Archive for the ‘careers’ Category

Where will the jobs be?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

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Most experts believe the economy is showing signs of recovery. Officially, the Great Recession ended in June 2009. But if you were one of the 8 million people who lost their jobs or if you’re a recent college grad, the picture doesn’t look that bright, does it.

It’s not only that companies are hiring at a slower speed but also that whole industry sectors have been destroyed and certain jobs just won’t come back. In the global economy some manufacturing jobs, for example, have been lost to other markets with cheaper labor. So have jobs for people with less than a high school diploma or even for high school graduates without any college.

According to a Moody’s Analytics for TIME magazine, in the next couple of years, 37.6% of jobs will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher; 10.2% will require an Associate’s degree and another 17.5% will require some college. How are you positioned to get or keep your job?

One of the greatest problems we are facing as a nation is the mismatch of labor needs and workers’ skills. Even during the worst of the recession there were companies that couldn’t fulfill their open positions because there were few candidates with the right skill-set. People who work with technology: engineers of all kinds, artists, designers, programmers are at the top of the list for companies across the globe.

Opportunities in the professional services are also growing because as large companies have downsized they are now looking to outsource the capabilities that they don’t longer have in house. So, you may need to consider setting up your own consulting firm to serve several clients rather than seeking a full time job.

And looking beyond your own city and state may be more of a necessity than a choice as well. When you think that North Dakota has the nation’s lowest unemployment rate (a mere 3.8%) you realize that you may want to move from Detroit were the unemployment rate is anywhere between 30-50% depending on who you believe.

It’s a great time to leverage your Latino nimbleness: To become independent if you were used to full time employment, to get extra certifications and higher degrees if you notice that the available jobs require them, and to move wherever the jobs are. Keep in mind that you were raised with the ability to adjust to change, to try new roles, and to think out of the box. This is the time to make those traits work for you!

Do you lose your identity if you’re punctual?

Monday, October 25th, 2010

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I had been walking in the wrong direction for twenty minutes with the most impossible heels. The pain in my right shoulder was getting worse from carrying my computer, and the worst part was that I was going to be late for my presentation. I couldn’t get anyone to answer my calls and I was about to lose it when I was finally able to reach my contact and let her know about my delay. When I arrived, mortified about the situation, my host, who was kindly waiting for me at the door, said with a smile: “Don’t worry about it, we are on Latino Time.”

For the first time in my life, I was happy that LT existed. Having been raised by a German mother, more often than not, I live in conflict with the timing of many of my Latino friends and colleagues as I’m usually the first to arrive everywhere.

During the presentation, part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations, I spoke about how we can modulate our levels of Latinoness throughout the day and depending on the roles we play.

Going back to the example, in this country, punctuality is key in obtaining others’ respect and trust in you. So you must consider it a basic trait for professional success. But, if you have a party at your house over the weekend you’re probably not going to send out invitations with a beginning and an end time as most Anglos would. We experience time more as an event than as a chronological episode. Which means that the party starts when you arrive and it ends whenever it ends. For Anglos it is more like an 8- 11 PM thing.

The problem begins when this trait spills over your professional space and you are consistently late to turn in your projects or to a conference call. This can have an immediate impact on your personal brand as your colleagues and bosses make assumptions about you being untrustworthy.

It’s good to realize that you are not just Latino (or Mexican, Salvadorean, Dominican, etc.) Your identity is made up of numerous experiences, influences, beliefs, culture, religion, sexual orientation, race, and so on. Paradoxically, modulating the Latino aspects that may negatively affect your career opportunities is something very Latin.

We are a group known for our adaptability therefore, there’s no need to fear losing your Latino identity as a result of making these small adjustments. The ability to manage the different aspects of your identity according to the situation you are in or the role you’re playing at the time, is the best demonstration of your Latinoness in action.

If you liked this blog, you may also like: Uncover your Latinoness

Using social networking for career development

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010
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Social networking is no longer an option. It’s part of how we live our lives. And it’s not just an intrinsic part of how we organize our weekends and how we get parties going but of how we research information, market our products and services and find out about a future recruit.

So, the question is, how are you using it to build your professional image? Are you creating a relevant presence online? Are you contributing to conversations around your profession or industry? Or are you only posting your profile and letting it sit unattended?

The people who use social networking platforms most successfully are actively engaged with the communities that they join. They post interesting comments and links, they contribute content and forward other people’s content. They participate in discussions and answer questions. They share personal experiences without being too self-absorbed. They are careful with the material they post because they know that it’s hard to get rid of it once it’s online.

