Mandy hopes that her story will inspire others to devote their career to a good cause: helping others and helping yourself find happiness through support
- One-in-three Australian workers under the age of 54 have considered resigning, according to a nation-wide study conducted by the University of Melbourne after the COVID-19 pandemic
- Mandy encourages young people entering the workforce to follow her journey and find fulfilling work sooner, rather than later
- In some cultures, work means sacrificing time and effort to assist others, rather than simply performing a task — which makes support services a perfect pathway
Mandy Zhang’s story spans generations, countries and careers. Her work has been a crash course in diversity and serves as a wake-up call for many who are flipping coins to decide their career path following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Post-pandemic, it seems to me that many people are reconsidering their career paths. For those of us who were raised in a multicultural environment, finding your place in the professional world can bring a unique set of challenges,” said Ms Zhang.
Mandy’s parents immigrated to the United States from Guangzhou, China in the 1980s, having moved overseas to provide for their family. The family supported three generations under just one household through any means necessary, which Ms Zhang said is the sole reason she can share her story in 2023.
When she told her parents that she was considering quitting her stable job and flipping her worklife on its head to pursue work that she found personally rewarding, it became a difficult conversation which required significant thought.
“While I was determined to find meaningful work on my own terms, there seemed to be little room for finding work that was personally rewarding or based around individual goals. My parents were of the opinion that there were ‘good respectable jobs’ and ‘bad jobs’. In my family, careers in healthcare, business and engineering were at the top, while jobs that involved physical work or serving others were viewed less favourably,” she said.
After eight years of working in the United States and Australia, recruiting for various industries, she concluded that separating roles this way rarely benefits anyone.
“Finding the right job often means thinking beyond others’ expectations, and considering what goals are important to you. Some people prioritise flexible hours, while others are looking for opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life. […] If you want both, there are options for that too.”
Ms Zhang found that her work as a recruiter, which involved placing individuals in various care and support roles, helped her to discover the joy and personal sense of accomplishment in one-on-one assistance for older people and people with disability.
“People move into this sector from all kinds of different fields, and if direct personal care isn’t the right fit, there are many other roles available, including administration, allied health, and more,” added Mandy.
“I find that jobseekers are surprised by the variety of opportunities, the career progression available, and the flexible hours that the care and support sector can provide. Additionally, careers in the care and support sector can be stable as well as financially viable.”
Reinvigorated and motivated, Mandy said her experience as a career coach for skilled migrants and international students gave her firsthand insight into the role cultural backgrounds play in influencing the choices people make and the value they assign to certain professions.
“Whenever these conversations pop up, they’re often accompanied by the idea that pursuing your passions and finding your purpose isn’t practical for everyone — it’s true — we shouldn’t blindly pursue any passion or job on a whim. However, prioritising work that makes you feel personally fulfilled and suits your lifestyle can pay off in ways that are hard to quantify,” she said.
“It’s important to acknowledge that cultural backgrounds can also provide valuable guidance when it comes to navigating the professional world. From my own family, I gained a strong work ethic and learnt to see my job as a way to help not just myself, but those around me — family and community.”
Ms Zhang had a few choice words for workers considering their options and thinking about a change. She said that those interested in exploring meaningful work in the care and support sector should visit the Government Care and Support Jobs portal.
“Don’t be afraid to go beyond others’ expectations to find success. It’s rewarding to find the balance between honouring your cultural heritage and pursuing a career that aligns with your values, interests, and goals.”