Posts Tagged ‘career’

Let’s change our attitude

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009
    Monument in honor of jews killed in WWII. A great way to honor lives; the metal leafs move with the wind.

I grew up in Argentina, a country that had –and continues to have– it’s fair share of good and bad times. (Although more bad stretches than good!) Every time I go back, regardless of how good or bad things are going, people say: “You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.” That phrase blocks their ability to plan for the future, something many Latin American people have trouble doing. I feel, that is very much what’s happening to many of us here, in the U.S. right now.

It’s easy to fall prey of the bad news and the generally depressed mood out there and to stop doing all the normal things we used to do. From eating out, to buying groceries and going to the movies. It’s not only that the economy is in poor shape, but the way in which we handle the situation makes things worse.

I propose a change: let’s stop complaining about how bad things are and begin looking at ways in which we can continue to be productive and creative. Let’s exercise those creative muscles that get atrophied during good times when you don’t have to think about how to make do with less.

So, why don’t we take a good look at what we have (our health, our family, a roof over our heads, whatever the case may be) and be grateful for that. And then let’s focus on what is still working, what companies are still hiring, who is making money in this economy and why. Then, let’s try to adapt ideas that are working for other industries to ours, whether it’s a process or a type of partnership or the target audience those successful companies are focusing on.

Only by shifting gears into a more positive outlook will we find the opportunities laying right in front of us.

Becoming the best

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Unlike a lot of people I don’t usually make a list of New Year’s resolutions because I tend to act on resolutions right away, all year long, instead of waiting for the beginning of a new year. The same way I can start a diet on a Wednesday instead of waiting for Monday…

But a lot of people like to use this opportunity to reflect and set new goals and I think that’s a very positive way to start the year. This year in particular, there is one thing I think we should all add to the top of our lists: to become the best at what we do. Whether you improve your computer skills, or a certain process, whether you work on your communication abilities or specific skills you need for your particular job, you have to make it a priority.

In a tight job market, those who offer the best value are the ones who will find and keep jobs. And I’m talking all kinds of jobs. Check these examples of people who will soon lose their jobs if they don’t get their act together:

  • The emergency phone service operator who took my call after I was on hold for 10 minutes. When I said: “That was a long wait for an emergency service”, she remained quiet. She didn’t apologize and she told me (after sighing) that my condo already knew we didn’t have hot water because someone had called earlier. I had to insist for her to take down my unit number and report my problem.
  • The graphic designer that turns in her work two weeks past a deadline.
  • The editor who allows articles to be published in his/her newspaper without checking the facts.
  • The executive recruiter who is constantly back stabbing her colleagues thinking people don’t notice and don’t talk amongst themselves.
      I’m sure you have your own examples. Hopefully they refer to others and not to yourself! Just in case, let’s all make this the number one priority for this year: stretch the limits of how good we think we can be and challenge ourselves to the next level.

  • Winning or Loosing

    Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

    If you’ve been following the Olympics I’m sure you’ve noticed that winning silver (or worse yet, bronze!) sounds like the worse thing that can happen to you. And yet, if you get a silver medal, you are the second best athlete at whatever your expertise is. In some disciplines being second might mean you are only an eight of a second slower than the first guy. Not bad, don’t you think?

    But by the way the media and the coaches handle the situation it would have all of us believe that winning a silver medal at the Olympic games is worthless. Excuse me? If you make it to the Olympics I’d take my hat off to you! Granted, we all wished we could be the best at what we do and aiming for number one is a fabulous goal. But number two in the world is not that terrible either.

    When I shared my concerns with a close friend of mine, she said: “In America, we don’t focus on winning silver, just in loosing gold”. But this emphasis in not “loosing gold” leaves a lot of hard working athletes out in the cold. It leaves them with a complete lack of recognition for their efforts, their enormous concentration, the lengthy preparation they endure, and the loss of a big chunk of their childhood during the pursuit of gold.

    I believe both in sports and in life in general we should recognize the winners and also the people who put a big effort into what they do but who don’t finish first. Because it is about the gold, but it’s also about the competition and what you learn about yourself and others in your journey there.

    We are all in this together

    Monday, August 4th, 2008

      You can’t avoid it. Everywhere you look, regardless who you talk to, people are being laid off, or fired, or losing their businesses… it’s a pretty bad state of affairs.

      And maybe you still have your job and are doing fine, thank you very much. But the truth is that we are all in this together and sooner or later, the crisis will affect you too. Whether it is because your friends won’t be able to afford going out for dinner with you or because you loose several of your contracts due to cutbacks in your client’s company, there is no way of avoiding the crisis from touching you in one way or another.

      In this interconnected, smaller world we live in, we all share in the pain and success of others. That should give us something to think about. If you are lucky and you have a job, cherish it, and find ways in which you can bring more value to your company. At the same time, make sure you help your friends and colleagues land new opportunities: organize events where they can meet others, introduce them to your contacts, brainstorm career options, etc.

