Saturday, December 21, 2013

How to ask the right questions - and minimise what is lost in translation

I just stumbled this article which is great. Written by Shane Snow at the Fast Company.

Basically it's about "How to ask the right questions?"

He goes in detail on some of the tips below which helps you to frame your questions in the right way to solicit the right responses.

I guess it takes time and practice, but here is a quick list of them. It's best to read the details with it on the article.

  • Don't ask multiple-choice questions
  • Interject with questions when necessary
  • Field non-answers by reframing questions later
  • Repeat answers back for clarification or more detail
  • Don’t be embarrassed

Here's his summary as well. I think the body language aspects of what he is saying is important, particularly to stop nodding if you don't understand. As sometimes we want to give the impression we understand, but really it doesn't do anyone any favours when you do. I generally like to ask questions to align understanding of words, phrases, and sentences, even it makes me look a little silly. As meanings can be easily lost in translation.

  • Don't ramble on -terminate the sentence at the question mark.
  • Get comfortable with silence.
  • Start with "who, what, when, where, how, or why" for more meaningful answers.
  • Don't fish for the answer you want.
  • Stop nodding if you don't understand-ask a follow-up instead.
  • If you get a non-answer, approach it again from a different angle.
  • Rephrase the answer in your own words.
  • Don't be afraid to ask dumb questions.

9 questions for you to help focus your thoughts and change the way you live your life

Here's 9 questions for you to help focus your thoughts and change the way you live your life 

These questions help you challenge your current thoughts and focus on what is really important in my life.
The first one below is one that was used in a Youth Leadership I participated in four years ago. Some of these questions work in it help you to visualise where you want to see yourself and to work backwards from there, so that the actions you make today and tomorrow will help you reach that goal.

"What do I want people to say about me at my funeral?"
"Do I truly value my closest relationships?"
"How can I add more value to other people?"
"Who can I encourage?"
"What do I have to be thankful for?"
"What do I need to let go of?"
"What fears do I need to overcome?"
"What is one thing I can do right now to make the situation better?"
"Who do I admire most?"

More details on this yahoo blog written by Daniel Wong. Happy reading and thinking!

Source:  @yahoosg

Friday, October 25, 2013

Is daydreaming good for you?

There are times for each of us when our minds just suddenly drift, drift off somewhere. Though at times, particularly say at school or at work, daydreaming is frowned upon.

Is it normal? Is it okay to let your mind drift? Is daydreaming good for you?

I can't say for certain from a medical or scientific perspective as I am not a doctor, however, it's worth thinking about how what daydreaming can allow us to do.

I was reading somewhere online and took note of it, where it mentioned that...
"If you find your focus and your concentration drifting off don't try and snap yourself out of it, with the most productive use of your time today likely to be when you're zoning out, letting your imagination run wild. It's those ideas, memories and insights that take you down memory lane that are likely to be most effective, with some real Eureka moments likely. Don't underestimate the importance of taking time out in order to process things."
Considering what they're saying, it is true that we should at times consciously and subconsciously just let those creative juices flowing. Letting our minds wander towards discovering and piecing together our thoughts, experiences and ideas.

In our daily lives we capture so much information, even something you may have seen or heard some time ago may mean something to you allow your mind some time to make sense of it. You may be able to simulate certain scenarios and outcomes in this time.

Daydreaming - your mind in a world of it's own...
So why not let your mind wander, go on and dream (day-dream), who knows what you may suddenly discover or become enlightened on...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Windows Phone apps I use - Windows 7.8

I always find app stores a maze to go through so here's my quick rundown of my favourite Windows Phone apps that I use or have used. Hopefully it gives you some good inspiration on what you can use on your phone.

