I’ve gotten used to sounding apologetic when I explain to people what I do for a living. After all, I have a Master’s degree in Public Policy from one of the best policy schools in the nation. How could I possibly just be an assistant? I get defensive, and feel like I have to justify my decision to take a job that would not impress any of my peers. Since starting, I had feared this job wouldn't allow me to learn any tangible skills, and I would leave it having accomplished nothing.
Was taking this job a mistake?
This fear started to run my life and I spent much of my spare time looking into opportunities for professional development. I figured if I wasn’t getting what I needed from work, I’d go out and find it. It didn’t really matter what exactly I was doing, as long as I thought it would appeal to a future employer. Keep in mind, I’m already part of two amazing organizations: I serve on the board of YNPN TC and on the Executive Team of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL). For some reason, I had it in my head that I needed more, more, more!
I don’t think I’m alone, right? In high school, we were told that we needed to be "well-rounded" in order to be a competitive applicant for college, and in college we were pushed to engage in every opportunity, so we would stand out in the job market.
For many of us this pressure didn't cease when we left academia. In fact, there are books about it! Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller, “Lean In,” challenges women to tenaciously go after what they want in the workplace, be it a promotion, a raise, or some other benefit. We have to work our tails off to get anywhere. In my case, my endless pursuit of professional development was how I was “leaning in".