My 12 Most significant moments in 2014

So, this came a little late (but hey, for a good reason) so, here’s a recap of my 12 most significant moments in 2014!

1. I hit a quarter of a century old

Turning a year older was a simple affair with my family. We did our favourite late night activity: We made a trip to Swensen’s at Changi Airport and had my favourite Gula Melaka salted caramel sundae.

2. Playing the ukulele

Chinese New Year is also significant this year because that was when I got back on my uke seriously. Previously, I just kind of muddled my way through and could barely play.

3. My most epic work event

You know how, in work, you have that ONE epic work event that you remember for a while? This event in March topped my three-year work history.

Image credit: @yiyans

Continue reading “My 12 Most significant moments in 2014”

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Travelling from SeaTac

If you have the good fortune of visiting Seattle (lucky you!) and you’re looking to travel downtown from the airport, I’ll highly recommend you to take the light rail also known as Link from the airport!

If you see the costs you’ll understand what I mean:

Traveling to downtown
A ride on the Link light rail: USD$2.40
Share ride on Shuttle Express: USD$33
Downtown Airporter: USD$18

Shuttle Express will drop you at the door step of wherever you might want to go and will leave only if there are sufficient people to fill a mini van, typically about 8 – 10 people. Downtown Airporter stops only at major hotels and leaves in 30 minute intervals.

The Link doesn’t head beyond Seattle CBD area so if you’re staying somewhere further than the city (that is across the Portage Bay or in Bellevue/Mercer Island), you’ll definitely need to connect to another service. From the airport arrival hall, it’s a bit of a hike to the Link station too. It’s not a big problem if you’re having wheelie luggage but if you’re lugging hand luggage, it will be tricky.

Unlike our blessed Changi Airport, it costs USD$5 to rent a luggage cart. I know right – what a cultural shock.

I was there during the winter to spring transition and it was a very drafty and chilly walk to the Link station. And since that was my first wintry experience, I thought my fingers were going to drop off anytime soon.

Light rail trains

You purchase a ticket ((somewhat like a stored value card) at the Link station before you head up to the platform. The funny thing is, there are no barricades anywhere that governs payment. So commuters pretty much goes by the “honour” system of tapping before of after they get on the trains. I’m guessing this is where a lot of taxpayers money goes..

The Link is not crowded in the least and it’s a pretty nice ride out to the city. It took me about 25 minutes from the airport to get to downtown where I was staying.

There was space to put your luggage

This is what the interior looks like

A letter back home

” Hi guys,

Wanted to do a quick shout out to everybody back home! Hope all is well and dandy. It’s getting much warmer in Seattle and I am dealing better with the cold. It’s no joke to be caught in the wind. Last week, it was so windy that the rain fell sideways. A first time for everything too – I walked in the snow to work last Friday! I was so excited about the snow and all the Seattleites were going, “Oh damn the snow.”

It’s been a great experience being here in the hub of all activity. I’ve had many sharing sessions and learnt so much stuff that everything is spilling out of my head. The working style and dynamics are very different from Singapore and I kind of miss the buzz, noise and activity in our shophouse. Tomorrow, I’m going to see the Microsoft campus.

Another week to go in Seattle before I see the lights in New York. Many thanks to all for holding down the fort when I’m away.

Missing everyone and sending all my happy thoughts back (heart shape x3 and <3). Please have some fish soup and sotong balls for me. ”

17 to 31 March

Seattle: 18 to 29 March 2013

So I’m in USA now, working from the Seattle office. This is such a great opportunity to be able to work from the Seattle office. Today is my second day in the office.

While I will do up a proper post soon, this is a short post on my top line observations about USA.

1. Nice and welcoming people with exceptional service: I think Americans are generally warmer and nicer as compared to Asians. When I went to a fish and chips place alone, I struck up conversation with a couple of patrons next to me and we had a mighty conversation about how some people are so ignorant about the Internet. The service staff also go to lengths to make sure that you are taken care of. When I was at AT&T trying to find a prepaid solution that suits my needs, Jose Galvez, the service staff was an absolute angel.

2. Working styles and dynamics: I think a lot of time we take our Singapore office set up for granted. After spending just merely two days here, I realise how much of a luxury it is to have everyone consolidated in one place. In the Seattle office, due to geographical boundaries, a lot of meetings take place via calls and video conferencing. Whatever happened to instantaneous responses that we are so used to?

3. Relationships vs transactions: Clients tend to be more of a “relationship” as opposed to being more transactional. I think a lot of times, clients call us for things that they need/want. We talk about building trust & relationship with our clients all the time but if client interactions are merely transactional, this trust will surely need some work. When I happen to hear client calls, they’re more like, “Oh hi, how are you? I hear that…” instead of our, “Hi XXX, just wanted to check with you on…”

4. Space and noise: The Seattle office is a lot more spread out than Singapore’s office simply because well, land is cheaper than Singapore’s. Singapore’s compact office layout facilitates more conversations as opposed to Seattle’s more spaced out layout. I can go for hours without having a conversation here which is not possible in Singapore.

