3 – Steps to Land Your Perfect Job; An Employer’s Perspective

One of the more basic questions I always get asked is “whether or not qualifications is the most important aspect of hiring or finding a “job-fit””. For the most part, senior managers would tell you that “attitude is more important than qualifications”; this however is a rather shortsighted answer as we all know that only qualified applicants make it the top of the heap especially when it comes to mission-critical posts. The quick answer is to say that you need both the qualifications and the right attitude to get the job. Qualifications are almost always one of the barest requirements. However, with that said, you cannot get hired on the basis of your CV alone, nor can you get hired where all you can bring is your positive attitude. You obviously need both, and it gets a bit more complex than that. Nonetheless, you must have a strategy to punch your way to the top.

At the higher levels where the supposed crème de la crème gets vetted for positions, the supply side (applicants) would have already been strategically positioned for the post and there are strategies on how to get there. Here are a few factors that I’ve seen come into play when shopping for the best talents:


Being connected with the right people and networks is the best way to get a leg-up on a career.

• Network: It is often said that a “break” is attributed to being at “The Right Place at the Right Time”. But there’s more to it than just “luck”. What is more important is being with the right people under the right circumstances and it sometimes takes a strategy to get there. Find a mentor that could show you the ropes and perhaps even offer some introductions and recommendations.
• Birds of the Same Feather: Surround yourself with performance driven people and not the opposite. We are often also known according to our associations. If you want to make a career in a specific domain, then you also have to be within those circles that matter.
• Flirting with the Secretary: I am not saying this literally at all, but you also need to be street smart when your CV is just one among the huge pile of resumes. Come in early to get acquainted with your surroundings. Get some background information about the company and your possible boss before the interview and make sure the interviewer knows that you have arrived. Yes, be friendly but also be authentic.


• Put your name on it: More than where you’ve worked and where you went to school, employers are much more interested in what you’ve actually accomplished. Publications and awards help.
• Enlarge your digital footprint: Use internet to your advantage. Associate yourself based on things that could improve your reputation and career. Let people know what you believe in, and what your values stand for. It’s common knowledge that employers will search for you on the internet to get some background, so you might as well use it to your advantage. I once got a shock when someone practically revealed that he stalked my accounts when I gave a talk on Strategic Planning. He started a conversation by talking about my hobbies only to reveal that he saw one of my online posts on cycling. Creepy, but I guess people do it all the time (including employers).

CLOSING THE DEAL (Negotiating)

• Find a subtle leverage: Give your prospective employer an idea that they are one of your options. Give them a clue as to who you have been speaking to, ideally an important account where you have connections or perhaps even competition. Give them an impression that you want to be significant in your industry. Be ethical! Leverage your value by knowing the talent market but never divulge confidential information!
• Solve a Problem: Be familiar with the industry and where their company is positioned and trade your possible contribution to the enterprise.


As I said, the question is more often more complex than just a matter of qualifications versus attitudes. You simply need to have both when you’re trying to move up in the game. What matters most is not just having the skill and the attitude for the job but rather the right mindset and acumen to fit into an organisation.

But even with the right skills, attitude and strategies to get into the organisation, if you are not a fit into their culture and strategy, then you shouldn’t really force it. Doing so might make yourself less marketable. Do your research and ask around! It is never all about you to begin with.

These factors come fresh in my mind as I have just finished doing an interview with someone who according to the resume could be the perfect fit. Only to find out after numerous exchanges over email that his communication skills need work and his attitude needs a bit of adjustment. Between him and a more personable and respectful candidate with similar qualifications, it’s easy to think that I’d go for the latter. Come to think of it, there are others like him in the pile and employers shouldn’t make decisions in a rush to fill out a post. The commitment entails both a legal and social contract.

It may seem too basic at this point but finding the “right-fit” given all the prerequisites just boils down to the question of whether or not I could work with this person or with my team? How well could this candidate relate with the rest of our stakeholders? Every employer has a mental model of that perfect someone who can fit into the glass shoe. Could you actually be that cinderella remains to be seen. In the meantime it pays to do some research, get grounded and play your cards well. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in that moment of truth in which case, if the shoe fits, then wear it! Congratulations!


