4 Things That are Secretly Sabotaging Your Career

career sabotage singapore

Joanne Poh



So you passed your O levels with flying colours and got the appropriate degree at a socially acceptable university. Your work experience cannot be thought of as anything other than appropriate. You’ve proofread your resume at least a hundred times and weeded out all the offending typos and spelling errors. Then why is it that the most desirable jobs always seem to elude you? Here are four things your teachers never told you would sabotage your career.


1. Your social media profiles

We’ve reached the point where there is actually a very, very high chance that a prospective employer is going to Google you before making a final decision. Don’t think that your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles are only for the eyes of friends and stalkers. If you’re going to restrict the privacy settings on your accounts, be aware that a prospective employer might still be able to view your profile if he’s a friend of a friend.

You might think those photos of you having vodka poured directly into your mouth from the bottle show that you’ve got a can-do attitude or that your doe-eyed, pouting selfies show you’ve got great people skills. But prospective employers probably aren’t going to agree. In fact, those Facebook posts airing your political views or likes on to the fan pages of Thai pornstars probably shouldn’t be made public, either.

2. Your clothing

While a decent human being should indeed aim not to judge a book by its cover, the truth is that this is a sick, sad world, and prospective employers can and will judge what you wear. Turn up for an interview for a high level position in a suit you bought tens years ago and we wish you luck, unless you’ve managed to maintain your figure after all this time. Dress like an unintentional nerd and you probably won’t be getting that job in PR.

It’s important to always make sure you know what sorts of qualities are coveted in a particular industry, and then dress to play the part. Yes, they might learn to love the real you (or maybe not), but that’s not going to happen at your first interview.

3. Your lack of general knowledge

Most interviews will not have you airing your views on the situation in the Middle East or asked what you think about the political situation of our Southeast Asian neighbours. But when called upon to demonstrate that you do, indeed, have an adequate degree of general knowledge, screw up and you’re going to leave a very bad impression.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine attended an interview at which she was made to write a one-liner on each entry in a list of names of famous people. She wrote that Indira Gandhi was an “old Indian man”. The only other name on the list that looked familiar to her was J. Lo’s. Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.

4. Your age

It’s not fair, but the painful truth is that Singapore employers are pretty damn ageist, at least if this report is to be believed. That means that if you’re over a certain age and applying for a post that will have you competing against much younger people, it’s probably best not to disclose just how old you are until you’re forced to.

This also means dressing in an age-neutral manner when you show up at interviews. Even if an employer can see your age on paper, if he or she doesn’t perceive you as old when you meet in person, your age shouldn’t work against you.

The fact is that even boring office attire evolves over time, and that shirt and pair of pants you bought decades ago might still fit perfectly, but look clearly outdated to a young upstart. If your interview suit is, uh, very obviously from another era, it’s probably time to update your wardrobe.

What other factors beyond your control have sabotaged your career? Let us know in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.