Here at Preen, we’re fully aware that adult life doesn’t always go as smoothly (and look as beautiful) as curated Instagram feeds. We all face challenges amidst all the good things. Meet Mikka Wee, a former food editor-turned-working gal in Singapore, who’s about to share all the ups and downs that come with adulting and living. Welcome to Bless This Mess!
I am a fan of keeping milestones and anniversaries, and last Sunday, March 11, 2018, marked my second year in Singapore. To say that a lot has changed in my life since I moved is an understatement. Despite the adjustments of living alone, feeling homesick, learning to get through tough times without my support system—I am very grateful for where life has led me today. There were a lot of positive changes as well and opportunities that opened up despite my struggles: I got engaged, got married, traveled further, and most importantly, rekindled my passion for food and communications through my current day job.
I’ve been also receiving a number of emails and questions about how I was able to move and pursue a career overseas. How did you land your first job? Was the move easy? How did you handle it emotionally? But more importantly, How do I get started?
I’m still very much in touch with life in the Philippines, and how there seems to be this great diaspora of young professionals who are keen to make it abroad because of certain factors and living conditions. And while the nationalist in me says, Manila needs our talented folk, there’s also a part of me who’s always been a dreamer. Apart from love, I chose to move because I wanted to challenge myself to live independently. Being an only child, I was so used to getting all the attention from my parents that I wanted to try breaking out of that shell. I was getting comfortable, and that’s when I realized I needed a big change. To quote the song I was listening to as my plane from Manila lifted off to Singapore last March 11, 2016 (Deathcab for Cutie’s “You are a Tourist“), “If you feel just like a tourist in the city you were born in it’s time to go.” And so I went.
But here’s what I did before that.
As much as how a lot of movies/social media/romantic novels portray migrating as if it were a whirlwind romance—let me tell you that it is not (well, for me at least). It takes time. For me, I decided that I wanted to be in Singapore by 2016, and I planned my move as early as August 2015.
I made it my deep-focus goal.
I took a small notebook and did a Weekly Milestone Checklist with the things I needed to do to reach my goal. For starters, I needed a job, so I made sure I had a manicured CV and LinkedIn profile (do not underestimate the power of LinkedIn, my friends!). I wrote down the steps I needed to impress potential employers and planned it out. Polishing your CV after four years of not updating it takes a lot of time. You may also need to create an impressive portfolio, so plan it well. Carve out time to focus on these tasks.
Another thing is your cover letter. I was looking for jobs that involved journalism, writing, and account management, so I created different cover letter templates for every profession I wanted to apply for and tweaked them accordingly. My starting point was online; a quick search for “Best Cover Letter Templates” thanks to Google—but again, don’t forget to tweak and make them your own!
Next, I did research on companies in Singapore that I was interested to work for. At this point, it helps to keep an open mind and really widen your list because you want all the options you can get—you can’t be too picky. Lastly, I needed to make connections to the companies I was interested to work for, which brings me to my next point.
I got in touch with my friends who were working abroad (in my case, it was Singapore), and asked friends who had friends overseas if they could connect us. It took a bit of a thick skin, but I did this to ask around about their experience and what life was like (hours, taxes, work benefits, living conditions, etc.). I also asked about their “Big Move Story” and learned about the steps they took to reach their goal.
I also subscribed to LinkedIn’s Premium Service, which allowed me to message creative directors and editors and tell them about my experiences and why I would be a good fit for their company. It won’t guarantee a job, but you get to establish good connections anyway. Most of the time, the people I got in touch with asked me to shoot an email to their company’s HR person and have them on CC.
I also booked a flight to Singapore and stayed there for around two-and-a-half weeks. During my stay, I scheduled meetings and interviews with companies who seemed interested to hire me. Skype is always great, but face-to-face meetings leave a more lasting impression.
Also, when I was having conversations on LinkedIn with potential employers, I told them I was flying to Singapore from this date to that date and asked if they wanted to meet up for coffee to “further discuss.”
It’s an investment you would like to make, especially if you’re planning for a big move. It will be far from a vacation, and it’s going to be a busy period running from interview to interview, but it will be worth it. Remember to also polish your interview skills! I read a ton of articles and watched a number of videos about interviews because I get really nervous, and I haven’t had an interview in almost four years.
The moment you decide that you want to take the plunge, better save up for it. Why? Well, apart from the part where I encourage you to fly for your face-to-face meetings, the time it will take from the moment you are hired to the moment you fly out will be quick. You will need to have some jumpstart cash to help you set up and ease into your new living conditions. It will also help to negotiate your work start date. I needed to get some documents from my university and other documents for my work visa, so I moved to Singapore a month after getting the call that I got into the job I applied for.
Also, tie loose strings. Any mobile plans you have, gym memberships, and recurring fees should be settled before you make the move. If you have any bills, find a system that can help you pay for them even while abroad. But in truth, there will always be something left hanging. In my case, I just renewed my mobile plan, so I needed someone to take over it so it wouldn’t go to waste. Be creative and find alternatives instead of severing it completely and paying the discontinuation/severance fee (which is a lot!).
Most importantly, find a community in the country you’re moving into, while constantly keeping in touch with your loved ones back in Manila. I’ve never felt the importance of home as much as when I moved. The adjustments can be tough, and a bit of home every now and then gives you a dose of the support you need to get by.
Just like all things in life, different strokes come for different folks. You can reach your goal without following these tips—even faster, maybe! Or perhaps it isn’t time yet, which is why you need to still bloom where you are planted. In any case, moving abroad is tough and comes with its set of challenges, but it’s one of the best changes I’ve made in my life. It toughened me up as an adult, and taught me how to be responsible (sometimes painfully!), but nevertheless, it was a good change for me. Two years later, and I have no regrets. If you are onto the same journey, then I wish you all the best!
If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Preen.ph, or any other entity of the Inquirer Group of Companies.
Art by Yayie Motos