When Joy Woo started in the entertainment business as an executive assistant, her family didn’t understand how the industry worked and «it wasn’t something they were proud of or could brag about to their friends.»

But when Woo, a 27-year-old living in Los Angeles, was fired from her studio in December, she began to debate whether she should leave the industry altogether. “It was the second time I’ve been fired in entertainment,” she said. “I wondered: what am I doing wrong? Is this a reflection of me?» But along with the self-criticism came concerns about how her family would respond. “My family members might question why I am pursuing this career,” Woo added.

Woo was more concerned with telling her grandfather, who was one of her primary caretakers growing up. “My mother told me not to tell my grandfather, so I kept the news of my dismissal from him,” she said. As she had predicted, when her grandfather found out about her, she was shocked and asked, «Why are you in this industry?»

Revealing news about layoffs and the career changes that follow may present a number of obstacles for Asian Americans in creative fields if their jobs are not traditionally considered stable by family member standards, many workers and experts say.

Diem M. Nguyen, a clinical psychologist practicing in both New York and California who focuses on intergenerational issues in her therapy sessions, she said she realizes that Asian Americans often grapple with the tension between following their creative passions and living up to family expectations. “Clients really have a hard time taking risks because of the pressures on their family systems,” she said.

Mental health professionals like her describe the unique stressors Asian-American creatives can face from family members during periods of job instability. She said that these stressors come mainly from a misalignment in lived experiences. She explained: “It is not with bad intentions. Older Asian-American family members often move through the world with a focus on survival. They place a strong emphasis on taking the safe and rational route, and they want to be sure that their children’s careers will provide tangible security.”

Allison Ly, a Los Angeles-based licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with first- and second-generation clients, says guilt is a common emotion her clients feel when they’re fired; they may feel that they are not paying enough to their older generations who have made sacrifices to create better opportunities for their children. She warns people against the tendency to look inward and blame themselves. “Children of immigrants may have a hard time seeing the big picture of what contributed to the firing,” she said. “Sometimes they resort to critical thoughts about themselves and question their self-esteem.”

In recent months, a wave of high profile layoffs across the media and technology industries have raised warning flags about a cooling economy. while the most affected jobs during the pandemic they were in the service, retail and manufacturing sectors, the latest rounds of layoffs focused on media and technology employees. They represent a small segment of the labor market in about 4% of the total US workforce.

One such employee, Kent Shin, was fired in December from his San Francisco-based marketing agency, where he worked as a film and television colorist. Before landing the role, his parents wanted him to pursue a career they considered more stable. “My parents had a perception that the creative field was full of struggling artists,” he said. «Once I started at the agency, they still weren’t completely satisfied, but they recognized that it provided a steady paycheck.»

Now that the 25-year-old is back to working for himself, his parents see his layoff as an opportunity to propel him into a new career. “They are suggesting that this would be a good opportunity to use my college degree,” he said.

Shin knows that at some point he will have to support his family financially. “It’s not a current expectation, but I hope that changes one day,” he said.

To cope with the anxiety caused by such family pressures, Ly emphasizes the importance of practicing compassion to validate the concerns that family members may express. “We should dig a little deeper to question the intentions behind their reactions. Where are they coming from? Are your comments coming from a place of care?” She suggest.

Even so, he acknowledges, the first and most important thing is the mental health of the individual. «Before you tell them about the layoff, you can lay out possible scenarios for how the family will respond and decide what to share or keep.»

Nguyen also cautions that disclosing information to families about future creative endeavors can seem like a negotiation process that varies from person to person. She says that everyone should have the freedom to choose to share the information they feel is appropriate, depending on the support they need.

“Some people feel guilt and shame about keeping secrets from their families, but it’s about protecting yourself. It is important to find out what is productive for your own adult development as a mature and healthy individual,” he said. «You wouldn’t want to instill so much fear in your family members that you hold their fear in as you navigate new and unfamiliar spaces.»