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 and join me live at the next Rise to the Top!

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 here or join my live at the next LatinaVIDA “Rise to the Top” seminar.--Maria

Latina Cubicle Confidential™ Do You Have Enough ME Time?

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Let me guess. Your typical work day starts at 6:00 am with a routine of getting yourself ready for work and your children ready for school. Everyone is dressed by 7:30. Backpacks with lunches and homework completed are ready. Pets are fed. Dishes rinsed off. And the one or two emails that came overnight have been answered.

You have taxied the kids to school or day care and are in your regular commute by 8 am and then at your cubicle by 8:30 am—if traffic cooperates. The day begins!

It can be a series of meetings, phone calls, emails, and reading reports and working on your 2 or 3 projects with lunch at your desk and few calls from home mixed in.

Your day can be one giant blur of activities and at 6 pm the next shift begins: supervising kids do homework, putting dinner on the table and then getting kids to sleep on time. Is it any wonder that married women with children report feeling so overwhelmed?

The American Psychological Association reports that married women reportedhigher levels of stress than single women, with one-third (33 percent) indicating that they have experienced a great deal of stress in the past month compared to 22 percent of single women.

Is this you? Mujer, let’s talk about “ME” time.

One of the hardest lessons to learn about a successful work-life is that hard work alone will not get you where you want to go in your career. Now, more than ever, it’s about having a career strategy and taking care of yourself so you can run the marathon of life.

It’s impossible to do all this without ME time. And while that may conjure up an image of going out for a night of fun, treating yourself to a day at the beach or splurging on a spa day con tus comadres or BFFs–ME time is much more.

ME time should stand for Mindful Energy — it’s an hour or half hour each day that you set aside to think and reflect about what you are doing to energize for your vision of your career and life. This is a moment to recharge. This is a time to recalibrate from all the busyness and get on track.

You might create a small ritual for ME time — three deep breaths to center yourself and then reading or reflecting on something that inspires you. It means practicing the art of mindfulness– getting in touch with “being” not “doing” something.

You may find that sitting still, clearing your mind for just a few minutes is one of the healthiest ways to be at your best and harness the energy you need to work through the complexity of your day.

Think taking this time out for yourself is just one more stressor? Think again.

The Harvard Health Guide now includes a guide on mindfulness that outlines simple steps to take and outlines the remarkable benefits for your health, your ability to focus, and overall satisfaction with your life.

The benefits can also mean lowering your heart rate or blood pressure and reducing the sense of overwhelm. All that and more just for taking time to breathe and focus on YOU.

I feel better just writing that down!

Is the “Burnt Tortilla Syndrome” Holding You Back?

Texas State Senator, Leticia Van de Putte , who is running for lieutenant governor next year, has said that Latinas can suffer from the “burnt tortilla syndrome”!

You know it’s true. Latinas give of themselves in our families, in our community, and at work — sometimes to a fault. The kids, abuelosprimasamigas, y novioscome first. We settle for less. We take the leftovers. We take la tortilla quemadaso that no one else has to!

We do it for all the right reasons but the end result is we often grow up feeling uncomfortable investing in ourselves. Feeling good about investing in your professional growth needs to become a priority among Latinas.If you want to develop new skills, if you want to have a career that creates more financial security for you, and if you want to transform your career, you will need to invest in yourself.

What does that mean?

It may simply mean taking a free webinar or reading a leadership book that costs under $30. It can also require taking time to attend a seminar that a professional association offers at a low cost. It may require remaking your wardrobe so that your look says “I’m in charge or should be.”

Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that Latinas can feel good about buying a great handbag, the best stilettos, or getting the French manicure or the sizzling party dress — all fun and good, yet temporary. That same amount of money — $250-$450 — invested in the right things might create more financial freedom in the future to do much more. It can mean feeling empowered to get a raise, get a promotion or get a better job! And yes, that new opportunity can lead you to afford more for you or your family.

When I was a college administrator, I was responsible for interviewing applicants and I recall asking a young Latina why she wanted to attend college. She had been in foster care and had experienced real financial and emotional struggles. She impressed me by saying, “I can lose everything I own but no one will ever steal from me what I learn. When I learn the skills I will gain in college, I can create opportunity for myself over and over again”.

A wise Latina indeed! Not only did she graduate with honors, she also completed her law degree!

The cost of college can range from $5,000 to $50,000 per year depending on where you enroll. But depending on your career ambitions, a college degree is now just one step on your way to your dream job.

You will also want to show that you have the capacity to lead, the communication skills to get you noticed, and the networking skills to promote a project. Some of these skills may be found in workshops at your campus career center or your employer may offer these programs, too.

If not, what do you do? Or, if you’ve moved away from your college, what then?

The good news is that it is not hard to find those programs online or professional development programs that allow you to invest in yourself. A great way to begin is to look at the amazing groups on Facebook dedicated to Latinas that have open membership.

