Finding My Balance as a Latina Leader

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Maria G. Arias, Comcast Corporation’s Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion, shares how her experience as a woman of color in corporate America helped her build an inclusive culture for multidimensional diverse talent.

I was a young girl when my family moved from Mexico to Chicago, and I knew early on that the classic “doctor or lawyer” career question set the parameters for success in my parents’ eyes. So, I decided to pursue a degree in law.

When I arrived at law school in the late 1980s, I didn’t see many women of color. And when I joined a major Chicago law firm upon graduating, I faced a familiar void again. I did what so many other others do, I kept my head down and worked harder than anyone I could compare myself to, and eventually I made partner.

I strived to assimilate to the norms and values of the majority culture, but I faced an internal struggle about being my authentic self. At times, it was isolating, and I felt compelled to downplay my multicultural background and femininity. Soon, I traded my bright dresses and chunky jewelry for black pant suits paired with pearls. I traded time spent salsa dancing for time at the driving range.

Back then, I thought I had to trade authenticity for success. But, over the course of my career in law and business, I’ve come to learn that success is truly achieved when you are able to combine authenticity with talent.

Here’s the good news—a lot has changed in thirty years! I’ve learned a lot about myself, and the value I bring as both a woman and a person of color. I’ve learned to embrace my unique experiences, and use them to my advantage. Both parts of my identity make me an asset to any company looking to reach a diverse customer base.

Here are three things you can do to make authenticity an advantage:

  1. Talk About It: Raising awareness is important, and you can’t do this if you’re not sharing experiences. Employee Resource Groups are fantastic ways to help employees build community, but they’re also a great place to share experiences with communities outside your own. I don’t lose my identity as a woman when speaking to members of our Hispanic ERG, and I’m no less Hispanic when attending our Women’s Summit. I bring my whole self to each of these communities, and learn different things from each of them. We should encourage our ERGs to collaborate and communicate across communities, in order to strengthen our employee networks and understand how multiple dimensions of diversity can improve our culture and our business.
    2. Cultivate Diverse Allies: The concept of the male ally is nothing new—in order to be successful, we need men to understand the importance of diversity, and have a vested interest in moving the needle. But, as a woman of color, I needed to expand my network of allies to include all communities of men and women. Just as we need to improve awareness and mitigate unconscious biases, we need to educate people on the unique challenges of identifying with multiple diverse communities. Help your allies be better champions by helping them understand you.
    3. You Can’t Be Who You Can’t See: Get involved. Raise your hand. I have a woman on my team who asked for my support regarding a leadership position with one of the ERGs. She was already actively involved with multiple groups, but when she saw there were no women of color currently in leadership roles with one of the ERGs, she wanted to step in. Through her involvement, she has helped ensure people of color in our workforce see colleagues who look like themselves on panels, leading events, and in ERG leadership roles.

Authenticity and talent are hallmarks of the great leaders I’ve worked with throughout my career. The lessons I’ve learned shaped me into the leader I am today, and hopefully, the tips I’ve passed along help you become the leader you are meant to be.

U.S. Latinos: The Blind Spot Of America

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latina sitting on a chair face towards the camera

Across America, there’s a shift happening in our economic landscape. Like a fast approaching vehicle caught in a blind spot, it is invisible to most.

The entertainment industry has created a narrow and stereotypical narrative of who Latinos are in the U.S. Since perception is reality, our substantial contributions to the American economy have essentially gone unnoticed, barely registering a blip on the radar in mainstream media. Contrary to popular belief, the “hot” investments of 2018 are not just cryptocurrency, high-tech drones, self-driving cars and artificial intelligence — it’s also U.S. Latinos.

The U.S. Latino gross domestic product (GDP) represents $2.13 trillion — larger than the GDPs of Italy, Brazil, India and Canada. If U.S. Latinos were a country, they’d be the seventh largest economy in the world. According to a report by the Latino Donor Collaborative, where I serve on the board, by 2020, the Latino population at large is predicted to represent 24.4% of total U.S. GDP growth, and the U.S. Latino GDP today is growing 70% faster than the country’s non-Latino GDP.

In the last decade, U.S. Latinos launched 86% of all new businesses in the U.S. Because the growth of American businesses and the majority of their customer base will inevitably be Latinos, if you want to future-proof your business, pay attention to the following trends and numbers:

The Latino population is growing in size. In the next five years, it’s predicted that Latino consumers will spend more than millennials and the over-65 baby boomer crowd combined, making Latinos the most desirable demo for the growth of any company.

Latinas are extremely influential in making purchases. U.S. Latinos are one of the single largest drivers of year-to-year sales growth for key CPG companies, retailers and durable goods. And Latinas, in particular, are responsible for influencing and buying the purchases made in Latino homes in categories like healthcare, beauty, apparel, auto and home purchases. In fact, according to a Nielson survey, 86% of Latinas say they’re the primary shopper in their household.