Life’s Litmus Test is Your Health! Lessons From Failing the Executive Check-up

Social Media must be one of the greatest market places for jealousy! People are posting up pictures of their latest acquisitions from clothes to cars while “checking-in” in the fanciest restaurants and coffee shops. People seem so busy while having the time of their lives! Those we compare with ourselves with could always afford to travel, go on fantastic vacations and splurge. The old mantra of “work hard / play hard” still applies and the more successful ones it seems are those that take them to the very limits. But, who’s really to say? Who holds the scorecards in these games?

I work in an industry where working through the weekends, spending long nights at the office and being a slave to work and clients is considered a badge of honour! At one point I worked 28 days a month: all of which were billable. My wife took me to the hangar on a Monday, I flew off on a private plane to work and came back on a chartered flight at the end of the week just to repeat the process the week after. Surely, I took photos of myself and my ride. But I also missed out on important dates. The time I had to give my teenage son “the talk” was already too late!

I complained about qualifying for the top tax bracket (32% in the Philippines) only on my first quarter’s billing but really just to brag about it too! In the end, what did I really have? Maybe I had a nice 42mm watch but not enough time to measure it with! Irony!

Our idea of success is flawed! We are much more concerned about how we arrive at the reunions rather than connecting with the people around us. We spend a lot of time on social media putting our best foot forward without having time to invest in real relationships. The ironies of our lives are apparent in how we spend it. We spend a lot of time at work at high costs under a justification of improving our quality of life when life quality only diminishes with more time we spend at work. On my drive to work this morning, my wife and I were discussing the purchase of a full-sized SUV so that we could use it for road-trips only to realise that most of the driving that we actually do is to work and back. The last time we went on a road trip was last December. We didn’t even have to use our own cars. Much of our decisions if we aren’t careful are based on what we “want” to do, rather than what we actually do.

The 10th commandment reads:

“You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbour’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.”

Behavioural Economist Dan Ariely in his book “Predictably Irrational” cited the principle of “relativity”. In most things people are less aware of the absolute value of things rather than its relative value. It is easy for us to approximate the value of things when they are compared with something else as a reference. I live in a “relatively” upper-middle-class gated community where people have an average of 2.5 cars and 2 maids. Everyone sends their kids to private schools and eats out at least once a week. “Relatively” speaking, I guess we are “Just OK”! In absolute terms however, the Philippines’ National Statistical Coordination Board would classify us to be within the top 9% within a country of 100 million people. Qualitatively speaking from the first person, we cannot fathom to say that we are rich. It all depends on who you’re looking at, and apparently we are comparing ourselves with our neighbour!
If we moved up the hill from where we are, I’d probably say that the Volvo is not even close to good as my neighbour’s Cayenne! Perhaps he’s more successful than I, and I’ve been doing it all wrong all of these years. It’s as ridiculous as competing about who has the biggest heap of trash or perhaps who has more skeletons in the closet. Relativity and comparison get us locked into stupid competitions. The social-media is of no help to balance either.

One tragedy that turned out to be a blessing was when I failed the stress test in the beginning of 2013. Your health is apparently the best litmus test to life. We spend so much time making money at work only to realise later on that we’ll be spending more on corrective healthcare. The more time I spent at work, the less energy and fitness I had. Your body starts going on a spiral of diminishing returns or outputs. Somewhere down the line the irony of working too much will actually diminish your ability to make more money. That’s if your career does not kill you first (literally)! Many executives have fallen on that path, sometimes literally on a treadmill.

As I’ve written before in an article called “Fit for Work”

“Time is inelastic, while energy is!”

So if you wanted to find a Litmus Test to life, look no further than the executive check-up. Just as a literal Litmus Test would indicate acidity, so does a blood exam tell you your level of toxicity. What is material success if you are running out of time to enjoy it? What is a Patek on your wrist if you haven’t the time to be on time?

