We had the good fortune of connecting with Phuong Tran and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phuong, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
As a the eldest daughter of Vietnamese refugees, I was taught to focus in school and my education so I can get a high-paying job to support my family. Up until college, that’s exactly what I did. According to my parents, I had to be at the top of class, get straight A’s and get into a prestigious university. I graduated in the top 15 of my high school graduating class and got accepted to UC Berkeley where I graduated in 2016 with Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Legal Studies. However, I dropped out of college twice and highly regret choosing UC Berkeley over SFSU and SDSU where I was offered a full ride scholarship. I only chose UC Berkeley because it was known as the #1 public university in the world at the time and that’s the college that my parents wanted me to attend.
During college, I quickly got burnt out. I barely slept because I was always staying up to do homework assignments and to study. I juggled 1-3 jobs at any given time during those four years of college so any free time I had was spent on homework or studying. I had to work multiple jobs in order to pay for tuition, rent, and bills because I didn’t receive any scholarships from UC Berkeley. Ultimately, I was not happy at UC Berkeley and I had a miserable work life balance when it came to school/work and my personal/social life.
Luckily, I survived through those hard years (because I didn’t want to let my parents down) and graduated on time with my peers while majoring in two majors. However, I could count with both hands the number of times that I did anything eventful that didn’t revolve around school or work. After I graduated, I told myself that I’d never put myself through that again. Looking back, my college experience would have been very different if I didn’t have to work as much while going to school full-time to make ends meet if I had chosen to attend one of the colleges that offered me a full ride scholarship. My choice to attend UC Berkeley was based on my parents’ wants rather than my own wants and needs.
My college experience was one of the biggest lessons that I learned that changed the trajectory of my life. After college, I changed the structure of my life completely. Instead of focusing so much on my work like I had been doing, I have learned to take a step back to look at the bigger picture and to live more in the present. I’m no longer consumed by work and have implemented different things in my life so that I can have personal fulfillment and a happier life.
I currently work as a Paralegal and I have made it clear to myself to make sure that I never dread having to go to work. I believe that in order to have a healthy work life balance, you need to be able to take control — manage your time, detach from work and care for yourself. It’s so easy to get consumed by work and forget to put yourself first. I definitely have not put myself first and have always put others first including my work in the past. It’s okay to be selfish especially if it’s for something you love that makes you happy.
It’s only been a few years since I’ve changed the structure of my life but my work life balance have been amazing so far. I love my job and I don’t dread going to work everyday. It’s so important to have a job that you enjoy so you don’t see it as a chore. I also love traveling so I make sure to set time aside for breaks. I utilize holidays and long weekends to travel. It energizes me and allows me to refresh so that I can come back to work with a clear mind. Last but not least, I’m working for me – to better myself and not anyone else.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve been Paralegal for about 4 years now. One of the proudest moments in my career was knowing my worth and walking away when I’m not being treated with respect. It was actually pretty early in my career but this experience helped shaped the Paralegal that I am today.
After receiving my paralegal certificate, I landed a job at a boutique trademark law firm. I had no prior law firm experience other than a few weeks of experience from my internship at the Legal Aid Society. I worked at the trademark law firm for about 3 months until I abruptly quit one day. One of the firm’s partners has been very disrespectful towards me. He would blame me for things that were done incorrectly (according to him) when I was just doing things the way that I was trained. He was also very condescending towards me and made me feel like I was useless. I ultimately couldn’t put up with him anymore. The last straw for me was when he pulled me aside to basically yell at me for sending an email that he didn’t approve of when the office manager told me to send that email. Even after explaining that to him, he just wouldn’t listen. So I quit without any notice. I left work that day and decided that I was never going back to that toxic environment.
It was definitely hard to walk away from a job without having another job lined up. Luckily, I was only unemployed for about two weeks until I was able to find another job but the uncertainty was definitely stressful at the time. However, it felt extremely easy for me to walk away from something that I felt was very toxic. I’ve always been someone who stood up for myself. At the time, I felt it was easier to quit since I have only been there for three months than to try to address the situation and still work with that attorney.
Because of everything that happened, I am very picky when it comes to where I want to work at and I make sure that everyone there is welcoming and professional. I’m now at a firm that I love and enjoy working with everyone.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Eat/drink: – TJ Oyster Bar for $1.25 fish tacos
– Morning Glory
– Great Maple
– George’s At The Cove
– Born and Raised
– Raised by Wolves
– Din Tai Fung
Things to do:
– Rooftop cinema
– San Diego Zoo/Wild Animal Park
– Paddle boarding in Coronado
– Wine tasting in Temecula
– Ride a hot air balloon in Temecula
– Watch a Padres game
– Cycle bar
Things to see:
– Balboa Park (Natural History Museum, Museum of Man, Air & Space Museum. etc.)
– Children’s Pool in La Jolla
– The Salk Institute
– Sunset Cliffs
– Liberty Public Market
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to my law firm where I currently work because they all greatly value the importance of work life balance and have made sure that myself and others are never burnt out. They also value team work so if anyone ever has too much on their plate, they want us to not be afraid to ask for help as others are always willing to step up and offer to take stuff off your plate. They have allowed me to maintain my work life balance without feeling guilty and encourages everyone to take their personal breaks/vacations/time off to re-energize and refresh.