Networking & Cultural Identity in the Social Media Age

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Networking & Cultural Identity in the Social Media Age

We were invited along with the National Association of Asian American Professionals-North Carolina (NAAAP-NC) to present to a group of young and emerging students leaders at Western Carolina University in beautiful Cullowhee, NC. At WCU, under 1% of its student population are APA and 10% are students of color. Their office of Intercultural Affairs, led by a dynamic, passionate young associate director, serve as a needed resource for this small group of students who are visibly in the minority and invisibly have concerns and needs not always met.

Western Carolina University

I collaborated with the current president of NAAAP-NC, Margaux Escutin and board member Chuan Tsay (president & founder of Young Intelligence, targeted for young entrepreneurs and founder of the Asian American Journal) to address this group. It was wonderful to see young people so hungry for information and guidance to negotiate a world in which they have to balance how to stand out in a social media age while maintaining their identities as people of color with strong connections to their heritage.

A few key themes that emerged from the discussion:

  • Join organizations. Professional organizations such as NAAAP-NC are key not only to network for jobs & opportunities, but to develop “soft” and necessary skills such as leadership and communication, as well as to develop friendships
  • Step outside comfort zone. Don’t just join groups of like-minded people. Reach out to groups that look and think and act differently than year. Building coalitions and collaboration will not only be professionally strategic, but also personally fulfilling.
  • Be consistent. Social media has altered the landscape of how one communicates and reaches out to world. This also means consistency in the messaging is important. Whether you are “selling” a product, a program, or yourself, it is important to watch how your image is portrayed on paper, online, and in person.
  • Understand perceptions. Race, physical appearance, and even names have an impact on perceived leadership, intelligence and ability. You can’t control what others think, but you can control how you present yourself and react.
  • Leverage multiple identities. Being a person with multiple identities, it can seem that you have to choose one cultural set of values over another if they seem to conflict. This is not the case. View your multiple identities as an additive model – it is not “either/or” but “and.” Leverage and honor your heritage and values to your advantage in standing out as a leader.

Knowing that this group of young, mostly “hyphenated” Americans will be the next generation of culturally-aware leaders speak well to the promise of the future.

Addendum: great New Yorker article on “Paper Tigers” by Wesley Yang to read.

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