5. Time: I think the Americans are a lot better with time than we are because they are more focused with meetings. Each meeting seems to come with an agenda, with each discussion point allocated an X amount of time. Also, lunch appears to be mostly brown bags at your desks. Well perhaps, people tend to bring lunch from home (as it is cheaper to cook) and also, it is more efficient to eat and work I guess. You work while you eat, you get to work on time and you get off work on time.

6. Language nuances: We follow British English which has different names for certain stuff. E.g. an elevator is a lift. Also, we say to “top up” a prepaid card and here, it is to “refill” a prepaid card. I have to remember to say “danz” class instead of dance class.

Internship applications

I interact with a lot of tertiary juniors and more often than not, they ask me how do I get an internship at PR agencies? This is a more in depth entry on finding an internship opportunity.

1. Networking

Most tertiary institute’s departments will have some sort of Facebook group created that will have alumni, students and staff. These are the best groups to seek internship opportunities I think. Alumni often posts available opportunities at their agencies and they are the best way to get your resumes sent to the direct HR personnel.

If you are in an interest group in your school, e.g. like I am in NUS Dance Blast!, speak to seniors whom you know share the same major. They will be able to connect you to HR as well.

2. LinkedIn 

Many companies now turn to LinkedIn as a form of headhunting. Even if you are a student, this doesn’t give you any reason to have a shabbily filled profile. Instead, take the time to write well and succinctly. While I haven’t seen any posts for internships, LinkedIn allows you to see the person posting job opportunities. These are the people you should interact with directly.

There is NO need to include every single job you have done such as waiting at a restaurant/ being a tutor/ events assistant in your LinkedIn profile.

3. Cold searches

Not a lot of PR agencies post their internship opportunities on jobs portals. It’s best to do a cold search for PR agencies with offices in Singapore, check out their jobs listings page.

When all things fail, send a cold email introducing yourself with an appropriate subject.

Tips on securing that PR agency job – and securing it well

Tips on securing that PR agency job – and securing it well

It was a bumpy ride for me to secure that Public Relations agency job for me. I came across this article on Facebook which I thought was a good read and good advice for college students. Now, just to give it that additional edge for local students, I’ll revamp it a little.

1. A good understanding of the industry

Understand what is Public Relations 1st before deciding that you want to do this. Be able to differentiate the in-house and agency functions and how the two work together in a campaign.

2. What should I study? And where?

Study a major that is relevant to Public Relations, duh.

I felt that what I learnt from NUS’s Communications & New Media was useful & pertinent to my work.  The difference between NUS and NTU’s mass comms is that, NUS weaves in a small component of New Media (Facebook, Twitter and whatnots) into its course.

NTU is a 4 year course which requires all students to undergo a compulsory (6 months) attachment, Final Year Project (also known as FYP) and of course, you graduate with honours. In NUS, the attachment is a voluntary thing and only, the most hardworking (notice I don’t say smartest) do honours.

SMU offers a corporate communications track in its business degree as well, not too sure of this track offers.

3. Sufficient internship experience – the length of it

Like what the article says, I agree it is true that employers expect you to have experience by the time you graduate. Also, not all experience counts. Some agencies maintain that their basic requirement is a 6-months agency attachment, others say 3-months is sufficient. Whatever the number of months, the underlying line is: you need agency experience. Which gets to my next point…

4. When should I do my internship?

If you are an aspiring public relations wannabe since young, I would say, don’t waste the time before you matriculate playing, or working in some call centre. Do an internship.

If you are just like any other tertiary student studying a three year course, you will have two major vacation periods. The summer holidays after year 1 and the summer holidays after year 2.

Do both an in-house corporate communications internship as well as an agency internship. In my opinion, it is easier to get a corp comms in-house internship as your first shot at internship as compared to scoring an agency internship because, agency internships usually requires you to have some type of experience first.

Some corp comms department do work with an agency to supplement their work. In that sense, you will be working on the client side with the agency as consultants. Most big companies and organisations do this. E.g. Nestle, BMW, Audi and Lenovo.

5. Who should I intern for?

In my most honest and personal opinion…

For corp comms: Gun for big names and organisations that are global brands, such as those aforementioned. The reason why I would say this is because, you will get to work with agencies as your consultants. This will give you an opportunity to decide if you like working in-house better. Also, you will get to work with an agency – one whom you potentially might want to work in.

For agencies: Look for the big 5 in Singapore. That is, Ogilvy, Hill & Knowlton, Edelman, Weber Shandwick and Burson-Marsteller.

The hours might be long and you might be thrown sh*t to do. Just to quote a colleague of mine “sh*t rolls downhill”. I feel that this gruelling experience will help you decide if the fast-paced agency life is for you. Also, within an agency, there are different tracks of Public Relations, e.g. finance, corporate, consumer, technology. Each type differs greatly from the other. You will learn how a team works together and you will understand what is expected of you. With a big name to your internship experience, it is going to be easier to secure your first job upon graduation. It’s going to be a short stint of 3-6 months but this is going to impact your future job. So I say, suck it up and do it well.

