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4 posts from April 2012

04/28/2012

Take the Lead On Your Career

More than often, Latinas leave the responsibility of advancement in the hands of their immediate manager, or hope it will happen by chance or solely because of hard work.  If only it were that easy. So what exactly are you responsible for? What do you need to do to advance, secure that promotion, or move up the career ladder? The answer lies in taking the lead on your career and committing more energy to it than anyone else.  Below are a few pointers to help you gain some perspective.

Start With A Self Inventory

Be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses.  Identify the things you are exceptional in and those in need of improvement. Solicit formal and informal feedback from trusted individuals that can help you identify those areas.  Leveraging your strengths and working on your weaknesses will make you a well-rounded professional and better prepare you for advancement.

Set Goals and Envision Yourself Where You Want To Be

What are you working towards?  What heights do you want to reach?  Identify your goals and get a realistic perspective of what you are aiming for. Review your goals regularly to ensure they are in line with what’s really happening and adjust them if necessary as things change.  Don’t forget to use the performance review process as an opportunity to further identify goals recommended by your manager.

Focus On Performance

Skills are doubtlessly important, as they are your first line of defense in proving yourself and your abilities. Understand your job responsibilities and be prepared to consistently deliver results.  Don’t assume you’re doing an outstanding job.  Ask your manager, even if informally, as well as your colleagues.  Outstanding performance and strong skills gain you respect and opens up new opportunities.  A job well done is a job remembered.

Hone Your Skills

Look for consistent ways to improve your skills or obtain new ones.  For instance, if public speaking is not your forte, look to improve it.  This will help your confidence and speaking abilities when in front of senior leaders. Many organizations offer training and development courses, as do most local colleges.  If you’re gearing for a new role, figure out what that new role requires and get the training necessary to excel in it.  Ignoring chances for self-improvement means you’re holding yourself back from accelerating.

Raise Your Hand and Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Staying in your seat with your head down pushing out work will not get you noticed.  Step out of your comfort zone by raising your hand for stretch assignments that will challenge your skills and get you recognized by senior leaders. You can do the best job possible and have excellent skills, but if they are not being put to use or you are not being noticed, your chances for advancement remain low.

Build A Board Of Directors

Seek out professionals to ask for their guidance, learn from their experiences and benefit from their wisdom.  It is important to build a support system comprised of trusted individuals that advice, counsel and champion for you.  The very best relationships are informal so don't get caught up with formality.  Also, keep in mind that mentorship relationships don’t necessarily have to be with senior leaders.  Creating a networking comprised of lateral relationships is extremely helpful, as are relationships outside of your immediate division and/or organization.

Gain From Networking

You need to meet as many people as possible in your department, in the company and outside of it.  Never pass up on opportunity to meet other influential leaders and colleges.  Get your name out, learn what people do and allow people to learn what you do. When opportunities open up, they are going to have you in mind.

Build Your Brand

When people think of you, you want to make sure they do so in a positive light and in terms of your capabilities.  Build a reputation that is associated with top potential.  You want people, especially those in upper management, to know about your skills, leadership abilities and any competencies that are associated with executive leadership.

Career management is one of the least thought of, yet most important aspects of advancement.  Indiviudals look for a path to follow but oftentimes there is no set path.  Instead your advancement is dependent upon the path you establish by stepping up to create the career and opportunities you so desire.  Failing to focus on this dimension of your life is simply a waste of your talent and potential.

 

04/27/2012

The unheard voice of infertility: A Latina’s story

(CNN) – My mother, a Cuban immigrant, had three expectations of me as a child:  To graduate from college, get married and become a mother. So far, I have fulfilled two of them. I became a high school teacher and a wife, but at 40-years-old have yet been able to conceive a child. It is an awful predicament to experience: the stigma of infertility plus the expectations - from my Latino family and community– to become a mother. Being the only Latina in your family without children makes you feel ashamed and isolated.  Watching your friends experience the joy of motherhood leaves you feeling empty and forgotten. As a Latina isn’t it my God-given right to be a mami?

Learn more…

 

04/26/2012

My First Job: Fledging Reporter, Internal Ethical Dilemma

I remember it was November of 1995 when I got the call from the People Magazine Miami Bureau Chief to skip my next few days of class, trek down from Gainesville to South Florida and assist them on a story. I was finishing up my last semester in college after interning at the popular national magazine the summer prior. That summer I had not only snagged the distinction for being the only Spanish-speaking reporter in the bureau in Miami – yes you read correctly – but I was the only intern during that three-month stint who had worked on a national cover story (the sudden death of budding model Krissy Taylor).

With only one month before to go until graduation and no pending job offers, I gladly agreed to jump on a 10-row commuter airplane and head to my hometown. After all, they needed me!  Yes, it was because I was a good journalist but more importantly because I was Latina and spoke Spanish – critical attributes the editors in New York had concluded were necessary to land the breaking story.  Just the day before, Maryling Flores, a 13-year-old 8th grader of Nicaraguan descent, and 14-year-old Christian Davila, another 8th grader, whose parents were Mexican, had reportedly held hands in the wee hours of a November Sunday morning and leapt into a 15-foot deep canal. Neither one could swim. They were found two days later.