General apps:
  • CallRecorder (free) / MiniRecorder (free) - both are great tools for recording your calls, especially if you need to capture key information during your discussions. Callrecorder lets you upload your recording to SkyDrive, while Minirecorder lets you upload it to DropBox and SkyDrive
  • Connectivity Shortcuts (free) - very useful for quickly turning on/off your wifi or 3G. It's only a shame with windows you need to click twice to change the status. There are some other variations out there, though I believe there was a good one that also updated the live tile as well. I just couldn't track it down again :(
  • FlashlightX - to turn your camera flash into a flashlight (torch)
  • Gdocs - to access your google drive documents
  • Gmaps - to view google maps. Not bad for getting some quick directions.
  • Mouse remote (free)/ PC remote (free) - From my understanding, both are from the same developer and useful for using your phone as a remote to use your computer. You will need to install software on your computer to make this work but it lets you move your mouse, shutdown your computer. Free version lets you do all this via your wifi. There is a paid version out there as well for those wanting to access their computer on the go and/or from the office, etc. 
  • QR Code Reader (free) - I find this as the best QR code reader out there. With QR Codes, you use the camera on your phone to scan a phone and it will normally bring up a webpage of QR code. 
  • Toshl Finance (free) - great for expense record keeping with a tagging system available. 
  • TuneInRadio (free)- tunes into radio stations, including your local radio stations. I am able to tuen into Singapore radio stations. No headphones needed to act as an antenna, only internet access
  • Tunetube (free) / YoutubeHD (free) - great for downloading youtube videos using your wifi for later viewing 
  • UCBrowser (free) - great alternative web browser to the standard factory version
  • Voice Recorder (free) - use your phone as a voice recorder

Chatting/ social apps:
  • Facebook (free) - Update your status, share photos, your location. It's also great for sending/ receiving messages in facebook, checking news feeds, notifications, etc. Microsoft just updated this one recently, so this is much more improved than it was in the past. 
  • LinkedIn (free) - add/ view connections and look up potential clients, etc. from your phone. Pretty handy.
  • Twitter (free) - great for viewing Twitter updates. You can tweet (share status updates). The only downside with this app is that it only lets you only view the recent 30-60 minutes worth of feeds, but enough to read on the go. Hoping that they update this one in the future. 
  • GChat (free) - pretty good app for text based online chat
  • Skype (free) - great for voice, video calls
  • Tango (free) - great for video calls
  • Viber (free) - great for online chat and voice calls
  • WeChat (free) - great for online chat. You can also voice chat, clicking a record voice and after letting go, having the voice recording immediately shared with the other person on the chat. Great for sharing quick information or even recording words/ phrases for someone else to hear on the other side. I use it to share Chinese words to locals when I don't know a word
  • Whatsapp (free for a year) - great for online chat and sharing photos

Travel apps:
  • XE Currency Converted (free) - great for currency conversions when you're travelling. You download the latest currency rates and when you're offline you can make your calculations
  • Kayak (free), Tripit (free) and Worldmate (free) - these are pretty much the same more or less. It depends which one you use if you use any of these to receive your itineraries and to help remind you of your flights and other travel arrangements.

Other useful apps:

  • AppDeals (free) - a great app for finding free or discounted apps

Extra for Singaporeans/ those travelling in Singapore:

  • Pocket One Map (free) - Great local Singapore map. Developed by Nanyang Polytechnic. This shows very accurate building numbers and key landmarks. I find it more detailed than Google Maps as it is localised. The search functionality is okay but I feel it could be improved. 
  • (free) - this is not an app. But is a great way of plotting your way around town. It shows you directions and how much it'll cost to travel by bus, train, taxi, and by car. 
  • HungryNowFastFood (free) - A funny app that shows you where the nearest fast food (e.g., KFC, McDonalds) is from where you are. 
  • iChangi (free) - great app from Changi airport which allows you to check flight times for travelling or picking up your friends from the airport
  • MyWaters (free) - this app gives you a view of the water levels in Singapore. It also gives you a view of some of the commonly flooded areas in Singapore. If you like exploring what else is happening around Singapore. 
  • BusGuide (free)/ SG Transport (free) - these apps are great for determining where the next bus at the bus stop you are waiting at and/or wanting to go to. I use SG Transport now, but used to use BusGuide as has good what's "nearby" functionality which is useful for finding the nearest bus stop and knowing what buses stop there and when. Both receive data feeds from local bus companies such as SBS Transit
  • SG Movies (free) - great for quickly viewing movie trailers, movie times, etc. in cinemas around Singapore.

Nokia Lumia 900 phone
What Windows phone am I using? 
Phone: Nokia Lumia 900
Operating system version: Version 7.8 (upgraded from factory setting of 7.5)

My smartphone history:
Also, if you're wondering, I was a previous Android user (used Android for about two years) and later switched to a Windows phone which I have been using for a year and a half now. I wanted to try the (then new) ecosystem to understand what suits my lifestyle.

It'll be great to hear what other great app you're using as well. Please feel free to share any of your favourite apps (or apps that you may be using) in the comments section below.

