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    The Pendulum Swings!

    Anyone who identifies with being liberal, progressive, or democrat is looking at last nights elections with a deep sense of doom.  The Republicans own the House and Senate. The last two years of President Obama's term will not just be lame--they will be downright paralizing.  Even if he uses his executive orders to keep moving forward on immigration and protecting healthcare reform, I'm not expecting a lot of progress forward on the issues that continue to undermine the potential of our nation. 

    My take is that the lack of unity among Republicans themselves will become all the more apparent and their lack of relevance with the growing Latino and Asian communities across the country will undermine what ever momentum they want to create for the 2016 elections. Even though they elected the first African American female senator in Utah and even if they have a few outspoken Latinos--the communities of color have a healthy dose of skepticism about the degree to which inclusion runs deep in the heart of the GOP.  

    What this means is that by the time 2016 rolls on, another set of disappointments will set off another swing of the pendulum and people will find themselves reacting to a different set of circumstances that call for change.  I can only imagine that Hilary sees this as a great opportunity!


    The Worst Advice Is to Take Advice Not Meant For You!

    Mujeres there is a lot of advice for the taking these days!

    It isn’t just coming from your friends and family — or me! The internet has given birth to an endless number of places to get advice. Since publishing on Facebook, Blogger and LinkedIn has become so easy to do — anyone can dole out their own words of wisdom. It’s one of the best and worst features of surfing the web.

    We all seek out ideas and information to help with anything from buying the latest fashion trends to buying a car. And, of course our own culture places a high value on sage advice for the young and old. Jóvenes y viejos, todos necesitamos consejos. (Young and old, we all need advice)

    But what advice is right for you on the big issues for your life — career, health, family? How do you weed through it all?

    My bias is to look carefully for advice that comes from a reputable source and that there is some research linked to the advice. The other filter to apply when you read advice is to ask whether it applies to your specific circumstance.

    Is it for your stage of career? Is it for your industry? Is it a fit for your personal style?

    One of my favorite examples of the challenges of taking career advice not meant for you was started by a book with the clever title, Never Check Your Email First Thing in the Morning by Julie Morgenstern. Her suggestion has been repeated in a wide range of other lists with equally compelling titles: The Top 10 Things Productive People Do, The Top 10 Ways Happy People Start Their Day.

    In working with young people–and even not so young who are part of virtual global teams– this mantra of not checking email early in the day is seriously problematic.

    If you are on a global team it may be helpful to recognize that your 6 am is someone’s 9 am or 2pm and you may just have something in your inbox that became urgent 3 or 6 hours ago while you were sleeping.

    If you are a senior executive or you have the luxury of having administrative support, you may not need to check your email because chances are someone else checks your email for you. I understand the intent of Morgenstern’s original work and even Morgenstern admonishes that everyone needs to create their owntime map to manage what works for them.

    My advice: check your email early enough to be on top of what’s happening for your team and your customers. Make the best decision on what needs a response now or later in the day — your decision to answer an email at 5:30 am rests on the value you bring to your team or meeting your customer’s expectations.

    There are no hard or fast rules that meet every situation.

    Your career and the demands of your work-life are only known to you. Unless you are working directly with a mentor or coach that knows your unique circumstances, take time to assess what advice truly is right for you. Anything that gives you an absolute rule to follow may be more about drawing attention than truly advice meant for everyone reading.

    Tell me about the best advice you’ve had at Latina Cubicle Confidential or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA.


    Are You Passing Up  Opportunities?

    I recently met with a colleague who described something that has become unfortunately all too familiar. He mentioned that he gave a presentation to a group of Latino college students about entering the high-tech field and that he offered them all to LinkedIN® with him so he can support their career ambitions.

    Even after describing the importance of building their network as part of his presentation, he was dismayed that of 150 students only 4 actually asked to LinkedIN® afterward. Sadly, I have much of the same experience.

    Regardless of how enthusiastic participants may be while they are engaged in a workshop or during a presentation or speech, only a few take those brief encounters to the next level and truly seize the opportunity.

    Is this you?

    Are you leaving behind important opportunities? Do you recognize those opportunities that can move your career forward?

    If it’s not yet clear, there is a specific reason for the adage: It’s not what you know but who you know that will get you closer to your career ambitions.

    Why? Because roughly half of all jobs available are not posted on corporate job boards or similar. Those jobs become available to you only if you connect with the right person at the right time. And if you are interested in moving up inside your current workplace, that one person who can put you in front of the right people may have just bumped into you in the elevator — so let’s get connected!

    The art of positioning yourself for a great connection with someone begins with your ability to act FAST: Follow-up, Ask, Share, and Thank.

    If you meet someone who gives you a business card or provides you their email or even if you meet and they simply provide a name, follow-up with them within two days. Look that person up on LinkedIN and add them to your network. Strategic professionals will accept invitations because they know how important networking can be for a career. I guarantee you that 9 times out of 10 they will connect.

    Once you have connected with a person, engage them. Ask a question about their work, their project or their career. When you ask your question, be sure to also Share about yourself and your interests, too.

    “I’m interested in working in healthcare, what do you think is the number one skill for nurses to have today?” “I really like fashion and wonder if you think there are opportunities in retail for my skills.” These questions let a new contact learn more about you and what you may be interested in so that they can refer you to others who can support your career interests, too. You can ask your questions within LinkedIn, by email or you can do this in an “informational interview” in person.

    After you have connected with your contact — whether an email response to your question or an informational interview is complete — be sure to Thank them for their time. Thank you cards are rarely used now but you will be far more memorable if you take the time to send a card. And yes, the more you can set yourself apart from others for doing the extraordinary, the better.

