Stories + Advice

Understanding Your AAPI Identity in the Workplace

Everyone brings their own set of values and identities to their career and workplace. As someone who identifies as a member of the AAPI community, there are parts of my identity and values that I bring into my classes and graduate assistantships that sometimes differ from my colleagues. Many of these identities and values are evolving and will continue to change as I grow in my field. From a young age, many around me would project their own ideas and thoughts about what my values and identities were without allowing for the opportunity to get to know me. These projections that were (and at times still are)  placed on me, and others who identify as AAPI, are based off of the Model Minority myth of what a “model” AAPI colleague would be.

It is important to note that you should identify your own values and identities. As someone who is Indian, many people assume that I am their tech support. In reality I, more or less, have the black thumb in the tech world—honestly, I have no idea why computers always die around me. Figuring out what my own values and identities are, was not something that I was able to formulate overnight, in a week, or even over a month. It has taken me years to understand and realize what my identities are, and to also understand that things will continue to change as I gain new experiences. It is important to note that the label AAPI itself is a broad label spanning a large number of ethnic groups. It is therefore important to understand that you have your own individual identity that may differ starkly from others who identify as AAPI.

Three questions that have helped me understand my own identities are:
1. What brings me joy?
2. What am I good at?
3. What does the world need me to be?

I make sure to take time to check in with myself and make sure that I am asking myself these questions as I am going through my graduate program and looking at career opportunities. As someone who is in the field of International Higher Education, and has many facets of my identity that don’t exactly fit the Model Minority, it is particularly challenging for me to make the time and put in the effort to do these reflections.

Here is a great resource and reminder to take time and reflect on what brings you joy and how to have conversations with yourself, friends and family members when it comes to discussing your own identity. You can also set up a 30-minute coaching appointment with one of our Career Exploration coaches to discuss the opportunities and careers that you may want to pursue.

When looking at potential workplaces, I also make sure that the offices are accepting of my identities and values. For me, it is important that I have the ability and time to take time off for holidays and festivals that I celebrate with my family. When interviewing, I make sure to observe the diverse make-up of the office and to understand how all members of the office are able to contribute in their own ways. Is each individual given opportunities and seen as someone whose values and identities are viewed as assesses for the office

If you need support having these conversations and talking through understanding your identity and values, there are resources on campus that you can utilize such as the University Counseling Services, BAIC, and Student Outreach & Support Services.

– By Sonali Kathuria, LSOEHD ’23, International Higher Education, M.A.

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