Thursday, June 26, 2008

Know the words, Blend in

It's interesting to note that English-speaking countries speak differently. I'm sure you've heard about different accents like the British Accent or the American Accent. However, accents are less to worry about than the actual words they are speaking.

I'm talking about the "slang" words that common people use in their day-to-day lives in their country. The Philippines is pretty much Americanized. We are most familiar with American English than British English. However, there are a lot of English-speaking countries that do not speak "American English". Thus, if you want to really easily blend in, it pays to know some slang of the place of which you're heading.

As far as New Zealand goes, I find that they speak British English with a twist. Forget about the twist for now. Do take a look however, at their slang words because at one time, my Auntie from Michigan, USA came over here and there were a couple of occasions where she just can't understand what they're saying.

Check this site for some "Kiwi slang":

Cheers mate!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I.T. Job hunting in Singapore

The months of May to July are the best months to look for jobs in Singapore. Why? In my experience these are the months that most people leave their jobs to look for greener pastures. The timing might also be because people have already received their variable bonus on March and their salary increment on April. And those who did not like what they got started moving out.

But just because there are quite a number of openings does not mean that companies will just pluck you out of the Philippines and put you on the recently vacant chair in their offices. You need to strategize, you need to prepare, and you need to sell yourself. Here I hope my experience in how I got my job in Singapore will help.

Step 1: Make a "killer" resume

A colleague and friend of mine, Jake, gave me one very important advice. Keep your resume short and simple with a maximum of 2 pages. Well there goes my 5 page resume..

Making your resume simple is not, how to say it, "simple". There are a lot of information you want to put in to get noticed. Should you put in how you manage to debug that bug in your scheduler? Do you need to put in the best in custom award your team won during your annual dinner and dance? The answer is simply "no".

After I have searched the net I came to these basic sections:
> Contact Info (i.e. your name (of course!), address, contact number)
> Summary (100 words should be enough)
> Technical Expertise (Summary of the things your good at, in bullet form)
- here i list the programming langauges, OS, CPU, protocols that i am knowledgeable
> Professional Experience (Brief summary of all your work experience)
- here i break up my experience per title/rank or project i have done.
> Education (only your degree is important and where you got it)

Step 2: Post it!

Once you have your "killer" resume you can start applying for jobs. Since you are in the Philippines and you want to apply in Singapore the best way to do it is use the internet. I have never used the postal system to apply only because I have some VERY BAD experience with them in the past.

There are quite a number of sites and ways to apply. I have used as my primary job search site. I upload my resume there and update it twice a week. The reason why I update it that regularly is because employers usually browse only through active resumes and will give you a call when they like what you have. In my experience during the months of May to July I usually receive an average of one interview invitation per week.

Another way to do it is to go to search for job openings in or in and then once you find an opening go to that company's website and apply in their "Careers" or "Jobs" section.

Step 3: Interview with the vampire

Once you get an interview invitation that proves you have made a good resume. But that should not stop you from continually improving and updating your resume.

When you get an interview invitation make it a point that you prepare and take it seriously. As I've indicated think of it as if you are talking to a vampire, if you make a mistake the vampire might suck you be wary.

The interview is the most important step in the process, not only does this dictate if you will be hired or not. The interview will also dictate how much you can negotiate when the job offer comes or what relocation packages you can get.

Step 4: The Job offer

Once you ace your interview and got to this point, you're almost there. But this is where most people fall. Yes, it is good that you finally found a job and that soon you will be part of the OFW community earning 3 to 5 times more than what our countrymen in the Philippines earn doing the same job.

But this is also where you agree on the terms of your employment. This might dictate how long you need to be with the company and how much they will pay for the year and beyond.

So once you reach this part, step back and analyze the contract properly. Some points you need to analyze are:
> Contract bond
- Make sure that if there is a contract bond that it is reasonable. You need to consider that not all jobs are perfect and it is possible tha you might want to jump ship earlier than expected.

> Medical insurance
- As the tagalog saying goes "Mahal magkasakit", and it is more true if you are in another country. Make sure that you get medical converage and that it is indicated in your contract.

> Vacation leave
- Most of us pinoys need to recharge to the Philippines so you make sure you have a couple of weeks leave.

> Relocation package
- As I have said this depends on how much you impress your future employer. Not all get a relocation package but if you have one that is great.

Step 5: Work to impress and then Pass it on

As a matter of principle, when I do my job I do not think that I am doing it for myself alone. True I am earning the money and enjoying the friuts of my labor. But as I do my job it also reflect the qualities of my Filipino heritage. So when you have your job, work to impress your boss or colleagues. Make them see the true skill and abilities of Filipinos.

