Navigating Post-Grad Life: Networking & Job Searching

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Post-grad life is never as romantic or cool as the movies portray it as. 
Over the past few months, I've found myself texting my friends about what our post-graduation sleep schedules have become, why we get mistaken as older than we are, how to be money-savvy (still trying to figure this out!) and if that morning Starbucks coffee is really worth it. More often than not though, my time is spent figuring out how to be an adult, navigating the space that exists now that people are going towards different things in life, whether that's to another country, graduate school/professional school, the other side of the country or work.

In the past couple of years, one of my favorite things to read are the articles where people share their career trajectories and how they’ve gotten to where they are. Since I know that by now, many people who’re reading this are either post-graduates or in college, I thought I’d ask my friends who’ve been there to share their advice. 

I met my friend C late one winter evening two years ago at our mutual friend’s apartment, both a little sleepy after a late-evening session of food. That following summer, she lived down the hall from me and I’d catch her in business-wear headed downtown at the bus stop to her finance internship in the peak of summer heat and humidity, which we both tried to avoid by being out the door by 8am. I’ve watched C go through the job hunting process, from start to end, and I’m so incredibly happy that she’s scored an analyst position at an asset management company in NYC, where she’s from. While she’s in the business field, these tips are general enough for any industry. I hope you find something helpful, insightful or interesting.

If you could change something about how you tackled the process, what would it be?

C: To not be so timid. That would be number one. I used to be very timid in expressing my strengths and how I would be the best fit for the position/firm. Second, know myself better. Through the process I gained a better understanding of what I’m good at and what skills/qualities I’m lacking. Really, the best advice I can give: be confident in what you’ve been through and be confident about who you are as well as what you know. It’s cliche but this mentality really works and potential employers can see right through you, when you’re confident but without substance. Prepare behavioral/technical questions depending on the industry, firm, and other extenuating circumstances. Understand what you’re talking about, DON’T BS it. They will know if you do. Make sure you really know your resume. Really. If you read people and know what they want to hear (they don’t want to hear about your miserable day on the phone with a broker) then you will do swell. Don’t be nervous - these are also all people and whether or not they’ve gone through similar processes/interview standards, they were all at where you are, right now, once upon a time.

#JessInAMinute- New York Edition & Being Asian-American

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 New York, NY, USA

Since my return to blogging, I've been trying to push myself with different content forms so here's #JessInAMinute, a new video series on my Instagram account, because I'm not meant to be a YouTube vlogger. It was my first time filming and editing anything so I hope you can pardon the shaky footage.

A post shared by Jessica 🐑 (@crazyredpen) on

As I mentioned in the video, my friend was in New York so we met up to catch up with life and happenings. I had texted him the night before we met up on a spur of the moment urge to ask him if it was okay that I was going to film random bits and pieces, to do what with, I had no idea. There was no real urge to make a YouTube channel and I wasn't even blogging at the time. My friend agreed, though hesitant, and off I went with my camera, after watching some YouTube videos to get an idea of what I wanted to film and how. 

I love going to new food places with friends and eating, catching up over food. My food tastes lean toward Asian as you can probably tell from the video.

Sometimes I'll stop and think how exciting it is to find Asian food popular because in elementary school and I'll never forget this, I brought dumplings to school for lunch and a classmate said loudly, "What is that? It smells gross." From then on, I never packed lunch, which lasted until mid-high school because I wanted to be like everyone else.

It unnerves me though, that sometimes Asian food becomes an exotic thing that needs explanations about how to eat it (see last year's Bon Appetit pho video where a white chef tells the viewer how to eat pho "properly") or publications that detail how they've "found" the next big food trend (see New York Times coverage of boba tea where they called it tea filled with blobs, originally titled, "The Blobs in Your Tea? They’re Supposed to Be There"). Bad coverage doesn't stop there though, with a LifeHacker article earlier this year in September calling chopsticks an "underrated kitchen utensil" that's relegated to people's drawers. 

It's interesting to me that conversations about how to cover Asian things and how to approach the Asian-American market are only discussed now. In a recent conversation earlier this year with an editor of a major publication, I was asked what people are doing wrong when targeting the Asian-American market. It threw me for a loop for a second and I thought, "Wow, this is a loaded question." The first thing that came to mind was obviously representation but another thing that also came to mind is how Asians, like most minorities are targeted as "other" in publications, and how we're grouped together as the same.

This recent Twitter thread by May 2018 debut author of The Poppy War (Harper Voyager), Rebecca Kuang is eye-opening and really tragic at the same time, especially the following tweet (Her post on what happened is also a good read):

Even more telling is this tweet:


When Breath Becomes Air Discussion

Monday, October 30, 2017

Earlier this year, my mom was badgering me about reading When Breath Becomes Air and recommending books to me is something that my mom almost never does. I’ve been meaning to read When Breath Becomes Air since I read Paul Kalanithi’s article for Stanford Med, which I found out about while reading Cup of Jo (Joanna Goddard was his sister-in-law). Once I ordered a copy and read the first couple of pages, I knew that this is a book that I was going to flip through over and over again. Although at the time I wasn’t blogging, I did what most book bloggers do when they find an absolutely amazing book: tell everyone they know about it. I sent Kalanithi’s articles to people in my lab, friends, professors, and basically anyone who’d talk to me in an effort to whet their appetites for the book.

