The Dilemma of My Career

I often feel that I am a faux. I have chosen a career as a civil servant as part of the organisation’s mission to promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore. I am supposed to help facilitate bonding and building of friendships among the residents and thus build up the resilience of the community; yet I struggle to build up a network of friends of my own as I more introvert in nature.

I am painfully aware that I am not as sociable  as my colleagues, nor as tactful in handling crisis and conflicts, and thus often falter in my work performance. Sometimes, I wonder if I am a liability to my team of colleagues, especially during the times I had an emotional breakdown.

Thus, I often count my blessings, fortunate that my colleagues were extremely understanding to my weaknesses, flaws and idiosyncrasies. They gave me a sense of belonging, by accepting who I am, assisting me in my areas of limitation and recognising my strengths.

I have been with my current employer and team of colleagues for about three and a half years, since August 2011. There is a growing restlessness within myself, itching for a change in my career, as I question the sense of ‘meaning’ of my role and work.

The opportunity costs of devoting my and energy to my career, include the leisurely pursuits to read, blog, self expression in drawings and time for introspection. There was little time for ‘myself’.

The effects of overworking exact it toll on my health, especially on my mental wellness. I associated my sense of self worth to my work performance, and blamed myself excessively when I struggled with my inability to multi-task effectively and my perceived incompetence during my period of exhaustion, resulting in a downward spiral to depression.

While I have gotten back on my feet now, I start to feel ‘bored’ with my job and wonder if it is time to move on.

I wish to acquire new skills and expand my horizons, rather than stick to data entry or conform to bureaucratic rules. I wish I have more autonomy to improve the productivity and effectiveness of my work, or chance to experience, rather than follow tried formulas or chasing after administration datelines.

Notwithstanding my weaker emotional intelligence, I hope that I can contribute more to my career and the community at large. My alternative skills such as video editing, design aesthetics, intermediate skills in Microsoft Excel and data processing (although rudimentary), have been helpful. But I wish to advance my skill sets in these area further.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to have a database to manage the disparate sets of data? Wouldn’t it be better if we can explore machines or technology to automate mundane but essential tasks? How can I boost our marketing channels and communication to reach out to the residents about the social services we provide?

While my organisation like to send me to attend courses, as part of the government’s initiative to promote continuous learning, I find it irrelevant and not applicable to my learning needs in performing better at my job or serving the constituency. It is hard for me to devote time to self learn new skills from books, when I feel bogged down with work… (Feels like a branch of excuses, haha)

Que Sera Sera, Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not our to see. May I focus on my pursuit to improve myself constantly, and do the best in my abilities.

Heralding a Post LKY Singapore

I wrote ‘Singapore, without LKY, What will my future Be? on 6 June 2009.

The inevitable had became a reality. Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March 2015 at the age of 91 years old.

Death is sobering. It reminded us of our mortality and that life is transient.

There was an outpouring of grief and tributes from people of all walks of life and nationalities during the week of state mourning. We began to grasp the extend of Mr Lee’s impact upon his death, as we piece anecdotes from people to learn more about this man – as a husband, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a political leader, a mentor, and a boss – and remember him by.

For so long, many Singaporeans, like myself, have take the prosperity, peace, and beauty of Singapore for granted. It is a luxury to do.

The accomplishments of the pioneers of Singapore, and the hardships they faced, had faded with time. Mr Lee’s death sparked a new awakening of our national identity and appreciation of our history, as the media bombarded us with stories and historic recordings which encapsulated the Mr Lee’s achievements, and together with his comrades, in charting a sustainable history for Singapore.

Lives goes on. Mr Lee’s lifelong passion in guarding the future of Singapore imbued a sense of pride, patriotism and the mission in us to steward Singapore to greater heights.

PS: I am sharing the vide, ‘I wish I could Miss you, Mr Lee’, as I thought it is one of the poignant tributes to Mr Lee Kuan Yew which reflects the sentiments of the younger generation

I Wish I Could Miss You, Mr Lee from Zo Fan on Vimeo.

Fundraising for Charities


Following the lawyer’s letter to remove my original post ” ***** and Fundraising for Charities” in October 2011, I am re-posting the content with general information to avoid the accusation of “defamation”and “confidentiality” issues as I believe that such information is scarce on the Internet.

(Disclaimer: Please note that the original post was published in 2010, and I had not been keeping abreast with development of charity fundraising. The information is still relevant as I still see people asking for peoples to make monthly donations to the charities organisation in Singapore; but I am not sure whether transparency of such practices had been improved.)

Continue reading

What is in a Job?

I was reading the book written by R. William Holland, ‘Are There Any Good Jobs Left? Career Management in the Age of the Age of Disposable Worker’ and it struck me on the accuracy and poignancy of his observations.

As we pore through the news, we will notice that job creation is one of the foremost priorities for many governments around the world. With high sustained unemployment rates, people will eventually lose faith in the government and thus lead to political and social upheaval – as seen in Europe.

This got me thinking: What is in a job? Why are jobs so important?

