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How to Survive tHe tranSition from ScHool to work

The Corporate Survival Guide

CONGRATULATIONS to you who are about to enter the workforce. A new and exciting adventure awaits in this next chapter of your life. But if you dont properly manage the transition from school to the workplace, you face a very real danger of turning into a corporate zombie. What exactly is a corporate zombie? How do you avoid becoming one? No doubt you must have many burning questions. But first we must resolve any misconceptions you may have about this dire threat. Much has been said about the zombie in pop culture. Most of which is fictional. The common concept of a zombie a reanimated corpse that preys on the flesh of the living is the stuff of fantasy. The corporate zombie is far scarier; it is cold, listless and very real. Once normal people like you and I, they allowed themselves to be so overwhelmed by work that their jobs sapped away their vitality, leaving behind lifeless shells of their former selves. Now as a corporate zombie, it breathes, eats and works but without any zest, drive or life.

Chapter One: What Lies Ahead

Remember the days when you hated school so much that you couldnt wait to enter the workforce? Now that the time is near and youre [probably] having second thoughts, do not panic as the workplace is not as scary as you believe. That is, if you take adequate precautions. Naturally youre apprehensive. Gone are the days of freedom (and the option of skipping early morning classes). Gone too, is the opportunity for lengthy summer and winter holidays. What lies in store are more responsibilities, (hopefully occasional) overtime and the imminent threat of becoming a corporate zombie. Works not all bad, of course, but if youre too unprepared to meet the demands of corporate culture, you will end up unhappy, unfulfilled, and seeking a new job soon after. But dont panic for help is at hand. In fact, its in your hands this very moment. Within this survival guide is the distilled wisdom of trailblazers who have forged their own path in the corporate jungle.

Chapter Two: The Signs

Corporate zombies are not brain dead but will experience a decline in mental faculties, including: i. trouble concentrating on tasks ii. problems in managing work priorities and decision making iii. confusion iv. forgetfulness.

Emotional stability of a corporate zombie will likewise deteriorate. They may suffer from: i. ii. iii. iv. sadness, fear increased tension and anxiety feelings of inadequacy apathy.

Different people exhibit different traits when turned into corporate zombies. These include: i. remarkable decrease in productivity ii. temptation to drink troubles away iii. increased irritability leading to relationship problems.

The body of a corporate zombie will wear down over time due to its inability to rejuvenate itself. Fatigue will take its toll and it will suffer: i. migraines ii. ulcers iii. appetite loss or overeating iv. high blood pressure.

In the next pages are ten strategies which will inoculate you in the corporate zombie battle. They will strengthen you mentally, physically and socially. Complete mastery enables full and active lives as you transit from school to work.

Chapter Three: Mental Fortification

Tip #1: THiNK pOSiTive


Tough as it is on the frontline, a positive attitude makes the difference in every battle. Contrary to popular belief, positive thinking is a choice and it can be learnt. Everyone makes mistakes, so youre not alone. Treat each mistake as a worthy learning experience rather than failure. Apologise, remember the lessons learnt and pledge never to commit the same mistake again. With experience comes wisdom and knowledge that will help you make better decisions in the future. Challenge any negative self-talk with positive thoughts and find yourself on the way to better achievements and overall mental health. Remember that bad events are temporary rather than permanent and are mostly caused by extraneous, uncontrollable variables. Failing in one thing doesnt make you a failure in life.


Dont let mistakes defeat you

Always look on the bright side of life


Tip #2: MANAGe YOUR pRiORiTieS iN LiFe

You may unwittingly morph into a corporate zombie when you pursue work at the expense of other areas of life family, friends, health and even recreation.

Set realistic goals

Be ambitious, but get to your aim by breaking down the most daunting tasks into minute, more manageable steps. Clearing obstacles this way will keep you motivated and strengthen your confidence.


Minimise stress and tension by practising the art of prioritising. Plan what you need to do in this order of priority: Important and Urgent Not Important but Urgent Not Urgent but Important Not Important and Not Urgent

Manage work before work manages you

Set time estimates

Define the amount of time you should allocate each week for work, personal downtime and social activities. For example, keep Sundays free from work for quality time with your family, or clearly demarcate days for exercise. Work smarter with such tactics in place so as not to sacrifice other key areas of your life.


Dont anchor your sense of personal worth to your workplace success, as many who are just starting out in their careers do. After all, work is only one of the many aspects of your life. Your self-esteem plays a huge role in determining how happy you are with yourself, and subsequently, your eventual success in the workplace. Build on your strengths and work on your weaknesses to bolster confidence and self-esteem. Rope in your family, friends and colleagues for their constructive opinions too, as they may see things within you that you may be blind to. Everyone has an anchor that provides stability in crises the source of support that keeps one grounded. Dig deep and find the one thing that gives you strength. It could be family or a close friend, your resolutions or even a desire to fulfill a dream. Personal value anchors are permanent, more significant and can reinforce your selfworth during down times.

Enjoy being you

Know your strengths and limitations

Discover your anchor

Tip #4: MANAGe STReSS pOSiTiveLY

In any battle, stress can either be your worst enemy or most valuable asset. Keep the optimum level of stress where you are motivated and at your most productive. Find yourself too stressed or anxious? Immediately take these steps to de-stress:

De-stress, not distress

A moment away from work doing something you like (e.g. exercise, play the guitar, read your favourite book) can do wonders in helping you recharge. Take deep breaths for a minute, focusing on your diaphragm. Feel your belly rise when you inhale and fall when you exhale. Finish the exercise feeling refreshed. Find humour in your predicament, or laugh away your stress with a funny comic strip, joke or comedy.