Update 27/11/2013 - "SG Transport" is also another pretty good location Singaporean bus app to add. The what's "nearby" functionality is great at finding the nearest bus stop and knowing what buses stop there and when. 

Other names for salt, fat, sugar, and fibre

Sorting through some old papers, I stumbled this list that my old high teacher had shared with me several years ago. I find it quite useful for understanding what you may be knowingly (or unknowingly) consuming and adding into your food.

I hope you find it useful.

Please comment you find any other ones that can be added to this list. Enjoy!

Salt - Salt farmers harvesting salt, Pak Thale, Ban Laem, Phetchaburi, Thailand

The following are the names, words and/or forms of fat, salt, sugar and fibre.


  • sodium
  • monosodium
  • Na
  • MSG
  • glutame
  • sodium lactate
  • meat extract/ yeast extract
  • bicarbonate
  • metabisulphite
  • extracts
  • sodium nitrate
  • sodium citrate
  • hydrolysed vegetable/ meat protein
  • sodium phosphate
  • stock cubes
  • rock salt
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • sea salt
  • brine


  • vegetable oil
  • vegetable fat
  • animal far
  • animal oil
  • shorterning
  • copha
  • lard
  • tallow
  • coconut oil
  • palm oil
  • chocolate chips
  • milk solids
  • monoglycerides
  • diglycerides
  • chocolate
  • butter fat
  • Note that "creamed" or "toasted" may also indicate added fat


  • sucrose
  • maltose
  • lactose
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
  • glucose syrup
  • corn syrup
  • golden syrup
  • disaccharides
  • monosaccharide
  • polysaccharide
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • raw/ brown sugar
  • molasses
  • malt extract


  • wholewheat
  • bran
  • wheatbran
  • wholegrain
  • whatmeal
  • rolled oats

Source: Exact source unknown, as this is a list I have stumbled that my high teacher must have shared with the class and I. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

To make a living and make a life

Winston Churchill
"We make a living by what we get
but we make a life by what we give"

- Winston Churchill

That's true. While at times we can be lost in some of the ambitions and goals that we are encouraged by society to pursue (to earn a living), we should always remember that we do need to ensure we give back to others (to make a life worth living).

Everyone has their own story and journey. If you look deeper, you may find that the people you will meet may not always have the resources to seek dreams and ambitions. So I believe we should always look to share and help others where we can, so that they can have a chance at realising their personal goals.

Churchill's quote also reminds me of my favourite quote, that is:

"If we only do what is required of us we are slaves, the moment we do more we are free" - Cicero, Greek philosopher

You can read more about this quote, in my blog post on doing more to be free

Let's do some research

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" - Albert Einstein 

Very true, and this relates to us as well. Sometimes we think that we should leave researching to the professional researchers out there.

Rather research is not confined only for researchers and scientists in their research labs. We research in our everyday lives as well, only we call this learning; and we are always learning.

So go out there and do some research (learning) in your life. I am sure you will constantly be surprised at what you will discover in your life's research ;)

PS: This is just another way to view the word "research"

A world we have created on our own...

You always hear stories of someone struggling with stress in life, with the challenges that we each face in our everyday lives. But do we really need to be stressed and/ or depressed?

Get back on the horse and keep going
Some of these stories end with anxiousness, stress and even depression. Most of us have probably heard or know someone who has had depression. We may have even had it ourselves, and that's normal, however it's how we manage and get back from it that manners most. Just as the metaphor says if we fall off a horse seven times, we will get back up eight times.

Yet, through this all I wonder what it must have been like back in history, as far as the stone age.

Our basic human needs vs. What we have created for ourselves
When you think about this period, our ancestors main focus had been on the basic human needs. That is, food, shelter, family/ tribes/ communities, etc. (Refer to Maslow's hierarchy of human needs). There was no stress over are passing that exam, filling in your tax return each year, etc. Rather, it was ensuring that there was food available each day, a place to stay and weather oneself from the surroundings, and a family to feed and fend for.

I refer to what we see in our communities today as a layer that we have placed on top of our basic human needs. Where we may only see ourselves paper pushing, stressing, and thinking about things beyond the basic human needs. That's normal though, for once we have covered our basic needs that is when most (if not all) of us will start improving our standard of living in some way and/or at least have more comfort in the way we live our lives.

That's not to say this new layer is not good, rather we need to think about what truly manners and focus on what is important to us.

Additional thoughts:
This leads us into more questions, thus we can ponder that we do not have the answers to yet. That is, What is the role/ purpose in our lives? Are we finding there is something more to life than what we see each day? Is our role simple to reproduce and multiply? What does that mean in relation to the theory around the "Tragedy of commons"?

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Assorted quotes

For those looking for some inspiration for your week, here are some quotes for you. 

On your own efforts
"Skills open the door, then you must enter yourself". Anonymous
"Luck is the result of good planning". Anonymous
"The harder you work, the more luck you have." Anonymous
"Wisdom is not knowing what to do now, but what to do next". Anonymous
"Leave no stone unturned in your quest for knowledge". Anonymous
"Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday." Don Marquis, US humorist
"There are three words of success -- care, share and dare". Anonymous
"It is always easier to fight for your principles than to live up to them." Anonymous
"There is no 'chance', only 'choice'". Anonymous
"We make our future by the best use of the present". Anonymous
"What the mind can conceive, the heart can believe and the body can achieve." Anonymous
"The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra." Anonymous
"What I hear I forget, what I see I understand, what do I remember." Anonymous
"Let he that would move the world, first move himself." Socrates

On challenges
"Difficulties are stepping stones to success". Anonymous
"Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth times." James Michener
"In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Albert Einstein
"It does not require great strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide what to do." Elbert Hubbard

On others and you
"A friend is someone who accepts you the way you are". Anonymous
"You can't teach a person anything, you can only help them discover it themselves." Anonymous
"I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow." Woodrow Wilson
"Many are given advice but only the wise learn from it." Anonymous

On mind discovery 
"Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought " Albert Szent-Eyargyi.
"Minds are like parachutes, they only function when open." Thomas Dewar

On your actions than words
"Your actions, not your words, are what count." Anonymous
"Well done is better than well said." Anonymous

Getting to and around Pulau Ubin island in Singapore

There is more to Singapore than meets the eye...

A Pulau Ubin lake (former quarry)
Singapore has a few little islands used for different purposes (e.g., leisure, military, chemical/ energy and waste), however, there is one nice little island called, 'Pulau Ubin'. It's a less known island which is great for the adventurous type and those keen to explore, whether that's you prefer discovering a new place on foot or riding around on a bicycle.

So how do you get to Pulau Ubin?

There is only one way to get there and that's by bumboats. Bumboats operate from Changi Point Ferry Terminal from about 6am until about  8-9pm. So here's how to get to these bumboats and to Pulau Ubin.
Changi Point Ferry Terminal entry/ exit point
  1. First, find your way to Changi Point Ferry Terminal - This is about 3 minutes walk from the Changi Bus Interchange and Changi Village. There are no direct trains, but the closest MRT is either Tampines, Simei or Tanah Merah MRT. It'll take you 25-35 minutes on the bus from Tanah Merah MRT. If you're going by cab, they should know where it is if you tell them you want to go to "Changi Point Ferry Terminal" or "Pulau Ubin". This should cost roughly 10 dollars. Check to plot your route ;)
  2. Wait for a bumboat -  There is no need to bring your passport as there is no immigration clearance and custom checks are carried out on your way to the island. Here you just need to wait for a bumboat, where the bumboat operator is happy with the number of passengers joining the ride. Normally they will depart once there are 12 passengers. The fare is $2.50 SGD each way, $2.00 SGD for a bicycle. $30 if you want to charter a bumboat to yourself (that's 12 x $2.50 SGD as 12 passengers is the maximum that are legally allowed to take) 
  3. Depart on bumboat (ferry) - You will board and pay the bumboat operator. The journey to Pulau Ubin then normally takes 10-15 minutes. Please keep in mind that each bumboat is different, some have windows, some have a back area where you sit, etc. Just be prepared with a raincoat/ umbrella if it looks like it'll rain on the day.
  4. Arrive on Pulau Ubin - You're there. You can now look around and hire a bicycle, eat some seafood, visit the wetlands or one of the old quarries. You'll find some places at Pulau Ubin you can check out below.
    Pulau Ubin town area - where you can hire bikes and eat seafood
  5. Departing from Pulau Ubin - Once you're ready to head off. Just return back to the Pulau Ubin Ferry terminal (so follow the same process but in reverse). Once you reach the Singapore mainland, there will be some custom checks via a security scanner. 

