First job stories, as told by The Dream Job actors

Odd jobs and part-time gigs these actors did before joining show business

The cast of The Dream Job at the drama's soft launch press conference
The cast of The Dream Job at the drama's soft launch press conference
27 Jan 2016

The cast of The Dream Job at the drama's soft launch press conference

Photos: Joanna Goh & Teo Sijia
Videos: Vanessa Lim & Zhang Jiahao


A few years ago, an ad for the “best job in the world” went viral for the perks it offered applicants -- it was a working holiday that took place in the sun, sand and sea (read: “house-sit” the island around the Great Barrier Reef) with no 9 to 5 commitments expected of a regular desk job. Similarly, in upcoming Channel 8 drama series The Dream Job, a group of people are given a chance to work in a rich man’s horticulture estate and earn $30,000 a month via a ‘dream job’ ad. While no barrier reefs are involved in the making of this drama series, you can expect to see 10 times the competition and rivalry unfold between the people on screen.

At the soft launch of the drama yesterday, we interviewed the cast and learned about the different kinds of occupations (part-time and odd jobs included) they did once upon a time before gaining fame. Do you know once of the actors tried to apply for a job at McDonalds but got rejected by the company? Read on to find out more.

Aileen Tan
Aileen Tan
27 Jan 2016

Aileen Tan

A long, long time ago, when getai shows were held only during the seventh lunar month, Aileen once worked as a dish washer with her sister and her mother at these annual shows.  “I remember we earned $15 in total that day. I was in secondary school then and my father just had a stroke. My mother was a fulltime housewife and our family was in need of money… Because we’re kids, we earned lesser than we should have,” she recalled.

That’s not all. Aileen also tried her hand at waitressing, selling ice cream and distributing leaflets during her school holidays. “One of the better jobs I did was working at the bookstore after school – I was paid $50 a month for it. I attended the morning session in school so after classes, I’d report for work at the bookstore from 1 to 9pm.”

How did she reward herself with her first $50 paycheck? “I love watching horror movies so I treated myself to one – I still remember it’s called Hu Gu Po (loosely translated as ‘Tiger Spirit’)! Tickets aren’t too expensive back then… I opted for the low-tier seats and paid $1 for it.”

Brandon Wong
Brandon Wong
27 Jan 2016

Brandon Wong

This is something Brandon has never told his folks – when he was 19 years old, he once worked as a waiter in a nightclub, pouring and serving drinks to customers during his school holidays. The actor-host reckoned he’d never get the chance to be a “baller” and spend money at party joints and decided to work there for the nightclub experience instead.

Money, which was made up of a base pay of $100 and tips from customers, was used for school fees, said Brandon. “Come to think of it, it was really little… but the nicer you treat the customers and the happier they are, the bigger the tip you get. (Laughs)”

Before his part-time stint at the nightclub, Brandon was also a newspaper delivery boy for his family's business during his primary school days and had to finish his delivery duties early in the morning before going to school. But, he jokingly protested, “I wouldn’t consider it my first job because I was not paid for it!”

Zhang Zhen Huan
Zhang Zhen Huan
27 Jan 2016

Zhang Zhen Huan

It pays to be tall -- or at least that’s what we gathered when Zhen Huan told us of his part-time modeling gigs during his university days. Before he officially joined showbiz, the Sichuan native, who was staying in the school’s hostel then, was scouted by his peers to do a few shoots. One led to another and he eventually signed up for Mediacorp Channel U’s talent search programme, U Are The One, in 2008.

His first-ever paycheck from a photoshoot (a small remuneration of $200 to $300) was spent on buying his dad and mum packets of bak kwa during one of his trips back home.

PS: Did you know Zhen Huan had a 'English' name during his modeling days? Yup. That's Re'al you're looking at.

Pan Ling Ling
Pan Ling Ling
27 Jan 2016

Pan Ling Ling

Coming from an impoverished background, Ling Ling told us she used to work in a factory assembly plant after school (“putting gold chips into computer chips”), during her secondary school days, to contribute to the family’s household income. She even gave Chinese language tuition to primary school kids once upon a time and told us she nearly became a Singapore girl.

“I passed the first two rounds [of auditions to be an air stewardess], but at that point in time my parents still needed financial support to send my brothers to school. Coincidentally, I was offered a contract with the TV station and decided to sign on with them instead,” she shared.

