Identify your priorities in life, and plan accordingly.

If you’re an adult living in America, you’re probably working a job or have worked a job that you couldn’t fathom doing when you were younger. That’s the case for me: going into college about seven years ago (geez, I feel old), I matriculated into the University of Maryland hoping to be a Foreign Service Officer for the State Department who could help mediate conflict in the Middle East. Fast forward to today, I find myself nowhere near the United States federal government, and in fact working for one of the most prominent organizations in the private sector as a tax consultant. Talk about a total 180! 

So, the questions present themselves: What is my job? How did I get here? What lessons can an Asian American guy in his mid-twenties share with others?

What is my job?

I am a senior consultant for Deloitte Tax, and I sit in a group called Global Employer Services. I work daily with people internationally to move companies’ employees to other places. For example, I help tech companies move employees from India to the US, or the US to Denmark. To get more specific, I help coordinate the actual moving process, estimate the costs of these moves, and report on the hundreds to thousands of employees moving at once.

So, if you, a loved one, or a friend has been transferred to another location for a job, my team would aim to make it as easy as possible for you! (^▽^)

How did I get here?

I didn’t know this job existed prior to me starting, but I’ve been able to learn an immense amount in the two and a half years since I started. And, on top of the technical knowledge, I’ve also cultivated my communication skills to be more precise, my problem-solving skills to think of more innovative solutions, and my leadership skills to lead larger groups of people. In addition to that, I work with a lot of women and people of color, so that has been a welcome and empowering experience for me: to feel that I can work in corporate America with a diverse workforce and safely express my Filipino American identity.

All in all, I’m very happy with where I am right now, but it didn’t come without its challenges and lessons.

Without a doubt, the most difficult obstacle was starting my new job during the COVID-19 pandemic. I felt isolated, just sitting in my room alone and staring at a computer screen for months. I was lucky to be living at home with my family, which afforded me interaction during meals and after work; but, that proved to be a distraction at times, as I could often hear my parents and sister watching Netflix or hanging out while I was working after hours.

In addition to experiencing an isolating and distracting work space at home, I also realized that my coworkers were very much learning how to train newer team members and cultivate a welcoming work environment. At the time, some of the people who managed me hadn’t had the chance to learn that it was imperative to allocate time to virtually check on new employees. Often, while working long hours alone on projects I didn’t understand, I found it difficult to express some of the loneliness, confusion, and hopelessness that I felt.   

These challenges led to me wanting to leave my job after that first year, despite encouraging performance reviews from my managers. I just wasn’t happy. The virtual work environment combined with the rigor of corporate America made me feel disconnected and invisible both in the workplace and in my personal life. I imagine you must have felt similar things, whether you were at work, in school, or working through a life transition.

Luckily, I learned some lessons following that challenging first year of work, and adopting them has led to me truly enjoying my job and thriving in the challenging environment it creates. 

What lessons can an Asian American guy in his mid-twenties share with others?

(hopefully, they’re helpful ٩(◕‿◕。)۶):

1. Find a Coach and a Mentor

There is a distinction between a coach and a mentor, and both are imperative to have for a successful work experience. A coach is someone who will support you during a period of your career by helping identify your goals, remind you of them along the way, and analyze changes and decisions that you have to make during your career. Meanwhile, a mentor is someone who you can observe actually doing your job, and you can develop an understanding of your job by emulating and improving on what they’re doing.

I’ve had many impactful coaches and mentors during my career, but three stand out particularly: Trent, Hunter, and Noah. They not only helped me in refining my work performance and identity, but they also helped me navigate life as an adult just leaving school for the first time. Their support slowly built confidence in me, and empowered me to take on new challenges, battle the discomfort healthily, and ultimately learn how to do my job well!

2. Find Your Work Passion

It’s true that there is no perfect job out there: you’re going to have responsibilities that you don’t want to own, and it’ll make the job frustrating at times. And, the combined monotony and exhaustion that work causes makes work hard.

However, a good job allows you to do at least one thing that you can feel strong and excited about: a work passion. For me, that’s mentoring and coaching new Deloitte employees. Many of these folks are college students entering the workforce for the first time, and they face similar challenges that I did when starting at Deloitte in 2020. So, helping them navigate the challenges that are Deloitte-specific and universal in corporate America makes me feel excited to come to work and meaningful to my teams. No matter what ebbs and flows occur at work, I know that being there for new Deloitte colleagues engenders joy at work.

3. Identify Your Priorities in Life, and Plan Accordingly

Identifying your priorities allows you to make healthy decisions about boundaries at work. For me, my priority in life (in order) is my own wellbeing, my family, my partner, my friends, career, then travel. It took time for me to understand that, and I imagine it will transform many times throughout my life. Knowing and being aware of  these things allows me to make decisions about how I structure my week, perceive my work performance, and make decisions about what to do.

For example, let’s say it’s Wednesday, and I have a big project due the following Monday that’ll require work after hours. Meanwhile, in my personal life, my girlfriend and my friends want to go out on Friday night. Knowing of that commitment, I ensure that I communicate to my colleagues that I won’t be working on Friday night, but I can allocate time on Thursday night and over the weekend to work. That compromise allows me to prioritize the time with my girlfriend and friends, while also finding time that works for me to fulfill my job’s commitments. I wouldn’t be able to determine that without understanding my priorities.

4. Adult Life is a Marathon – So Don’t Exhaust Yourself Everyday

Both working as an adult and general life as an adult is a marathon. There’s no summer break or winter break you can take to decompress. The long weekends are few and far in between. You don’t get to reset your performance after a quarter or a semester. You just keep going, and the decisions you’ve made in the past will always factor into your future in some way.

Though that sounds like a call to always be on your best behavior at work, I’m actually going to advocate something a bit opposite: don’t exhaust yourself every day by trying to be perfect. There are going to be unexpected hurdles, impossible deadlines to meet, and frustrating situations. So, don’t try to prevent them from happening or attempt to fix them before you finish your day. 

Allow yourself to push some deadlines back when possible, understand that your 100% is going to look different every day, and give yourself a break when you can. I have learned that unless you start to do those things and accept the need to manage your well-being, no one else is going to do it for you.

5. It’s Powerful to Learn and Accept Your Weaknesses; You’ll Have a Team Who Can Help

Finally, along the same lines as above, it’s okay to be bad at some things. I’m good at encouraging a healthy team environment and appropriately distributing work, but I’m not great at being attentive to detail. I used to try to do that, but I would often still miss things or mistype numbers, and it ate away at my self esteem.

But, as I expressed these shortcomings to my team members, they encouraged me that they could help me with those things. Meanwhile, I could help spread the work around and assign tasks, while also checking on team morale and identifying what skills a new team member should bring to a team. This acceptance of strengths and weaknesses has led to mutually beneficial collaboration, where each of us do things we’re good at and have others fill in where we can’t.

That makes our jobs easier, and our self-esteem healthier.

That’s a lot to throw at you for a reflection on work. To conclude, you will definitely face your challenges at work too, or you may be facing them right now. Regardless of where you are, you will find a way to navigate those hard times, and you’ll end up where you’re meant to be.

Take it from me: my job has made me question myself numerous times, and it definitely will continue to do that. Yet, to this point, those challenging times have taught me invaluable lessons and made me wise enough to get on my soapbox and preach to you like a grandpa during the annual holiday party! In all seriousness, hopefully, there’s something you can take away from my story and the lessons I’ve learned. I believe in you, there are numerous others who do too, and you are on the path you’re meant to be on. Trust yourself, and trust the prospect of an exciting life and career where you’ll get the chance to bloom into the beautiful person you’re meant to be (b^_^)b

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