Sitting alone in a partitioned room in the middle of her Union Square office, Shu-Ying Chung, 27, manipulates audio clips in FinalCut Pro, the bread-and-butter tool of her editing trade. For hours, Chung focuses intently on the computer screen in front of her. The occasional sounds from the coffee grinder in the pantry, the rush of water down the pipes in the walls, street sounds and murmuring voices provide the soundtrack for the office. But wearing her professional headphones –- a pair too big for her elfin face – Chung reduces the world to a whisper, and the sounds in her ears take over.

 

One weekday during the last week of November, with more than half of the 10-person strong staff already gone on the eve of Thanksgiving, Chung came in to work at 9:30 a.m. to polish up the promotional videos for a recent concert. After having her daily dose of morning coffee, Chung went straight down to business, as the only in-house digital editor of Artists Den Entertainment, a company that produces a New York Emmy-nominated music television series “Live from the Artists Den.” The petite Taiwanese native creates marketing materials and promotional videos of every concert for television and social media distribution.

 

In an economy where unemployment for 18 to 29 year olds hovers at 11.5 percent, Chung beat the odds. Not only did she find a full-time job, but she had also found one combines both her interests in music and video editing, even if she only earns $2,000 per month. “When I edit the shows, I’m listening to great live music all day, and that is pretty great,” said Chung, who joins the 27 percent of college graduates with jobs in their respective majors.

 

Reflecting on her life since graduating with a Masters in Music Business from New York University in 2012, Chung concluded that she has been really lucky. Even her present job was a product of good timing; she had worked as an unpaid intern at the company since January 2013 before getting promoted to her current position six months later when the former video editor resigned. “I think I got really lucky,” she repeated with a lingering hint of surprise.

 

But, as is often the case, it took her more than luck to land the job. In her two years as an international student, Chung was always aware of the difficulties of finding a job in the competitive editing industry that values portfolios over certificates, and creativity over routines. She was even more conscious that especially in this line of business, there was no need for companies to hire international employees like her when there are many Americans with similar experience.

 

Nonetheless, Chung forged ahead, grabbing every opportunity that crossed her path, often taking on freelance jobs and collaborations for free, just to get one foot through the door. For each gig, “I get to train my own skills, expand my portfolio and hopefully get more connections,” she said. “I really hope to see my name on TV shows’ credits.” Her goal is to eventually become a freelance video editor as it will offer her greater creative freedom. Hoping to progress from editing minute-long promotional music videos to long feature films and TV shows, she feels that success is not guaranteed. Maybe it won’t come, she said, skepticism rearing its head. “I’ll always want more. There will be many bigger projects that I want to do,” she said.

 

Born to two middle-class parents in a quiet neighborhood in Taipei, Chung was hooked on stories as a child. Influenced by the numerous Chinese-translated children’s books that her mother had bought for her, Chung began to write her own. “Becoming a writer was my first childhood dream,” she said shyly. As she grew older, she discovered that there were more types of storytelling and switched to writing lyrics and composing melodies in middle school.

 

Honing her skills in songwriting, Chung became the lyricist for a band that she had formed with three college seniors in Taipei. The big break rolled in unexpectedly when her band had won a local music competition and soon after, record labels came knocking on their door. However, the band’s leader turned down the offers because the group’s creative vision differed from the record labels’ mainstream preferences. Soon after, they disbanded but Chung had found a new passion for music entertainment. She then met with a representative from Sony Music Entertainment in Taipei, only to be told that her songwriting style was too “indie” for mainstream tastes.

 

Although she refused to mainstream her lyrics, Chung understood that to have a shot at attaining her dreams, she had to be more flexible and in less-than-traditional ways. Gen Y expert and Forbes career columnist, J.M Henderson, too, believes that there are no givens for those trying to launch a career in the ever-changing marketplace. “The old equation of education plus experience equals job stability really doesn’t hold true anymore. It might be A to F to M, then to B,” she said. The way to make it work in what’s gradually becoming a portfolio economy, she advised, is for the individual to find the intersection of what she wants to do, what she is willing to do in terms of work, and what people will pay her to do.

 

Her work in video editing began by chance after college graduation. She had taken a part-time job as an assistant to a television director while applying to grad school in the U.S. The director, who was working on a documentary for the Taiwan Public Television, couldn’t find an editor she was happy with and enlisted Chung for the post-production process. For the first time, Chung saw her name listed in the credits on television. “I’m happy about it, and that was a good start,” she said.

 

Enjoying the creative freedom she gets in her current work, Chung has learnt to take things one day at a time. For someone who started small but dreams big, she now discovers tiny satisfactions with her present job. “Right now, I’ll be happy if my promotional videos don’t require anything more than a second cut,” she said with a laugh.