Category Archives: Life Coaching

Writing Effective Resume for College Grads

I have been in management position for over 10 years now and during my tenure I have hired a number of people for entry level positions. I’ve seen my fair share of resumes and I can tell you that some resumes work better than other.

Resumes are as important as the national ID itself. They help identify who you are and get you in the door of hiring companies. Needless to say getting the right resumes can spell success or disaster.

There are thousands of books covering this subject. Besides books there are also myriad of experts touch on this subject. I’m not going to regurgitate what is important to put in a resume and what is trivial. Here I’m going to list what you should do and avoid on a resume. If you are recent college graduates, hope this will give you some pointers how to land your first in person interview.

Aces (What you should do!)

Resume Refresh – Nowadays getting connected in a new world has become the norm. However, for some reason resumes remain stuck in the past. Of all the resumes I’ve seen most of them continue to stuck to the same formatting, with the exception of one. The resume that I was referring to was redesigned like a webpage; it helps the reader to focus on important things with highlights and pop up areas. The resume caught my eye and I was excited to learn more about the person. Unfortunately, the candidate did not make the cut because she did not have the experience I was looking for. The point is it is highly recommend that you revamp your resume and stay away from the old traditional format.

Highlight Success – It is not enough just to list your job experience. To catch the eye of recruiters list all your successes during your years of experience. Don’t list what you have done but showed what you achieved. If you have certain achievements that helped a company, list it on the top. As an example, instead of saying you build an Excel template for the team to input inventory try to point out the time saved for the team because your Excel template enable a more effective way of categorizing inventory.

Check Formatting and Spelling – A resume that has tons of errors and spelling will automatically put your resume in the trash. This is perhaps one of the most critical things on a resume that a lot of candidates overlook but that can be easily fixed. If you send out an error full resume to a recruiter that signifies that you are careless and do not prioritize your work. These 2 traits are very important to any employer.

Summarize Your Experience – Most recruiters do not have the time to read every resume from top to bottom. What you need is summarize your experience or what you can do for the company. Personally, I’m interested in reading high level summary of the person on the top of the resume. In a business environment, this is call an Executive Summary. Instead of diving deep into the content of a report most executives will read of the summary if there is anything interesting or require their attention. This is very similar to a resume – present who you are in a way that the recruiter or hiring manager wants to know you.

Hide Trivial Matters – Similar to the point on summarizing your experience don’t overburden the reader. Don’t list any things or experience that do not add any value to your resume. You were placed second in the 2005 school marathon? Great! But leave it out. You worked as a cashier in a supermarket and trained a high school student how to use the cash machine? This is considered trivial and would not score you any points. Most recruiters want to see ground shaking experience and that you are an “A” type employee.

Avoid at All Cost

No Sports – It is really funny how Americans place emphasis on sports at school and colleges. Getting into soccer is like a rite of passage for kindergartners. My kids high school care more about football and soccer games that getting the grades. I have worked professionally for over 25 years and I can tell you that the subject of hiring someone who was good at sport never appear once. I understand that some may put sports on their resume because it is a team sport, but in most jobs this is a non-issue. What recruiters care about if you are capable to follow instructions and get things done.

No “Can Do” Personality – Do not categorize yourself as a “Can Do” person. Employers care about someone who takes initiatives and get things done with minimal supervision. Try to portray yourself as someone who takes up a challenge and innovative at the same time.

Don’t Lie – This is quite simple and yet a lot of candidates like to lie on their resumes. For a seasoned recruiter they can easily spot a fib by just do a quick glance. In other words don’t say you are an expert on everything. Instead, try to portray yourself who is excited to learn new things. Imagine that you were able to secure an interview but not able to respond to a question asked by the interviewer.

Don’t Overdo – Some resumes may require technical language. But for the most part resumes should kept simple and readable by a 4th grader. Dressing your resume with all “flowers” or technical jargon is a disservice to yourself. I have been writing management report for Board of Directors for over 7 years now and I can tell you that the chairperson prefer something that can be easily understood. Any abbreviations we use on our reports must be spelled out to avoid any confusion.

These are some of the pointers that I believe are important. Writing good resumes require a lot of work and what I have here may not cover everything. If you consider my points above I believe you will be one step closer to get your foot in the door.