As part of my own commitment to Latina professional development, I have initiated an open which shares links to readings and professional development opportunities for Latinas. Tell me about how you invest in yourself at or join me live at the next LatinaVIDA

This post appeared in LatinaLista, March 3, 2014. 

Latina Cubicle Confidential™–Are You Working the “Latina Shuffle”?

Are you working a regular job while you plan for opening your own business?  Do you come home after a full day of work and put in another 6 hours into the book you just have to publish or the blog you want to have syndicated?  You are not alone, Mujer.  Throughout my career, I’ve had to carry several business cards all at the same time!  One friend called it the “Latina Shuffle”!

In the past, some may have thought of this as just creating options in case your current job fell apart.  Today it’s called the parallel career.  It is no surprise many young, educated and smart Latinas are thinking carefully about creating career options.  Many saw how difficult their parent’s lives may have been during decades of corporate downsizing and restructuring and have vowed never to be vulnerable to the whims of an employer.   For others it is simply about doing all the things we love to do, regardless of whether one job is enough.   Carrying two or three business cards is the only way to fully explore all those passions.  Latinas have a strong entrepreneurial spirit—in fact we are the fastest growing group of small business owners in the US.

If you are working two gigs or creating an alternative career during your spare time, how do you describe your professional life to others?

It’s important to manage your many professional identities so that future clients, collaborators, and yes, your future boss can understand your career interests.  If not, you can confuse others about what your interests may be and send a message that you are scattered, tentative or unfocused.   For example, if you find yourself saying,  “I’m a store manager but that’s just my “day job”, my real passion is creating apps for smartphones.” Be careful!  This isn’t sending the right message and the world is so small, you never know who might hear your comment.  Unless you have saved enough to walk away from your “day job” and support yourself for a solid six months, don’t risk losing your job over your parallel career before you’re ready to launch.   Even more important, don’t send a message to a potential software developer that your software endeavor may be a hobby.  Instead the best statement you can make is one that you tailor to each of your target audiences.  If you were speaking to a developer about your new app, speak only about your interest in developing products that address a specific need.  There is no reason for you to explain your other work.  Focus on convincing the developer to work with you because of your enthusiasm about software development.    They don’t have to know everything there is to know about you.


Latina Cubicle Confidential™ Is Your Work Place a Telenovela?

One of the most popular entertainment mediums throughout Latin America is the telenovela. They are the penultimate of dramatic themes: power, betrayal, jealousy and lust. No me gusta pero me entretiene — It’s awful, but thoroughly entertaining.

All kinds of explanations exist about why Latin Americans can get so engrossed in a series that—seriously—cause traffic patterns to change, water levels to drop as toilets flush in unison, or divorce rates go up because of the popularity of a telenovela.

What about you?

Does your life feel like a telenovela at work? Do you get obsessed about what you want to say to a co-worker or your boss? Do you go into the office planning a fight of good versus evil?

Latinas are often stereotyped as being overly emotional or dramatic and part of that comes from being deeply in touch with our feelings and the importance we assign to our personal relationships. This is our cultura.

Early in my career when someone said, “Don’t take it personally, it’s just business,” I would walk away feeling even more offended. If you just turned down my project or rejected my contribution — that IS about me! Unfortunately, if you are prone to react quickly, use choice words, or — gasp — make a vengeful post on Facebook. Be careful.

It really can hurt your career.

So mujeres, here are a few steps for keeping it real and not losing your credibility at work and still sleep soundly at night.

The first step is — no surprise — wait. Don’t send the e-mail. Don’t stop by the person’s office to give them a piece of your mind. Go home. Take a walk. Think carefully about the scope of the actions that upset you. Put it into some context.

Is this going to be important a week from now or a year from now? Does this person have real influence over your career or are they just an annoying co-worker. Anything that shows a hint of discrimination does need to be tackled immediately but a difference of opinion is not a reason to march over to your human resource director or write off the entire relationship!

Next, look carefully at the consequences of each action you might take. Business leader Max DePree once said, “Leaders manage the meaning people assign to events and circumstances around them”. Your actions in the face of conflict will become part of your reputation. Fly off the handle and you’ll definitely be seen as someone governed by emotions versus what’s best for the team, your project or the business.

Find a trusted friend who will provide a realistic assessment of you and your situation. And, be ready to listen and think through your response.

Last, yes, you do need to respond. Your reputation in the workplace can also be damaged if you just never engage in resolving conflict. If it is at all possible to work through the differences, then do it. There are no perfect relationships and learning to get through differences or repair a wounded one is usually in your best interests.

Leadership requires tenacity, business acumen, and interpersonal skills that allow for professional relationships to evolve and grow. While some do get away with being ego-centric, controlling, or arrogant — all of that takes its toll on them and their company. You can manage the drama in your career, keep your cool, and yes–live with integrity!