Navigating the Workplace

Melody Lim, the career specialist for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, spoke to students on Thursday about navigating the workplace as Asian Pacific Islander Desi American indiviuals. (Screenshot / Daily Titan)

 Career specialists tackled Asian American studies concepts, such as harmful stereotypes and microaggressions, while also providing advice on how to react to these uncomfortable incidents at an event hosted by the Asian Pacific American Resource Center on Thursday.

The Cal State Fullerton Career Center collaborated with the center to share with students the final program of April’s APIDA Heritage Month events: “Navigating the Workplace as APIDA Individuals.”

Career specialists Melody Lim and Chanda Ishisaka hosted the Zoom workshop, which informed students about wage disparities, APIDA-specific microaggressions, resiliency and other related topics. 

Before the presentation started, Lim said that they will be discussing this subject through the lens of their own experiences, which may not be an accurate reflection of the entire APIDA community. However, Lim said she hopes that the information will still be a helpful resource for students.

Within the context of the anti-Asian racism that has erupted since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lim and Ishisaka said they felt compelled to show their support and provide resources for CSUF’s APIDA community, in addition to celebrating APIDA Heritage Month. 

“For me personally, I’ve always wanted to intertwine more social justice and diversity events into our career roles,” Lim said. “Oftentimes, it's assumed that (Diversity Initiative and Resource Centers) and the ethnic studies would be the ones heading these kinds of events, but we want to see what we can do within our scope of practice in career development.”

In one example, Lim discussed the barrier of the bamboo ceiling, which recognizes APIDA individuals as hardworking, but not good enough for upper management positions, usually for no particular reason.

In another example, Ishisaka talked about her experience avoiding burnout and the model minority myth, which stereotypes APIDA individuals as hard-working and, consequently, more successful than other minority groups. 

Lim mentioned early in the presentation that the model minority myth is harmful because it pits Asian Americans against other minority groups when there should not be a competition in the first place. Lim and Ishisaka said that this stereotype often leads to burnout because these individuals feel the need to over perform to get the recognition they deserve.

“I sometimes feel like we're getting pressure within our own Asian community, our own family, but also trying to fit in the pressure of wanting to succeed in the U.S., so I do think that can be a recipe for burnout because you can't satisfy everybody, you gotta take time for yourself,” Ishisaka said. “That's just a tough lesson we're all trying to figure out, how not to burn ourselves out, right? And live up to our own expectations.”

Lim also said that her intersecting identities as an APIDA individual, a first-generation student and the daughter of an immigrant family contribute to the need to prove herself, which can easily lead to burnout.

“I think there's some multi-layers that are very common within the community that intertwine to make it so that we're always trying to prove ourselves, that our parents immigrated here for a just cause and that we are successful, but also that kind of passing down of the American dream of our parents and what that means for us, and how can we be ourselves and also make our family, or etc., proud of us,” Lim said. 

This pattern of burnout behavior in the workplace, however, can be avoided through building resiliency. Ishisaka affirmed that all 17 of the students who participated in the event are resilient simply for showing up to the Zoom meeting because the pandemic has not stopped them from learning and educating themselves.

Ishisaka went on to discuss the strategies students can use in their careers to overcome a difficult situation, which can look different for each person. 

“Resilience starts with you and so really thinking about what strategies do you have for yourself to help yourself when you feel disrespected. And so some strategies may be honoring your existing resilience, honoring that you have been able to succeed, you’ve been able to push forward in the past,” Ishisaka said. 

For Ishisaka, building resilience in her career was not a one-person job, she said. Relying on others and engaging in outside hobbies helped her to avoid burnout. Lim, on the other hand, built resiliency through going to therapy, which she said has helped her process the trauma she inherited.

“Knowing that when the violence happens, or movements are happening, definitely learning and growing from them, but not overwhelming myself,” Lim said. “It's important to center myself too. I think oftentimes, I center everyone else and make sure that they're okay, but it's so common for me, passed down from my parents, that I need to care about others versus me.”


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