Spock was wise in saying: “Live Long and Prosper!” It should be kept in that order. We tend to focus too much on prospering before living without thinking that the former is more important than the latter. It is certainly easier said than done, but we all have to walk that tight rope sometimes with a dozen things in hand. What’s important is keeping along the direction of the True North, a direction towards a fuller life without having to take too many confusing detours. Live for the weekend! Savour the moment and let that adjust your targets.

Chipping Away at Success

Does it ever feel like your life is going nowhere? Do you ever feel like you’re just going around in circles without making any progress in your life?

Perhaps the problem is that we tend to see ourselves in extreme generalities living with a clouded illusion that we’ll reach that “One Day” where we’ll wake up sailing away into the mediterranean sunset with a cold drink in one hand, and the love of our life enclasped in another. If this sounds like a dream, then perhaps it is and nothing more than that unless we “work at it”.

Not saying that all dreams are impossible. I’m just saying that we usually don’t wake up to find that we are successful. It takes a lot of perseverance and the general condition of success is actually composed of numerous goals achieved.

A month ago I found myself in my client’s car where he wanted to make a huge withdrawal that almost closed the bank! He was going away for a tour to Europe while I was left in charge of the project while he was away. We were accompanied by his brother who proceeded to talk about wanting to buy a Ferrari just to start a conversation. He turned to me and asked: “John, don’t you have a dream?” I simply said: “Of course I do! I mean, of course having a Ferrari would be nice but don’t you also think that having a tree is better than having its fruit? I’m working on planting that tree right now!”

Many people tend to have a flawed perception of success or work for that matter. The TGIF culture espouses the belief we need to get away from work to enjoy ourselves. I personally think that this should not be the case. Work is a blessing and an opportunity to live out our life’s purpose; which should be at most times greater than ourselves. Even on a busy Monday, people want to find an escape sometimes resorting to social media for some virtual interaction.

Work is not a prison! However, even if breaking out of work is your idea of success, then you should look no further than Prison Break movies one of them being “The Great Escape”. Sometimes based on real stories, you’d be amazed to find that most of these great escapes are done by digging tunnels underground; sometimes with nothing more than improvised spoons! The point I’m making is that even if your goal was simply to break out of prison, you would realise that getting success obviously takes a lot of work.

Last Monday, my wife and I were blessed to have been given free tickets to a John Maxwell leadership seminar. In his lecture he explained one of the laws of leadership called the “Law of Consistency”. He gave an illustration of how this law works by giving an analogy. He says that success is like taking an ax, swinging the same ax 5 times at the same point, stopping and repeating the same process every day. You will not chop down that tree in one day; but if we kept taking 5 swings at it everyday without quitting, then the tree will eventually fall.

John Maxwell caps the Law of Consistency by explaining:

“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”

President Obama in one of his speeches in revival of the American dream said something like: It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or White, Asian or Hispanic , etc., as long as you’re willing to work hard, you can make it. So apparently success (ironically for some) takes a lot of “work”.

Another question about life and success is whether it’s a sprint or a marathon. While I tend to work in series of sprints, you’d one day realise that putting all these sprints together could make up for a full marathon. Incidentally a full work week is equated to 40 hours and that a full marathon is roughly 42 kilometres. It is impossible for us to work for 42 hours straight effectively without sleep but it’s certainly more tractable to put in our 8 hours over five days. The same goes in preparing for a marathon. We usually need to put in a series of sprint distances of 10 kms to prepare us for a “Full Mary”. Running sprint distances in the world of endurance sports is fondly referred to as “The Possible Dream”, but once we’ve had a taste of this accomplishment we tend to get hooked towards achieving the bigger goal. The important thing about running in sprints is that it needs to be connected towards a bigger goal rather than the sprint itself. Can’t we say the same about work? Have patience.

