Confessions of a job seeker

Confessions of a job seeker

Recently, I joined the crowd of job seekers out in the market. Looking to find a new home. A place to belong. Where I can make a difference.

For a long time, I struggled with the hunt. I looked at my skills and experiences and thought, “I’m an experienced marketer. I should know how to market myself in a way that makes me look like the next best thing since the iPad.” And, “I’m a copywriter who creates taglines and copy that sings. Words that paint pictures in heads with different images depending on what the communications goal is. I should know how to write to sell myself.”

None of those thoughts were particularly useful in building interview-getting CVs. And I wondered why. It was also getting demoralising spending hours crafting CVs and cover letters to fit the job and getting zilch in response.

A different perspective

Then recently, something clicked in head. A smidgen of an idea that grew in shape. I didn’t recognise it for what it was until my subconscious finished working it out. And then I started writing what I knew to be true for me. Writing it out in my head as I went about my day.

That something? I had worked out that I had to look at it from a different perspective. Recruiters and hiring managers probably weren’t ‘judging’ me thinking, “hah, this guy says he’s got writing skills to persuade and I ain’t persuaded” or “this guy’s a marketer and I don’t see how he’s marketing himself to me”. They would be just screening and thinking, “would he fit into my team and help achieve my goals?”

A puzzle to solve

When that mindset shift happened, something clicked about how I could approach this job hunting exercise. Each job description is a puzzle waiting for the right person with the right tools to crack it. If a job didn’t fit me then I just didn’t have the right tools (skills/experiences) at the time.

I imagine a puzzle like The Incredible Machine, a Rube Goldberg-like system where my skills/experiences are tools in the puzzle, and I need to find the right ones to achieve the result I want – which is to get my CV considered for the job.

And several job sites I’ve read talk about the right CV is whatever it takes to land the job, so don’t get so hung up on the how. I needed to focus on the ‘product’. Me.

A product to market – me

When I thought about how to market myself as product, my mind started thinking about the little word hooks I could use to arrest attention, even if it’s just for a second. I also thought about how I make my CV a story. A story of growth and challenge. A story about what drives me. What is my goal? What is my purpose?

Sure, I can write about my purpose being get a new challenge at a large company. But it wouldn’t be very interesting. And it wouldn’t be from the heart. My best writing, even if it’s not perfect on a technical level, comes from the heart. When words combine together to paint pictures from my imagination.

A thank you to you, dear reader

It’s not going to be the same thing for everyone. Even you, reading this. You might have a different way of approaching CV writing or a different way of landing other jobs. And that’s just fine. As long as you’re getting good results, why change for someone else?

But if you aren’t, like I was, a mindset shift could be just the thing to tip the scales and have recruiters think, “maybe I’ll read just a little bit longer”.

If this little post spoke to you, please share it. If it didn’t, well, thank you for reading this far anyway. As a writer, every word is precious. The fact that you read more than one word already causes invisible choirs to sing in my head.

It’s better than a ‘like’ on Facebook or YouTube.

Pinterest: Pinned on pinning

In 2012, I was asked my thoughts about Pinterest.

One of the things I believe still holds true five years later: “One of the tricky things about Pinterest is that you need to be a very visual person in order to take advantage of its potential”.

Below is the article in question:

Pinned on pinning.

Originally published in The Star on 8/9/2012.

Written by Lee Mei Li



Saturday September 8, 2012

Pinned on pinning


Pinterest, or virtual pinboards, is the latest trend to hit the social network – but what has it got that others don’t?

AS a child, Ben Silbermann was a collector of stamps, leaves and the occasional insect. Fast forward two decades and the political science graduate has become the CEO and co-founder of Pinterest.

What’s Pinterest, you ask? Well, it’s only the fastest growing social networking site in history, currently valued at US$1.5bil (RM4.69bil).

That’s pinterest-ing: Enthusiast Hemavathy Suppiah assures that the Pinterest appeal is not about collecting followers.That’s pinterest-ing: Enthusiast Hemavathy Suppiah assures that the Pinterest appeal is not about collecting followers.

The content-sharing service is essentially a “virtual pinboard” sparked off by the idea of helping people build collections online.

Members are given a space to showcase their interests, via images “pinned” off the web. Each “pin” is linked to related articles or web content.

