EVERY significant experience she has had in life, starting from that at home, has been a learning moment for Ms Chen Shufen.

The first lesson Ms Chen, 26, learnt was imparted by her father, a taxi driver, and her mother, a home-maker, both of whom are in their 50s.

Says Ms Chen: "They are not well-educated or well-to-do; yet through sheer perseverance and determination, they saved enough money for university fees for my elder brother and myself.

"They taught me the importance of a united family and how the love that binds us can help us overcome all obstacles together. My parents are a great inspiration to me."

Her second big life lesson - about leadership - was when she was a student at the Nanyang Technological University where she graduated with an accountancy degree in 2004.

Ms Chen, today a senior human resource analyst and desk head (Prime Minister's Office) of the Leadership Development Department in the Public Service Division (PSD), recalls: "Being the leader of a university dance team preparing for a national dance competition proved to be nerve-wracking. It was a big challenge to lead a team whose members were more experienced than I was.

"So I decided to take the humble approach and often expressed my respect for the skills of my team members. My sincerity and perseverance began to bear fruit gradually and we grew to become a cohesive team."

The job stint she had after junior college in 2000 also proved to be valuable.

As an administrative clerk in a secondary school, she picked up the skills to handle difficult people such as angry parents. She also had to deal with teachers and students.

When she became a Singapore Airlines flight stewardess for two years after university, the experience opened her eyes to the myth that all these women did was to look pretty and serve drinks to passengers.

"The work required planning, organisation and people management skills. I learnt the values of humility and service and that good service must come from the heart."

In 2006, Ms Chen wanted a career change and chanced upon the Public Service Division's job advertisement in The Straits Times. She landed a job shortly afterwards.

It is during her time working in PSD that she has picked up the most life experiences so far.

Says Ms Chen: "In PSD, my colleagues are warm, friendly and helpful. Our interactions extend into the personal aspects of our lives. We talk about family, kids and other interesting topics.

"My supervisors are open to discussion and consider my suggestions seriously. I feel engaged and part of the PSD team.

"They also encourage me to take part in the organisation's corporate programmes such as being involved in the staff welfare and dinner and dance committees and fund-raising activities."

Working in PSD, she adds, has many challenges such as the constant one about how to manage stakeholders' expectations.

"There are times when you have to be firm and times when you need to use your negotiation skills. Through my work, I have polished my people management, negotiation and multi-tasking skills," she says, adding that she has also taken various courses to sharpen her abilities.

On career prospects in PSD, Ms Chen says: "Officers are offered competitive remuneration packages. PSD recognises and rewards good performance with bonuses and merit increments.

"Officers are promoted based on their consistent good performance, as well as their readiness to take on higher-level duties. Outstanding officers may also be offered scholarships overseas."

But Ms Chen says she values her personal development more than just good pay.

She explains that three major projects she has worked on exposed her to different areas of human resource work.

"I also feel more equipped with the knowledge gained and I hope to pursue a master's degree in human resource in the near future"

On why young job-seekers should enter the public service, she says: "Fresh graduates may not have a clear idea about their careers. The public service offers a wide range of work opportunities. Through training and job rotation, officers can take different roles to test their aptitudes.

To prepare for job interviews, she suggests: "Know yourself and be yourself. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This way, both the interviewer and the interviewee have clear and realistic expectations of each other."

She adds: "More importantly, public officers need to have drive in wanting to contribute to society."