Next week marks the Spring Equinox, a time when the snow begins to melt here in the northeastern United States, and we start to think about planting seeds, shedding layers, and searching the sky for signs of sunlight. Spring is my favorite season, and it has taken on a deeper meaning for me recently, as I reflect on all of the transformation I have been through in the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has put us all through the wringer, but on top of that, I experienced a turbulent year of work that has – thankfully – ended with me finding a home and a family at SEARAC.
In the winter of 2020, I took on a new job (after more than six years with the incredible Diverse Elders Coalition) that turned out to be much more than I expected, and not in a good way. I entered the darkest and coldest months of the year – a time I typically spend reading books, making soup, and recharging my batteries – in a role that felt like it was 24/7, with no moments for rest or reflection. We were doing important work, but it was coming at the expense of my physical, mental, and emotional health.
Spring is my favorite season, and it has taken on a deeper meaning for me recently, as I reflect on all of the transformation I have been through in the past year.
Spring was feeling a long way off, and I knew I needed to make a change. Thankfully, because of SEARAC’s affiliation with the Diverse Elders Coalition (and a few months of consulting that I did in the fall of 2020, while Quyen was on sabbatical), I already deeply admired SEARAC’s work and felt a strong connection with their staff. I had been a facilitator at three of SEARAC’s Leadership and Advocacy Training events and attended Moving Mountains in both 2017 and 2019. Any time I joined SEARAC for an event or worked from their offices in DC, I was welcomed with open arms and invited to be a part of the change that their team and their many partners are working toward.
When the Communications and Development Manager job was posted in spring 2021, it felt like seeing a sapling poking up from the frozen winter ground. Not only had I been doing both communications and development work for most of my career, but this was also an incredible opportunity to work with an organization that I already knew and loved dearly. I applied, interviewed, and got the job.
My first indication that working at SEARAC was going to be different from most of my experiences is when my former boss called to report back after my reference check. (Don’t burn bridges with previous employers, y’all.) “Jenna,” she said, “I’ve never done a reference check like that before. They asked me how THEY could support YOU as an employee.”
It only got better from there.
One of my first tasks as a SEARAC employee was to complete a work/life ecology document outlining what was important to my wellbeing and how I would incorporate that into my work. The rest and reflection that I so deeply craved in my previous job was not just encouraged but built into everything that SEARAC does – including our revolutionary four-day workweek and a paid, 10-week sabbatical after five years of service. Feedback is encouraged from staff in all areas of the organization, and decisions are made in deep consultation with staff, board, and community members. And, most importantly, we are encouraged to focus on our health and wellbeing as we survive an ever-evolving global pandemic, as we navigate emotionally taxing work, and as we encounter changes and challenges in our families and communities.
Finding my way to SEARAC has been as joyful, meaningful, and impactful as I could have hoped, like spotting a brilliant rainbow in the sky after a spring rainstorm. I am grateful to SEARAC’s leadership team for bringing me on board, into a job and an organization where I am encouraged to set down roots and let my branches grow. And I look forward to many more seasons spent working alongside this team to co-power Southeast Asian American communities and build a more equitable world.
SEARAC is hiring a California Policy Manager to lead our state-level advocacy activities through policy analysis and advocacy, coalition building, and support with stakeholder engagement. The position aims to build key policy champions, provide technical assistance to local partners, and support and produce key legislation to advance SEARAC’s priorities in immigration, criminal justice, health, and education. This position will be based out of our Sacramento, CA office, but exceptional candidates elsewhere in the state of California will be considered. Click here to learn more and apply.
Jenna is SEARAC’s Communications and Development Manager. You can email her here.
For more blogs in our #WorkplaceWellness series, see: