Know your brand: Lessons from a 92-year-old fashionista

Know your brand: Lessons from a 92-year-old fashionistaAmong my friends, it is no secret that I love and admire my 92-year-old great aunt. Born in Vienna, Austria, she came to New York escaping WWII when she was 17. She married the love of her life—my grandfather’s brother—and stayed with him until he died. Then at 80 married one of her closest friends.

At our recent holiday party, one of her daughters gave her a long, very hip coat from Uniqlo, the Japanese store in Soho. She tried it on and this is the dialogue that ensued: “Shouldn’t I exchange it for the shorter jacket?” she asked. “Oh, but Marietta, this coat is warmer for the winter,” was the general consensus from most of us at the party. “Who cares if it’s warm? Does it look good on me?” she questioned, stunned that anyone–and I mean ANYONE–would dare to worry about the weather over fashion.

I laughed so hard, it hurt. This woman has kept a consistent brand for her entire life and she’d be damned if she was going to let age get in the way of maintaining it.

Marietta is one of the most fashion conscious people I know. She gets her hair and gel nails done regularly, wears the most fashionable yet classy clothes and accessories, and her shoes always match her purse–which naturally she changes for every single ocassion. She has gone shopping with my mom (20 years her junior) and has offered her advice along the lines of: “That looks like an old lady’s dress. Try this one instead.”

As many women in her generation, she’s lived through some of the worst economic times this country has seen, yet she has always managed to look fabulous maintaining her brand of “fashionable woman always in touch with current trends and events.”

Seeing her stand up to her family’s suggestion that she pay attention to the weather rather than her appearance made me wonder how many of us are as clear as she is about our brands.

Whether your brand is about equitable leadership, helping others achieve their dreams, unparalleled creativity, risk-taking or anything else, how well have you honed it? And another more pressing question: Is it possible to manipulate your brand to advance your career without losing your personality in the process? In my experience, not really.

In order for your brand to work best for you, it needs to be an authentic reflection of who you are, what you bring to the table, what makes you unique. (If you are an administrative assistant, what differentiates you from others with your same skill set?)

The truth is that it’s very hard to pretend you are someone you are not for more than a short time. People see through the layers of fake intentions, and when they discover you are being dishonest, any fabricated brand will backfire. (So, if you think your brand should be “out of the box thinker who can make do with less,” but the truth is that you always come up with run of the mill solutions to problems, and you can’t save on the cost of office supllies to save your life, your brand won’t stick.)

It’s much more productive to spend some time learning about yourself, about what moves you, what’s important to you and asking others how they perceive you. You can then use your introspection along with the feedback you gather from a few trusted advisors to help sharpen your brand. In other words, help you go with the grain instead of against it.

That’s how you’ll have a powerful brand that endures past your nineties, which will mean you’ve had a long life of being true to yourself. Judging by my great aunt, you’ll have a very happy life.

This article was originally published on Mamas Latina.

Don’t let jealous people stand in the way of your professional success!

How to stand out at your job & every day life!Julia had lived in New Jersey for 10 years and was working as a waitress at a local restaurant when she started taking night classes at her community college. Her goal was to earn an associate’s degree in nursing, and to that end she slept little and socialized even less. She spent weekends studying and finishing her assignments online.

When she finally got her degree and she started looking for work in different clinics and hospitals, she noticed that some of her friends and some relatives looked at her differently. Instead of feeling proud of her, they’d make comments like: “You think you’re better than us because you’re going to be a nurse?” or “You don’t have time for me now that you want to be a doctor?”

Of course, Julia was hurt by these verbal attacks, even more so because they came from people close to her, people who she thought would understand her and support her. But she never let any of this stand in her way.

The truth is, it’s not easy to stick to your decision of trying to make a leap that will put you above the educational or socioeconomic level of those around you. These are moments when envy starts to rear its ugly head and can make your doubt your decisions. Below, I want to share with you some advice that has worked for me when I found myself in a similar situation:

  • Never feel guilty for being successful in what you set your mind to.
  • Always remember that your success is a fruit of your vision, your intention, and your dedication.
  • If you put yourself in the shoes of the person who is jealous of you, you’ll understand why for him or her, your success is a sign of their failure. In other words, these people feel that if you get ahead, then they’re lagging behind. But the reality of it is that when you better yourself, your family and those around you also improve because you can inspire others to break barriers and to go after their dreams too.
  • Instead of wasting energy on getting angry with people who envy you, you should actually pity them for their limited view of the world–and keep your distance.
  • If you can’t distance yourself from these jealous people, try to avoid discussing with them your projects or your accomplishments. You really don’t have to be an open book with everyone. There are certain things you should keep to yourself and share only with those you know will be happy for your success.
  • Reinforce your decision to get ahead by surrounding yourself with positive people who will support you.
  • There are times when finding these types of positive people means finding new friends. Try forming friendships with your new classmates or work colleagues.

Sadly, jealousy is a very common feeling in humans and we all fight it on a daily basis. The important thing to remember is to never give up! And to do this you have to always be clear about your goals and to surround yourself with an army of cheerleaders that will encourage you along your journey.

This article was originally published on Mamas Latinas.

The super easy strategy that will expand your network of contacts

The super easy strategy that will expand your network of contactsShe’s only 25 years old, but her ability to build professional relationships is enviable. What for some people requires a superhuman effort, for Veronica is almost second-nature. She’s open, projects a possessed self-assurance, and, above all, she has a powerful weapon: She loves to ask questions! That’s just her nature, but asking questions is an invaluable tool for anyone who needs to expand their network of professional contacts.