What to do at Pulau Ubin?

Follow one of the walking/ cycling trails

There are trails from towards the east, west and north, with most folks heading westwards towards a wetland called, Chek Jawa Wetlands. 
Chek Jawa Wetlands boardwalk

Check out Chek Jawa Wetlands

The pathway there is flat at first, but do expect some steep hills up and down and to walk at times. When you do reach the main area before the wetlands entry you'll feel relieved and pleased, and may even play witness to a few wild hogs grunting about. The trail towards Chek Jawa is made of bitumen, while others are rougher pathways.

The Chek Jawa Wetlands park is only open from 8:30am to 6:00pm. Please also note that there is a bicycle bay where you'll need to park your bicycle. It's normally quite safe (as there is only one way off the island, i.e., via bumboat..) but just note where you have parked your bicycle for later.

You may also see some wild boars as I did - see quick video here

Hire a bicycle

When you arrive there are a few bicycle stores you can hire bicycles from. There are normal push bicycles and a dual seat bicycle (with two seats for two people). Prices range from $8-10 for a bicycle a day on normal weekends*.

View from a Pulau Ubin seafood restaurant 
*Public holidays it's much busier and it is more expensive to hire bicycles (Up to $15 SGD on public holidays). So aim to arrive before midday to secure a bicycle - otherwise bring your own to the island.

Eat some seafood, drink some coconuts
You can eat at one of the seafood restaurants. There are about 3-4 main restaurants on the island. There's also coconuts that are sold at mini marts in town and also at drink stores scattered around the island. Coconuts cost around $3.00-3.50 SGD each and seafood prices are similar to those at coffee shops in town. At last check, one restaurant was selling chilli crabs for $45.00 SGD a kilo.
Bumboat fares

Destination: Pulau Ubin, Singapore
Costs: $2.50 SGD per person, $2 SGD per bicycle for one way. 
Opening hours: 6:00am to 8:00pm (there may be further bumboats available after 9:00pm but please be wary of lower frequency)
Surroundings: Three-four seafood restaurants, one motel (Celestial resort motel), scattered drink stores, a mini mart, four bicycle hire stores

Photos: More photos of the island can be seen in this Facebook photo album.

If you like Pulau Ubin, you may also be interested in Sungei Buloh, Wetlands reserve (northwest of Singapore) 

Helpful websites:
Check to plot your route ;)

You can find a map of Pulau Ubin at:

Maps/ trails:
Pulau Ubin map from Singapore National Parks

  • Pulau Ubin map - you can download it a readable version of this from Singapore National Park map
  • Tree trail from Singapore National Park - Trees to be spotted along with a map

Updated: 07/02/2014 - Added Singapore National Park map links for easy reference

Updated: 21/08/2014 - Added video of wild boar on Pulau Ubin Island

Updated: 29/09/2015 - Revised version of this post can be found on my travel blog

Video of wild boar at Pulau Ubin
Getting to and around Sungei Buloh wetlands reserve

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Exam visualisation relaxation exercise

I am going through some old files and found something a former teacher shared me to help me during my school exams. It is a visualisation exercise that helps you relax.

Please read this first and see if you like it before visualising it, as it can be a bit confronting to start.

You imagine yourself in the water. It feels heavy with lots of pressure on you.

You can't breathe properly. You can't even move.Your body is full of water.

You can now feel that the water is going down slowly through your arms towards your finders and out.

The water does the same thing through your chest, stomach, legs and toes, and through your neck up towards your head and through your ears.

Each time you feel lighter and lighter and you can breathe much better. You can now feel the fresh air and energy in your body.

Your mind is clear and you can remember everything.

Pick me up poem for when your hopes are down

Just a poem shared with me a while ago that you may have already heard of, but it's always a good read when you may feel like your hopes are down.

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you are trudging seems all uphill;
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh;
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't quit. 

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns;
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won, had he struck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow;
You may well succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the Victor's cup!
And he learned too late, when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt.
And you never can tell how close you are
If may be near, when it seems afar.
So stick to the fight when you are hardest hit,
It is when things seem worst,


-Edgar A Guest

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lions Australia Day 2010 speech for the Lions Club

I presented at an Australia Day breakfast back in 2010. I thought it would be nice to share some of the key messages that  I shared that day with you. If you're reading this on Australia Day, I hope it inspires you a little more on Australia Day!

