Not too long ago, after one of my workshops on leveraging your Latino traits to your advantage, a young female participant asked me: “How can I advance in my career leveraging my Latino traits while avoiding the stereotypes associated with Latinos?” It was a great question about an issue that impacts many second or third generation Latinos, and even immigrants who have spent many years in this country and have learned to navigate the system well.
REMEMBER YOUR CULTURAL ROOTS
Most people tend to become overly assimilated and to forget about their roots to the point where they might miss great opportunities to leverage the Hispanic culture to their benefit. For instance, the young lady in this story avoided taking on assignments in Latin America at all costs because she believed, as many people do, that taking these kinds of assignments might pigeonhole her. And although this may be a good strategy at the beginning of your career, once you’ve proven your worth, you may want to reconsider it. Given the current interest in the Hispanic market, understanding the Hispanic culture might make you the ideal person to tackle some interesting projects.
There are many Latino values, skills and world-views that are passed down from one generation to the next. Finding out what they are and bringing them to the surface is the first step to leveraging their power.
So for instance, raised in a region of the world with a high level of unpredictability and frequent change, your parents and grandparents learned how to adapt from very early on. For them, the only way to survive involved creating alternatives to the way in which they conducted business or to how they managed their daily lives. They instilled these skills in you even if you are not fully conscious of it. It’s very likely that your natural abilitiesto solve problems, think fast on your feet, change direction in a split second and to do several jobs with equal ease are, at least in part, the result of your cultural background.
Your goal is to convey these unique characteristics and talents as part of your value proposition to your bosses or prospective employers. You must be able to communicate that not only are you great at what you do, but in addition you have all of these traits that will benefit the company.
And going back to the question of the young lady at my workshop, to avoid being stereotyped you must keep stereotypes in mind and behave against them. For example, if Latinos are perceived as being too informal in their communication style, perhaps you can prepare a PowerPoint presentation next time you are asked to present at a formal meeting. Or send special requests in writing to your team, rather than asking for things in passing that people may not take seriously. If you know there’s a perception that Latinos are not assertive enough, make sure that you master the art of expressing your opinion when it counts.
In this tough market you should use all of the advantages at your disposal. The secret is to embrace and leverage those traits that you may have taken for granted, but that can give you a competitive edge. The beauty is that there’s little effort required of you because these characteristics are part of who you are.
This article was originally published on Mamiverse.