Career Advice : Why Career Advice and Career Coaching Is The Key To Retain Talent


Career Advice and Career Coaching As A Powerful Talent Retention Tool

career adviceIn my years of coaching and leading teams, one of the biggest challenges is attracting talent and staff retention in a very competitive industry where competitors are willing to fork out huge salaries to lure your key talents away.  One of my best kept weapons is the ability to provide career advice and coach my staff in their career journey.

What Constitutes Career Advice or Career Counselling?

career adviceFor the purposes of not losing the larger picture of the intention of this article, I have loosely used career advice and career counselling interchangeably.

In general, career advice or counselling focusses on issues such as career exploration, career change, personal career development and other career related issues.  Every staff or member of your workforce has a career need which varies with their working experience and age.

For example,

  • new workforce entrants or graduates tend to be lost or need advice in career direction – not knowing exactly what types of jobs they should go for and what they would excel in.  This of course is not always the case but a good 70% of those I have coached tend to face such issues.
  • Employees who have worked for 5-10 years tend to get anxious or be more concerned about career progression, job enlargement or promotion prospects especially when their peers are doing far better.
  • Senior employees who have worked between 10-20 years tend to seek worklife balance, or even more aggressive promotion or career advancement opportunities as their lifestyle needs change – most of them might have formed their own family units and hence the changes in career needs.
  • Finally, those employees who have worked over 20 years tend to seek out the meaning of lives and how their careers could bring out the meaning.

career adviceAs you can see, whilst I might have generalised the types of employees, their career needs are varied, and a function of their lifestyles and life aspirations.

If you are the manager of these employees, how would you be able to provide career advice to these employees, and what happens when you do not give adequate career counselling?

Let’s take the 2nd question first : When you can’t provide adequate career counselling, you have not considered your employees’ needs in totality.  If you are merely MATCHING your HIRING needs with your employees’ SKILLS, you have missed out a large part of the staff attraction and retention principle.   If you were to interview your staff on what types of managers they like to have, a number would tell you it’s those who can coach them in their career (and that’s much more than job coaching).  For example, awarding promotion opportunities to a staff who is seeking worklife balance or meaning does not necessarily appeal to them.

Case Study 1 

Peter was a highly driven manager whose team brings in the results, and Peter has a reputation of being a very good manager who cares about his staff.  One day, one of his top performing team members, Jessie resigned.  Upon probing and chatting with Jessie , I discovered that Peter’s strive for high standards was something that staff, upon reaching 45, felt she could no longer cope with.   In order to meet his expectations, she had to make a lot of personal sacrifices for years and she felt she could not sustain this as her children were growing up.







Case Study 2 

Leena was a senior regional manager who values staff loyalty and commitment.  Leena rewarded all staff with enlarged jobs or promotions.  Monika resigned one day to the shock of everybody – everyone was expecting Monika to be promoted or to have a huge salary increase in the next 6-9 months.  Monika explained to me that she was a sole breakwinner and the salary simply wasn’t enough.  She loved everything about her job, the environment and working for Leena.  But she desperately needed more money for the increased living expenses of her family and her children growing up.

Therefore, the manager who is able to differentiate himself/herself as a leader is likely one who is able to understand the personal and career aspirations of the team members and find a common path between this understanding and the job and work environment.  Sometimes this path is blurred or narrow but the successful manager is able to create this path when it’s non existent or be prepared to let go of their skilled talents to competitors.

career advice


3 CAREER ADVICE TIPS For Managers To Coach Your Team Members Or Employees: 

1.  Set aside time regularly – at least once in a quarter of a year, to chat with your employees and LISTEN to them.  They might have new lifestyle needs which impact on their jobs and such issues are unlikely to surface in usual work environment unless in informal discussions like these.  One of my good friends Christina lunches with her staff on a regular basis.  Consider this if it works for you.

2.  When you are hiring – go beyond matching job needs to employees’ skills.  It is far more than that.  Consider how your job can meet the aspirations and needs of your potential employees.  Therefore, instead of just asking what they can do, find out what are important to them in their career.

3.  Practise career coaching skills.  Such skills don’t come naturally – you need to practise them.  If you haven’t ever counselled anyone on their careers before – start on a small scale by listening to your employees’ needs.  First step is to listen, understand BEFORE you give any career advice.