Australia Day speech - ‘Inspiring young individuals in Australia'

Greetings all,

I am Vu Long Tran, here representing the Altona Lions club and discussing to you all about ‘inspiring young individuals in Australia’ and it involves creating opportunities for them and through doing so hopefully inspiring each and every one of them.

I became involved in the community work that I do now because someone gave me an opportunity many years ago. I was probably 8 or 9 then, yet that day still stays in my memories as of the greatest days of my childhood.

This day was a fun day out at Luna Park which was organised by the Lions Club. Rides, food, drinks and even prizes were given out to myself and many others. I still remember the creepy skeleton from the scary ghost ride that frightened one of the other kids on my cart... It was no doubt an experience that I will cherish and remember forever, and I have...

As what those fellow Lions and I didn’t realise then was that I would I want come back years later to create an experience like that for others, and in this pursuit, I have volunteered with many community groups and created those opportunities for others to experience, including the Lions Club, YMCA, YVC (Hobsons Bay) Youth Voice Committee), etc.

So I ask each of you to think about how you too if you haven’t already done so might be able to inspire and create opportunities like mine for others, and perhaps one day you may find that they do may do the same as me and find volunteering as a great way to make a difference for those around us...even if you inspire one person, that one person can inspire so many others...a bit like a ripple effect...

Great opportunities
Now I know when my parents arrived here in twenty odd years ago they probably would not have envisioned me here standing before you all presenting this speech, nor did I.

As I see this as a great opportunity offered to me, in this land, this land that not only offer many opportunities to all the individuals within it, but welcomes each and every one of us - regardless of race, gender, etc.

I have seen and been given many great opportunities in my life and through my experiences and participation in various youth and community programs including those with the Lions Club, Rotary International, NAPCAN, YMCA, etc. where I have been able to see the strength and mateship within the people of Australia. And so, I would encourage all of you, particularly young individuals like myself to look for the many opportunities that are available to you and make the most of them as I have.

Taking a challenging and turning it into an opportunity
As sometimes being young, you can feel as though you may be powerless to do this and do that, when in fact, you can make a difference in this world.

You will no doubt encounter challenges in your life it is at times only through challenges, and turning these challenges into an opportunity that you able to seize the day. Even perceived failures can be seen as challenges and it is always something that can be overcome.

Transcend yourself
I believe Australia is a place, where as Hilary Clinton said in her speech at a university, where "people can forge an identity that transcends yourself and from that, you will find yourself". 


Ideas for Distribution and Communication Channels for your Youth Group

Here are some ideas that I would like to share that were a result of some youth work I believe will be useful starting point for anyone looking to work on a communications/ marketing plan for their group.

The example below is more for a youth group that is supported through a local Australian council, so please view and adapt it from how your group is organised and the main goal/ objective of your group.

So here are some ways to promote your group in your community. Use:

Traditional Media

  • Editorial in local newspapers
  • Interviews on youth radio or youth related programs on community radio
  • Editorial in school and community newsletters
  • Youth Services mailing lists (hard copy)
  • Channel 31 (cheaper channels) – other cable/TV
  • Outdoor real estate boards
  • Brochures in cafes etc

Electronic and Social Media

  • Information on Council Website
  • E-flier to all local Council workers
  • Llen newsletter
  • Arts & Culture e-flier
  • Information on Youth Related websites (eg Youth Central, info xchange/youth)
  • E-flier to electronic mailing lists and online networks
  • Information on youth agency websites
  • Facebook – update regularly, increase local ‘friends’, connect with other global, local, national youth committees/groups
  • Myspace - update regularly, increase local ‘friends’, connect with other global, local, national youth committees/groups
  • You-tube (and other social networking sites)
  • Online ‘TV’ sites – for events, arts, youth culture etc

Other Community Networks

  • All local community Youth groups (Recreation, Arts, Cultural etc)
  • Local Agencies (Baywest)
  • Local secondary schools
  • Tafe/Tertiary Institutions
  • General Community Groups (eg Rotary, Lions Club)
  • Youth Services in neighbouring councils
  • Cross promotion with Youth Foundations
  • Job Agencies/Youth Pathways
  • information to all holiday program participants, young people list(youth services)
  • e-flier to youth peak bodies (eg Foundation for Young Australians, Oxygen, YACVic etc)