So what did she do with her first $700 paycheck from the TV station? “I saved it all up after giving a portion of money to my dad. We had to scrimp and save as much as possible back then – I even took the bus or my dad’s lorry to work to save on transport fare.”

Hugo Ng
Hugo Ng
27 Jan 2016

Hugo Ng

Hugo starred in his first Singapore TV series when he was 24 years (circa 1984) and before he became an actor, the Singapore-born artiste shared that he once worked as a mailman in Hong Kong. “I had to deliver letters to people – there was no such thing as express courier services back in the day!” the 57-year-old shared.

All these took place when he was 15 or 16 years old and he no longer remembers how much he was paid for the delivery job. “It was too long ago! But I remember I was not paid much for it.”

Watch Hugo’s former local productions Men of Valour and The Strike Back on Toggle.

Shaun Chen
Shaun Chen
28 Jan 2016

Shaun Chen

Looks like Romeo isn’t the only former cable boy on the hill – before becoming an actor, Shaun worked as a cable technician after graduating from electrical engineering at the age of 19 years old. “I’d be doing the installation or routing of wires,” he said, adding that the manual labour work which involved a fair bit of climbing was “too tough”.

Paid less than RM15 per hour for the job, a fraction of his pay went to his parents’ monthly allowance, said Shaun. “I didn’t drive back then too, I rode an electrical bike to and fro work too so I don’t have to spend much.”

Romeo Tan
Romeo Tan
27 Jan 2016

Romeo Tan

He told us all about his odd job past working as a counter service staff at McDonalds and a cable technician in his Toggle Talk interview. Yesterday, we learned more about Romeo’s two years spent working in the fast food chain which he started doing at the age of 14.

According to the actor, he had to work on the floor “clearing trays” and cleaning tables before he was “upgraded” to work in the store room, the kitchen and finally the cashier counter. Paid $2.90 an hour for his job, “The main purpose was to [earn money] to watch movies and hang out with my friends on the weekend since I received a daily allowance of only $4 to $5 from my mum,” said Romeo.

Rebecca Lim
Rebecca Lim
27 Jan 2016

Rebecca Lim

Don’t judge Rebecca by her long locks and fair complexion – during her VJC (Victoria Junior College) days, the former-tomboy was an active hockey player, sported short hair (“with a hair band to push my fringe up”) and was dark and tanned. After graduating from school, the VJC alumnae was invited back to do relief-teaching as a P.E. teacher for two weeks when one of the teachers had to sit out of classes. With Becks often dressed in demure dresses and sweeping gowns these days, even we find it hard to imagine her as a P.E. teacher!

Sheila Sim
Sheila Sim
27 Jan 2016

Sheila Sim

When she was in her teenage years (about 15 to 16 years old), Sheila once tried working as a data entry clerk in an insurance company during her school holidays. But the mundane task of keying in numbers from the start of work to when she knocked off was not challenging and felt boring after a while. “I didn’t know what the point of keying in all these data was and I didn’t understand how companies functioned. Sometimes I’d end up dozing off at work and would sneak off to take short naps during my toilet breaks.”

Hong Ling
Hong Ling
27 Jan 2016

Hong Ling

Being an actress counts as Hong Ling’s first formal job, but before her brush with fame, the 21-year-old had some experience in the service line when she part-timed as a sales assistant for a certain fashion brand for a month. The actress, who shared that she was paid $6 an hour for the job, said the only thing she remembers is ending her shift with sore thighs after standing for eight hours at work.

Ian Fang
Ian Fang
27 Jan 2016

Ian Fang

Ian shared that he did not have a chance to do odd jobs or work part-time - unlike most of the people on this list, but he did reveal that he once applied for a job at McDonalds when he was studying in Singapore and ended up getting rejected by the fast food chain as he was on a student visa and was, unfortunately, not eligible for the job. Here’s hoping his character in the drama has better luck with his ‘dream job’ application.

The Dream Job debuts June 27 at 9pm on Channel 8.

Watch:
How did the actors spend their first-ever paycheck?
Shaun's devotion to his baby girl sparks jealousy in wife
Ian will have a 'shotgun' marriage in the drama

Related:
2016 local drama guide
Shaun Chen talks about his lawyer role in The Dream Job
Romeo Tan: It’s flattering if a rich woman wants to support me

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