We are all human beings, seeking responses for our actions. When we don’t talk about the progress we’ve made at a team meeting, the team doesn’t respond with an understanding of our humility and recognize the work that’s been done. Instead, we are met with puzzlement, disinterest and distance. We become invisible. We’re the ATM of professional work. The machine.
Perhaps one of the most confounding aspects of American culture for international students and professionals is our habit of “small talk”. Well, American small talk is not about the conversation’s content. Small talk is a way for us to feel comfortable with others when we first meet, to address the awkwardness of silence in the initial meeting.
Have you ever noticed that when you talk about your professional life to others, you talk about your “job”, “how’s your job going?”, “are you looking for a job?”. I was talking to someone the other day during which she lamented that too many young people are using their college education to prepare for a job as opposed to understanding themselves and the world so they can find a profession that is really right for them. I thought that was a keen observation.
I think most of us have heard of Amy Chua in the last couple of weeks, made into a phenomenon because of her book on being a Tiger mother and purporting a superior child raising approach that is attributed to an ethnic identify. I must say that I have felt sucked into this “storm” of controversy, feeling very mixed about Amy Chua’s public statements and ownership of the attributes of a Chinese mother.
As a child of Chinese immigrants, I know (as do others like me know), that we have been taught to repay our parents’ sacrifices with our filial piety, respect and societal success. I would say my father and mother would place “living our life purpose” at the top of the list (ok, maybe after filial piety). It may not be characteristic of the Chinese family. But then again, neither my father or mother followed the path of least resistance.
As I’ve gathered with my friends, I have come to a place of impatience. Impatience with how so many of us, myself included, have been waiting to live as full a life as possible. It may be the condition of humans. But I do find this affliction more prevalent with women and oddly, with highly gifted women. It seems our success in working incredibly hard to meet the surprising approval of our external world is the very thing that has kept us waiting…and waiting…before we dare to truly breathe our life.
In America, if you want a successful career, you must be willing to recognize your uniqueness and your capability. You must proudly let the world know. Be open to respecting and celebrating all your wonderful accomplishment.
As record numbers of international students arrive onto US campuses, I am reminded of how tenuous a time it is for so many students. Arriving in a new country without family, finding and setting up home, becoming functional in a new culture and establishing a foothold in our academic setting — wow!