Side-Hustle De-bunked!

Over the past few years I have been trying to get a side-hustle to supplement my income. Not that I need it but I find that a second stream of income appealing and after reading so many great “success” stories I say to myself “why not?”

If you are reading this you are probably questioning the success rate of a side-hustle or you are interested in jumping on the bandwagon. Who is not interested in earning extra cash beside their full-time jobs? Well, today I’m going to tell you that not all side-hustle are successful. Some people were able to make a good amount of money from side-hustles and I do not question the validity of these claims.

A few months ago I read this article that claims some side gigs can make you richer than a full-time job. I immediately click on the link and start reading every words. As I was reading the first job it listed, I started to question if the writer who wrote this was insane.

I work professionally in a bank and I can tell you that the article would not apply to me because no matter which side-hustle that I want to do would not make me richer than my current full-time job. Let’s de-bunk some of the claims.

Time Commitment

The definition of a side-hustle refers to a job that you take on on the side. Usually it is for full-timers already have a job and is interested in doing extra work to earn extra income. Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day and usually the work hours are in the day. So for full-timers like me in order to have a side gig I have to commit to a second job after 5 PM. That is not going to happen because by the end of the day after by banking job I get too tired to do anything else. As a husband and a father, I would rather use the free time to connect with my family than strangers.

Building Clientele

Understandably that people may have been more successful than others when it comes to second gig. However, in order to be successful you need to have enough clients to make the extra income. Let use online tutor as an example, you will need to have enough students to attend your class in order for you to be successful. That is easier to say than to actually make it happen. If you are thinking about that job, there are already hundreds of people in front of you already doing the same thing.

Subject Matter Expertise (SME)

If you read the article that I refer to some of the jobs require certain expertise in order to earn that rate. Let’s take one of the jobs listed as an example, a bookkeeper or an online instructor, how many of us can claim that we are a bookkeeper or great online instructor? We can fake it but sooner or later we would get caught and lose the credibility. I am quite handy when it comes to fixing certain things around my house; however, I will never be able to claim that I am a certified plumber or electrician.

Who wouldn’t want to be rich one day. Unfortunately, all the side-hustles that the internet is listing may never lead to immediate wealth. We need to take all these advise as a grain of salt because while some jobs may help some gain some extra income but I can tell you that for the majority of us they are just wishful thinking.

Should I Resign and Look for Greener Pasteur

If you have read recent news how many companies that have started to open up after last year’s lock down are having challenges in finding employees. This is particular true for those in the retail and restaurant businesses.

This phenomenon appears to hit many other industry as well. The reasons for not able to find people to fill the openings are myriad. But if you parse through these reasons most if not all fall into two categories: 1) self-satisfaction or self-worth and 2) higher salaries.

I am no different as I ponder the same question. I have worked professionally in several multi-national companies and I always struggled with the question, should I start venturing out and look for better opportunites? Believe it or not, this question is not easy to answer as there are many factors to consider and there are also a lot of dependencies.

I still remember vividly when I was called in the office of one of the new directors who was brought in to take over the reporting function of Citigroup Internal Audit. She told me straight in the face that I need to start looking for a new job if I stayed in the same position for 3 years. That awakening moment really made me think. That director totally disregard all the work I put in and essentially kicked me out of the door. There is good coming out of the whole event as I was able to move on and found better position outside of Citigroup.

So the question remains, should we resign and look for better opportunities after 3 years? I’ve been in my current role for 7 years now and I can tell you that I have never been unhappy nor over stressed. I believe that I am contributing positively to the company and I am valued by my peers. But the nagging question remains.

Earlier in the year I decided to reach out to my previous managers and colleagues from Andersen and Citigroup to get their opinions. And the answers I receive may surprise you.

I asked all of them the same question and all of them told me that if I’m happy with where I am there is no reason to look outside unless the aim is to obtain a higher paid position. I realized that if I get a higher paid job does not really translate to a higher satisfaction job. I knew a few people who found a better paying jobs but they feel more miserable.

My current employee, HSBC, is a great company to work for if I have to compare to my previous employers. While the bank continues to face multiple headwinds due to the economic and regulatory environments, I can honestly say that it does care for the well-being of the employees. More importantly I feel valued by my colleagues and my peers. Also the company invests heavily in providing all types of training and offer outside skills to every employees. So there is a tremendous opportunity to learn new things outside of current role.

