Walking into the first day of CAUSE Leadership Academy, I was certain about one thing: that I would be walking out of it with a holistic toolkit to pursue my career goals. In just the first week alone, CAUSE has forced me to confront my anxieties about networking.
Networking has adopted a negative connotation; it has become a superficial and artificial act and because of this, I’ve been hesitant to take advantage of the connections around me in fear of appearing ingenuine. But the networking workshop that Kim Yamasaki, CAUSE Executive Director, presented during our retreat and the conversation that our cohort had around that distilled my fears. A fellow intern, Nina Long, said something that changed my views on networking: “You have to remember that you are in a room of people who all want betterment for our community.” We need to make those connections to achieve not just what we want for ourselves, but also for the changes we want to see. This mindset empowered me to take advantage of our CLA Kickoff ceremony, where I was able to connect with two individuals in the community whose career trajectories I truly admire.
Beyond just allowing me to grow my skills, CLA has shifted my framework on life as well. At our orientation on Monday, a member of the board told us that rather than thinking of life as forks in the road— choices we make that we cannot come back from— we should think of it as “Where am I going first? What am I going to do first?” This is the piece of advice that has stuck with me the most this past week. As someone who is entering her junior year of college, the pressure to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life has become debilitating; it has made me question my passions and the choices that I’ve made up until this point. “Where does my heart truly lie?” I’ve been asking myself that question a lot in the past few months. It’s not because I don’t have something I want to do, but rather because I have felt so many callings in life and I’ve seen all the ways that I can make a difference. The difficulty does not lie in finding one passion, it lies in only being able to choose one. I realize now that I don’t have to choose just one. The only choice I have to make is where I start. This knowledge has brought me a newfound sense of freedom and faith in my abilities, my choices, and my visions.
This week has been a week of exponential growth for me. What I’ve realized is that there are systemic barriers that I, as an Asian American woman and a first generation immigrant, face, but there are also mental barriers that I have placed on myself— perhaps as a result of the systemic barriers. I’m constantly questioning my self-worth, my capabilities, and even my own dreams. Before I can work to break down the systemic barriers that marginalize our communities, I have to overcome the walls that I’ve put up for myself. After the first week of CLA, I now know that I will walk out of this experience with both sustainable professional skills and most importantly, confidence in myself.