Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Singaporeans, Here's Your New Resume

[Originally posted on LinkedIn, 30 April 2014.]
1st May, Labour Day tomorrow, I'm sure my friends in Singapore are enjoying a much needed public holiday. Beyond Singapore seeing a somber year of GDP growth between 2.5-3.5%, it remains one of the most attractive and best countries in the world to work in. Societal stability, a robust currency, first world living facilities, a vibrant culture all contribute to what makes Singapore a great place to pursue your career choice.
The world tends to forget however, that it is the local Singaporean that endows Singapore with its distinctive flavor. It isn't just the glitzy pictures you see (like the one above) that makes the island nation what it is.
Employers, this is a light-hearted look at what you get when you do hire Singaporean...
We Are Serious
After working in so many countries, the Singaporean employee is normally accused to be the 'serious' one of the bunch. Over in the Western world, I've been told pretty often that I should 'take it easy'. It isn't that we don't have a sense of humor. Growing up in Singapore, we take things very seriously. We have been through more than most countries in terms of streaming examinations and filtering tests in our academic years.
We are the 93% of sweaty, over-achieving literate by-products of the 5th best education system in the world. Most Singaporeans do not take things lightly, meritocracy is the order of the day. Results are paramount for us. Excellent results are non-negotiable. I'm dead serious about this.
We Dress To Impress
Singapore can lay claim to the fashion capital of Asia. Luxury brands pepper the streets downtown, even the most innocent children grow up being able to pronounce 'Comme des garçons, Manolo Blahnik and Yves St. Laurent' flawlessly. Don't ask me why. If you have a Singaporean in your office, there is a 1,450% chance that he/she will be groomed trendily in this season's togs. You will not suffer the ignoble shame of having your customers pitch up in your office, and your staff look like they've just emerged from a swamp.
On the other hand, some of our less fashion-forward Singaporeans adopt ONE outfit everyday, rain or shine. They call it consistency, I call it 'impressive' they have so many white shirts and polyester pants.
We Are Polyglots
Singapore boasts 4 official national languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin. The administration made a smart choice early on to make English the official language of commerce. Like our very diverse population, you'd be able to hear several languages spoken in one place. Or it could be due to the fact that there aremore than 18,600 persons per square mile. (It does make elevator rides pretty uncomfortable). Needless to say, Singaporeans have a good command of the English language (and switch to American, if necessary for their US counterparts' understanding). This makes hiring a Singaporean a great choice because they speak the regional languages of South East Asia and can deal internationally outside of that. Some enterprising ones even speak French, German or Spanish.
Being a polyglot can be tricky, we occasionally slip back into the vernacular Singlish when we think we're not being watched. If you want to know what Singlish sounds like, just try going to any hawker centre. Boleh lah?
We Are Very Fast
I don't mean like Usain Bolt-fast, that would require us to actually exercise. It's just we are very and almost preternaturally quick at our work. Singaporeans have a built-in CPU that overclocks its speed with no intervention required. Any tasks assigned normally get completed ahead of schedule. And once we finish our work, we look for more tasks to engage in. We don't do slow. We don't sacrifice quality for speed. We abhor delays. We feel instinctively guilty at taking long lunch breaks. Singaporeans have a rhythm that's more manic than many other places in the world. I have asked my foreign colleagues and they agree. After 10 years away, I still find myself having to slow down at work for others to catch up.
It does cause problems at work when new team members fall behind because they don't know the pace of work. I know that this will take time to improve. But, hurry...
We Are Global
The advantage of having the best airport in the world? Singaporeans are a well-travelled bunch. A relatively unfettered media also means Singaporeans are inundated with news, entertainment, movies, books from all over the world. This contributes to a unique worldview where Singaporean employees are keenly aware of international trends and developments. We have a pretty unrestricted passport which allows access into so many countries visa-free.
You'll find Singaporeans expats all over the world, living and working. You can normally identify them when they descend upon the local Asian restaurants, seeking out the ingredients to make laksa or bak kut teh and wearing their batik shirts on 9 August. Or when they speak Singlish, oh...not the Singlish. We do not forget our roots no matter how long we've been overseas, no matter where we are. Employers are normally happy to relocate them all over the globe, they know we are from hardy immigrant stock anyway.
So, there you have it, Prospective Employers, Singaporeans are eminently employable because we have a rare constellation of characteristics that adds color, flavor (spicy!) and depth to any organization.
Fellow Singaporeans, don't be shy to use any of the above points in your resume when you're talking to recruiters and the like. Expand on those points, dress them up anyway you want but quickly. We are great just the way we are. No need to hide it... seriously.
Have a Happy (No)Labour Day! :-)