With that being said, have you ponder the same question whether you want to look for new opportunities? The answer is if you are happy where you are, there is no reason to.

Stressed? Here are 5 ways to De-Stress…

My masterpiece – a scale model for stress relief

When my second son was born, both my wife and I had difficult time taking care of him. Although he wasn’t colicky but he was definitely gave us a hard time particularly during feeding. At some point I questioned why did we put ourselves through it. But being parents it was something that we both have to learn how to be patient. I can tell you that I was so stressed that I felt hopeless and angry most of the time.

My son just turned 17th and he just passed his driving test. Looking back while he was growing up I can tell you he is a joy in our family because he is always happy and has tons of “fun” energy. He is a blessing to us and I wouldn’t change a thing if I can turn go back in time.

Now you may asked how I was able to go through such hardship (if you want to call parenting hard) and come out victorious. I think it has to do with how I see myself and how I deal with the stress. Some stress is healthy but if you are burdened with stress then it could become suicidal.

Today I’m going to list 5 ways to deal with stress that I find useful. There are other ways as well but I’m not going to list everyone of them as it may take more than one post.

Enjoy Something that Takes Time to Complete

Invest time in doing something you really enjoy. I’m not talking about something that can be completed in an hour. I’m referring to a project that can take hours or days to complete, and it has to be something that you enjoy. For example, you can try putting a 1,000 pieces of jigsaw or maybe try building the dog house. For me, it is spending hours building the perfect scale model. As my kids are all grown up I have been spending more and more time in this hobby. It takes a lot of patience and at times frustrating if I don’t get certain parts correct. However, I can tell you that it is the best way for me to de-stress.

Start a Work-out Regime

This is an easy thing to start and complete. However, it requires commitment. If you set a SMART goal, getting into the groove can help de-stress. Imagine have a workout regime with the goal to run 5 miles within a month time. Having a goal not only helps you focus, but it also helps you de-stress. It would be even better if you can join a group of friends with the same goal in mind. This will put you in the competitive mode and further help in keeping the stress level down.

Reading a Book, Listen to Music or Write a Blog

Before I started working on my hobby, I would go to the local library and borrow the new books which only have 2 weeks lending period. It helps me de-stress as I had a separate deadline to complete. I find that if I enjoy the book time flies and I would not even notice the 2 weeks deadline. Nowadays I would have a music playing while I’m working. It helps me focus more and reduce the stress with the multitude deadlines that I have. At the end of the day (like right now) or end of the week writing a blog also helps refocus my thoughts.

Take a Walk

I still remember vividly when I started working for HSBC. The deadlines and the workload was unbearable that I always went home angry after work. It was definitely not healthy to my family and myself. One day during work I decided to drop everything and step away from my desk. I took a two hours walk around my office coming refreshed. Since then I learned to remove myself from my laptop when I feel stressed.

Spending Time with Family

If you read my earlier post, my daughter is having difficulty with her anxiety. I have begun to spend more time with her and talk to her more often. I find that not only it helps me understand my daughter more I also felt more relaxed. Having someone to talk to is important, especially with someone you care. If you feel overwhelmed do not feel bad or ashamed that you need to talk.

Do not less stress get the better of you. Some stress is healthy but if it becomes overwhelming, it can cause more than just losing sleep. It is extremely important that you take care of yourself by knowing yourself. Learning to de-stress is different for everyone. You need to search within yourself to see what works for you. As long as you can do something you enjoy, you are one step closer from being burnt out.

Why We Decided to Own a Dog

Today’s post is a little different from my normal subject. However, it does relate to mental health indirectly. This post is about a new member in our family, Tofu, a small Havanese puppy.

When I was growing up in Malaysia, it was quite common for every family to have a dog or two. All of the dogs were either stray or mixed. My family owned several dogs of which some were docile and some were difficult. So I had my fair share of dogs.

