As I approach the end of my graduate program at the University of Vermont, the most common questions I get are related to my job search.

“Are you doing The Placement Exchange (TPE)?”

“What functional areas are you considering?”

“Do you want to go back home to Southern California?”

At the same time, my personal life is up 15 points because I am also dating a lot more than I ever have. Inevitably, my active job search and active dating life are providing invaluable lessons that cross over into each other. For a moment, I had to make sure I was still updating my TPE profile and not my OkCupid one. So much of my dating life translates into how I am approaching the job search and here are some of the top lessons I’ve learned so far.

I’m not desperate

This all comes down to recognizing self-worth. I don’t need to say “yes” to the first job offer I get the same way I don’t need to say “yes” to the first person who asks me out. During my internship at TPE, I consistently saw candidates line up their entire day with back to back first round interviews only to cancel them when they realized they didn’t make time to… eat, travel to the next interview, breathe, etc. They had said “yes” to anyone and everyone who would give them 15 minutes. The same goes for dating. I’m guilty of going on dates with people I am definitely not interested in, mostly because… well it’s nice to be wanted. Those same dates were also just as awful as I had predicted they were going to be. I wasted their time and mine.

Love yourself enough to respectfully decline as needed.

Don’t settle

When it comes to the job search, a good teacher once told me, “Go where you are not just tolerated, but celebrated.” When it comes to dating, a good friend once told me, “‘I don’t know’ is not a ‘hell yes.’”

I don’t just want a job. I didn’t go into education to become a professional task-master (which is a whole ‘nother post about student affairs). I want a meaningful career. I want to feel like people are invested in me. I want to feel trusted. I want to make enough money to live in abundance. And in turn, I want to provide my skills, talents, sweat, and knowledge to benefit a mission bigger than myself. I don’t need these things– I’ve done a job without them before. But I want them, and I deserve them in this next phase of my life. I deserve to go somewhere great, work really hard, and be celebrated.

I’ve also been in awful relationships that always kept me wondering if I was still relevant. When I asked myself if they loved me, I never really knew the answer. And that’s when I knew it was time to leave. The same way I deserve to be invested in and celebrated as a professional, I also deserve to be with someone who says “Hell yes, I want to be with you.”

Tokenizing So Hard, You’d Swear This Was Chuck E. Cheese

Everyone wants to practice affirmative recruitment/hiring, but I’m not so sure everyone knows what that actually looks like. I can sniff out “Let’s hire the Asian” like nobody’s business, mostly because my lived experiences have put me on constant alert.

What are the identities of those already working in that office?
I see you can hire staff of color, but why can’t you keep them?
What type of “diversity” trainings are implemented– but are they information-based or actual calls to action?

I know that no institution will be perfect in this regard, but it also my responsibility to try and understand what climate I am stepping into if I’m at this job for the next few years of my life.

When it comes to dating, exotification and sexualization of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) womyn is too real. I’m definitely mindful of clues: creepy fascination with “what kind of Asian” I am, if I have a “tiger mom,” assuming I can read a Korean BBQ menu, etc. Do you want to get to know me or do you want to “experience” being with (insert Person of Color [POC] identity here)?

Soulmates and dream jobs

Personally, I don’t believe in soulmates. I believe in effort. On the same vein, I don’t believe in dream jobs. “Soul mates” and “dream jobs” create an unrealistic expectation of what our lives should look like. What a burden! In dating, I’ve learned that perfection is a fallacy and in the words of Jay-Z, “take the good with the bad, or throw the baby out with that bath water.”

Whether it’s job search or partner(s) searching, there’s a lot of crossover on the lessons learned! It’s my belief that we each deserve to be surrounded by the things and people that bring us joy, and the search for those things can be the most stressful but exciting part. But once everything falls into place, the best foundation all comes down to a sense of awareness and self-love before anything else. Good luck to everyone searching for… whatever it is you want!

See this post on the ACPA Asian Pacific American Network Blog