According to, a job is defined as employees performing and accomplishing quantifiable duties, responsibilities and tasks in exchange for a salary. It added that beyond this perspective, jobs are especially important for us as we identify ourselves through our occupations, and our unique contributions to the organisation and society (, N.D.).

Below are some of the memorable quotes from the Holland’s Book.

One feature of a good job relates to the continuity of work and its associated income. It allows us to do things such as take on long-term debt. How much debt as well as the length of the debt obligations is often a function of monthly cash flow. Interruptions to a person’s income can easily interrupt access to the Dream (Holland, 2006, p.43).

We believe education is a ticket for admission to a good job – one with security of employment, health care benefits, career development, and a pension programme for retirement (Holland, 2006, p.4). Access to good jobs is a key motivator behind educating ourselves and our children. We structure our debts and dreams through our jobs (Holland, 2006, p.45).

The price of the admission ticket to good jobs has steadily risen while what we are getting for a return is less certain than before (Holland, 2006, p.4) How we prepare ourselves as a society and as individuals to deal with these changes, will have a dramatic impact on the quality of our lives.

The availability of job will ebb and flow depending on forces in the market place, including technology and concerns about efficiency (Holland, 2006, p.12). When companies are free to move jobs to their most rational economic locations, those who held those jobs become part of the labour pool in need of redeployment (Holland, 2006, p.12).

For the economist, workforce redeployment is looked upon as an engine for economic development as workers migrate to other jobs and companies reinvest to get better returns on capital (Holland, 2006, p.12). For individual workers, redeployment can be a source of economic demise because their jobs move elsewhere or disappear altogether (Holland, 2006, p.12).

There is no benign mechanism that redeploys workers on an as-needed basis. Indeed, people are left to fend for themselves, and there is no assurance they will share in any of the economic benefits workforce redeployment generates for society as a whole (Holland, 2006, p.12). In this sense, workers become disposable (Holland, 2006, p.12).

There was a time when our careers or occupational choices were prescribed by what our fathers did. Sons of farmers became farmers and their daughters became farmers’ wives. Later, greater access to education gave men, and then women, access to jobs unavailable to their fathers a generation later. Still later it became common for people to have several jobs during the course of a career and more than one career in the course of a lifetime. But it is a freedom bringing an unprecedented set of anxieties and insecurities. In this context, personal freedom and security can be at odds with one another (Holland, 2006, p.12).

While it has never been quite this cut-and-dried, it does seem fair to say that whatever post- World War II job security existed has given way to a more complicated reality (Holland, 2006, p.12). The expectation today is that we will be free (forced) to change both jobs and careers (Holland, 2006, p.12). Consequently, we are facing levels of complexity unknown just a few generations ago (Holland, 2006, p.12).  At the same time, what we do for a living (and whom we do it for) continues to play an important role in our self esteem. Our occupational choices feed our egos and affect how others view us (Holland, 2006, p.12).

But if having a job of which we are proud is important, losing that job can be devastating. Being let go/ fired is often viewed as a threat to our sense of personal worth and value, as it tends to invalidate everything we know and believe about ourselves. “I was laid off,” the reasoning goes, “so what I thought about myself is not true. My personal effectiveness with people – the value I bring to my organization and my peers and the esteem with which I am held in the community – must be less than I thought or they would have laid off somebody else.” (Hollang, 2006, p.13)

These insecurities and anxieties are the other side of workforce redeployment and why being let go feels a lot more personal than it actually is. And, as it turns out, finding the right replacement job is trickier today than ever before, adding complexity to the lives of so many people. (Holland, 2006, p.13)

However, with a increased pool of educated workforce worldwide, more companies have the bargaining power to decide who to hire in order to maximise profits. The decision to hire or fire or retrench on the basis of the bottom line, had transformed the mutual relationship between employers and employees transactional. From the business perspective, a huge pool of people are objectified and thus viewed as a factor of production and thus an aspect of variable costs to be controlled in response to the market conditions. Below are exerpts from Holland’s book.

A flexible workforce is one that can be redeployed to other high-end jobs created as a result of the global economy (Holland, 2006, p.48). For now, the number of jobs going offshore are more than offset by the numbers of jobs being created as companies put their capital to different and more profitable uses. The jobs that go away come back in the form of jobs requiring higher levels of skill, and with the creation of greater value than those that left (Holland, 2006, p.48).

At all times, companies will be what they have always been, self interested economic entities determined to survive. Survival will require them to provide goods and services in some combination of quality and cost better than their competition. That is the context in which jobs exists today. How well of us are treated will be, as it always has been, contingent on the perceived value we create. Immediately following World War II, a college degree was the passport to the perception of being able to create value and land a good job. Perhaps for the first time in modern history, value creation has to be more real than apparent. Where one went to school will be less important than what that employee brings to the table. We are entering an age in which we can no longer afford our prejudices (Holland, 2006, p.79).

