Monthly Archives: February 2017

Networking Advice For Self-Conscious Noobs

A younger friend – she’s a History major – posted on Facebook that she was frustrated with her experience at career fairs.

I left a comment saying “the trick is to avoid career fairs altogether. All the cool and interesting jobs get snapped up long before job descriptions get written.”

Someone else commented that most of the companies at a career fair are there out of obligation and not for actual recruitment. The best use of the career fair, he said, is just to look up the companies present, then submit your application directly to the company online.

I replied: Yes – and a step beyond that  is…

  1. look up people working in the company,
  2. ask them out for coffee, then
  3. have them refer you to whoever’s hiring for whatever role you’re interested in.

Because people are always more interested in referrals from their peers than in CVs from strangers. You improve your response rate probably 10x-100x by getting a referral.

Another friend messaged me about the above comment.

Here’s how that conversation went:

>> can you tell me a bit more about how that goes? hahaha ick job hunting woes

Well, where do you want to work? You should start by putting together a list of specific companies you think you’d like to work for.

If you like, you could then add a bunch of people from that company on LinkedIn. (I’ve found that people are quite willing to add strangers on LinkedIn.) That way, when you eventually talk to someone from the company, and they look you up on LinkedIn, it’ll look like you already know a bunch of people in their company.

I have a bunch of people on my LinkedIn who I don’t know personally – but I think of it as having the option of getting to know them personally later on. I can now message them over LinkedIn to introduce myself, for example.

You can also do this over Twitter, if they’re on Twitter. It’s a very peripheral way of building relationships, but it does work.

>> My main fear/gripe is that it sounds too informal or like a date(?!) and i wouldnt know what to say while having coffee

The thing with that is to manage expectations as early as possible. Say you’re curious to learn more about the industry, and that you’re looking for a couple of specific pointers. Say you want to ask them about their experiences. Don’t be vague.

>> do you have tips on things i should/ shouldnt say? eg like dont even ask for job openings

Offer to buy the coffee, obviously.

Definitely don’t ask about a job in the message itself. People are interested in interesting conversation with interesting people, but they’re less interested in being used merely as a stepping stone for a job.

You can ask about jobs midway in the conversation, or towards the end, depending on how it goes.

You want them to get the impression that you’re smart and have initiative.

Ask them about what challenges their company is facing, what do most people not know, etc. People are always eager to talk about the the things they can’t quite say in public.

Once they’ve gotten comfortable with you, like you, see that you’re thoughtful and smart, you can ask about a job.

>> is there anything i strictly shouldnt do or say? and also do you think 30 min is a good time or too long?

I would just say “quick coffee”, which is generally assumed I think to be about 15-20 minutes. And if the conversation is good they can stick around. Or if they need to, they have the freedom to say they need to get back to work. Then you can ask to email them.

>> how would you work the whole getting them to refer you to HR thing into the conversation (like assuming its going well)

You don’t need to be like, “yo can you hook me up with John Smith from HR”. You want to let them make the decision themselves.

Ask something along the lines of, “Do you know anybody I can talk to about getting my foot in the door, maybe an internship or a starting role”.

>> oh! one more… should you buy the coffee before hand or is it okay to just pay for it at the shop tgt

Well, you’d want to get there before them. Then when they get there, you stand up smile shake hand say hi, then just ask them what they’d like. “Coffee? Tea?”.

And if they make a show of taking out their wallet or whatever you say, “No, no, it’s my treat!” It’s a small thing, but it should trigger some reciprocal, “I should do her a favor in return” feelings.

It’ll also be good if you have a mutual friend who can introduce you to the first person. Same principle. If you have a friend who works in the company, chat with them first. So it all starts with knowing which companies you’re interested in, then talking to your existing network to see if anybody knows anyone.

Generally I find that it’s better to do this sort of thing 1-1 (asking people over IM) rather than broadcasting it over Facebook or Twitter – unless you’re so talented that your friends will be fighting amongst themselves to refer you to their colleague(s).


  1. Be proactive. Don’t sit around and wait for things to happen to you, because then you’re going to be mired in crap every day. Anticipate what’s going to happen and do things before they need doing. Skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been. This makes you a clairvoyant who mysteriously seems perfectly prepared.
  2. Begin with the end in mind. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to get there. The clearer you are about where want to go, the easier it is to make decisions about what to do and what not to do. When you do this, you waste less time with irrelevant crap, and become a heat-seeking missile.
  3. Put first things first. In a single word, prioritize. The most important thing is usually the scariest or hardest thing, so we tend to avoid it altogether and invent reasons as to why the 2nd or 3rd thing should be done first. But do the first thing first. Use the urgent/important matrix.
  4. Think win-win. The best way to get what you want is to deserve it. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person– why should they help you? What’s in it for them? Nobody achieves great things by themselves.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It’s always tempting to explain why you’re right. But nobody cares about you, they care about themselves. So understand where they’re coming from, what their worries and concerns are, what they want. And you’ll be better positioned to achieve #4, and get what you want.
  6. Synergize. This has become a dirty buzzword, but the simple original meaning was simply “create outcomes where the wholes exceeds the sum of their parts”. Do things together that you couldn’t have done independently.
  7. Sharpen the saw. Take care of yourself. You gotta be sustainable. Eat, exercise, sleep, rest. Read, learn new things. Take care of your relationships.