After moving to the US my family had no urge to own any dogs because we were having difficulty adjusting to the life in the US. Plus, dog’s life in the US is very different from those in Asia. Dog’s life in the US is like heaven because they are pet and pampered, and not to mention very expensive. On the other hand, dogs in Asia serve a purpose. They are used to guard the properties. None of the dogs that my family had were pampered nor treated like pets; they were used as tools.

The past week was perhaps history in the making because we decided to purchase a dog for ourselves. Now that my children are all grown up, I feel that it is the perfect time to add this new family member. I understand that taking care of puppy is a lot of work but the family is ready to put their efforts to make this a successful journey.

The question is why would we own a dog?

Quite simply the reason we are getting the dog is to help my daughter getting over her anxiety attack. After speaking with her and understand her feelings a few weeks ago, I felt that there could be more things I could do to help her to overcome her trouble. One of method is to encourage her to love someone or something and share her feelings. A puppy could be the best remedy because a dog will love you back unconditionally if you treat it well.

So what has changed in the past few days after we brought the puppy home? My daughter is now spending more of her time outsider her bedroom. She also has become more jubilant as well. I also observe a markedly improvement how she carries herself.

Tofu is considered a toy dog, but she has her own adorable behavior as well. There are goods and there are a few bad with the tiny puppy. One of the things that we are learning is how to teach her to behave. Unfortunately, dogs are animal and they do not understand human language. With practice and some positive reinforcement I believe we can teach Tofu to behave. Only time will tell. Just like life – there are ups and downs; with enough practice and patience we shall overcome the difficulties in life.

I told myself years ago that I will never own a dog because I have no need for it. Now I need it to help my daughter. Will spending that kind of money to own a pure breed toy dog be worthwhile? We shall see.

Mental Health Issues Today

I have the privilege of working for a one of the major corporations in the world who cares of mental health, particularly the well-being of its employees. HSBC, is a global bank located in the UK and Asia, tackles this public issue head on.

For the past several years there is an increase concern as mental health is taking the forefront of public health issues. The pandemic accelerates this concern as majority of the world went into lock down. As of today, the pandemic continues to impact a large portion of the world. Most people will not be handle the isolation well and the pandemic causes tremendous damage to the mental health. If you do a news search today there are multiple instances where some decided to take their own life rather than be a hermit.

Most companies consider human capital as an important asset for them. HSBC is not any different. For the last several years the company pivot towards ensuring the employees’ well-being. There were a lot of internal communication on the issue and what the company is doing. Some of the things that the company offers include workshop, trainings and outside programs to assist the employees. I recently joined a program called Headspace, offered by HSBC. I haven’t had the chance to use it yet but I do appreciate what the company is doing.

Unfortunately, mental health cannot be solved if the victims do not acknowledge that the issue exists. Regardless what the company does, if the victims are not taking advantage of the options available, the problem will only get worsen. There are may symptoms of mental health. However, I’m not licensed to identify any of them but I can only provide my observations and how I personally address the issue.

Mental health issue really hits home when I had a chance to talk to my daughter recently. She has always been doing well at school. The pandemic forced the school to use remote learning. On top of some of the issue she had with a friend, she hit a wall last year. I knew she was at risk but I never knew how serious it was until I had a lengthy heart to heart talk with her. I felt I failed my job as a parent for not identifying her issues sooner. With that being said, I am spending more time with her now to ensure she feels she is being supported. It has been a week now and she is feeling a lot better. If you are interested in how I helped her in the addressing her issues, do follow my blog. I plan to share them with you.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and do seek help if you feel helpless. No one will think you are weak; admitting that you have a problem actually makes you stronger.

How to Channel Stress

I recently took a virtual workshop at work on the subject of leadership. One of the question that came up was how to deal with stress. I’ve never really given much thought on stress because I deal with it head-on. But as I consider the question more I realized that I have using stress by channeling it into something more production. In the workshop I remember the answer I gave to the group, “without stress, life is boring!”

So what is stress? Stress is a feeling when we feel uncomfortable when we are not able to solve the problem at hand. Or that we feel of failure if we are not able to complete the challenge satisfactory.

It is true that without stress, our life would be uneventful. Just imagine that sitting in front of TV for the entire day relaxing because we are stress free. Instead of thinking of all the things that require us to work on we just stare at the TV and not moving an inch. I don’t know about you – I know I can’t sit more than 2 hours not doing anything because I become restless and feel useless.

