By Charles Kuo, DC Programs Manager
Photos Courtesy of AALEAD Staff
The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. – Steve Jobs
Determining your career can often be a challenge when faced with societal pressures. Folks often pursue the “right” or “financially stable” job, leaving many dissatisfied or stressed out with their careers later in life. Asian Pacific American (APA) youth, in particular, are consistently encouraged to pursue jobs that seem to fit the narrative of the model minority myth. Mentors, counselors, or family members can sometimes project their views on what youth should be and they often steer them away from their passions. At AALEAD, we believe that it is important for youth to be exposed to different careers. It’s important to know your options, especially at a younger age, and make your own choice. The more careers youth are exposed to, the more options they have to choose from. Simply said: Your Career, Your Choice. We believe that it is important to reaffirm how youth would like to be defined and how they see themselves in the future.
Stephanie Lim, DC Middle and High School Program Coordinator, has served various roles at AALEAD but discovered her career in teaching during her last year in college.
“It was my fourth year in college, one of my graduation requirements was to take either an upper level course or be a teaching assistant for a college level course. I chose to be a Teaching Assistant and I was very surprised because I did not expect to enjoy it so much. Having office hours, facilitating discussions, and supporting youth with problem solving was so rewarding. I didn’t think of teaching as something I might do seriously. After that, I had opportunities to work with elementary, middle, and high school students. That’s when I seriously considered it to be my career path.”
Stephanie’s story shows that it’s important to try new things. Careers can be discovered through unexpected opportunities. At AALEAD, one of our educational empowerment goal is to have all youth participate in three or more career exploration activities or workshops. We define career exploration as:
the process of accessing information about different career paths, including defining interests, skills needed for certain professions, how to refine skills, and connections between personality, skills, education, and professions. By exploring different skills, resources, and knowledge tied to potential future career opportunities, youth will develop effective strategies to realize their goals; identify and explore all possible occupations of interest; learn more about themselves, the working world, and how they can contribute their skills and interests.
Career exploration activities look different across programs but are always inspired by the youth and youth-centered. Most recently, the DC Elementary School youth went on a field trip to the Maryland Science Center. This trip was encouraged by many youth who wanted to know more about work in the science field. Nadiah Widodo, AALEAD Elementary School Site Coordinator, shares that “instead of being negative about other people’s success, dig inside yourself. There is something great inside of you..” She hopes to inspire youth to find their passions and achieve success.
We interviewed several of our DC Elementary School program youth and they shared their current career aspirations and how career exploration activities have impacted them. Check it out!
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a veterinary physician. I mostly want to work with domestic animals, specifically dogs. I also want to travel so that I can meet all kinds of dogs. I would also like to work with dogs that give birth. One idea that I have for the company is to have one entire building in each country or specific place in a country so that everyone knows this is a great company. I would also like to have one entire building because each veterinarian can have their spot in it, and if they need help from another type of veterinarian, there is one in the building. – Nora A. , 4th Grade AALEADer
I will make a computer, iPad, or iPhone that can’t be hacked. I will use math to code computers, iPads, and iPhones and keep viruses out by using a number decimal system pass code, with all the pass codes being different for different jobs. I will make a coded app that can watch free movies and free TV shows. I will make a coded app to make videos, animation, games, and a YouTube channel. I will make a coded app to make deleted clips of videos and parts of program that aren’t good come back stronger.- David D., 4th Grade AALEDer
I want to be a fossil finder because I like dinosaurs. I want to find out about them. My favorite dinosaur is a Tyrannosaurus rex. I saw Tyrannosaurus rex and extinct bones at the Maryland Science Center – Justin R., 1st Grade AALEADer
Has AALEAD shared about any careers that you didn’t know about before?
At AALEAD, I’ve learned about painters, bakers, chefs, and scientists. After learning more about chefs, I want to be a chef. A chef can provide and give others what they need. They give them food.– Laura K., 1st Grade AALEADer
We learned about geologists at AALEAD and did an experiment with volcanoes. I want to be a geologist because I want to experience volcanoes. Geologists explore different things and places. Geologists help others. – Bailey F., 1st Grade AALEADer
What advice would you give someone who is figuring out their career?
You can be whatever you want. PBS Kids told me that!- Kai H., Kindergarten AALEADer
People can be what they want to be. Some jobs are easy, some jobs are hard. Your job is your choice and people shouldn’t boss you around because you wouldn’t be happy. People should get to do their own things.- Justin R., 1st Grade AALEADer
You have to really want to be what you want when you grow up. It makes you feel happy. If you’re having a hard time figuring out your job, you should know that there are different jobs out there. You just have to find the right one.– Abigail T., 1st Grade AALEADer
Like us at facebook.com/AsianAmericanLead and follow us on instagram and twitter (@aalead)! For more information on Asian American LEAD’s DC Programs, please email DC Programs Manager, Charles Kuo at firstname.lastname@example.org.