Action Plan

  • Compile contact lists (both Youth Services and your group)
  • Make appointments/telephone calls
  • Media release (through Council & through your group)
  • Finalise Marketing Materials (your group, then Council approval)
  • Create online & printed versions (including e-flier, billboard, posters etc) & (if possible – short film/footage/promo)
  • Online overview for youth workers (paragraph for council website, youth orgs, other youth worker websites)
  • Online overview for young people (paragraph) for myspace, facebook, social networking sites, event sites etc etc
  • Distribution of all information to channels
  • Update information as needed – when more acts are booked etc

Finding that first graduate job

Finding that first graduate job, by Vu Long Tran*

So you’ve just graduated or about to graduate from your educational institution, whether that is from TAFE or uni, but where does that leave you now?

For most of us, we may be uncertain or unsure of exactly where or what we want to do, since we might have spent the last three to six years studying, although some of us may have been fortunate enough to have worked within the workforce in some capacity already. For those that haven’t it leaves us thinking of what skills, knowledge and experience we possess and looking at ways to find and obtain that perfect job that makes use of those in the best way possible.

Indeed, it’s a difficult decision trying to find out what it is that we should or could be doing, however as I have found when I was graduating, having a focused and structured approach can work well.

First of all, ensuring that your CV is all set to go is one of the first steps I took. Utilising your careers and advice centre at your TAFE or uni is the best place to start. It’s not only free (or at least should be) but they help you in other areas such as interviewing, writing cover letters etc. Everything you need to know to get that first job. I visited my careers centre at least half a dozen times to perfect my CV, and learnt from them how to create my own personalised CV – as everyone is different and has their own style for their CV as it represents you. It will provide all the information a prospective employer needs.

Secondly, you would need to identify your own needs and personal preferences and ‘know what you want and what is important to you’ as to where and what area you think you would like to work, these include:
  • Which company you would like to try work for (i.e. their business, values, mission, objectives)
  • Which industry the company will be in (e.g. private/public, education, mining, banking, etc)
  • Where you would like to work (e.g. in your current State or somewhere else in Australia, even overseas if that’s what you’re looking for)
  • What sort of roles, responsibilities and department would you like to work in?
  • What sort of training and professional development opportunities we want? (This includes graduate training programs, mentoring, buddies, etc.)
  • Do I live travelling? If so, how much travelling would I like?

You need to be realistic with what you do note as being important to you, and once you have listed everything you can think of, what I found it useful to rank these in order of preferences.

I personally ranked the roles and responsibility, training and type of company as something very important to me, in doing so, I didn’t mind moving interstate to work provided I was working in a role I’d enjoy and had the support and training to support me. Knowing that I was working for a organisation that benefited the community in some way was important to me also. For you, these preferences may differ.
Thirdly, once you’ve determined what it is you want, look to visit company websites, check out graduate and career resources such as the following:,, and  to help you identify information about various companies, industries, roles on offer, application deadlines, qualifications required, etc. Make a list of the companies you want to apply for keeping an eye out for deadlines.

Fourthly, apply, apply, apply, and make sure you tailor your CV and cover letters to each company you apply for. Be sure to keep a record of your job applications as you’ll be applying for many companies so you’ll need refer to that for when you progress to the next stage – the interview!

Different companies process applications in different ways and timeframes so you may need to wait or follow them up from time to time. Inevitability there will, as in my case, rejections from companies, but please don’t take it to heart. At times there may be only one or two positions available and someone else might be just that little bit more suited than you are. Seek to contact the company to try learn how you can improve or might do better next time, as more often than not they’ll offer you advice and tips that you’ll be able to use to help you score that next potential job.

The key is to be persistent and open-minded. I applied for over 20-30 jobs over a 6-7 month period before I finally got my first offer. But I’d say it was well worth the effort. The entire process gets you thinking about what it is about you that makes you ‘you’ (i.e. more self aware), and knowing more about your strengths and weaknesses which ultimately helps you to promote and sell yourself.

Good luck!

*I posted this a while ago on a Youth into Action website but that seems to be missing now, so I wanted to make sure that these tips don't go to waste. So here's a repost. This is tailored to Australians graduating but the information in terms of the approach should be applicable all around the world.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Five Jars Saving Concept

A concept was shared with me recently that may be useful to help you to conceptualise and group your income in a way to help you save for those important things in life. It is called the, "Five Jars Concept".