The images can then be categorised under different boards, allowing other members to browse through them, “follow” selected boards, and “re-pin” an item or two if it strikes their fancy.

Once you have a Pinmarklet tab installed on your Internet browser, pinning literally becomes a one-click process.

Part of the Pinterest allure is perhaps the simplicity in letting one “curate” images and build an individual profile.

Up until last week, Pinterest took new users by invitation only, not that it stopped the site from garnering over 20 million monthly visitors since it was launched as a beta (test) product in March 2010.

Pinterest is not just for women. Feature writer Johnathan Sia hopped on the bandwagon last year and sees the site as a great sharing platform that aims to inspire.Pinterest is not just for women. Feature writer Johnathan Sia hopped on the bandwagon last year and sees the site as a great sharing platform that aims to inspire.

By April this year, Pinterest had become the third most-visited social network site after Facebook and Twitter, according to digital marketing firm Experian Marketing Services.

Facebook recorded more than seven billion total (US) visitors in March this year; Twitter had 182 million; and Pinterest, a whopping 104 million total visits. Trailing behind were LinkedIn, Google+, MySpace and Tumblr.

What’s interesting is that women seem to be the driving force behind Pinterest’s surge in popularity.

Reports reveal that the network comprises 60% female users, mostly between the ages of 25 and 44.

Even US First Lady Michelle Obama is on Pinterest, joining celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Ellen de Generes, Jessica Alba, and Martha Stewart.

The virtual board is often largely governed by pinned images of home décor, crafts, holidays, fashion and food.

Virtual scrapbooking

That’s precisely what got Nur Aziemah Azman, 25, hooked on Pinterest.

“I was creating a mood board on the computer just to add cheer to my office workspace sometime last year when a colleague happened to notice. She told me about Pinterest, sent me an invite, and from then on, I was hooked,” says the marketing and communications executive.

“I’ve always loved pretty pictures, and collaging is one of my favourite activities. Pinterest was an extension of this for me. There are great photos, all linked to a huge expanse of additional information.

Nur Aziemah Azman regards Pinterest as a clutter-free alternative to scrapbooking.Nur Aziemah Azman regards Pinterest as a clutter-free alternative to scrapbooking.

“There’s no longer a need to print things out, add to the clutter or risk losing them. Visiting Pinterest is like browsing through a mesh of all my favourite magazines for free,” she adds.

Nur Aziemah currently has 12 virtual pinboards to “curate” images with.

“I have one entitled ‘Making a home more homey: A wishlist”, where I collect ideas for my dream home.

“There’s also ‘Café inspirations’, featuring great interiors of restaurants and cafés or random stuff I hope to include when I open up my own café someday!” she enthuses.

“As they say: a picture paints a thousand words. So for me, Pinterest’s collection of images creates a more lasting impression compared to reading lines of text on Facebook or Twitter. It is less a platform to ‘talk’, and more of a way for me to develop my own interests. I like the aspect of discovering new things and learning from other people.”

Nur Aziemah is limited to pinning on the weekends.

“I’d probably be on it a lot more if the site was not blocked in the office!

“Ironicially, Pinterest has been a great source of inspiration for my work. and I feel that it has helped me to visually explain ideas better now,” she says.


To events organiser Hemavathy Suppiah, 30, Pinterest represents “a great patchwork of people and their interests”.

“Other social media sites seem to put an emphasis on the individual and their circle of friends, says the events organiser.

“Pinterest, on the other hand, is like a stream of virtual coffee-table books. It’s all about the aesthetics – how things look,” she adds.

A self-professed Pinterest “addict”, Hemavathy stumbled upon the site just last month, but has since collected over 2,156 pictures across 30 of her boards.

Some members have a massive following on Pinterest, with numbers amounting to over 900,000.

Hemavathy, who is content with the 16 she currently has, assures that the Pinterest appeal isn’t about “collecting” followers.

“I log on to Pinterest every day; sometimes several times a day. I’m always finding something I like, but I try to steer clear of controversial issues – such as sex, religion or politics.

“Basically, I joined Pinterest for myself, so I add pictures that I like looking at.”

For the guys

And the men, too, have joined the pack.

Feature writer Johnathan Sia hopped on the bandwagon at the end of last year.

“At first, I thought it would be a good place to start a virtual record of all the books I have. I like the fact that I can have a visual library of stuff I own – I tend to lose a fair bit of things by loaning them out and forgetting about them later.