Stress is important and can help us if we know how to use it to our advantage. We can channel the stress and convert it into something productive. However, needless to say that if we less stress overtake our ability to handle them, then it becomes dangerous. To me stress is like the grass on my lawn. I know the lawn is pleasant to look at when it is green and lush. However, if I fail to mow it every few weeks, the grass will grow longer and weeds will start taking over.

Plan and Produce

No one in the modern society can say that they were never stressed. There is always something that would need our attention. Paying bills, getting ready for tomorrow’s project or even getting kids ready for school can be stressful. Most of us would take the easy way out by getting them done grumpily. Over time we would think of them as chores and start to hate them. My solution is plan ahead, get them done and learn from them. As an example, instead of making the same school lunch for my kids everyday I would plan ahead the night before on what to make. Instead of rushing in the morning to get it done, I would get the ingredients ready so I can jump right on to it. I challenge myself by making healthy lunch because not only my kids need it, it is also because I believe I can do it.

Keep Brain Active and Healthy

Sometimes we do feel tired after a long day of work. It is not because of all the work that we do but it is because of all the brain activity required. During my time-off I would usually spend most of my time doing housework inside and outside the house. By the end of the day my body ache because of all the physical activity involved. Even after a full night sleep my body would continue to ache the next day. However, it is entirely different when I work on my full-time job. I actually feel more exhausted at the end of day because of responding and solving problems at work. After a good long sleep I feel more refreshed because I was able to re-energize my brain. The stress of challenges at work actually help in keeping my mind healthy.

Stress Helps Us to Innovate

Stress can actually help us innovate. Think about it – stress is a result of difficulty in solving a problem. However, if we continue to solve the problem the same way we did it before it becomes a chore. Instead, we should find new ways to solve the problem more effectively. I work for the reporting function at HSBC. Every month our team must complete a series of reports within a week. Instead of doing the same thing every month, our team continues to make improvements on our process to complete the reports more effectively. We use macros in Excel to repeat the steps; we build templates to making data changes easier. In short, don’t use stress as an excuse; use it to help you to be better.

Everyone takes on stress differently. Some may deal with stress negatively and some may take it as a challenge. I am the latter. I never like monotony because life becomes boring if we repeat the tasks everyday. I have been working professionally for almost 30 years now and I have my fair share of challenges. Most of the challenges come with different level of stress. Over the years I have learned how to face the stress and I believe I have been successful in using it to help me.

Is This a Start of Another Journey?

I’m over 50 years old and I believe I have enough life experience to be a mentor. However, I consider myself as an introvert and rarely put myself in front of people and advertise myself. But my inner-self continue to nudge me to do better by helping others. With that being said, I’m on a new journey to become a Life Coach.

The bigger question that anyone who reads this may ask, “Are you qualified?” After much pondering and self-reflection, the answer is unequivocally “Yes!”

Stress and Mental Health

Mental health has become a big issue in recent years and anyone who may have experienced it continue to have lingering effects. I consider myself to be mental-health free because I love my life. I learned from experience how to tackle some of the stress away and I have a loving family to walk the life journey with me.

Career Advice

Another angle that I have expertise is my work experience in corporate America. I started as a lowly entry-level employee at Arthur Andersen. After spending over 5 years at Andersen (renamed from Arthur Andersen), I went to Citigroup where I spend 13 years going through all kinds of changes. This year will be my 7th year at HSBC and I love where I am. Over the years I learned to go through the intricacies of corporate world and be successful. Having said that, I believe I could be a great help for anyone who maybe interested in “making it” at big corporations.

Happily Married

Finally, I’m happily married to my wife of 24 years (that’s a quarter of lifetime!) There are ups and downs in our marriage but none came close to be severe enough to end our marriage. My wife and I learned to enjoy each other company and we learned to cherish each other. Without these commitments we would not have lasted so long and have 3 young adult children.

Enough of my self-proclaimed successes. Now let’s put my experience to work by helping other. As I continue to investigate how to “sell my service”, do keep a look out as I provide more tips on how to enjoy life (after all, that’s what my blog is about!) If you are interested in being my first client or if you need anything on the subjects that I noted above, please do let me know.

Let’s the journey begin!