Some examples of positive engagement are:

1) On Linkedin, try to answer questions related to your expertise. The more active you are in answering questions posted by others, the more visible you become. This in turn, allows recruiters and people who might be looking for your talent to contact you.

2) On Facebook, “Like” groups that connect with your interest and post smart, sensible comments frequently. Again, the community will notice you and you will soon make friends and professional acquaintances.

3) On Twitter, Re-Tweet those tweets that relate to your area of expertise, engage with people who follow you and explore their profiles to find out more about them. Comment on their tweets and establish a direct conversation with them.

Of course the idea is to take your online relationships to the next level and make them real through one on one chats, phone conversations, text messages or even a meeting face to face. At Latinos in College, for instance, we have hired most of our interns and Ambassadors through our Facebook page. It’s a great way to get to know people (we get to see what they write, how they write, and what they are passionate about) even before they know that we are screening them!

Right now, there are tons of recruiters out there doing the same thing with you!

Are you about to commit honesticide?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Mafalda, a character created by Argentine cartoonist Quino, known to be brutally honest

Mafalda, a character created by Argentine cartoonist Quino, known to be brutally honest


At a recent panel during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) conference in Denver, a participating journalist asked what suggestions we had regarding how to talk about yourself when you first meet someone who could be a source or a prospective boss. “Should I just say whatever comes to mind? Should I just be me? Because I don’t want to pretend I’m someone I’m not…”

This is a question we all struggle with on an ongoing basis. When we meet someone new at a personal level, when we are interviewing for a job, and even in a well-established relationship with a partner, a friend, a work colleague or a boss. How much do you say about what you think at any given moment? How much do you filter?

Contrary to the most common advice that people give, namely that you should be yourself and say what you think, I believe we’ve been gifted with rationality and the ability to edit ourselves for a reason. In the context of building relationships, if the goal is to develop trust with someone, you don’t want to commit honesticide. That is, suicide by honesty. There’s little value in revealing details about yourself, your thoughts or your feelings if you know – or suspect—it will either hurt the other person or at the very least not go over well with them. There are things that, once said aloud, cannot be taken back no matter how much you apologize. Case in point, General Stanley McChrystal.
(And please understand that I’m not talking about standing up for what you believe even if it’s in disagreement with other team members.)

What happened to General McChrystal (losing his job following comments he made about the Obama administration to Rolling Stone magazine,) happens to ordinary citizens every day in a less splashy way. Think about it: Did you close the door during a job interview when you talked poorly about your former boss? Did you alienate a girlfriend when you told her that you couldn’t figure out what her hot boyfriend sees in her? Did you miss a promotion because you friended your boss on Facebook and kept posting your personal comments (“being yourself”) as if he/she weren’t there?

In any given situation, it is critical to trust your gut to tell you what information you need to convey and what is actually TMI. Sometimes not saying something will get you in trouble, and at other times the opposite is true. I’m not suggesting that you lie about who you are or pretend to be someone you’re not. Believe me, your identity will not suffer if you forgo telling your new acquaintance that you are wearing pink underwear for good luck.

In a world where we’ve all become voyeurs and where we share way too much through our social networks, the risk of committing honesticide is ever present. Just keep in mind that being completely honest all of the time is not only impossible (as an observer of the world you only have part of the truth) but more importantly it is also overrated.

Generation Y in the workplace

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Abercrombie & Fitch Gen Y employees present at ALPFA regional conference in DC

Abercrombie & Fitch Gen Y employees present at ALPFA regional conference in DC


When it comes to younger employees in the workplace, I’m fascinated by the resistance that so many managers are experiencing. I was at a conference last week where we heard a great presentation by a Gen Y woman about Gen Yers. She was dressed with jeans, a cut off T-shirt and a short, informal jacket. Not your regular business attire but very appropriate for the issues she was discussing: “Gen Yers are different; they don’t dress like their older colleagues; they don’t think like you, so deal with it!” She was very vivacious, smart and funny and brought home various ways to get along with this generation that outnumbers the two previous generations of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

After the 45-minutes long presentation about why the Millennials are the way they are and how to best deal with them, you could sense a distinct split reaction in the audience. Some of us loved the presenter. Some disliked her so much they wished they could wipe the grin off her face and, while they were at it, wipe the grins off the faces of all the members of this new generation that they don’t understand.

However, if many in the audience could actually hear some of the points that this woman raised regarding the creation of this generation — namely that they’ve been raised by over-indulgent Baby Boomer parents who provided everything from Kindergarten consultants to Math Summer Camps and volunteer opportunities in Guatemala, bought them every electronic gadget under the sun starting at the tender age of three, and encouraged them to be inquisitive and stand up for what they believe in — maybe they’ll identify with those parents and realize they bear some of the responsibility for the outcome.