Enjoy me-time

Do deep-breathing exercises


Chapter Four: Physical Defences

Tip #5: GeT eNOUGH ReST

Navigate your new environment with a clear head and alert mind by striving for six to eight hours of sleep each night. This will fully equip you with the energy to face tasks of the day. Stress is a monster that lurks in the corner of every tired mind, making situations seem more difficult to resolve than they really are.



Take power naps

Losing concentration? Take a breather wherever you are. Just five minutes of deep, rejuvenating rest is enough to clear your mind. Give yourself a good stretch when you awaken from your snooze.

Tired of feeling tired?

Hone your focus

Sharpen your mind by channelling your attention to a single sound in the environment while focusing on your breathing. If youre listening to music, focus on a particular instrument. When you feel refreshed, give yourself a good stretch.

Tip #6: STep Up, GeT ACTive

A healthy body is the most effective weapon that you can have against the corporate zombie threat. Being physically active can make you look good and feel good. An active vibrant lifestyle will benefit anyone regardless of age or gender, and enable you to better handle the hurdles of life and workplace transition.

Commit to be fit

Infuse physical activity into your daily routine, be it at home, work, leisure or while commuting. Start slow if you havent been physically active. Here are some suggestions: alight a few stops early or park your vehicle further away and walk to your destination; take the stairs whenever you can, be it at home, the office, mall or MRT station. Aim for 150 minutes a week. Make it a way of life.

Some exercise is better than none

Tip #7: AdOpT A HeALTHY dieT

Maintaining a balanced diet is vital to mental strength. If you dont provide your body with the essential nutrients, your body and mind may not be able to function properly. The greatest wealth, is health.

Eat better, live better

The time-tested Healthy Diet Pyramid from your health education classes can serve as a guide to determine if you have been choosing the right foods in the right portions. No one type of food will provide all the nutrients you need, so eat a wide variety in moderation and in the right balance. Eat regular meals so that your brain will have a constant supply of energy to think. Have at least three meals daily breakfast, lunch and dinner, and ensure these are well spread out. In a rush? Grab a wholemeal sandwich onthe-go. Or munch on fruit and vegetables at tea breaks for a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. But whatever it is, dont skip your meals. Your habitual food choices can boost your health or increase the risk of developing chronic lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension or high blood cholesterol all of which are detrimental in the corporate zombie war. The next time you eat out, remember: Less salt, less gravy, more vegetables, and snack on fruits instead of junk food.

Watch what you eat

Watch when you eat

Make healthier food choices

Chapter Five: Social Reinforcement

Tip #8: STAY CONNeCTed

Cultivate close, positive relationships with your family and friends and find yourself richer with a robust support network with whom you can easily share your happiness or pent-up woes.


Open up

Share that piece of good news or simply talk about your day. Social interaction will expose you to more ideas, and you will find yourself no longer limited to your own beliefs and assumptions as you imbibe valuable advice.

... offline

Tip #9: AvOid SUbSTANCe AbUSe

Harmful and addictive substances may provide temporary relief but plague you for life, robbing you of time, money and health. Do not succumb to such substances, tempting as they may be, in this critical juncture of workplace transition.

Stay above the influence

We all know that smoking is bad. It is the cause of heart diseases, strokes and emphysema amongst many other health problems. Cigarettes are filled with poisonous substances like arsenic, cyanide and lead. Recent studies have found that smokers, on average, lose about 14 years of their lives to smoking. So dont spend money killing yourself, and people around you too. Alcohol is a mind-altering drug that some use as a social crutch. It can be psychologically-addictive too. Frequent and heavy drinking can cause learning difficulties and memory problems, and may over time result in a wide range of health problems from brain damage to liver disease, diabetes to sexual dysfunction. Need a drink? Set a drinking limit and stick to it. Drink slowly, with a spacer by alternating between nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks. Eat before and during drinking, but avoid food that makes you thirsty.

Say no to tobacco

Say no to (over)drinking


Just as battles are won by an effective deployment of resources, strive for a sound financial plan to help meet your goals. This ensures your expenses are in check as you save for that dream house and car. Or zombie bunker. Do this through a four-step routine:

Be prepared for rainy days

Manage your expenses

Assess your ability to meet the expenses for now and the future. For example, you might really want that dream car, but if you cant keep up with installments then it might well be wise to put it off till later.

Maintain the distinction between wants and needs

Do not let discretionary expenses wriggle their way into the mandatory category. It may be hard to plan for discretionary expenses birthday gifts, a night out in town etc. The most efficient strategy is to fix a percentage of your income for discretionary expenses, allowing you funds for fun without compromising financial security.

Plan long term

Define your goals for the future and start planning early. This will increase the likelihood of you meeting your long-term goals. You could also look to an accredited financial advisor, who can help you draw up a plan and put it into action.

Keep an emergency fund

Anything can happen, so do your bid to expect the unexpected. Start an emergency fund with reserves totalling three to six months worth of your salary. General and health insurance can also provide crucial support for unexpected situations.

Chapter Six: end Note

Knowing is but half the battle won. The other half, is putting the above strategies into practice. You yourself are the single, most important factor in staying alive against the corporate zombie threat as you manage the arduous transition into the workplace. Only with the resolve to pursue a full and active life will you survive in your new corporate environment. Good luck.


A Youth-Led Campaign Supported by Health Promotion Board