— Listen Up

What applying for jobs is like when you're an Asian woman

After graduation, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Having achieved an English Literature degree and having racked up a lot of writing experience, I naturally assumed that becoming a writer was a logical career ambition.

People tell you that finding your first “real” job is hard — but I don’t think I realized just how hard it was going be until I went through it myself. So I took the first job that was offered to me. Although it’s not an editorial role, my responsibilities do have some elements of writing, which makes me happy.

I’ve been told by people wiser than me that your first job is never your dream job, anyway. A job is a job, and experience is vital for any recent graduate. But my journey before landing this role was extremely difficult. For six months, I alternated between being unemployed, working for free as an intern or as a writer for companies that couldn’t pay, and freelancing. I never had a regular income.

I didn’t plan on being unemployed for so long. At first, it was intentional — I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a career, and thankfully, I had a supportive family. But once I had even a faint idea, I began applying for any roles that featured the terms “writer” or “editorial.” Half of the time, I was rejected immediately. The rest of the time, I went to interviews with no luck.

And I do think my race and gender had something to do with my inability to land a job for so long.

asian woman writer

I am an Asian woman. I am British, and I live in London.

If we are talking about stereotypes, then English Literature is not a degree many Asians choose. Typically, in academia, we are more represented in subjects like math and science. So even as I worked toward my degree, the difference between me and my peers was clear.

After graduation, when I applied and interviewed for editorial roles, I was often one of the only non-white applicants.

Sure, maybe I didn’t get the roles because I had less experience than other applicants. But I also think stereotype-based perceptions of Asian people influenced employers’ decisions, too.

Asians are stereotyped as quiet and shy, which is read as anti-social.  Journalism is a career in which you are expected to be talkative, and employers want a team where everyone gets along.  And we are stereotyped before we are even given a chance to prove ourselves.

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