It was a terrible tragedy yet in the journalism business misfortune, disaster, and heartbreak sells. So it was my task, along with a fellow reporter, to attend the funerals of these modern-day Romeo and Juliet lovers, whose parents had forbade them to see each other, and persuade family and friends to open their hearts and lives to us in the wake of such immense grief.  I wrestled with the assignment. It was my opportunity to shine at the magazine but at what expense, I thought? They buried the teens together and as the girl’s mother sobbed and collapsed into the arms of family members at the graveside, I was placing business cards on the windshields of the mourners’ cars – scribbled on the back with words to coax them to speak with me.

With the magazine going to press a day and half later, we didn’t have much time to convince these families to speak with us about their children. In the end, we had to develop a write- around piece about the tragedy using quotes from other sources and news reports.  A few days later, I was still reeling from the whole experience, when Maryling’s father, Marlon, called me. He was ready to speak with me now about his daughter.  Unfortunately, the editors in New York had already moved on to other stories for the next issue, so I had to find some way to kindly tell this man, who had just lost his only daughter the week before, that we would not be doing another story.

Almost 17 years later, I think about this man, these families, these lovesick teenagers, whose lives affected mine and strangely enough helped my career when I was starting out. I am grateful that our lives intersected but still feel guilty that I somehow gained when they had lost.

I share this story for several reasons.  For me, this is a classic example of how being Latina, bilingual and understanding the Hispanic culture made me a unique asset for a multi-million dollar company, but it is also testament to the  difficult choices and compromises we, as fledgling professionals, often have to make in order to advance our career.  We may not always want to highlight such situations and explain how we may have leveraged our uniqueness to move ahead but we should acknowledge its power and harness it for the greater good.

http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20102211,00.html

 

Finding My Inner Latina

When I tell people in conversation that I was “made in Japan” I get a mix of perplexed looks and chuckles.  You see, my parents, Cuban immigrants (who lived in Japan for three years and conceived me there) loved to use this anecdote as an ice-breaker when meeting with a cross-section of individuals from different background s and nationalities in situations ranging from business settings to social engagements.  And it worked rather well in the sense that it helped bridge that cultural divide between the differences in one another. Just the idea, that my parents, who spoke perfect English but with a Spanish accent, would have experiences outside their own country, helped show that we could be proud of where we come from but also have the aplomb to appreciate other cultures and people.

I learned this lesson intricately well as we then spent the first five years of my life in Hong Kong, which, at the time, was an international hotspot brimming with families from South America to Europe. When I was almost six, we moved to Miami to be closer to my grandparents and extended family. While Hong Kong had been vastly diverse, Miami was suddenly not.  However, the advantage was that growing up in Miami almost everyone I knew was bilingual – speaking Spanish at home with parents and los abuelos and English with teachers and classmates in school. There was no issue about being different or trying to understand different cultures as this was more of a homogenous environment, and I was a commoner.

It wasn’t until I was all of 18 years old and heading to the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida – a far cry from Miami’s sandy beaches, jai alai, and arroz con pollo – that I realized the world was much more multicultural than I had known (or remembered from my time abroad).  At UF, it became evident early on that in this new multicultural and multiethnic world, I would need to become more onerous of my Hispanic roots – and inherent identity that until that moment had been almost pedestrian. Now, I would need to be more visible as a Latina in college as this identity would both carry responsibilities as well advantages into the future. 

Once in journalism school, I began to forge a network with fellow Hispanic communications student, and  I became more aware of the lack of Hispanics who held masters and PhDs in journalism (not to mention Latinas). Since this piqued my interest, it then became the catalyst for becoming more involved in Latino-focused organizations and activities so that we might foster more budding Hispanic journalism students. Soon after, I co-founded the college’s first Hispanic Communicators Association; helped moderate a minorities in journalism conference for incoming students; hosted Maria Hinojosa, NPR host and award-winning journalist; and participated on a Latino student council with fellow students to open an off-campus center for Latino studies.  By graduation, I was proud of the legacy I, as a Latina, as well as my fellow Hispanic students, had left for those who would follow in our footsteps at UF. 

Launching into the professional world, I wondered if my uniqueness as a Latina would resonate with employers as a value proposition or simply be overlooked as a nothing more than a checked box on an application. What I believed then was that corporate America would simply embrace this identity, and that I would be appreciated and valued for my opinions and work ethic. 

And now? Almost 16 years later, I know that to be successful in your career, you will need to first align yourself with your inner identity as a Latina and learn how to harness it.  Once you have mastered this, then it will become a source of power to you. One that will fuel you so that you can begin to dismantle those walls and preconceptions that stand between you and others – much like my parents did with their anecdote. This will help you begin to connect with these individuals (whether it’s your current boss, your potential future boss, or other senior business leaders) and demonstrate how you can bring an untapped perspective to the table that will ultimately help their company, corporation, or organization grow.

 

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