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(a) an individual seeking professional career coaching tips, career advice or

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Career Advice | Personal Branding part 1 | How To Brand Yourself

Managing Your Career : Personal Branding Career Advice – Tips and Strategies

by Career Strategist and Workplace Trainer Tan Teck Kim

Recently many readers wrote to ask about what is the most important career advice I can give them in their career development.  From the perspective of a Trainer and A Career Coach, several key ideas come to mind which I have shared with several interviewees. Here are the excerpts of Tan Teck Kim’s interview with Glow Magazine, a leading lifestyle magazine in Singapore, produced in 2 parts.


career advice

1. What does self branding entail and why is it so important to do so in today’s modern economy?

First let’s agree on what constitutes Personal Branding, a much hyped subject in our modern and tech-savvy economy, which has intertwined closely personal and business networks.

Personal branding is basically the way one markets oneself to the world.  How one markets one’s beliefs, image, attitude, skills and behaviour in a coherent manner.  Our personal brand is the summation of all the associations people have of us in their minds.   In some ways it’s outside one’s control, but one obviously has some influence over it

People and the world are still forming impressions of us all the time and it’s in our interest to have a consistent branding strategy that drive these impressions.   If you speak to any career coach or counsellor and seek advice on career, it is very likely they would highlight the need to be consistent in your personal branding.

A positive branding is important because it could gain you advantages in your career and in relationships.     More on this point later.

IMPORTANT : If you don’t brand yourself, chances are someone is already doing that, and succeeding at it plus getting the chances and the deals which elude you.  Branding differentiates you from others because you become identifiable with certain beliefs, attributes or skills or images.

personal branding

Want to STAND OUT and STAND UP through branding?





2. To achieve success in life, marketing oneself is important. How does one go about starting to do so and what are the main things to note?

There are 2 parts to this :

A.  One’s Internal branding

B.  One’s External branding

 A.  Internal Branding :

How one perceives oneself is drives one’s internal brand.  To achieve your desired internal brand, start by asking yourself what 3 short sentences or adjectives would you use to describe yourself?  Take a moment to reflect on this question, and jot your answers down. Is this a brand you feel good about?  Does it really resonate with you?  Answering these questions is the best piece of career advice you have rendered yourself.

career advice

Differentiate yourself through Branding

B. External Branding

Be holistic and consistent in your branding strategy – consider your beliefs, your attitude, your image, your skills and your behaviour/job performance. If for eg you believe yourself to be trustworthy and reliable and want others to see you that way – reflect this in those things that represent you, and not just your job.  Don’t have for example, a personal email ID that says : or or a daily sloppy dressing to work.

Important : Your internal and external branding must be in sync. If they are in conflict, your external branding may not be sustainable.

To brand yourself externally, ask the following questions :

  1. 3 sentences that I would like myself/brand to perceived.
  2. 3 sentences on how others perceive me to be.
  3. What strategies do I need to close the gaps between (a) and (b).


This reflection process is an absolute necessity before you start.  How many times have you heard your boss saying that he’s smart but you totally disagree in your heart?  Or your assistant who wants a promotion but you think she should be fired for poor performance?  Your Personal Branding begins with uncovering the gaps between reality and desired perceptions.  In all my coaching workshops – this reflection process is one of the most powerful Career Counselling Tools to help my candidates to be honest with themselves. Your Personal Branding and Image starts and ends with you.


career adviceTo take this to the next level, find someone you can trust, and whose opinions you value, and share your self reflections with him/her.  Alternatively, if you wish to have a full fledged career advice discussion with Tan Teck Kim, please contact him here :

Look out for Part 2 of this interview on how to position your Personal Image, Confidence and enhance your Personal Branding


Understand what your employers are thinking :

Why Career Advice and Career Development is Key To Staff Retention

Career Advice Part 2 – Personal Branding, Confidence and Image

Career Advice Part 3 : How To Differentiate Your Personal Branding 

5 Case Studies On Overcoming Your Fears Of Public Speaking

Career Advice | Personal Branding part 3 | How To Differentiate Your Personal Branding

Managing Your Career : How To Differentiate Your Personal Branding by Tan Teck Kim

<< This is a continuation of the previous career counselling article on : Career Advice Parts 1 and 2, part of the Interview of Tan Teck Kim with a leading Lifestyle Magazine, Glow >>
<< Click here to read part 1 on Career Advice >>
<< Click here to read part 2 on Managing Your Personal Branding >>

Personal Branding

7. In terms of self-branding, how does social success translate to career success, and how are the 2 correlated?

  •  When was the last time you bought something you really didn’t need, all due to the persuasive skills of the likeable salesperson?
  •  If you are a manager, who would you choose to promote from 2 equally competent staff?  1 who is hardworking, competent and reliable but quiet.. the other who is equally competent but with good people skills and is able to interact with people at different levels.
  •  If you have 2 job offers, you would choose to work for the manager whom you think can share his knowledge and counsel you on your career progression. Do you agree?

