Posts Tagged ‘careers’

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

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.

Latino employees make a difference

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
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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?

Students looking to make money?

Sunday, July 5th, 2009
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Latinos in College, the nationwide public awareness campaign to help increase the number of Hispanic/Latino students who graduate from college, is implementing a strategy that offers students across the country the opportunity to make money.

Here’s an idea of what it entails:

  • Contacting local high schools and universities to tell them about our initiative
  • Offering our student and parent workshops and the Latinos in College: your Guide to Success book
  • Conducting student and/or parent workshops

    You are:

  • Interested in helping Latinos and Latinas graduate from college
  • A college student or recent grad
  • Self motivated, perseverant
  • A great communicator
  • Good talking to groups
  • Comfortable calling people you don’t know
  • If you are interested in finding out more, contact us at: mariela@latinosincollege.com. Please share this posting with your friends and colleagues on your social networks.

    Refine your work ethics

    Friday, July 3rd, 2009
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    Nowadays, a lot of young people are having a hard time figuring out how to enter the job market or how to keep the job they have. There’s tons of competition from other people their age and from older employees who have lost their jobs and have more experience. Even internships are hard to get by.

    If you find yourself in this situation, take a good look at your work ethics because you may have to change a thing or two if you want to stay in the game.

  • Be punctual and observe deadlines. Having an excuse for every time you are late is not going to win you extra points.
  • Be thorough in the work you do and focus on the details. It shows that you care.
  • Be creative: think of new ways in which you can help your boss, your company, or a colleague. Anything that helps reduce costs or increase income is a step in the right direction.
  • Be self motivated. Employees who look for opportunities to grow or expand their responsibilities show leadership.
  • Turn off your cell phone and any other electronic devices that you carry around with you while you are at work or in a job interview. Nothing says “I don’t care about this business” as you talking to your friends (or texting them) every ten minutes.
  • Avoid spending time on your Facebook page or any other social network while you are at work. Try to use the computer for business only.
  • Take care of your appearance. With more and more options to choose from, employers can get their pick and they tend to choose people who take good care of themselves and look clean. So, you may have to cover up excessive body art, piercings, or tame down your hairdo.
  • How to Survive in this Market

    Monday, October 13th, 2008

    I’m sure you’ve been reading, listening and watching lots of experts share tips about what to do in this crisis. I don’t profess to have the magic wand, but I’ll add my two cents for my Latino audience.

    Keep in mind that as a person with a Hispanic background who either grew up in Latin America or was raised by a family who did, you’re likely to have several traits that come very handy in times of crisis. They are the result of having experienced such unstable situations and having to adjust to changing conditions often. Some of these traits are your adaptability to change, your creativity, your ability to solve problems and your relationship-building skills. Here are a few things that you can do to showcase those traits at work:

    • Come up with creative ways to cut expenses, such as sharing resources with companies or organizations in your industry.
    • Conduct a brainstorming session with your teammates to discuss more effective ways to market your products or services.
    • Build team spirit at a time when your company may have experienced job cuts and those of you who are left have a lot more work to do.
    • Try to partner with non profit organizations or other companies to reach the same audience.
    • Offer to assume a different role if you see that your job is not the most critical right now.

    Remember, you have lots of built-in advantages. This is a great opportunity for you to show that you have what it takes to be a leader.

    Watch your words

    Sunday, August 31st, 2008

      I was at Kellari’s Parea, a wonderful Greek Bistro in Midtown Manhattan, earlier this week. I was sitting at the bar waiting for a friend to join me for dinner when I heard my name mentioned behind my back. No, seriously. The voice came from behind me.

    After the second time that I heard my name I turned to see if my friend had arrived, had sat down at a table and was calling me. What would be my surprise when I saw another friend, the editor of Siempre Mujer www.siempremujer.com, with a group of her friends, talking about me!

    I walked around so she didn’t see me coming and put my arm around her. I got close to her ear before she could even see who I was and I said: “I hope you’re not saying anything bad about me, because I heard you talking!” She almost died at the incredible coincidence! And yes she was talking about me in the nicest terms!

    But you know what? These kinds of things happen to me (and I assume to lots of people) all the time. And I mean it: all the time. If you want proof, just read my post “Small world” and you’ll see what I mean. Once again, the episode was a great reminder that you should never talk poorly about your colleagues. If you have nothing nice to say, it’s better not to say anything! But also, a reminder that we should all be careful when we talk in public as you never really know who’s eavesdropping.

    New media and you

    Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

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      I just came back from a great New Media conference organized by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

        It was a fabulous event where journalists got together to learn more about blogging, podcasting and developing slideshows in order to expand their career opportunities.

          The truth is that regardless of what you do, you need to constantly update your skills because no job will remain the same with this rapid technological revolution. Having your own blog or website may be a great way to broadcast your talents to the world. Several of the presenters at today’s conference commented that they received many job inquiries and offers through their website, which is, no doubt, one of the main reasons you should consider building your own. The secret is to keep your blog or your site updated with your latest undertakings so that it’s always fresh.

            Other good way of using new media to gain wider exposure to your talents is by creating videos that are connected to your expertise and uploading them to You Tube. Just be mindful of the type of information you share so that it reflects who you are and what you do.

              Sooner or later, all of us will have to be well versed in the new technology and the sooner we all embrace it, the wider the range of opportunities we will have.

              The positive side of losing your job

              Saturday, January 5th, 2008

              handshake.jpgWe’ve all heard the phrase “when one door closes, another one opens” and I think there is truth to that. Even in the worst of circumstances, there is opportunity when something ends.

                When it comes to losing your job, it may be a good time for you to do some introspection and find out if you really like what you are doing, the industry you are in or even the city or state where you live. You may be surprised at what you may discover!

              It’s possible that a few years ago you liked your industry or your job and now things have changed (whether with the industry itself or with yourself). Or you may realize that you were following your family’s mandate and it’s time to follow your own desires and goals.

                So try not to jump right back into the market without giving some thought to where you are, where you want to be in a few years and what you would really like to do with your life. Once you figure that out, it may take some planning to get to where you wish to be, it may even entail taking courses, networking or getting a specific certification.

              But even if you can’t do it all right now because you need an income and you find another job right away, make sure you register for those courses or you join a professional association where you can network, and set a target date in your calendar by which you wish to be working in your dream job. It’s a great way to turn the loss of a job into an opportunity for change!

              Can´t get a job?

              Monday, December 17th, 2007

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              There is a higher level of unemployment in Argentina than in the US and although the two countries are very different, lack of proper education, is one of the reasons why some people can´t find a job in either country.

                It becomes evident when I talk to employers who have been looking for employees for a long time and can´t fill their openings. “We´ve been interviewing for sales people for our upscale clothing stores for the past six months to no avail. There is a severe shortage of suitable candidates,” a human resources director tells me.This seems to be the case for a wide range of positions. In an attempt to prepare the future workforce, more and more companies are offering training programs for college students and graduates who wish to enter a particular industry, evidence that the global talent war has not spared this southern country. Parents may have part of the answer to this growing global concern. Patricia Veiga, the mother of a 14 year old says it best: “Teenagers are not interested in school and failing certain number of courses is in fashion. Many parents don´t get involved in their kids education, they don´t ask ´”how´s school,” they don´t tell them to prepare for the tests, etc. And with less kids going to college, there will be a less prepared workforce.”Nothing could be more true. In the US for instance, about 80% of new jobs require some college. So, the best you can do if you´re looking for a job and you´re having trouble finding one is to ask yourself if you have enough preparation for what jobs require nowadays or if you´d be better off going back to school.