Growing up as a first-generation Asian-American, I was expected to pursue a career in STEM. A job was something you picked to make your parents proud — whether it’s to become a doctor, nurse, or an engineer.
So, a career in communications was something very foreign to me. I had no idea what that industry was like. As I pursue my degree in advertising, I’m confronted with the challenge of trying to pursue a career in an unfamiliar industry while also trying to please my parents with something unknown to them.
Lack of representation
It’s not like I could show my parents a celebrity or someone that they knew who pursued a degree in communications because there weren’t many representations of that within our media while growing up. I remember watching the movie 13 Going on 30, still one of my favorite movies to this day, and seeing how the main character played by Jennifer Garner was the editor for her favorite fashion magazine. I wanted to be her character Jenna so bad and to work at a magazine, but I couldn’t picture myself in that career field when it was expected of me to go into medicine.
It wasn’t popular to see Asian women going into something like communications versus going into medicine growing up, and I felt I had to fight that stereotype with what I wanted to do. Sure, I was doing well in college initially with my STEM classes like microbiology and chemistry, but what was the point of pursuing something if you never have the passion for it?
Discovering my passion
As I was studying for my required class, I would find myself listening to music, which is not uncommon for most college students. However, I was searching for the newest releases from my favorite artists, posting about it on my social media, and trying to share and talk about it with others. As I regularly posted to Twitter and interacted with lots of musicians that I listened to, people started to follow me to see what was the latest thing to listen to.
This caught the attention of a founder of a lifestyle publication, Teal Magazine, and she offered me a position as music coordinator for the magazine. I was hesitant at first to accept the position. Never did I consider myself a writer or someone who wanted to pursue something in the music industry, but I accepted the job because I loved to talk about music.
My first two years of college were already complete when I accepted this position. I started writing regularly about music, posting about it on social media more, and was interviewing my favorite musicians while trying to balance all my STEM classes for a degree that I felt that I didn’t even want. Being a music editor for a publication as a job was something that I had never considered. I always thought, “Can people be paid to this type of stuff that I think is fun?”
I continued to have opportunities to cover music festivals, concerts, interview musicians, and meet people that were in the music industry trying to become tour photographers and music journalists. Then, I had the realization that this was something I wanted to do or at least try to pursue a career in … since I dreaded the idea of going into the medical field.
Making a choice for myself
I changed my major to advertising when I had this realization because I wanted to learn more about communications and what it had to offer me. Advertising seemed like it had everything from writing to graphic design to event planning. I became interested more in writing and knowing the technicalities of it. I re-taught myself how to do graphic design and joined organizations on campus to spark my interests in what advertising is like UH’s American Advertising Federation chapter.
I enter my senior year and with what I have learned of the advertising field, I feel content knowing that this is something I want to do after I graduate. At the start of college, I felt very lost and burdened with the expectations of what I should do versus what I want to do, and I still struggle with that. However, I don’t want to live with the idea of doing a job every day that I had no interest in at all.
Whether it is to be a graphic designer or an account planner, I know that either of these positions or anything in advertising is something I want to do, because I’m choosing to do it.
Graphic by Juana Garcia