Since the book’s place on the NYT Bestseller List and positive reviews say enough about how wonderful the book is, I’ll be doing a discussion instead with my close friend Karen about what the book meant to us. I met Karen in biology lab our freshman year and I’ve always admired her ability to achieve goals, whether it was academically or career wise (congrats on the latest science manuscript!).


Why I've Decided to Come Back to Blogging

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I'm back (and why I'm here to stay)
I haven't blogged regularly in two years and in those two years, I've sometimes forgotten that I have a blog.  Blogging has been an integral part of my life for more than seven years and yet, it seems like a lifetime ago. Perhaps it's because I've spent nearly a third of my life blogging about books and the other two-thirds doing other things. I've contemplated about the future of this blog ever since I've stopped blogging regularly, vacillating between stopping, like so many of those before me, and continuing. 

Guide to Paris, France

Wednesday, March 29, 2017 Paris, France

Eiffel Tower

I’m back. Well, sort of. In the time that I’ve been gone from blogging, so much has changed. We’ve elected a president who tests my ability to be scared/shocked/appalled with each passing day, I’ve discovered I’m really not with the times anymore (What is this millennial lingo? Stay woke? Fleek? Why am I referring to it as millennial lingo if I’m Gen Z? So many questions), and graduation is encroaching yet again somehow. I’ve also made my first trip to Europe and here’s my guide to Paris.

Mary Oliver: Wild & Precious Life Desktop Background

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

It's interesting how the world works sometimes-- the odd coincidences where somehow, you read something that you just needed.

Recently, my friend Kate posted on Facebook:
From Liz Gilbert as she quotes "Richard from Texas,"

"He said, with such sincere tenderness: 'When will you begin to understand the preciousness of your own life?'"

Before you can decide what to do "with your one wild and precious life" (Mary Oliver), you have to BELIEVE that it is!

Thank you for the reminder, Liz Gilbert.
I've been juggling a lot lately and while usually I can handle it, sometimes I wonder, what am I doing this all for? It might because I hit my twenties this year and suddenly the fact that I need to go through life more smoothly than this guy going up an elevator. #adulting

Mary Oliver's poem, "The Summer Day"  with the last line, "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" touched me. It has since the day I first read that line and it will continue to do so. It's so easy to fall into that trap of doing what everyone else is doing because society deems it so without realizing that your life is precious and crazy.

And so, to pass on the quote to someone who may need it, here's a desktop background that I made. Hope you enjoy!
download link (without watermark) after the jump

Los Angeles Review of Books Review & Into the Past to the Future

Friday, October 30, 2015

Somehow I ended up taking a rather long hiatus, but let’s go back to summer for a moment, when the days were long and the temperature was much, much warmer (curse you, chilly 40 degree Fahrenheit fall weather).

It’s July. I’m reading Dragonfish, on review assignment for the Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), a really great publication filled with the great writers and thought-provoking writing. Zach, noir editor at LARB, had emailed me asking me if I wanted to contribute and of course, I jumped at the chance.

Dragonfish is a novel that’s about Vietnamese refugees, the lives that they lead and the stories that they tell, years after coming to America. It’s classified as a mystery but at it’s core, it’s a story about survival, love, hope and the things we do to have those things. A white-American goes to search for his Vietnamese ex-wife after she disappears and he’s found more questions than answers on his search.
It’s to no one’s surprise that I support Asian American writers and literature, as well as the greater awareness of Asian American issues. Too often we are characterized and stereotyped as the model minority and left out, without a voice. What are our stories? The stories that keep us up at night, the stories that we listen to, the stories that we keep, what are those? 

After my review went to publication, I had found a Reddit thread that was about old-school cool but it started to discuss the Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos refugee situation in detail, with posters sharing their personal family histories. It was a mere coincidence of course that these two events had occurred within days of each other but it was eye-opening and a reminder that there’s so much that people don’t know and so much that isn’t talked about.
A poster in the thread writes on how his (her?) grandfather crossed the Mekong, “My grandfather blew up a plastic bag for a makeshift raft and swam across in the middle of the night. The rest of the family, including my grandmother and my parents (with my mother pregnant with me at the time) follow afterwards on a boat (had to find someone who were willing). Again in the middle of the night.”

It’s these stories that need to be told, whether in fiction, on TV or elsewhere. Dragonfish was a great read for me, emotionally satisfying and intellectually stimulating.

Read my review of Dragonfish for Los Angeles Review of Books here

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