I met Veronica recently when she participated in one of my online seminars about mentors and networking. During the break, she bombarded me with questions ranging from what inspired me to write my last book and how I got the idea to start Latinos in College, to what I thought of her idea to start a nonprofit organization to help women in aviation. As it’s often the case with anyone who takes an interest in us, her curiosity about my experience and her eagerness to hear my opinions made her very interesting to me and in turn motivated me to ask her about her goals, her plans, and her dreams.

We Latinas tend to be naturally more extroverted and sociable. After all, we come from a part of the world where people don’t get anywhere career-wise if they don’t already know someone in the right place. So take advantage or your social “genes” to expand your professional network, by using Veronica’s strategy: Next time you’re at an event, play the role of a curious journalist. To maximize your effectiveness, research your “interview subject” a bit before approaching them (for example, if you’re going to hear the presentation of someone who interests you, look them up on Google to find out what relevant questions you should be asking).

And if you’re shy, this is the perfect technique to get you out of your little corner, because it will allow you to widen your network without putting you in the position of having to talk about yourself to strangers.

Try this strategy, and tell me how it goes!

Image via Thinkstock

This article was originally published on Mamas Latinas.

Social media do’s & don’ts for professional mamás

Social media do's & don'ts for professional mamásEvery day, I get LinkedIn notifications from people that want me to add them to my network of contacts; those generic messages from people I don’t know asking me to open up my list of contacts that was so hard for me to build. My answer is always the same: If I don’t know when and they haven’t even taken the time to introduce themselves and explain to me why it would be good for me to add them to my network, I deny the request.

Just as happens with everyone who uses these social media sites, I also get a list of suggested contacts or people I may know that they send out frequently, and often I do take a look. If I see a name that interests me, I take time to write them a note detailing where we met, why we should connect, etc.

Professional social networking sites like LinkedIn are great when your contacts are high quality, in other words, that aside from all being in key positions within various organizations or companies, that they’re people that know you and that you know. Otherwise, if you need Marta (your contact) to connect you with one of her contacts, but Marta doesn’t know you, it’ll be difficult to get her to help you. And conversely, what could happen is that Jorge, a contact you don’t know, asks you to connect him with Andrea, who is one of your excellent contacts, you won’t be able to do it (or should not do it) because you can’t really certify that Jorge is someone worth recommending. In other words, when you have a great number of people in your professional social media network that you don’t know and you receive frequent requests from them to connect with the contacts that you truly value, you are jeopardizing your reputation and risk losing those contacts.

That’s why it’s so important to value that precious network of professional contacts you have built. This type of platform should not be a popularity contest, as other social networking sites tend to be, where the main objective is to get as many contacts or followers as possible–without regard to who they are.

Refusing to open your valuable network to strangers is not arrogance. It’s understanding that the quality of each one of your contacts depends on how powerful and effective your network is for you and for those who are part of it.

Image via Thinkstock

This article was originally published in Mamás Latinas

Is it ever okay to lie in order to advance your career goals?

Is it ever okay to lie in order to advance your career goals?I rarely accept meetings with people who I don’t know or know very little, especially if I’m not clear what the purpose of the meeting is. The other day, however, an acquaintance asked that we met up to talk about a project. As much as I asked her to tell me what she wanted to discuss, she insisted that she’d rather tell me the purpose for our meeting face-to-face. Going against what experience had taught me in the past, I accepted to meet with her.

The valuable lesson in this meeting will help us all have more success when trying to reach our personal and professional goals, I promise.

You have no idea what the whole purpose of this meeting was for! Read on…

I agreed to meet this woman at a coffee shop in the middle of one of my hectic work days; once we were face to face, she finally explained that she was working for a multilevel marketing company and that the sole purpose of her asking me to see her had been to try to recruit me. (The company is one of those whose structure is based on members trying recruit other people under him to sell a product; these people, in turn, look for others to recruit, and so on.) I felt completely betrayed. If this had been the point of the meeting, why didn’t she tell me on the phone? She probably thought she’d have a better chance of convincing me in person. Nevertheless, her lack of honesty added to her inconsiderate waste of my time did not give her the results she was seeking.

How many times have you used these dishonest tactics to reach a goal? Things like promising to take care of certain job responsibilities in exchange for getting a project; or telling someone they’d get some sort of benefit from participating in an event you organized, when you knew this wouldn’t be the case. Sometimes, the problem is simply a result of poor planning. Perhaps this acquaintance was sure that I’d benefit from what she was offering me. Other times, it has more to do with being focused on just yourself instead of considering how your unfulfilled promise affects the other person.

My answer to the proposal this acquaintance (she is, by the way, now deleted from my contacts) was pitching me? A very blunt no. I honestly considered just getting up and leaving the moment I found out why I had been dragged to the coffee shop. Imwanted to tell her that her honestly would have been appreciated when she called to ask me to talk–but, on top of that, had she been forthcoming about the purpose of our meeting, I would have recommended her company to people in my network who would have perhaps been interested in what she was offering. But given the way in which things played out, I found it impossible to work with her.

The truth is, no matter what field you work in, without mutual trust, it’s impossible to see any positive results. When you start out with a lie, it’s hard to get over the bad taste that leaves in people’s mouths. The best practice is to be careful with the means that you use to get to the ends you desire. Even if you have the best of intentions, if the other party feels lied to, you won’t get anywhere very far.

Image via Thinkstock

This article was originally published on Mamas Latinas.