As my previous boss have told me, hiring a foreign talent is like tasting rice. If you like the first rice you ate you will always look for that same brand. So work to impress and then pass on the experience you have to your fellow Filipinos so they too can have the rewards that you are now enjoying.

I hope this helps.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Living in Singapore

Singapore according to Wikipidea:

"Singapore is an island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. At 707.1 km² (272 sq mi), it is one of the few remaining city-states in the world and the smallest country in Southeast Asia...

Singapore has a highly developed market-based economy, which historically revolves around extended entrepot trade. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the Four Asian Tigers... "

I arrived in Singapore exactly on December 16, 2005. It was my first time to this city-state and I really don't have any idea how it looks or what to expect. Immediately I found out that:
> Singapore have the best airport I have been to in my life
> They drive on the wrong direction (right hand drive)
> They have more tall buildings compared to the entire Philippines and most people live in multi-storey buildings called HDBs rather than single storey houses.
> Their public transport (taxi, MRT, and bus) is very organized and safe. You also don't need to carry cash all the time as you can use a contactless card called EZ-link to get a ride on any bus or MRT.
> Although the place is very urbanized there are still a lot of greenery all around you, and I'm not referring to tall grasses on vacant lots but big trees like acacias on nature reserves and parks all around the country.

When I arrived, I was fortunate to already have friends here who let me stay while I was looking for my own place. Renting in Singapore back then was manageable, for a one bedroom apartment in the central part of Singapore (Toa Payoh) I only paid SGD 720 per month. But if you fast forward now (2008) the same unit would normally fetch a rental price of SGD 1,300. That is almost a 100% increase. But that is the price to pay for coming to a country who is experiencing rapid economic growth and attracting foriegn talents from all the corners of the world.

Since I arrive in December and close to Christmas, I find out that in Singapore Christmas is not celeberated the same way we, Filipinos, celebrate it. Here Christmas is synonymous to all night shopping, Orchard road delights, and foam parties. Most of all you won't hear a single firecracker when the clock strikes midnight! Everything is quite in the HDB estates. For me this is the Christmas that I want, no drunks on the street, no firecracker injuries on the news, just a simple celebration done in the Church and at home. But that is just me...

Anyway, being in a country considered as a melting pot of different cultures, I get to know about a lot of cultures and other religious celebrations in a very short time. I enjoyed most of all trying out the different culinary creations of these cultures. For me the best to try are the following:
> Chilli Crabs (Uniquely Singapore)
> Chicken rice with roasted pork (Uniquely Singapore)
> Beef noodle (Chinese inspired dish)
> Hokkien Prawn mee with Carrot cake (Chinese inspired dish)
> Prata (Indian inspired dish)
> Nasi Lemak (Malay inspired dish)
> Sushi and baby octupus (Japanese inspired dish)
> Mongolian pork and baby squid (Chinese inspired dish)

And if you have a lot of food to try out, you also would have restaurants where you can get the best of these food. The ones I like are:
> Crab world
> Jumbo
> Ichiban Sushi
> Sakura
> And the ever dependent Hawker centers in Lorong 6 Toa Payoh. :)

As I get to know Singapore and adapt to living here I was able to streamline our living expenses. For my wife and I we usually spend SGD 540 for food, SGD 120 for groceries, SGD 50 for electricity, gas, and water, SGD 200 for entertainment, and SGD 90 for transportation. All in all living expense is a mere 20%-30% of the usual combined take home pay for a teacher and an engineer in this coutntry.

In closing, I would just like to give a word of advice for those who are planning to also work abroad. Please bear this in mind that living in another country not your own is not as fun as it is perceived. There will be heartaches, sleepless nights, homesickness, and culture shock to name a few. This is not to discourage but to give you a preview of what to expect. There will be more that I cannot express in words. But as they say, the best price to get is when you have to work hard for it. So strive hard to get an opportunity to work abroad and surely if you are persistent and determined the rewards will be great.

New Zealand Government website

More online information about New Zealand can be found on the government's website:

It's got lots of information and links to related websites; just about what you'd hope for a government website should have. Gather as much information as you can and consider all parameters that matters to you so you could choose wisely whether you'd survive here or not.

It's also a good channel for which to learn about the culture as to how they do things here in NZ. Similarly, you should also check out websites like this for that particular country you're interested in.

Being new to a country and community, among the things you'd hate to have are gotchas or surprises all because you didn't do much of the necessary research up front.

Kia Ora!