One thing I need to emphasise is there is no quick formula to success. Meaning, you can’t sprint your way to your goal. I remember getting stuck in filling out a 250 word essay about success in the 9th grade. There I said that school was a step towards success and that my whole time of being in school as much as I hated it was about taking these small but important steps. Mrs. Mercado who was my English teacher seemed so proud about that essay that she told my dad about it in a dinner party. Looking back, it took me an hour to write 250 words! That seems pretty pathetic by today’s standards where I write about 1000 in an hour and a half! That was almost 30 years ago and I’ve kept on writing since then. I once wrote a short story in 48 hours which got me an A+ in college and here I am still typing away on a Sunday. If my goal was to write a book someday, at least I had a head-start 30 years ago! Thank you Mrs. Mercado.

Filipina Iron-woman and coach Ani De Leon – Brown says that winning a triathlon isn’t about who can go the fastest but rather who slows down the least! Again it’s all about consistency! It’s about perseverance! It’s about having a goal and racing towards it even if you had to do it one day at a time.

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Dies at 55

Wow! I better get myself checked too!


Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata died Saturday due to a bile duct growth, the company announced Sunday.

Iwata, 55, was appointed president of the gaming company in 2002, overseeing the launch of the hugely successful Wii console, the Nintendo DS handheld and its line of Amiibo interactive figurines.

In March, he spoke to TIME about the company’s plans to move into the smartphone gaming market.

When he replaced longtime president Hiroshi Yamauchi, Iwata became only the fourth president in the history of the company and the first from outside the Yamauchi family.

Read Next:Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Vibrant for the Next 125 Years

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Five Ways to Manage Conflict Before It Manages You

Leading with Trust

Conflict gets a bad rap. Most people tend to view conflict as a bad thing, automatically assuming it has to be an adversarial win or lose situation. The reality is that conflict is inevitable in relationships and it isn’t inherently a negative thing. It depends if you choose to manage the conflict or let the conflict manage you.

I’m a fan of the Thomas Kilmann model of conflict management because of its dispassionate approach to the topic and the practical strategies it offers for its followers. Kilmann defines conflict as any situation where your concerns or desires differ from those of another person. That can be as simple as deciding where to go for dinner with your spouse to something as complex as brokering the details of a huge corporate merger.

According to Kilmann’s model there are five basic modes of handling conflict that result from the amount of assertiveness…

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The Games that WE Play: A reflection on the Upcoming SEA Games and what they do to us.

As Published in The Star Malaysia

As anyone could imagine Singapore is now bracing itself for the upcoming 28th Southeast Asian Games this coming June 05 – 16, 2015. The multi-day event will host 7000 athletes from 11 countries in the region. The number does not account for the expected spectators and perhaps many more who are affected by the logistics and economic impact of the event. While the event could be seen as a mini version of the Olympics, the impact of the games we play deserves a deeper understanding into how it affects all of us and our mindsets way past the event.

The history of the original Olympics goes as far back as ancient Greece in 8th Century B.C.. The games were supposedly played in Olympia in homage to Zeus but was later banned in 393 A.D. by the Christian Roman emperor Theodosius. It was not until the 1896 when the first “modern” Olympics was held again in Athens with 280 participants from 13 nations and was later held in different host countries every four years. The last one being held in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

The SEA games or what was known back in 1958 as the Southeast Asian Peninsula (SEAP) games came as an offshoot of the Asian Games in Japan when then Vice-President of the Thailand Olympic Committee Luang Sukhum Nayaoradit conceptualised an event that would help promote cooperation, understanding and relations among Southeast Asian countries.

I had once qualified for the Youth SEA games for Swimming when I was twelve after having won 2 Silvers (Butterfly and Freestyle) and 1 Gold (Breaststroke) at a local cup. Before then I had been standing on podiums on numerous sprint events as well as being part of the La Salle swim team for years. What ensued after qualifying however were days upon days of swimming 4 kilometres per day! My eyes were bloodshot from chlorine and I found myself absolutely sick of smelling the pool. I eventually quit halfway in training and never made it to the games but the experience is something that I will take with me for the rest of my life! It takes a lot of grit; and apparently I had not enough of it in that point in my life. But because of that, I do know for sure what it takes. It requires dedication, focus, financial and family support. Some of which I did not have at the time. The bottomline is that winning and competing takes commitment from all sides of the game.