6. How do I get that internship?

Approach the Career Centre of your school. All tertiary institutes offer some sort of career counselling services and they will have a job portal that you can access. Prepare a resume and cover letter and have the Centre’s consultants vet it. But, never stop at that.

Spam your resume and send in to the different companies you are interested in. Be sure to personalise your cover note to the respective organisations because it shows your sincerity. Make sure that you have no English grammar errors, that’s the very least you can do.

Send your resume in PDF format please because it is non-editable. Also, with PDF format, all fonts can be read. With regards to photo, if you do insert one, make sure its presentable and professional. Do not insert that photo you crop out of your partying days. A semi front profile (45 degrees) suits most people.

Make sure that your Facebook profile and Twitter accounts are corporate friendly. Do privatise or delete those nasty drunk statuses or foul swearing updates. LinkedIn profiles are good because it is corporate profile networking site you want to be seen on. Some PR agencies have turned to using LinkedIn as a job hunting portal.

7. Ace the interview

I always get a little queasy and nervous before interviews but hey, that’s pretty normal.

Be sure to read up on the interviewing organisation before you step in. Know what are some of their clients and the work they do. Check out their website. Also, I find that Googling them on marketing-interactive will give you some latest work and changes within the organisation.

If you are not a confident and fluent speaker, prep yourself. Be able to speak about your experiences within say 5 sentences and how your experiences are relevant to the job you are applying for. Think of 3 weaknesses and strengths about yourself. Think of where do you want to be in 5 years. Think about how can you contribute to the company. These questions are some of the most common interviewing questions.

Dress well, first impressions count. Where ever you are interviewing for, be groomed. Be especially groomed if you know the agency does lifestyle/retail PR (Think H&M and Steve Madden). I feel that a structured dress, blazer and pumps usually work for me. Or else, a nice top, dress pants/pencil skirt work as well. Basic make up – foundation, eyeliner and a tinge of blusher is good. For guys, a shirt and pants combo is a must and please, pair it with nice shoes.

If you’re interviewing for a creative position, you have a bit more leeway to dress. But still, you wouldn’t want to wear Pepsi Blue to a Coca-Cola interview.

Bring your resume, writing samples and certs photocopies. In a nice folder.

Some agencies will want you to do a writing or presentation test so be prepared. Writing tests usually consist of writing a press release with a brief they provide you. Some agencies will ask you to do a translation test as well.

I like to Google and check the LinkedIn profile of my interviewees so that I know who I am talking to. Usually, those who interview you are the ones whom you will be working under. Their accounts, most likely, will be the ones that you are working on.

FYI.. In an agency, the rank usually goes

Intern –  Account Coordinator – Account Exec – Senior Account Exec – Account Manager – Senior Account Manager – Account Director – Senior Account Director – Regional Lead – Vice Pres – President

8. After the interview

Be sure to follow up with a thank you note. I think this is not a common practice but it is a good practice because after all, your interviewers take out time to talk to you.

9. After receiving an offer…

Take some time to think it through before accepting. And do research about what is your worthy rate by looking at graduate surveys. Be sure to fight for what you are worth and don’t accept a job below market rate. There are so many agencies out there, don’t be hasty in accepting. At most, work harder and spend a bit more time interviewing around. Don’t lose heart.

10. Do your homework well meanwhile

When homework, I mean, do extra-curricular activities that will boost your resume and let it look good. E.g write for the school or youth magazines. Get a part time stint as a community manager managing social media tools such as Facebook or Twitter communities.

On an ending note…

I hope this article serves you youngsters well on how to map your future career path. I was very lucky because everything was smooth sailing for me and I have wise seniors advising me.

(Just to sound professional)

This author is a graduate of NUS’s Communications and New Media student of Class 2011. She has completed 2 internships and done a part time stint while  juggling school, a dance CCA and hall life. She is now working as a PR professional in a mid-sized PR agency and welcomes all comments (constructive please) and questions her juniors may have. Please drop a comment below.

Life learning lessons

I  had just hit my one-year work anniversary and damn, it was no easy feat. Many people tell me they enjoy studying more than working, I’ve also had friends who deliberately opt to extend their studies. I cannot understand why would anyone prefer academics. I get so much more satisfaction out of work than books.

I’m really thankful to my managers (I’m onto my second manager now).  Both of them taught me very valuable lessons that couldn’t be paid for anywhere. I was such a green thing when I started, I think I’m much less green now (from a dark green to a mint perhaps) but definitely, still learning.

Never be afraid to learn and take constructive criticism because through that, you grow to produce better quality work.

A  friend once told me, she reflects everyday at night to think about what are some of the lessons learnt she learns each day. It could be as simple as, “I learnt online that a cockroach will live nine days without it’s head, before it starves to death.” Or as difficult as a maths concept. Any mathematical concept is difficult please. Mathematics is the bane of my life, and continues to haunt me today.

I think that’s a good way to end your day: To reflect on each day’s lesson so that you never waste new knowledge.

And if you’re wondering about the cockroach fun fact, I really did read it online here.