Automobile and home purchasing categories are driven by Latinos. Latinos are responsible for a large percentage of sales growth today for automakers, including Toyota, Nissan and Honda. In 2015, U.S. Latinos accounted for 69% of the total net growth in home ownership, and from 2010 to 2030, Latinos are expected to make up more than half (52%) of all new homebuyers.

We’re approaching a Latino-majority workforce. In the next few years, Latinos will make up 40% of the workforce growth in America. By 2060, Latinos are projected to account for almost 30% of the U.S. population, and contrary to popular belief, a supermajority of Latinos are U.S citizens or U.S. born.

TFS Scholarships Launches Online Toolkit to Provide College Funding Resources

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Education News

SALT LAKE CITY— TFS Scholarships (TFS), the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding, has launched a free online toolkit to provide counselors, families and students with resources to help improve the college scholarship search process. The toolkit, available at tuitionfundingsources.com/resource-toolkit, provides downloadable resources and practical tips on how to find and apply for scholarships.

The launch comes in celebration with Financial Aid Awareness Month when many families are beginning the FAFSA process and researching financial aid options.

“We hope these resources help raise awareness around TFS and the 7 million college scholarships available to undergraduate, graduate and professional students,” said Richard Sorensen, president of TFS Scholarships. “Our goal is to help families discover alternative ways to offset the rising costs of higher education.”

The resource toolkit includes flyers, email templates, newsletter content, digital banners and table toppers which are designed to be shareable content that counselors, students and organizations can use to spread the word about how to find free money for college.

The newly revamped TFS website curates over 7 million scholarship opportunities from across the country – with the majority coming directly from colleges and universities—and matches them to students based on their personal profile, where they want to study, and stage of academic study. By tailoring the search criteria, TFS identifies scholarships that students are uniquely qualified for, thus lowering the application pool and increasing the chances of winning. By creating an online profile, students can find scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid. About 5,000 new scholarships are added to the database every month and appear in real time.

Thanks to exclusive financial support from Wells Fargo, the TFS website is completely ad-free, and no selling of data, making it a safe and trusted place to search.

For more information about Tuition Funding Sources visit tuitionfundingsources.com.

 

About TFS Scholarships

TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at tuitionfundingsources.com.

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New Research Reveals Community Involvement is Important to Hispanics’ Overall Well-Being

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass., — A new nationwide survey conducted by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) concludes that Hispanics who are involved in their communities find it personally gratifying and empowering. Interestingly, a majority (78 percent) agree that community involvement is important to their well-being and almost half (42 percent) consider themselves community leaders.

This new body of research — You Get What You Give: The MassMutual 2018 Financial Wellness and Community Involvement Study — examines the intersection of community participation and financial well-being and strongly demonstrates that community involvement strengthens confidence in financial security.

“Our research revealed that community involvement has financial and gratifying benefits,” said David Hufnagel, Latino market director, MassMutual. “Our company commitment is to help our communities secure their future and protect their loved ones.”

The study highlights how Hispanics feel confident about their current financial well-being and have supported other members of their communities during financial stress. In fact, more than half (57 percent) report that they have supported someone in their community in a time of financial stress and 36 percent have been supported by others in their community during a time of need.

Hispanics clearly are involved in a range of community activities. Most are involved in a community with their family (86 percent), friend group (70 percent), school related (66 percent) and children-related activities (62 percent).

Visit massmutual.com for tangible tips for those interested in becoming more involved in their community as well as educational materials and tools to explore ways to build financial security, including an option to connect with a financial advisor.

Methodology

PSB conducted the research online between September 7 through September 28, 2017, using a nationally representative sample of 10,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and above. 1,077 identified themselves as Hispanics.

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit massmutual.com.

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How Being Underestimated Drove These Two Latinas To Publish Lil’ Libros

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Have you ever dreamed of going into business with your best friend? Does it stay a dream, or in your mind does it turn into a nightmare? Ariana Stein and Patty Rodriguez, have been best friends since the age of twelve and will happily tell you that adding a business level to their friendship was the best decision they’ve collectively made.

After becoming moms, the duo kickstarted a business partnership with one goal in mind — creating the bilingual children’s book series that every Latina mom would love.

“The books aren’t designed to give lengthy, in-depth history lessons, as they’re only 22 pages long,” explains Ariana. “Instead the goal is to teach the basics, introduce them to culture, and motivate kids to continue learning additional words and languages. The books have always been about starting the bilingual learning journey with subjects that parents feel a connection with.”

Since its launch, Lil’ Libros has steadily become a presence on the shelves of Targets and local bookstores alike. The journey to getting Lil’ Libros on those bookshelves though has not been an easy one.