      “Practical empathy” is something we should all try at times like this. It strengthens our bonds to each other and it makes harder times a little easier to deal with.

      Send Summer cards

      Thursday, July 10th, 2008

      I never stopped sending Christmas cards to my contacts, even with the advent of e-cards. But a couple of years ago I started a new tradition: sending summer cards.

        It started because I wanted to share some of the pictures I had taken during my trip to the Greek islands. I had been looking for a different occasion to stay in touch with my network other than the big holidays when people are usually bombarded by mail.

          So, I went to one of the websites where you get to design your own cards and uploaded my pictures, created my text and voila! I had my own customized card. As a matter of fact, I designed more than one so that I could send different cards to contacts who worked at the same company.

          They were an immediate hit! I got lots of e-mails commenting on the cards which I turned into a perfect opportunity to discuss projects with my connections.

            This year I made the cards funny. It’s working out really well; people are loving them not just because of the thought but because I turned them into a reminder to enjoy the summer and take some time off.

              Try something different to stay in touch with your network. Linkedin alone is not going to cut it! 

              Getting inspired

              Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

              ana-escobedo-cabral.jpgYesterday, I met Anna Escobedo Cabral at HPNG’s Latino Leadership Conference

                In case you didn’t know, she’s the Treasurer of the United States, meaning, her signature is in every one dollar bill.

                  She gave a very inspiring presentation at a fabulous event that brought together around one hundred Latino professionals from all fields and industries to the Yale Club in NYC. Mrs. Escobedo Cabral spoke about her humble beginnings as the daughter of farmworkers and about the mentor who made sure she filled out her college applications when all she wanted was to get a job as soon as she finished high school.

                  She spoke of the days in which she would pick up scrap metal on her way back from school so that her father could sell it, and there could be food on the table. She told us about changing elementary schools over twenty times.

                  And still, she persevered. Not only did she graduate with a major in Political Science from the University of California, Davis, but she later earned her Master’s degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Now don’t think for a moment that grad school was easy for her. She already had four children and, on occasion, she attended classes with the youngest one, who, at three, asked questions of the professors. As Mrs. Escobedo Cabral shared that her son has now graduated from MIT as a Nuclear Engineer, I can’t help thinking that some of that early exposure to education paid off.

                Her presentation was an inspiration to all of us at the conference. A reminder that Latinos can get as high as they want regardless of their beginnings.

                Be interesting

                Tuesday, June 24th, 2008


                I always tell people that one of the best ways to attract people to their network is to be interesting. Nobody wants to hang out with boring people! The question, obviously, is what do you do to be interesting?

                Taking classes outside of your field or industry; traveling to unusual places; reading books, magazines, and e-zines; attending conferences, concerts, art exhibits; visiting museums and hanging out with people who are different are all great ways to step out of your comfort zone. And this is probably one of the key traits that interesting people share. They are not afraid to explore, to have an adventurous life.

                I was in Europe last week and I visited three beautiful cities: Prague, Vienna and Budapest. I can’t begin to tell you how many interesting things I saw. One of them was a woman who was selling the canes you see in this picture. She was next to all the other souvenir vendors, set up in the highest spot in Buda, overlooking the best view of Pest. While nobody was interested in the other vendors, she had a large crowd shopping at her booth. She had put together this pile of canes with a twist: the came equipped with an old bicycle bell, a first aid kit, cigarettes, matches, a flask and… a little box of Viagra just in case you happened to have a close encounter while you were hiking up the mountain!!!

                So now I have this anecdote to tell. This picture to share during my workshops and to help me make them more interesting. One more thing, though. You need to learn to tell a story! How interesting can you be if you put everyone to sleep when you tell your stories?

                Dress code

                Saturday, February 9th, 2008

                I’m sure you’ve heard many times how important it is to dress conservatively when you interview for a job. It has a purpose: to show respect for your interviewer and to show you in a professional light.

                As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’m in court every day on jury duty. I’m a member of a grand jury which hears several cases in each session and then votes for or against indictment. The process is simple: the assistant U.S. district attorneys briefly present each case,  they bring a witness, then the jury debates in private. If we have further questions, we ask the lawyer in the case to bring back the witness and ask the questions. Then we deliberate some more and finally we vote.

                It has surprised me how poorly dressed the witnesses are for a court environment. They are detectives and officers of different government agencies (U.S.marshals, immigration, police, etc.) and they wear jeans and sweatshirts and overshirts and sneakers.

                I find that their carelessness sends a message of disrespect to jurors –who are asked to dress conservatively– and it is also a commentary on what this process is all about.  A one sided view of the case with the assistants U.S. district attorney bringing evidence against the defendants and the jurors not having a real way of weighting the evidence that is being presented.

                These witnesses seem to have no need to impress because they are taking for granted that their expertise and their word is enough to indict on “probable cause”, the standard in a Grand Jury versus “beyond reasonable doubt” needed at a trial.

                No matter what the occasion is, the way you dress always sends a message to others. Disrespect and contempt is not one you want to send lightly.