“Soon after beginning my book catalogue, I realised it was also a great way to share my writing, especially every time an article of mine gets repinned.

“A few repins later, I was hooked. It also energised me to go back and edit some articles to pair them up with visually arresting images – much like how magazines would do them,” says the 34-year-old, who currently manages 10 pinboards.

“When I read an article that interests me, the ‘Pin It’ button is the first thing I aim for.

“A lot of my colleagues aren’t really sold on it and have felt it places too much emphasis on visuals related to fashion and the arts.

“One of the tricky things about Pinterest is that you need to be a very visual person in order to take advantage of its potential,” Sia opines.

Sia feels that Pinterest allows for an appreciation of third-party visuals in its entirety. But some would argue that the site is opening up a whole can of worms regarding copyright infringement.

The issue was first highlighted in a blog post by photographer and lawyer Kirsten Kowalski, who apparently shut down her account over concerns that Pinterest users could be sued for reposting images they did not own.

Sia, however, has a different take.

“I just don’t feel that anyone’s copyright is infringed through Pinterest. It’s simply a case of re-exposing existing materials to a different audience.

“It’s also a wonderful marketing opportunity for brands,” he adds.

Visual stimulation

Indeed, a survey by behavioural commerce company SteelHouse found that Pinterest users are 79% more likely to purchase items they saw pinned on Pinterest compared Facebook users.

However, critics and Facebook fans see Pinterest as being a visual rather than literary medium and lacks the conversations that build true customer relationships.

Sia is of the opinion that a Pinterest repin carries more value than a Facebook “like”.

“Since its inception, Pinterest has evolved into a social-shopping site that has enough potential to disrupt e-commerce as we know it.

“The prospect of shopping via Pinterest based on the recommendations of people whose opinions I value is pretty attractive,” he says.

Pinterest receives a referral fee or a portion of revenue over Pin-related purchases.

Grasping the opportunity offered by the new social network site, online marketplace Rakuten, dubbed the Amazon of Japan, led a US$100 million (RM313 million) investment in Pinterest earlier this year.

Sia feels that while the various social media strands become increasingly interconnected, each major network remains unique.

“They all serve different purposes and operate in different areas of the social media ecosystem. If I were to summarise them, I’d say: Facebook is a place to broadcast highlights of your life; Twitter is a place for general day-to-day musings; Instagram is your visual diary of the world around you; and Tumblr is a quick blogging option that caters for expressing yourself in the visual or written form.”

As for Pinterest, one would think that it speaks to the hoarders within us all – visually-stimulated individuals who are on an eternal quest to express ourselves through the things we own.

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On writing: One simple check for clearer messages

Over my time in the UK, I’ve been constantly surprised at how things like word order within a sentence don’t receive enough attention.

For example, this line –
There should be a couple of videos floating around of me singing.

would read totally differently if the words, “floating around” was shifted towards the end of the sentence: There should be a couple of videos of me singing floating around.

The first means videos of this are available from several sources:


While the second can mean a couple of videos of this: 

floating singer1

The lesson here?
Pay attention to what goes at the end of the sentence because more often than not, that’s what’s going to define the message:
[There should be] [a couple of videos] [floating around] [of me singing]

Try to think of a sentence as having several sections and you’ll be able to better see how they interact.

While both are largely correct, the second adds ambiguity – and when every second of attention is precious it’s an unnecessary, unwelcome complication.

Beauty and the Beast – a tale that inspires

Beauty and the Beast – a tale that inspires

There are tales within movies to be written, tales of the feelings they stir.

A seed planted.
An idea whispered.
An ideal put forth.

Each movie weaves a tale of it’s own through the work of scriptwriters, and honed again by the rest of the movie’s crew. There are films you watch through your life where they hold in you and either reinforce your beliefs, giving you firmer ground to stand on, or place ideas and principles in you.

One such movie for me was School Ties, a little known film starring Brandon Fraser and Matt Damon. A film about friendship. And how racism can tear apart bonds of friendship that were in fact the threads of acquaintance.

Now, that the fairly longish preamble is done, on to the rest of the piece. It was a fairly long one but I promise to get to the point. Beauty and the Beast. A film I watched in my childhood at the age of 12 but never held a place in my heart like The Little Mermaid.