In her episode of Creating Espacios, Patty stated, “I think there’s so much strength that can be drawn from a bad day” and told a handful of stories of the ups and downs of building a business with her best friend.

But, those small glimpses weren’t enough. Here’s a full look at how Ariana and Patty describe their entrepreneurial success with Lil’ Libros.

Vivian Nunez: How did Lil’ Libros get its start?

Ariana Stein: It was our passion to ensure our children were raised to be bilingual.  Being best friends and knowing each other’s background, both being first generation Latinas, made it easier for us to decide to do this together.

Patty Rodriguez: Ariana and I have known each other since we were 12 years old.  We’ve always tried creating something together. There was a time when we actually worked on a hot dog start-up!  We were probably 18 at the time.  And then there was a time when David Beckham arrived to the states; it was such a big deal back then, we took it as an opportunity to capitalize on it, we ended up making shirts inspired by him!  That didn’t turn as planned, but we did it! I think Ariana’s husband still wears the shirts! So I feel that this was always meant to be.

Stein:  That’s not it! We also started a bilingual entertainment site.  This was actually picking up steam, and going the direction that we wanted it to go, but we weren’t passionate about it.  I think this is why it failed, but everything is a lesson.  Had we not had the hot dog business, shirt business, entertainment website, we wouldn’t have Lil’ Libros.

Nunez: How would each of you define Lil Libros mission?

Stein: Our mission has always been to introduce bilingualism and encourage parents to read to their children at the earliest age by focusing on subjects they are familiar with, and making it as fun and rewarding as possible.

Rodriguez: Each book we are creating is a seed. A seed we hope a parent plants at home with their child. We want parents and children to love to read, to create those moments together.

Nunez: What’s been the biggest entrepreneurial lesson you’ve learned since starting Lil Libros?

Stein:  To be fearless. Not be afraid to ask for anything. The worst thing that you can hear is the word “no.” Rejection can be hurtful and discouraging but this is what makes us stronger. Stronger to succeed and prove everyone that anything is possible.

Continue onto Forbes to read the complete article.

Ten Questions Never, Ever To Ask At A Job Interview

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Career-Advice

You must bring questions with you to every job interview.

Here are three good questions to ask your interviewer:

1. How does this position contribute to the department’s — and the company’s — success?

2. What will a successful first year in this job look like? What will your new hire accomplish?

3. Who are the internal and external customers of the person in this job, and what do those customers want?

You will come up with more questions to ask as you research the company you’re going to be interviewing with. You’ll develop questions about the position, the company’s goals, the manager’s communications style and much more.  New questions will pop into your mind during the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask questions — it’s the best thing a candidate can do!

At the same time, there are certain questions never, ever to ask at a job interview. Ten of them are listed below.

1. What does your company do?

You can say, “I know Acme Explosives manufactures stick dynamite for the coyote market — but I’d love to hear your perspective on the organization and its mission.”

You can’t show up at a job interview not knowing what the company does. That’s what the internet is for!

2. Do you have any other positions available, apart from this one?

Right now, you’re sitting in an interview talking about a specific job. Don’t ask about other positions unless the interviewer says, “I don’t think you’re a good fit for this job.”

If you feel that the job you’re discussing is not a good fit for you, you can say so — but until you’ve reached that point, keep the conversation on topic and remember that no one can force you to take a job if you don’t want to.

If they make you an offer and it doesn’t excite you, you can inquire about other available positions then. Cross that bridge later!

3. Which bus comes to your building from the east side of the city?

It’s up to you to figure out public transportation. Every public transit authority has online maps and schedules. It’s not the interviewer’s job to know every bus and train route, and this type of low-altitude question doesn’t brand you as a professional.

4. Do you use ABC Software here?

If they care about your proficiency with a particular software program, they will ask you. If you ask whether they use ABC Software and they don’t, you’ll be hanging in the breeze. The interviewer will say, “No, we use XYZ Software — are you proficient in that?” and you’ll have to say, “Nope.”

There’s no advantage to asking, “What kind of software do you use here?” in the early stages of your interview process.

5. Do you drug test applicants?

This is the biggest red-flag question you can ask. Even if you’re just asking out of curiosity or because you eat a poppy-seed bagel every day and you’re worried about the poppy seeds messing up your drug test results, don’t ask  the question!

If they drug-test applicants, they will tell you that when it’s time for you to take the drug test.

Cut back on the poppy seed bagels, just in case.

6. Are you interviewing other people for the job?

You can safely assume they’re interviewing other people. Also, what difference does it make? If it’s the right job for you at this moment in time, they’ll make you an offer, and you’ll accept.

Don’t worry about other candidates they may be considering. Focus on yourself!

7. If I don’t get the offer this time, how long do I have to wait to re-apply?

I include this question on our list of “Don’t Ask” interview questions because I have heard it from applicants’ lips so many times.