And if they could step away for a minute from their “I’m right; you’re wrong” way of thinking and hear the presenter’s wise observations regarding how to manage this generation (among some of her tidbits she emphasized explaining why things need to be done in a certain way, allowing for work flexibility, offering Gen Yers the electronic gadgets they consider vital to functioning, and understanding that they welcome coaching and guidance from adults), perhaps they’ll learn some strategies that will help them better deal not only with their employees but with their kids as well.

It’s always difficult for one generation to welcome a new one in the workplace. But the Millennials have so much to offer in terms of creativity, energy, social entrepreneurship spirit, intrinsic understanding of technology, and leveraging the power of a flat world that we should all make an effort to help them transition into the workforce seamlessly and to develop the skills that are still necessary to succeed. They are inheriting a less than ideal world with plenty of major crises to attend to, none of which they helped create. I, for one, want to make sure they are well prepared to deal with what’s facing them.

Obstacles Welcome

Thursday, February 11th, 2010
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More often than not, the difference between leaders and less successful people resides in their interpretation of one word: “obstacle.” Whether you interpret the word to mean a barrier to achieving whatever it is you wish to achieve or as an opportunity to create an alternative solution to attain your goal, you act accordingly. In the first case, you tend to give up your goals and in the second case you find a way to turn that obstacle into fuel for your new approach, strategy, point of view, and so on.

Ralph de la Vega, President and CEO of AT&T Mobility, is a firm believer in turning obstacles into opportunities. He started early — when he was 10 years old and his parents decided at the airport, about to board a plane in Cuba for the US, that Ralph would be the only one in the family to travel while everyone else would stay behind to resolve some documentation issue. Thinking his parents would join him in a few days, Ralph left for his new adventure. The only problem was that he didn’t see his family again for the next four years. Since then, Ralph has had an incredibly successful career in this country and is now one of the highest ranking Hispanics in Corporate America.

I recently interviewed Ralph about his new book, Obstacles Welcome.

Mariela– What makes your personal story unique and, at the same time, an example that others can follow?

Ralph– My story is unique because although I got here as a 10-year-old without my parents, without money and without knowing the language, I’ve been able to reach the top of corporate America. Also, what makes my story relevant to others are the lessons I learned along the way, which I share in my book, Obstacles Welcome, as a guide for them to overcome their own obstacles and achieve their goals.

Mariela–How did you turn the concept of obstacle into “opportunity”?

Ralph– Once I succeeded in overcoming the obstacles I encountered during my first years as an immigrant I realized that these difficulties led to bigger and better opportunities. That was a huge lesson for me and one that I’ve applied ever since in business and in life.

Mariela– What suggestions do you have for people who are frustrated by the bad economy and the long time it is taking them to find a job? How can they turn this big obstacle into an opportunity?

Ralph– We are living in one of those turbulent times I describe in my book where the old status quo is no more but also where opportunity is being created. My suggestion any time you are faced with adversity is to turn it into opportunity. Right now, even as some fields are being shrunk, others are being created: green jobs, smart grids, digital healthcare records, hybrid cars, and many others. I tell people to look for those opportunities and to develop new skills so that they can compete successfully. This is a great time to put into practice the four pillars that are described in detail in my book.

1. Develop a plan for success. Hope is not a strategy.
2. Take calculated risks
3. Recognize opportunities
4. Overcome obstacles

In times like this it’s easy to let a word like “obstacle” run our lives, to use it as a justification or an excuse for not moving forward. If you think of it as just a word, however, you can create your own interpretation. And who knows, you may chose to define is a your next great opportunity!

Diversity best practice: networking and recruiting

Friday, December 18th, 2009
    Soledad O'Brien and Mariela Dabbah at NAHJ gala '08

    Soledad O'Brien and Mariela Dabbah at NAHJ gala '08

How many networking events have you attended lately? If you are anything like me, the answer is akin to: “I don’t remember anymore!” In my case, networking is not just something I do to grow my career but one of the themes I weave into most of my presentations, regardless of the particular topic.

In the last two years, conferences and industry shows where I often present have become the favorite place for job hunters to get a chance at connecting with prospective employers. The trouble has been that even at “job fairs,” participating companies have not been actively recruiting; and the ratio between candidates and job openings has been stacked against the candidates.

Enter CNN’s networking event series conceptualized by their Diversity Council with the goal of developing strong relationships that lead to increased hiring from a diverse pool of candidates. Because they reached out to many of the diverse journalistic associations, I had the good fortune of receiving an invitation from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), to which I belong.