This 2017 effort was a new experience for me and I find it easier relating to its characters now that I’ve aged a little, even, grown a little. The whimsical fancy that brought such joy through its music now takes on a new tinge through its characters and motivations.

Growing up as a bookworm, I’ve related strongly to Belle and the idea of being given an entire library as a gift would have been one of immeasurable value though there are analogies that may conjure up a suitable image. The image would be different for each of you reading this though – for it has to be something you deeply treasure personally. And each of us is different in what we value.

I value ideas. And I love films with heroic themes because they inspire more ideas. More ideals even. That strength of purpose is strongest when tempered with wisdom and honed with gentleness. Once you pair that with a clear vision, a single-minded goal to achieve – you get something quite unstoppable.

I’ve long been drawn to motivational themes in stories. They resonate in me long after the closing theme fades away. Sometimes, that tiny spark is all that’s needed to drive action.

Sitting here in front of my computer typing in these thoughts, I feel alive. Where words are tumbling out in droves and even being written in my head during the movie. This. This is what drives me – the composing of words wrapped together in a semblance of a tale, a poem, a thought.

Who would read this? My friends perhaps. Maybe even some acquaintances or connections. People who have passed by me in life or in cyberspace. Either way, I hope a sentence here or even just a word sparks something in you to do something positive. Something that makes a difference in your life or another’s.

I’m not sure if this would end up being a series of thoughts written out after each movie I watch but I know I write best from the heart. And that’s always at it’s most open at the end of a film.

For every film, no matter how poorly it may have been set up, has a story to tell.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. 

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. 

Cliched, yes. But cliches aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves. They communicate concepts quickly thanks to their level of ubiquitousness (Thank you spellchecker for that word…). For today, you, dear reader, know that I speak of another new beginning. Another chapter of my life.

One door closes another opens as they say.  In my case, I believe that windows too shall open far and wide – for me to take stock and drive myself towards where my heart is.

In times of great change, there is a special opportunity to look inward. To look within yourself and see with greater clarity then you ever have before. That can be a curse or a blessing – just like most things in life.

When something happens, you have an opportunity to sit back and wait for something good to come your way or to take life with an iron grip and take charge.

I choose to take charge.

London London – Parody of New York New York – updated for talent competition

In early November, I participated in a Deloitte UK talent competition with a parody I wrote some 7 years back when I was in Malaysia.


I originally wrote it when I was really desiring to come and life and work in the UK (that dream has since come true) and it was for an accounting event that the Big Four was supposed to have their social clubs participate in.

By the time the event rolled around, the social clubs of the other Big Four firms had all pulled out from participating and I was left to hold the flag and represent Deloitte Malaysia’s social club.

I can’t remember what the event was about but I do recall Dato Ng Yen Yen was attending when she was the Deputy Finance Minister.

The original lyrics are in this post – London, London (Parody of New York, New York)

Video of my performance in Deloitte UK’s Got Talent

Happily, one of the celebrity judges was Nina Wadia, one whom I grew up watching in Goodness Gracious Me.

Updated lyrics for the talent competition:
Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today
I’m gonna be a part of it, London, London.
My visa’s approved. Took less than a day. (phew!)
Coz I’ve already bought my flight, London, London.

I want to wake up in the city that’s cold and rainy (erm…)
And find I’m making big bucks! And all in pounds too.
These little city blues, they are melting away
But I’m leaving all my folks behind (sniff, sniff) London, London.
If I can, make it there, I might do better than, Tony Blair,
It’s up to you London, London.

London, London,
I’m going to buy some land, maybe some in East end.
And hope my returns will double, tax exempted, audited too,
then I’ll know I’ve made it too

These little city blues, they are melting away
But I’m still leaving all my folks behind, in ol’ London,
And, if I can make it there, I might be bigger than,
David Beckham’s hair.

It’s up to you, London, London, London

Words (c) 2016 Johnathan Sia

Struggle and hope: A poem (Working title)


Written for a colleague:

Struggle and hope: A poem (Working title)

When darkness flows all around,
When dim is sight and sound,
All it takes to break the night,
A single candle, set alight.

Silver linings in dark clouds above,
Diamonds in gritty coal below,
From great strife can come great life,
Like a bird’s struggle before first flight.

Johnathan Sia (C) 2016