I believe these 3 examples illustrate the importance of strong EQ or people skills which are to some synonymous with social success, and the ability to connect.

Social Skills are a highly valued asset.  If you are in your 20s or 30s, you can stand out with your ability to connect. If you are in your 40s and 50s, your ability to coach and connect makes you the leader why your staff want to stay on despite competition poaching staff…

 Social skills are critical and give you a cutting edge in your career and business :

  1. Differentiation : In today’s world dominated by technology – social skills become a highly valued asset.  The population in the 20s and 30s are especially strong in technology but you can stand out from the crowd with your ability to connect with people.  And if you are a leader in your 40s or 50s, then your ability to coach and connect becomes the reason why your staff want to work for you despite plentiful opportunities.
  2. Problem Solving : In business, problems with processes, people and clients happen all the time.  The one who can resolve the problems is the one who gets counted when it matters.  And problem solving is often a function of one’s ability to work through different geographies, departments and the people in them.
  3. Forming Meaning Relationships :  Social skills generally translate into one’s ability to cultivate meaningful relationships.  This opens up tremendous opportunities.
how-to manage your personal branding

In the business world, the higher one climbs the corporate ladder, the more responsibilities one assumes – and it becomes a situation of being able to manage people to get things done for the organisation, rather than doing everything yourself.   International firms and businesses  are constantly look for leaders and managers who can work with people and bring out the best in others.

Social success translates naturally into opportunities which in turn lead to career success.  To grow and advance further in one’s career, social skills come into play again.

Need I say more?

8. What are some of the most crucial things you need to bring to the table at a job interview? 

The 2 Key Factors are :

(I) TAILORING your message and Adding VALUE.

(II) Decide what your KEY messages are in advance, and TAILOR them to suit your audience/interviewers.

Know in advance, as much as possible or practicable,

    • Who your interviewers are
    • What their communication styles are like
    • What keeps them awake at night (or what problem they need to solve).

To illustrate the importance of being prepared and knowing your interviewers with a real life story : I once arranged for a candidate (whom I intend to recruit) to meet my lady boss who had a very stern and austere air about her.  Despite my friendly ‘warning’ in advance, the candidate did not expect what she saw – she was so startled to see my boss during the interview that she stumbled and completed faltered in incoherent sentences.  She didn’t get the job of course.

On communication style : If for example, the interviewers are CEOs, they might be more keen on the big picture and revenue numbers – this means you might need to trim your 10 page report to a 1 pager to highlight pertinent high level issues that impact on the company’s viability and market standing instead of sticking to what you know.

IMPORTANT : The key differentiating factor for you is your ability to add value to them in a problem where they cannot resolve fully or at all. Adding value can be giving new perspectives & effort that will contribute to resolving the problem. This will make your interviewers feel that you are the one they need to hire.

Many fresh graduates or less experienced job interviewees I have interviewed ‘suffer’ from this fatal flaw : They always ask what they can learn.  There is nothing wrong with this expectation but if the focus is only on themselves and not on what the potential employer needs, then you haven’t differentiated yourself and come across as just another interviewee.

To add value, you must understand what issues your interviewers are facing.  Get info from the interviewers about what their challenges are, what the challenges of the job (you are interviewing for are), and relate them to your previous experiences (you can quote examples of school projects which are relevant) to demonstrate that you could solve their problem.  This perhaps is the singular most important piece of CAREER ADVICE I would give to anyone preparing to go for a job interview.  Help your potential employee solve a problem or position yourself as the one who could solve their problem and you are on a roll.


9. What are some no-no’s when it comes to presenting yourself well? 

a. Don’t go to any meeting without being prepared or a mental rehearsal.  There are times when I hear my coachees say that they don’t know who they are meeting, and they get so nervous and so they would just adopt a ‘I’ll-go-as-I-am’ attitude, without any preparation.  This is a definite no-no.   If you don’t know anything – at least go back to the person who connected you to the chance to present yourself and find out as much as possible.  And google search to help you do your homework!