The difference between the low income worker and the middle class manager lies in their career opportunities and the means they earn a living. Beyond that, both are groups of people likely to feel financial hardship should their jobs cease. Only the Rich, with passive income, can afford to disregard the pressures of the labour market faced by majority of the population.


Job (N.D). [Online]. Availale on: [Accessed 1 September 2012].

Holland, R.W., (2006). Are There Any Good Jobs Left? Career Management in the Age of the Age of Disposable Worker. Praeger Publishers: USA

AFP. (2012). Young South Koreans face jobless woes with ‘graduate glut’. The Straits Time. 27 August 2012.

Devie, S. (2012). Economy can support more graduates: Government. The Straits Time. 29 August 2012. [Online] Available on [Accessed 1 September 2012]

A Start

Work is consuming most parts of my awakening life, since I started work as a civil servant a year ago. The luxury of having time for myself become scarce – and the hobbies I used to enjoy (drawing and blogging) became less important and thus infrequent.

One year on, with a bit of work experience, it becomes more manageable to squeeze in more time to do what I want. But to maintain a strict discipline to engage myself in my hobbies on a regular interval is still a tall order – after all it is easier to slip into my comfort zone and indulge in passive leisures like watching online videos, tv and etc to whittle time away.

This entry is a start after an almost year long hiatus from blogging

Civil Suit

I was served a lawyers letter and had to remove one of my blog post for the following civil suit – 1) unauthorised use of CONFIDENTIAL information and 2) Publication which is DEFAMATORY  in nature.

I had taken down my blog post. The content had been about the private fundraising for charities in Singapore – and street fundraisers seeking donations through the public owning creding cards with the “Direct Debit Donor Programme (DDDP)”

Confidential? I am not sure if I had breached it by raising the issue on my blog. I wrote it as I thought there was a void in relevant subject  matter on the internet, and there is immense public interest in it – people are concerned where their donations goes; how charities outsource their fundraising function, and how these company recruit people to solicit donations in the street.

Defamation? It is the communication/ publication of a false claim that caused the person/ organisation defamed to be cast in a negative light (Wikipedia,  2011). I was in disbelief – I tried to write as factually and neutral as possible, referencing to other sources of information. I know that online, my particular post had attracted a wide number of readers, but  I doubt I had been able to exert influence others to react negatively to the organisations mentioned in the blog. I admit that the comments left by anonymous readers on my post can be caustic and negative, and thus defamatory. By neglecting to remove the comments, I had made myself liable.

It is a shame that I am prohibited to blog about the subject matter. :-( I did not bother to fight back, or rebel against the unfair lawyers’ letter against myself as I am preoccupied with my work and do not want to jeopardise my career.

Nonetheless, I am deeply interested in how charities bodies runs, and its sensitive relationship to its various stakeholders – the donors, the volunteers, management, the public and the beneficiaries.


LOD to Tan Ying Wei dated 13 October 2011


TanYingWei_LOD from Lawyer


Wikipedia (2011). Defamation. [Online}. Available on: (Viewed on 6 November 2011)


I had been my current organisation for the 2 month, and was sent for induction from 15the to 23th September 2011. Prior to the induction, I dreaded it and had irrational fears . I had rather low expectations, especially since I do not know anyone. Going for “Outdoor Adventure” is not my idea of fun.

The first part of the induction was “team building” at Outward Bound School (OBS), on Pulau Ubin island.

There was 45 inductees in this cohort. Initially, I was skeptical how we can break the ice and form lasting camaraderie. Besides, I am not particularly extrovert nor enjoy going around networking to advance my personal interest.

We were divided in 3 groups, and I belonged to the Sheares Team, of 14 participants. Our OBS instructor in charge, Mr Steven, was a great facilitator as he helped to break the ice between us with simple and effective games.

A summary of the 2 days 1 night OBS camp’s event – Planks Reassembling Game, Group Crossing on Planks & Bricks, Obstacle Climbing, Group Discussion, Night Walk, Exercise, Kayaking, Relay Race, and ending with a reflection session. This is probably a standard fare for every induction program, but it made a lasting impression on the inductees who came and experienced it for the first time. Away from the bustle and the stress of our work, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we focused on learning more about our new friends and camp mates.

The induction at OBS was followed by a five day camp at the National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI). There were four days of theoretical learning about the different functions, departments and divisions within the organisation; inculcating us with the values, mission and culture of the organisation. Certain “corporate” buzzwords were emphasized repeatedly.

On the last day at NACLI, we were tasked to present proposals to the senior management and have a dialogue and lunch with them to clarify any doubts and misunderstandings.

In general, I am agreeable to the robustness of this induction program as it created a strong network among other new colleagues who came from different spectrum and divisions withing the organisation itself, which we would otherwise have no affinity to meet. The company has 2,500 staff, and most of them to me, are still faceless strangers.

The induction was over, and life/ work goes on as usual. At least for now, I know about 45 “comrades” working together, and who my “bosses” are. It is harder to for the inductees of the same cohort to meet up regularly due to work commitments, and it will take sheer will for us to sustain the friendship. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is a process…”