It’s not abnormal that people find themselves switching their careers when they previously believed their plans are set in place. Sharon Kim is no exception as she is “a previous fashion designer turned UX designer studying at Parsons in NYC.” Born and raised in New York by people she continues to look up to, “two loving, strong Christian parents who moved to the US to give me and my siblings a better life.” Growing up as a first generation American is no easy feat and like many immigrant households, there are mountains that have to be moved in order to foresee a better future. For Sharon, despite the difficulties, she’s found it to be a motivating factor to her bright future, “Upon a lot of social and financial burdens growing up, it forced me to grow up faster than other kids and burned a fire in me to become my fullest potential when I am older.”
As for her career, she explains, in short, “I always wanted to be a fashion designer since I was little girl, but decided to completely switch industries exactly one year ago into the field of User Experience design (the process of designing apps and websites).” Her reasons for switching her industry while in school is extensive and if you’re curious, check out her YouTube video here all about it.
With her shift in career path, she has been devoting a lot of time honing her craft in that new field. Tuition to attend Parsons is not cheap but Sharon is working hard in paying it off through scholarships and building her portfolio, “I’ve been putting in a lot of effort towards gaining UX experience and scholarships to pay off my loans.” Luckily, she recently received a $10,000 scholarship she applied earlier this year (YAY). She also got hired to be a UX student manager at Parsons, “I’ll be working alongside the IT department to redesign the school website and official app over the year to be released next year.” Cherry on top is that she got both of these announcements on the same day for what she exclaims, “Two whammies in a day. I’m quite ecstatic, and humbly grateful to say the least. Hard work and persistence pay off. Period(t).” Unfortunately, Parsons has explained that school will be online for Fall 2020. This, in addition to her personal reasons, compelled her to take a gap year, “A 50K tuition for a year of online classes is not worth it to me.”
On top of her new opportunities, she is also the Communications Co-Director in Parsons’ student government. She explains that there is a lot going on but it is all truly fulfilling for her, “It’s a lot of work to stay on top of everything and keep updating our social media- but as a student, I’m glad to serve my fellow peers and students.”
Although there is a lot going on, Sharon still excels among her peers and stands strong in the face of obstacles. She explains that productivity really comes down to two things, priorities and time management and adds, “Know what’s most important and schedule it in G-cal. Don’t overthink it- just plan slightly then do.” Another specific tip she has learned this year was the “Eisenhower Box of Efficiency. It will help more clearly prioritize all the things you have to do- and when to do them. For example, I study Korean (long term benefit that’s not urgent) first thing in the morning, do my regular work (long term benefit and urgent), finish the day with tasks like laundry (little benefit and urgent) and try to limit as much as possible things like social media (little benefit and not urgent).”
Her biggest tip, however, is to get an accountability partner. This can be hard to come by but it can force anyone into their place when necessary, “Text/email a friend or someone you trust with the things you’re supposed to do by X deadline- send proof before that deadline. What makes it work is that there must be a bad consequence, say you’ll pay them $100 or do dishes for a month if you miss out. It’s often 2x more motivating to work away from pain than work towards pleasure.”
Sharon’s path is not without any obstacles. Challenges are necessary in the path to success, no matter what that success looks like. If you’re not challenged, then you’re not headed in the right direction. Sharon shares her wisdom and points out, “success is a lonely road. The most successful are known as the top 1%. This then goes to show that you must do what 99% of people are not willing to do. It’s supposed to be hard, and very uncomfortable.” Sharon’s personal obstacle is being her own cheerleader, “It’s to hone in and take action on the fact that in reality- (with the exception of my parents) no one cares about me. No one will REALLY be there to make sure I gave it my all on that project. No one is over my shoulder giving me that scholarship opportunity, or make sure I get that job. It’s to constantly remind myself no one owes, nor will give anything to me– I have to be my own tiger mom and kick my ass to keep pushing.”
Another way to put it is, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying”. – Sharon Kim
Sharon adds that as the road gets lonelier, it’s hard to find like-minded people. But it also goes without saying that you attract who you are and oftentimes, who you strive to be. She explains that she is seen differently by others but it doesn’t phase her and her pursuit for greatness, “I’m often characterized as very intense, and very serious. It has it’s benefits, however, people think I’m going overboard most of the time which is not ideal. Yet, all it does it motivate me more as I remind myself that I’m striving to be excellent- not mediocre. Hence, people may not understand. Actually, most people shouldn’t understand.”
Above all the obstacles and challenges in her life, Sharon shares a personal story that she explains, has defined her as an individual:
“When I was in elementary school, a close white friend of mine betrayed me to befriend the wealthier girls at my middle school. Then a year later on Facebook, (Facebook was THE cool thing to have at this age- cringe, I know) a post showed up where I commented something I don’t remember, and a friend of my ex-friend replied, “Oh (name), just what have you done to this POOR girl 😉 ?” “HAHAHA” replied her. It fvcking broke me. It mocked my family’s lack of wealth, and the fact people used it for their own humor angered me to the point of crying and screaming why we were in the financial situation we were back then. It was because of this story that lit a fire to never be called poor again. I made an oath to myself to one day be so freaking successful that no one will mess with me. So far- it’s working.”
This is such a heartbreaking story as many youngsters probably face in one form or another. Being looked down upon because of status, identity, race, background, etc. is not fun or cool at all. It’s something many Americans still consider trifle – such as the Black Lives Matter movement. Although no one is perfect and mistakes are sometimes inevitable, those that could be avoided shouldn’t be repeated.
Like many Millennials and Gen Z’s, Sharon is active on social media. When asked what she thought about it, she explains simply that, “social media is there to influence, inspire, and at the core, just exchange information.” She takes extensive precautions to be careful on what she consumes on a daily basis in terms of content, she states, “What you see influences the way you think. So I mainly follow motivational, inspiring quote accounts and remind myself that at the end of the day, social media is a fantasy and the cons outweigh the benefits. Hence, I don’t really follow a lot of beauty influencers anymore. If the accounts I follow don’t inspire me to work harder, I either unfollow them or mute their posts on my feed. (Harsh, but necessary for my wellbeing).”
In a world of influencer and influence-ee, she passionately mentions her brother, James, as her greatest influence. “He’s been there to give me some invaluable advice on college and working that I am so thankful for. He kicks my ass, constantly pushes me to do better, and overall his harsh (but loving) nature makes me stronger, smarter person.”
Sharon, like many of us, are strong, capable, and inspiring. Her contagious work ethic has inspired many people on social media to work harder. It’s only fair to call her an influencer. She stands to be a life-long learner, teacher, and overall, altruist. Her story doesn’t end here (she’s only 19)…it’s just starting!
Bonus: Favorite anything, and why?
Fire Noodles (the 2x spicy one) on a Saturday night with a movie. Favorite thing to do- spicy food is a great stress reliever.
If you can do something right now, what would it be? Is there a problem you’d like to solve in the world?
If I could, I’d like to travel! It be nice to explore before going out into the “real world”.
Something I’d like to “solve” is just providing more opportunities to young Korean Americans like me through a type of mentorship program when I am older. Either that or start a scholarship.