BY NHIEN NGUYEN
Stepping out of the Model Minority Myth and into leadership positions in both personal and professional life can be a challenge for many Asian Americans.
That’s why members of NAAAP (National Association of Asian American Professionals) Seattle have spent the last 18 months developing a conference around the theme of “Making Waves: Impacting communities through leadership, innovation and community service.”
On Aug. 17-20, over 300 Asian Americans from across the country will convene at the 20th Annual NAAAP National Convention in Seattle. The conference addresses three areas: tools and techniques to improve professional skills, ways of dealing with challenges for sound mind and body, and how to build on ethnic backgrounds and strengths to create better relationships within the community.
“As Asian Americans, we have a tendency to fall into the Model Minority trap by being dependable, hard workers and working quietly and diligently without reaching out and asking for assistance,” Li Tan, president of NAAAP Seattle, writes in their organization’s newsletter.
Tan says that Asian Americans have a tendency to focus inward, instead of connecting with others for networking opportunities.
“We need to network — talk about our experiences and learn from each other,” says Tan.
Each seminar and workshop during the convention will help participants “make waves” of their own, says Tan. Workshops directly targeted to this theme include “How to Blend In Yet Stand Out” and “Let’s Make Waves.”
To give Asian Americans a chance to network with companies actively recruiting a more diverse workforce, NAAAP will host a National Diversity Career Fair open to the public on Aug. 18 and 19.
Janet Ung, convention co-chair, says the career fair is one of the few fairs in the area to directly target Asian Americans. It will give participants “one less hurdle” in achieving success and upward mobility in their careers.
Even if people are not actively looking for jobs, Ung still encourages all Asian American professionals to attend. Companies may have attractive job offers or professionals may be looking ahead to job changes later in the year.
Ung believes that Asian Americans have not been able to break the glass ceiling because it is the perception of Asian culture that holds them back.
Career coach Jane Hyun, author of “Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians,” explains that many Asians are “unable to effectively manage the cultural influences shaping their individual characteristics and workplace behavior.”
“Traditional Asian cultural values can conflict with dominant corporate culture on many levels, resulting in a costly gap that individuals and companies need to bridge,” says Hyun. “The subtle, unconscious behavioral differences exhibited by Asian employees are often misinterpreted by their non-Asian counterparts, resulting in lost career opportunities and untapped talent.”
Tan hopes that local residents will take advantage of the fact that this year’s convention is right here in the Pacific Northwest, which is part of the Pacific Rim region. The last annual convention was held in Seattle about seven years ago.
Representing the convention theme is the lotus flower – a symbol of beauty and strength in many Asian cultures.
“The reflection of the lotus symbolizes our ability to reflect within ourselves and to our past to help strengthen our resolve and inspire us to make positive waves – professionally, academically, personally and in the wider community,” according to the convention Web site (www.naaapconvention.org).
Tan adds that the lotus, with its scattered pollen, also represents the idea that Asian Americans can know their roots, yet also have the ability to impact the local community and the world.
The National Diversity Career Fair is free to the public. This two-day Asian American professional recruiting event takes place Friday, Aug 18 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 19 from 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. The career fair and convention will be held at the Renaissance Hotel, 515 Madison St., Seattle.