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Navigating the Job Market During a Pandemic as an Asian Pacific Islander American

By Asian Student Achievement, LLC

Entering the year 2020, we could not have fathomed this pandemic to be crawling behind us. As Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIAs), we are forced to deal with the cards we are dealt: we are labeled to be submissive, academic overachievers, but those stereotypes are a myth. Our company, Asian Student Achievement, LLC provides a Diversity-Driven Job Board and coaching service seeking to diversify the workplace and help move Asian and Asian Americans through the pipeline to leadership. We reached out to professionals in recruiting, diversity, and inclusion to guide this conversation and offer tips on navigating jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who We Are as APIA

The cultural practice of “respecting your elders” runs deep through the APIA community. Ning Zulaf, a Global Recruiting Strategist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, voices that “We all need to be aware of the imposter syndrome. We are taught that our parents and grandparents worked so hard for us and we need to be the best”. Embedded in our cultural roots is this external pressure that we “owe” it to our elders to work hard, follow their path, and be obedient.

We continue to work hard, hoping to gain approval from our elders by finding a “good job”. From there, we enter the workforce and realize the struggles we may face as APIAs. Kevin Zhao, a Global Executive Compensation Specialist at Boeing, mentions “it’s hard being Asian American in Boeing because the employees are tenured Caucasian Americans”.

After a couple years, we become more comfortable and are eager to look at opportunities for leadership and career advancement. How do we begin asking for this opportunity? Kevin Bradley, a Senior Advisor for Global Inclusion & Diversity at Zebra Technologies, remarks, “We never brag about ourselves. Culturally we haven’t been good at that”. Having been raised to be compliant is a predicament we may face as APIAs in the workforce. However, there are methods we can use to maneuver around the professional world without losing our APIA character.

Job Searching as an APIA

With the current political, social, and economic conditions, the job search process has become more challenging for APIAs. Echo Yang, a Talent Acquisition Specialist at The Nature Conservancy, recommends to “remember [as an Asian community our strength is to] bring different things to the table, don’t be afraid to reveal your shows that diverse workplaces have higher innovation and employee engagement [further] improving profits”. It is imperative to embrace our cultural identity and utilize our diverse backgrounds and experiences as an advantage rather than a barrier.

We need to put ourselves out there through networking. Alan Guevarra, a Talent Strategy Manager at Hunt Club, said, “Filling job roles really comes down to networking and knowing your specific group”. To advance forward, we need to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations. Bradley highlighted that “Asians need to ask for more...we spend so much time being polite and thanking higher-ups”.

As APIAs, we need to do a better job in embracing our differences, portraying our talents, networking with others, and asking for more. It may be uncomfortable - however, taking steps outside of the box can create more opportunities for growth.

Advice to Job Seekers

We asked the esteemed professionals we interviewed to offer their advice. Here is their recommendation:

  • Be Assertive – “Recruiters like to be approached. Imagine fishes coming to your boat saying ‘I’m lean and delicious!’.” (Alan Guevarra)

  • Keep Learning – “For those out of the market, fill the gaps in your resume by learning new skills or gaining a certification.” (Echo Yang)

  • Mentorship – “Don’t only have Asian mentors. Expand and learn from [others].” (Kevin Bradley)

Cruising the professional world as APIAs in the middle of this pandemic is not an impossible task. We hope these tips can be used as a compass to aid in your journey.

If you are looking for a job or are an organization that wants to diversify your workforce, we encourage you to visit our Diversity-Driven Job Board by going to

For more information, please email

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