But with all the grandness and scale of these events, what do all of these games mean to us at an individual scale? What do these games have to do with our own games in life? Well, it seems like science say the games we watch have a direct impact on us and tell us a lot about ourselves and our needs.

In a scientific study, it was found that watching a game increases endocrine activity such as the production of testosterone, adrenaline and cortisol as much as actually being in a game. Some sports psychologist are still trying to get to the root of crowd behaviour which sometimes lead to riots in football games. Truly there is more about sports than we take in for amusement. In 1994, Brazil won the World-Cup and whilst in New York back then, The City was taken aback when Brazilians rallied to the streets in an ad-hoc parade around town. New Yorkers who were new to Football (Soccer) were shocked to know what all the fuzz was about.

Sports and Games promoters play upon our primal and emotional needs with our champions, as we attribute the best of what we could be upon our athletes. Some of the narratives that we often play are as extreme as Good vs. Evil as we saw in the Pacquiao and Mayweather fight, to a battle between East and West. With the SEA games it is a friendly and fair battle among our ASEAN nations. The good thing is that the SEA games contextualises its events to accommodate games we usually play that are not found in the regular Olympics. This includes Muay, Silat and Arnis.

150219-mayweather-pacquiao-1024In the Philippines, the nation came to a grinding halt as the entire nation was glued to the screen in watching what supposedly was to be the “Fight of the Century” between the Philippines’ National Fist Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather! While the event was somewhat of a disappointment, I had to reflect upon the reason why a game such as this, seemed all too important to all of us that we almost declared the day to be an official holiday. Here are some of the reasons I found within my quest for understanding:

  • National Pride: Games of this scale (international in magnitude) tend to inspire nationalist sentiments as our athletes carry the flag for our nation. In these moments we are able to compete on a level playing field in equal footing with some of our neighbours who at times might seem to have been better endowed.
  • Self Projection: Watching a sport seems to have a way of engaging its audience into projecting themselves upon the athlete. In some cases especially in a close match such as boxing or fencing, we might even find ourselves swinging at an invisible opponent in a sports equivalent to the air guitar. We project some of our own challenges upon these athletes in a brief moment escape. In the moments where they win or lose, we also feel their sentiments in real time.
  • Personification of Values: For the most part athletes are role-models. They personify qualities that we want to see from ourselves. They reflect an improved version of ourselves with admirable virtues such as: Courage, Dedication, Focus, Endurance and Performance.

The takeaway in all of these is perhaps the character we all need to incorporate from the athletes and the process of sports itself. We need to ensure an atmosphere of fairness, sports mindedness and grit and take them into our own games of life. We all have our fields and battles but we also need to have the heart of a real champion to win in the game of life.

Divesting from coal is becoming more mainstream and it’s about risk

And while #Coal plants are being closed all over the US, The #Philippines is welcoming the dirty fuel with open arms even in #Palawan! #energy #hypocrisy much? #Pnoy


For a while it was just a dream of environmental activists and college student protesters. Then a handful of liberal universities, and financial institutions jumped in. And this week Norway’s $890 billion government pension fund joined the trend, followed by an endorsement by Sir Mark Moody-Stuart himself, the former chairman of oil giant Royal Dutch Shell.

We’re talking about divesting from coal investments, and even other fossil fuel funds. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, there are as many as 200 organizations that have pledged to cut back or eliminate investments in coal or in fossil fuels more generally. Large universities include Stanford (which took the plunge over a year ago) and Oxford. Large corporations include AXA, France’s largest insurer.

Coal is the easy fossil fuel to divest from. In developed nations like the U.S. it’s in decline and beginning to be seen as a risky industry…

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