TIEN LE – How I Worked 16 Jobs While Attending School Full-Time And Why We Often Miss Opportunity

The post title should sum up Tien’s impressive story. The original writing was published on her LinkedIn account (https://www.linkedin.com/in/tientle).


I came to the U.S when I was about to turn 18. Part of my college scholarship required working 20 hours as a student assistant. I remember vividly scanning and emailing the employment paperwork to ask for my parents’ signature (who were 7,859 miles away) – because I was under 18. Then my first paycheck came, I posted a picture of the $311 paystub on Facebook (before data privacy was a big deal) and rambled about my exciting “first month’s salary in the U.S.,” being more than anything I ever made as a tutor, writer or event staff in high school. A friend commented: “They don’t call it salary here in the US. It’s a paycheck.” Another said: “A recent grad in Vietnam won’t even make that much per month.” A little proud I felt – or fortunate to be exact.

Ever since, I have earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s, travelled across 30+ states from Florida to Alaska, and worked… 16 jobs in the past 6 years! Some were solely for the money, some were unpaid, some didn’t pay very well. Office admin, news report intern, video production assistant, babysitter, dog-sitter, travel agent, waitress, cashier, graduate assistant, marketing intern, you name it! There were times my body was about to shatter to pieces and my brain was to explode. There were times I cried because no matter how hard I tried to verbalize my (wonderful) thoughts, words were stuck and my English sounded foolish. The funny thing is, the more experiences I gained, the more I felt clueless about what I want to do with my life. There are so many cool options! Yet I knew exactly what I didn’t want, like waiting tables or reporting news (no offense, my journalism friends!).

Here I am now, 2 months out of school and about to start my first full-time job. I’ve been extremely fortunate as things always work on my favor, but no luck is complete without hard work. To be honest, I went straight to Master’s after college because job hunt, on top of Capstone, work, and senior year fun, seemed like an incredible amount of work. I kept hearing from friends that there weren’t many jobs out there, especially for international students in need of work visa sponsorship. Not to mention once a company decides to sponsor, there’s not a lot of luck with the visa lottery system either. “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work,” Thomas Edison once said. I personally stand by his perspective – there are always opportunities if we look. They may seem like work, because you have to do something to earn them. It could be working 16 jobs in 6 years while going to school full-time, commuting 50 miles to an unpaid internship while working part-time at night to make up for that gas money, or applying for 40+ jobs per day for months while taking online courses on Lynda and Coursera after graduation. Whatever it is, I want you to keep going. Don’t ever feel satisfied and stop trying, because I assure you, there’s always something more exciting awaits.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s