Personal Branding

Don’t Be Mousy – Brand Yourself Confidently

b.  Don’t be mousy – I once interviewed a candidate who stood at my door entrance, but her body was half hidden by the door.  The impression I got was she lacked confidence and experience or maybe had something to hide.  Would that be your preferred hiring choice if you are the manager?  Knock the door, wait for acknowledgement and walk in confidently.

Manage Your Personal Brandingc.  Don’t talk too much – use any meeting as a chance to understand others’ perspectives and whether there is a chance for you to contribute and learn. If you are going for an interview, you must at least spend 30% of the time listening (some experts put it to 70% and so that gives you an idea of how important it is to listen).  If you are making a public presentation, obviously you have to do more talking but you still need to observe your audience and listen and make adjustments accordingly.  For example, if you audience asks a question, listen and acknowledge it and answer it at the appropriate time.

d.  Don’t stick to a prepared script rigidly.  I know I said one must prepare but equally important is the need to adapt and tailor your message.  I recall in the early years of my career when on one occasion,  I stuck to my 30-min prepared script despite only having 5 minutes to speak as the speakers before me took more time than planned.   I learnt lesson 101 on adapting and tailoring my message to the circumtances, after we lost the deal and I got ‘painfully’ famous for it.

Manage Your Personal Branding Well

e.  Don’t start off with an apology or bad note. “I’m sorry as I’m presenting for the 1st time and hence really nervous.”  “I didn’t want to come up but my colleagues pushed me up here to share.”  Avoid negative statements that immediately discredit yourself.  With your preparation and rehearsals, you could be doing much better than you realise!

f.  Don’t focus on your weakness – instead focus on what you can contribute to your clients.  Draw comfort in the fact that everyone is nervous or has been through that stage, when presenting or meeting a new prospective client or employer.

Real Life Coaching
I once coached someone who insisted that she could never present in front of a group.  She spent 2 hours convincing me that she could never ever do that.  To-date, she remains the only 1 person I have coached who still fumbles and falters at every presentation.

As you can see, you can manage your Personal Branding consciously by applying these tips and strategies above.  I hope you have enjoyed these 3 part series on Career Advice and Managing Your Personal Branding.  Develop your image, your confidence and adopt the right attitudes.  Differentiate yourself from others through your social skills – increasingly an asset in today’s world too reliant on technology.  Invest in your career by first investing in your personal branding.  You can improve your presence and confidence in public speaking too by investing in the right Presentation Skills courses.

If you would like to hear fresh perspectives and benefit from career counselling,
<< Contact Tan Teck Kim if you wish to be coached in your career >>

career advice

Coached To Clearer Direction and Higher Performance



Understand what your employers are thinking :

Why Career Advice and Career Development is Key To Staff Retention

Career Advice Part 1 – How To Brand Yourself 

Career Advice Part 2 – How To Manage Your Personal Branding



Career Advice | Personal Branding part 2 | How To Manage Your Personal Branding

Managing Your Career : Personal Branding Career Advice – Tips and Strategies by Tan Teck Kim

<< This is a continuation of the previous career counselling article on : Career Advice Part 1, part of the Interview of Tan Teck Kim with a leading Lifestyle Magazine, Glow >>

4. How does appearance count towards presenting oneself and how can one ensure that they give off a good initial impression? 

Career Advice and Career Counselling

Pay Attention To The First Impressions You Convey!

In many of my business presentations courses, I share with participants that the moment you stand up there – the audience will decide within 3-8 seconds whether to be interested in what you say.  It’s unfair and scary but the sooner we accept this truth, the more we realise we need to prepare for the correct first impressions.   It’s not just what you say – but how you say it, and how you look when saying it.

Always have on hand the following :

  1. A 30 second elevator pitch of yourself to any business associate.  The pitch can be a summary of what you do, your achievements, the value you bring and what you are like.
    Career Advice on Elevator Speech

    Always Be READY with Your ELEVATOR SPEECH

    For eg, “My name is TK Tan and I specialise in helping my clients find NEW PERSPECTIVES in their career or problem situations.  I have 10 years of experience in managing clients service in banks and today I am a Coach and Trainer for quality career skills and customer service and experience.  The clients I have managed include large banks and corporates, as well as career minded individuals who want to be coached on career skills.

  2. Decide what image you want to project and dress yourself according to the image you want to project.  Check yourself in the mirror before you leave home and in the washroom (if possible) of your meeting’s premises, before your actual meeting.  Ladies – avoid distracting sexy clothings in a formal business setting.  You might win the man for the moment but not the deal.
  3. Learn the importance of body language and firm and appropriate handshakes to demonstrate confidence, sincerity and interest to connect.  Don’t give a feather weight handshake or an earth shattering one.
  4. Learn to look at others in the eye to demonstrate interest.  Bear in mind : People like others who like them.
  5. Be genuine and enthusiastic.  People can detect fake behaviours easily.
  6. Finally – a very practical and useful tip : Find something about your audience or new client/boss that you like and focus on it.  If you like the person, it can be felt.  Likewise, if you dislike the person, it’s a lot harder for you to win your cause!
FIND something about your audience or new client/boss that
 you LIKE and focus on it.  If you like the person, it can be felt and the feeling may be reciprocated!  

5. Why is networking/image so important when it comes to marketing oneself and how to go about doing so?  

career advice and career counselling

Tap On The Power of Network

Once upon a time, it was said that we are all related to each other by 6 degrees of separation – the beggar might be even related to the king through 5 parties or less.

In today’s world where social media connects billions of people and everyday thousands of new users are added to Facebook, the human race is ever more connected than before.

Major literature and evidence now suggest that in USA, people getting jobs through referrals are rising over the years and in fact now higher than through newspaper or formal applications.  This trend is catching on in Asia.  I believe at least 1 in 3 to 4 persons now get the job or the deal through networking or referrals.

That’s the power of network – connectivity gets you somewhere you might want to go to one day.

One’s image is a combination of one’s physical and media presence.

As regards to physical presence, in many communication studies, it was demonstrated that it how one says the message and how one looks when saying the message contribute more to the overall impression of the audience, than the actual message.

This means that your audience is more likely to believe what they SEE than what they hear from you.  .

 TIP : If  your image and body language contradict what
you say verbally – your audience WILL BELIEVE the messages
conveyed through the former – image and body language.

So, if you want to persuade convincingly, or want to get that deal or job – make sure that your image and body language are in sync with your verbal content.  As for media presence – we will talk more about this subject in the weeks ahead, but for now, at least you must be ready to go digital with your media image.

Career Advice and Career Counselling

Your Image & Body Language Must Be In Sync

6. How can one gain confidence over time and learn to present him/herself clearly and succinctly?

Some believe that certain people are born confident and gifted speakers.  Do you know that Bill Clinton was not the born charismatic speaker everyone believes he is. He admitted in his autobiography that his first speech effort while in high school was ‘unremarkable.”  In one of his earlier political speeches in 1988 as governor of Arkansas, by the time he completed speaking, the audience was roaring their approval for him to go away. So we can all take comfort that confidence and ability to speak is something that can be nurtured, TRAINED and developed.  Key tips :

  1.  Learn the art of formulating key messages.  Whether you have 5 minutes or 5 hours to speak, decide in advance what your key messages are first, and then build content around them.  If you only have paragraphs of words – your key messages can easily be lost. Start with your topic and then key messages before building detailed content.
  2. Tap on the power of rehearsal and verbalisation.  Verbalisation is speaking aloud your key messages.  It is like exercising your mental muscles – just like your body muscles needing to be exercised before they get toned.  Likewise, you need to verbalise to get your brains to formulate your key messages and to sound natural.  Verbalisation is not memorisation of everything you want to say though.
  3. Practise the power of 3 – SIMPLICITY.  Human minds retain messages when messages are delivered in sets of 3.  Don’t have 11 or 20 points as chances are your audience won’t remember anyway.  Instead have 3 key messages, each with about 3 sub points.
Career Advice and Personal Branding - Bill Clinton

Naturally Charismatic Or Trained?

Finally get trained or be coached like Bill Clinton obviously has.  Another great example of a confident and charismatic communicator is Cara Fiorina, the former CEO of HP, who was known to have gone to great lengths to hone her selling and presentation skills.  There are many coaches and trainers out there – find one that fits your learning style and preference.   I teach and coach groups and individuals to deliver their messages with confidence and impact.  Individuals who are totally shy have come to me for individual coaching before, on a one-to-one basis, and have been transformed when they realise what their strengths are.

 TIP : Confidence and Presentation Skills
Can Be Trained and Developed.


Look Out For Part 3 of Career Advice on Differentiating Yourself Through Your Branding


Understand what your employers are thinking :

Why Career Advice and Career Development is Key To Staff Retention

Career Advice Part 1 – How To Brand Yourself 

Career Advice Part 3 : How To Differentiate Your Personal Branding