We all have our everyday expenses, your leisure/ entertainment, your holidays, education tuition fees, medical costs, etc. So the Five Jars Concept is based on grouping those expenses into "five" categories ("jars") to help you manage them. 
The five categories that were shared were:
  1. Domestic needs - everyday expenses
  2. Education - tuition fees, self-education, etc.
  3. Special purchases - a new tv, lounge set, etc.
  4. Leisure - holidays, nice fancy dinner, anniversary outing. 
  5. Untouchable/ investment/ medical/ protection - savings/ investment for the future, medical and travel insurance, income protection, etc.

So basically you would organise your income and expenses into these five areas and ensure that you always have money set aside for each category. That is, if you have been saving to go on holidays then once you have spent all the leisure funds for the year then you wait until you build it up again. All other funds will stay untouched as they have been allocated for other activities. 

And it's up to you what percentages you want to assign for each of these categories. One would also consider where you are in your life, if you're planning for children, a big holiday, etc. 

I would go the step further as well and even think about having more than one jar, but you'll be the best person to judge that for your personal situation. 

I hope by sharing this, this helps you think about how to organise and ensure you can save for those important things in your life. Enjoy! ;)

Success is achieving the goals that you have set

The other day I was at this seminar, talking about things and here there. One comment that particularly caught me was on the definition of success.

It's always been something on my mind, as my mind wonders between what I want to do in life, and what others are expecting me to do. Being successful in whatever I do, forms part of this. 

Success, was defined as: 
"achieving the goals that you have set."
So as long as I achieve the goals that I realistically set, I am successful. And it doesn't matter what other people say, I am successful as I have accomplished what I have set out to achieve. 

I was also reading over a book by Sarah Edelman, “Change your thinking” where she quotes from Dr Bob Montgomery, how sometimes we can be too harsh on ourselves that we won't admit to ourselves that we have done well. Sometimes it is the perfectionist traits we may have, but when we are able to accept that we can only do our best, given our available resources, we can be kinder to ourselves and feel successful more often.

This is summarises in  Dr Bob Montgomery's quote: 
Success is having ‘done your personal best at this stage, given your genes, past experiences and present situation’
So I will leave you to think about "what does success mean to you?" and whether you feel like you have personally achieved it - as I am sure you have; you just need to believe it yourself ;)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Average Singaporean income per month

What is the Average Singaporean income per month?

I went to a seminar today and was shared some rough figures on the average Singaporean income per month. I believe this was for 2012. I do not know how reliable these figures but thought it was interesting enough to note and share. Please do post if you can confirm any numbers shared in the seminar, you can do so anonymously if you wish.

From the general population (per household member):
  • 80.7% earns less than or up to 5,000 SGD a month
  • 13.8% earns 5,001 - 10,000 SGD a month
  • 5.5% earns 10,001 SGD a month*
  • Top 1% earns  50,001 SGD a month?
*The numbers shared to me does not specify where the remaining percentage fits (to total 100%), but I assume it is most likely where the 10,001 a month should end before we look at the 50,001 numbers.

Without spending too much time, to try quickly confirm the numbers a little I visited the Statistics Singapore website.
  • In 2012 Average and median monthly household income from work per household member among resident households (including employer CPF contributions) was:
  • $2,852 SGD *

Update 14th Sep 2013: Thanks Jonathan and Ryan. I have updated the first point to "80.7% earns less than or up to 5,000 SGD a month" from "80.7% earns 5,000 SGD a month". As with the 50,001 SGD a month figure, that was the figure quoted in the seminar - so to help make sense of it, I believe it refers to other income in addition to the standard monthly salary - i.e., income from investments such as shares, rental property, etc.

Update 6th Sep 2015: Here is a copy of the entry level incomes for graduates from HayGroup. This is an article published in 2014.
Average entry-level monthly salary in 2014 - Singapore

Uniquo Singapore retail apparel store pay ~1600 SGD a month, 6.70 SGD an hour

McDonalds Singapore fast food restaurant minimum pay salary ~5 SGD an hour

Related link/s:
My figures are hearsay as they were only quickly mentioned in a seminar, please find the following links that give you a more accurate and wider picture around the numbers.

*Statistics Singapore website under "Key Household Income Trends, 2012" and looking at the T8 tab -

Please feel free to share any other confirmation points if you have any.