    When I look back at workshop participants that are memorable and stand out—it’s the ones who follow up and ask about the issues I’ve presented and those who truly engage. They write or call soon after and come across as eager and interested in their success which all comes down to making a strong impression. And yes, it becomes much easier to recommend them to others who can support their journey.

    This can be you! Tell me about your network experiences at Latina Cubicle Confidential™ or join my live at the next LatinaVIDA “Rise to the Top” seminar.


    Class of 2014: Get Ready for the Portfolio Career

    In the next few months, thousands of college graduates will be experiencing one of the most important decisions they will make in their lifetimes: accepting their first job. It can be the fast track for success or it can be the start of a series of “hits and misses” at finding the right job.  Some graduates will succeed at positioning themselves to work for a Fortune 500, a public agency, or a local nonprofit.  They may enjoy a traditional career—2 or 3 years at one position with successive progress up the leadership ranks. 

    What if you haven’t found that first job? You are not alone. The Labor Department announced this week that the unemployment rate for 2013 graduates aged 20 - 29 was at 10.9 percent.  Among those with a job, 260,000 are actually working in the service sector.  According to a McKinsey study almost 40% or recent college grads are working at jobs that are far from their chosen career path.  If you or your child or your friend is in that percentage, there is no shortage of advice on how to find a job.  Unfortunately, the reality is that many organizations continue to look for ways of keep costs low and the contingency workforce is expanding.  Almost 3 million workers have “temporary employment” in the US.  Another 11 million are classified as independent contractors. 

    Maybe the Class of 2014 will break new ground and embrace what might be called a “portfolio career”.  

    A portfolio career is one that is defined by the kind of projects, assignments, or programs you complete or design as an independent contractor, part-time worker, or as a consultant.  It isn’t about getting a title on the org chart and doing the work defined by that role.  Instead, your portfolio of work speaks to your skills and capacity to “plug and play”—walk in and contribute to the task at hand and then move on.  Your expertise is to get things done even without a formal role in the organization or without the infrastructure that most employees take for granted. You may also build a portfolio of work by creating a project for yourself— in essence, you are addressing a need that others don’t know exists. 

    A portfolio career does have its challenges.  Contract work or temporary employment has often carried a stigma—a contract employee might not be invited to regular team events and functions because, well, they are not going to stay. Independent contractors must also constantly update their skills in order to create new opportunities.  And yes, there is the need to keep looking for the next opportunity---you will often hear about a project, a start-up, a new program that needs your skill set and part of your daily routine will be to put yourself out there and invest in an opportunity to see if it leads to another contract.    

    If you are planning a celebration for your graduation and just landed that great job, I offer my heartfelt congratulations.  If you have not, maybe this is an opportunity to treat your career like a “venture capitalist”.  Chase your passions and invest time into several ideas at one time. One of those may turn into your personal “next big thing”.  You may find the work life you have always wanted is truly out there after all--one project at a time.  To Your Success, Maria




    The 2014 Latina Agenda: 275 Board Seats or Bust

    My syndicated blog appeared in New Latina, Latina Lista, and Hispanic News Online Flipboard

    The nation’s Fortune 500 companies have approximately 5,463 board of directors.  These positions set the tone of the US economy and establish workplace practices that impact employees and working families throughout the nation. Of these leadership positions, 3.2% are held by Latinos and .07% are held by Latinas according to the Alliance for Board Diversity.  The actual list of Latinos and Latinos who serve on boards is available in Latino Leader Magazine’s annual update on Latino Board of Directors.  This list is comprised of 138 individuals:  30 are Latinas and five of these serve on more than one Board.  A total of 108 Latinos are listed and 27 of them serve on more than one board.     

    If there is one agenda item for Latinas in the US business community that is poised to make a true difference for our role in the US economy, it is to make a dramatic push to ensure the diversity of the corporate board rooms includes us. This means that we need to have 275 Latinas and Latinos on corporate boards by 2015.  And, the same number needs to be added in 2016 and 2017 in order to increase the number of Latinos on Boards to match our representation in the US.   

    The path forward is two-fold.  First, there are currently 1000 corporate board members in the Fortune 500 who are aged 70 or older.  There will be a transfer of leadership in the Fortune 500 during the next few years that represents a significant opportunity for Latinas and Latinos to participate in the leadership of those companies, many of which are now targeting and profiting from our community the most. It’s no surprise: our purchasing power is now $1.2T and 86% of Latinas surveyed by Nielsen say women in their household make the primary purchasing decisions.  Latina bloggers, with savvy social media skills, are actively engaged in promoting products ranging from skin care to infant toys.   But the idea of simply targeting the Latina consumer without fully integrating us into the leadership of the Fortune 500 cannot continue.  The Latino community must advocate now to diversify corporate boards.   

    Second, we must address the myth that there are too few qualified candidates.  While standards for board membership vary from company to company, many are chosen to serve on boards primarily because of their access to other Board members.  The call to serve on a board most likely takes place in a tight network of referrals among trusted advisors. In order to recruit Latinas to a Board, the Board chair must step outside his inner circle and be willing to look for us in different settings.  Many Latinas have had anything but a traditional career.  Knowledgeable, innovative, and financially savvy Latinas are likely to run their own businesses, serve in government, or be members of academic community at the nation’s best colleges and universities.  We use our leadership skills to run nonprofit boards, regional commissions, or councils.  The idea that there are no qualified candidates is simply not true. 

    I call upon the Latinas and Latinos who are part of professional associations and digital communities to claim this goal of seating 275 Latinos and Latinas for 2014.  The time is now.  Take a moment to scan your membership and look for those who have an interest in serving on a Corporate Board.  Raise your hand to be counted and let’s add our names to the list. Let there be no excuse that we cannot be found.  I’m raising my hand. I’m leaning in.  Lean in with me.