I made my way up to the rooftop of the Empire Hotel in NY, a beautiful room overlooking the Lincoln Center area, and was welcomed by a smiling woman who checked off my name on a list and stamped my hand. Right away, I felt part of a select group of guests that had been hand picked to attend. This was a great first sign which, combined with the top quality hors d’ouvres, the open bar and the attentive waitresses, all contributed to making it a first class experience.

As I walked around meeting people, the multicultural feel of the room was amazing and although this is not unusual in New York, it is less frequent in newsrooms and networks across the country.

What caught my attention was that, unlike many events where the candidates have nametags and the recruiters hide their positions so you can’t bother them, the CNN hosts were clearly identified. But that wasn’t all. The recruiters made sure guests were meeting the right people, and they officiated many an introduction with key contacts.

The event was so impeccably run that at times it felt surreal. From a relationship-building point of view, a big part of the success of the event was the level of CNN’s staff that was present and actively engaged. From CNN USA’s president Jon Klein to Soledad O’Brien to senior HR executives who flew from Atlanta for the occasion, everything spelled: “We are interested in you and we are committed to diversity.” This is not always the message that well intentioned companies send when they host diversity activities. Most commonly the Executive Sponsor of the diverse group says a few words at the beginning of the event and then leaves.

“We are what we air. We air what we are,” says Johnita P. Due, CNN’s Assistant General Counsel and Diversity Council Chair, sharing the council’s mission statement. “We have a recruiting booth at many diversity journalistic conferences but this is a different touch. It allows senior management to meet people. And the truth is that unless you have the opportunity to meet someone in person, it’s hard to make an impression through paper.”

In the words he shared with the audience, Klein said that the network is interested in expanding its coverage of stories about African Americans, Latinos and other diverse populations above and beyond the once a year documentaries. Increasing diverse hires is certainly a wonderful step towards that goal. Creating real opportunities that show respect for prospective employees is most definitely a positive sign in an economic environment in which this diverse community of journalists, reporters and producers has suffered more than their fair share of pain.

So, if you are a member of a Diversity Council or an Employee Resource Group and you are working with your company’s recruitment team, think of the impact that this type of best practice can have on your business. Your input can help change the way things are done.

Latino employees make a difference

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
    AMEX_Hispanic_Card_8_27

Years ago, when Employee Resource Groups (ERGs, also known as Affinity Groups and Employee Networks) made their appearance in corporate America, the goal was to provide a space for diverse groups of employees to be heard and to offer support and networking opportunities which would result in an increased level of employee engagement.

As with most things, ERGs have evolved through the years and at a time when businesses need to leverage any advantage they have to earn market share, using the power of employees to reach an increasingly diverse population is key. In the words of Kerrie Peraino, Chief Diversity Officer at American Express: “We don’t want to loose the educational, informational and celebratory mandates of ERGs but we also want them to help with recruiting, orienting, training and retaining of talent and to share and develop business ideas that bring direct benefits to the bottom line.”

As a matter of fact, the AHORA network at American Express (their Latino ERG) helped develop the idea and the design for Amex’s new ¡Felicidades! gift card that went on sale recently and which will be available until January to account for the Hispanic community’s habit of buying gifts for Three Kings Day. ERG members voted online for one of the three designs that the company’s ad agency came up with after hearing AHORA’s input.

Ms.Peraino is not alone in her thinking. Recently, I moderated a panel called “Optimizing ERGs business effectiveness” at a Diversity Best Practices’s conference in Washington, DC. While discussing the different models ERGs are using to impact a company’s bottom line, one of the presenters on the panel, Claudia Mastrapasqua, Managing Director Client Executive Practice at Marsh, shared the innovative approach of her company’s Women’s network (WEBB.)

For the last few years WEBB has been hosting an event where Marsh clients and Marsh employees get together for some strong networking around a keynote speaker at a great venue. These events have helped the company develop new relationships with prospective clients and strengthen existing relationships. Most recently, I was the speaker at their event at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, where about 140 women got together at around 6 PM on a Thursday night.

Everyone networked until 6:30 when the 1/2 hour program started. First, Joseph McSweeney, president of Marsh’s US/Canada Division, said a few words and then I made a twenty minute presentation. That was it. The group went back to their networking, their shopping and having their hands massaged for free. No doubt that the wonderful hors d’oeuvres, the Holiday Martinis, the 15% discount coupon and the personal shoppers assigned to help the women shop privately (the store closed its doors to the public at 7 PM) helped make the evening a wild success.