I like words. Here are the histories of some words.

Dashboard — originally about keeping mud from horses from getting into your carriage. Today it tends to mean something like a heads-up display.

Digital – A digit was orginally a finger or a toe, from Latin digitus. We use our fingers to count, so numbers became digits too. Or rather – 01234567890 became the fingers and toes of real numbers. The word Bit is an abbreviation of “binary digit”.

Analog computers -> digital computers. Digital everything. Digital devices.


Also latin in origin – Mercatus. It’s related to the word merchant, mercentile, merchandise, mercenary, commerce. “Com-” + “merx” – come together (as in compromise, compounded) and buy stuff.

Also interestingly related words are mercy, merci – related around the concept of a reward.

Also consider Mercury, god of tradesmen and thieves.

Another word for Market was Bazaar, with Italian and Persian roots rather than French and Latin. So I suspect another word for Marketer might be Bazarista.

Innovate. in + novus (new).

Passionate — passion is suffering. Related to pati, pathos
Agile — from Latin agilis “nimble, quick,” from agere “to set in motion, keep in movement”

Invest —

“to clothe in the official robes of an office,” from Latin investire “to clothe in, cover, surround,” from in “in, into” (see in- (2)) + vestire “to dress, clothe,” from PIE *wes-ti-, suffixed form of root *wes- (4) “to clothe” (see wear (v.)).

The meaning “use money to produce profit” first attested 1610s in connection with the East Indies trade, and is probably a borrowing of a special use of Italian investire (13c.) from the same Latin root, via the notion of giving one’s capital a new form. Figurative sense of “to clothe (with attributes)” is from c. 1600. The military meaning “to besiege, surround with hostile intent” also is from c. 1600

Revenue —

Old French, “a return,” noun use of fem. past participle of revenir “come back” (10c.), from Latin revenire “return, come back,” from re- “back” (see re-) + venire “to come,”

Profit —

commerce —

Latin commercium “trade, trafficking,” from com “with, together” (see com-) + merx (genitive mercis) “merchandise” (see market (n.)).

technology —

1610s, “a discourse or treatise on an art or the arts,” from Greek tekhnologia “systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique,” originally referring to grammar, from tekhno- (see techno-) + -logy. The meaning “study of mechanical and industrial arts” (Century Dictionary, 1902, gives examples of “spinning, metal-working, or brewing”) is first recorded 1859. High technology attested from 1964; short form high-tech is from 1972.

information —

directly from Latin informare “to shape, give form to, delineate,” figuratively “train, instruct, educate,” from in- “into” (see in- (2)) + formare “to form, shape,” from forma “form”

graph —

from Greek -graphos “-writing, -writer” (as in autographos “written with one’s own hand”), from graphe “writing, the art of writing, a writing,” from graphein “to write, express by written characters,” earlier “to draw, represent by lines drawn” (see -graphy).

chart —

from Middle French charte “card, map,” from Late Latin charta “paper, card, map” (see card (n.1)). Charte is the original form of the French word in all senses, but after 14c. (perhaps by influence of Italian cognate carta), carte began to supplant it. English used both carte and card 15c.-17c. for “chart, map,” and in 17c. chart could mean “playing card,” but the words have gone their separate ways and chart has predominated since in the “map” sense. In the music score sense from 1957.


contain, continuum, continue — from com “with, together” (see com-) + tenere “to hold” (see tenet)

procrastinate — french/latin —  pro “forward” (see pro-) + crastinus “belonging to tomorrow,” from cras “tomorrow,” of unknown origin


Online ads

I sometimes take screenshots of ads that I encounter online. Here are some that I was keeping around in a folder.


“Take a tour” is a decent call to action. Using a quote was also a nice touch. I don’t think I clicked through, but the mere-exposure effect is starting to set in.


I think I was curious to click on this one just because the logo was so cute, with the dog. But I bounced pretty quick.




I thought this was pleasing to the eye.

copywriting-stats-for-nerdsThis wasn’t an ad – this is what you get when you right-click on a YouTube video. I thought it was funny. It’s nice to see personality, anywhere.


^ I really liked this one. I was tempted to click through just to learn more about the kind of team that would use a phrase like that in its sales copy.



I think it’s clever to have an ad that says “learn more”, especially when the reader isn’t ready to buy yet. I was curious enough to click through. But I can’t remember what was at the other end, so…

Indian Copywriting

When I visited India last year with my parents and wife, one thing that stood out to me over and over again was the subtle way in which copywriting in India was different from copywriting in Singapore or the USA.

Here are some examples:




Can you sense it? I might need to list out more examples to really capture it. A couple of points I’ve noticed:

  1. There’s this unabashed, straightforward aspiration for ‘the good life’ – the premium life, privileges, high-status.
  2. There’s a sense of cuteness.

I’m remembering now there’s a magazine that had an ad that said something like “your intellectual indulgence”. That phrase is something I can’t see being used either in the US or in SG. There’s a sort of seductive intimacy to it.

I’ll add more examples as I encounter them.




All SG Stuff – LHL


VulcanPost – Singapore Twitter users

Guest posts:

Guest post on beeketing

Statement stuff – herworld

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