touch to it. 


The best speaker is your true self. The best knowledge is self-awareness. 

This includes being able to articulate your strengths without over-promising your skill sets, and mentioning your weaknesses (if asked) while expressing genuine interest to overcome them. 

So, start finding out how much you know about yourself.


TWO Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Job

Eventually, some offers will start coming in. The first one will take a while but trust yourself, more are coming. 


If you find yourself hesitating whether to accept an offer, consider based on factors that are important to you. It is too idealistic to expect your first job to meet every single requirement that you have laid out, so exercise your judgment realistically. 


1. What Matters MOST To You?

You can’t have everything (most of the time). So prioritise. 

Good starting pay, benefits, work-life balance, future career prospects, skills, company culture - what is the deciding factor for you..



A good-paying job at a bank can satisfy your financial needs but comes with long working hours. An entry level job at a creative agency may meet your personal interests but starting pay is lower compared to other corporate roles.

Landing a job at a startup provides great opportunities to learn but lacks financial stability. 

So be clear about what’s important to you. 


2. Are You The Main Pillar of Support For Your Family? 


You may have your personal interests to pursue but it is important to stay grounded and understand your circumstances. If opting for a startup role may affect your ability to support your family, you should lay out possible risks involved and consider a better-paying job of similar nature or industry. Considering that you are independent of financial stress, then it’s worthwhile to consider a job that will lead to good skill sets and prospects even if the starting pay may be less than your ideal. 


3 WAYS to Speed Up Your Job Search

If you are struggling to compete for the roles you desire, seek to understand and analyse your situation better.


1. Find Out What’s Lacking in Your Resume and Overcome Them.  

It might be that you lack certain technical skills that employers are looking for in a specific role, be it computer software skills or industry knowledge. Or you lack actual experiences to prove your skill sets.



In the event that you have those skills but didn’t mention in your resume, be sure to highlight them upfront and capture the employer's’ attention. If you don’t, adopt an action plan by taking online courses to enhance your competitiveness or conduct your own desk research. That way, you can at least demonstrate some basic understanding even though you have no experience (show your willingness to learn!).  


2. Give Examples to Validate Your Points

On the other hand, if you are confident of performing certain tasks but lack specific work examples, try coming up with personal scenarios such as final year project, coursework that can help prove your point and illustrate them in your cover letter. Be creative and resourceful!


3. Explore!

Or if you are still struggling to identify a job option that suits your personal interests, then consider alternatives. For all you know, there are other options that offer you a platform to apply similar skills, or further your expertise in similar areas. So explore, explore and explore. 


Along the way, there would be rejections you need to deal with. And also, many possibilities that you can unlock. So, learn to manage disappointment but stay hopeful of opportunities!