But what I want to point out to you is this: through their involvement with their ERGs the members of AHORA and WEBB have found great opportunities to connect with senior management and gain visibility within their companies, which is often hard to do. By taking an active role in developing programs and products that affect your company’s bottom line you become part of a selective group of individuals who get recognized for their contributions. AHORA and WEBB have received lots of internal praise as well as external press and their members are preparing for wonderful year-end reviews.

So the question is: In this economic climate, what are you doing to stand out in your company?

A simple way to end conflicts

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
    habitacion-de-adolescente-2

I often hear friends, colleagues or clients complain that others don’t understand them. “He’s not listening to me,” or “She doesn’t understand what I want.” Sounds familiar? This kinds of misunderstandings happen in our private and professional lives all the time and more often than not, what’s behind them is a difference in unconscious standards. Let me explain what I mean through a story.

Marta is angry at her assistant Lisa because she frequently interrupts her while she’s trying to focus on her work. When she tells her: “Lisa, I can’t work if you are constantly interrupting me,” Lisa, surprised by her boss’ reaction responds: “That’s not true. I don’t interrupt constantly! I come in here once in a while to get answers so I can do my job well.”

What is true for Marta is not true for Lisa, and that is usually the case when the focus of our conversation is on who is right and who is wrong. What really matters is: is this type of communication producing a positive result for either one of these two women? If the answer is “no” then it behooves them to find a different approach regardless of who is right.

This situation can be easily resolved if Marta and Lisa sat down and discussed what constitutes “frequently,” “constantly,” and “once in a while” for each one of them. Say that Marta considers being interrupted three times a day as “frequent” and anything over three times a day “constant,” and Lisa thought that only five interruptions a day would be considered “frequent” and over that “constant.” Do you see how their differing standards (of which most of the times we are not aware) get in the way of producing positive results?

Once they sit down and clarify what each one of them means by these words, they can agree on new actions that help both of them achieve their goal: Lisa gets her answers and Marta feels that she’s maintaining her relationship with a valued employee. They can now agree on a new course of action: Lisa will accumulate questions and come into her boss’ office twice a day to get her answers and Marta will stop work at specific times during the day to focus her attention on her assistant.

Think about how many of these situations you experience in your life daily and ask yourself if there are certain “behind the scenes” standards about which you and the other person need to talk. What is “late” for you and what is “late” for your boss; what is “a clean room” for you and what is “a clean room” for your teenage child, what is “too much” work, talk, food, travel, for you and for someone else? The moment we start exploring these standards for ourselves and the people we interact with, a new realm of possibilities open up. I encourage you to try!

Everything impacts your image

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009
    restaurant-en-palermo-soho-2-med1

Sometimes it’s hard to control every detail of your professional life: how you dress and communicate, your work ethic, your friends, the way you execute a project… Because the truth is that everything you do and even what you don’t do has an impact on your image.

Take for example a conference I attended this week. (I’m not going to say its name, hoping the organizers learn from the feedback and, either substantially improve the event next year or forget about the conference altogether.)

I signed up (and paid) mainly because of the keynote speaker. Yet, when I arrived (first at the wrong destination because the publicity materials were not clear) I was informed that the speaker had been canceled. “He wasn’t well known by the Latinos who were attending and he charged a lot of money so we decided to use the money to attract more people to come to the conference,” I was told by the organizer. I was furious and disappointed. It had been a very difficult morning for me and I had made the effort to attend because I wanted to hear the now-canceled-keynote speaker.

The conference was supposed to start at 9:00 but it didn’t get started until 10:00 and then they kept changing the workshops that were being offered and the rooms where they would take place. Even the host didn’t seem to have a script for the conference to flow smoothly.

In addition, the luncheon speaker was a Latino comedian. He was funny, sure, and I love a good belly laugh, but the truth is that this was an all day professional conference for which all of the attendees had sacrificed time at work and many had traveled from across the country. Instead of perpetuating the stereotype that Latinos are only about having fun, providing some solid content would’ve been a much better idea.

So, even though the topic of the conference was very relevant, the poor execution impacted the image of the organizers. It not only said something about their lack of professionalism but it also said something about how they viewed the audience. It told participants that, at some level, the organizers believed that because the audience was mainly Latino, they would be patient with the fact that the program was running an hour late, or with the various changes, or with the level of informality or with a canceled keynote speaker.

Making these kinds of assumptions can really hurt your image and your relationship with others. So here’s my advice: whatever you do, do it professionally or don’t do it. And keep in mind that informality is a trait many Latinos share but that it will get in the way of your career development in the American market. In addition, treating people with respect should always be a top priority.