Everyone can understand how nerve-wracking the job search process can be.  Don’t make it worse by asking your interviewer what to do if you don’t get the job!

8. Are you going to talk to my former employer?

Any employer who’s considering hiring you is going to conduct some type of employment verification process. That process works through your former employer’s HR department.

Unless you listed your former manager as one of your references, prospective employers are very unlikely to talk to your old boss (or even to learn your former boss’s name).

Don’t put questions about your relationship with your ex-boss in their minds by asking, “Are you going to talk to my former employer?”

9. Does your company offer tuition reimbursement? How much is the deductible on your dental plan? How many vacation days will I accrue in the first three months? Does your health plan cover contact lenses?

It is a bad use of your precious face-to-face interview time to ask questions about the specifics of the company’s benefit plans. Ask for a copy of the health care program documents and read them when you get home.

You have a real person who works for the company in front of you — pick their brain about the work, the mission, the challenges, the opportunity and the culture.

Don’t turn your poor interviewer into a walking, talking employee benefits encyclopedia!

10. How long is your new employee probation  period?

This is another unnecessary and potentially alarming question for a job applicant to ask at an interview.

You can ask, “What is the waiting period for health benefits?” or, “What is your 401(k) eligibility schedule?” but don’t ask about the probationary period specifically.

If you do, it sounds like you’re anxious about making it through your probationary period. In reality, the probationary period for newcomers isn’t all that significant unless you work in a unionized environment that gives workers more protection after they’ve finished probation.

For everybody else, a major slip-up on Day 100 of your employment will outweigh the fact that you’ve completed your 90-day probation. Don’t give your possible next boss reason to wonder,”Why does this person care so much about the probationary period?”

Ask for a copy of the company’s handbook instead of asking this question — and read it cover to cover!

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com

Dollar General Announces Call for New Vendors

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Suppliers, companies and manufacturers with exciting new products who want to reach millions of consumers and partner with one of America’s fastest-growing retailers that is currently listed #128 on the Fortune 500 list and posted $22 billion in FY 2016 sales, listen up!

Dollar General (NYSE: DG) is encouraging new suppliers and those who have not sold products to the Company within the past 18 months to apply to attend its inaugural Innovation and Supplier Diversity Summit in April 2018. The event aims to pair potential new vendors with respective Dollar General buyers and category managers. Suppliers must sell items in at least one of the following categories to be eligible to attend:

  • Beauty, Personal Care and Over-the-Counter/Wellness
  • General Merchandise/All Non-Food
  • Grocery.

“As part of Dollar General’s continual commitment to provide quality products at everyday low prices to our diverse consumer base, we are thrilled to announce our first Innovation and Supplier Diversity Summit scheduled for this spring,” said Jason Reiser, Dollar General’s executive vice president and chief merchandising officer. “Having the right products to best meet our customers’ needs is a foundational cornerstone at Dollar General. As such, we look forward to meeting with potential new vendors, learning about relevant products for our customers and expanding the number of unique and specialized offerings available in our stores.”

To apply, interested suppliers, companies and manufacturers may submit their product information at www.rangeme.com/dollargeneralfrom Tuesday, January 30 through end of day on Tuesday, February 20, 2018. Selected companies will be subject to a $500 participation fee and notified via email by Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing (ECRM) of the time, date and location of their meeting with a member of the Dollar General merchandising team.

Continue onto Business Wire to read the complete article.

Can You Attract and Retain Talent in an Adapting World?

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By Nancy Altobello / Global Vice Chair, Talent, EY

In order to find and retain top talent in an increasingly disrupted working world, companies should look at ways to embed purpose and “intrapreneurship” into the organization.

The age of digital disruption and innovation is very much here—and it’s here to stay. The world has been disrupted by globalization, the rapid pace of technology and shifts in workforce demographics. While these developments have created innovative solutions to the way we work, it has also brought on new risks and challenges for the business community. This has led to uncertainty about the future of organizations and their ability to drive growth. In particular, talent attraction and retention is often identified as a competitive risk, even among large, well-established tech companies in Silicon Valley.

One way that companies’ search for top talent has been disrupted is through the rise of the “gig economy” in which many entrepreneurs have developed business models based on employees working on a flexible, project or freelance basis. This trend toward “contingent workers” has jolted a number of sectors as more and more professionals of varying and often highly sought after skill sets are shifting to freelance opportunities to generate personal incomes.

According to a 2015 survey by Upwork and Freelancers Union, an advocacy group in the U.S., 34 percent of the country’s workforce is now freelancing. In the UK, the Independent Professionals Association estimates there are currently about 4.64 million people who are self-employed. This shift in employment and the way we work over the last 10 years is in part due to the newer entrants into the labor market, with Millennials expected to constitute 72 percent of the workforce by 2025. It’s also been driven by undeniably accelerated disruption and technological innovation, which is fundamentally changing the way we operate in the working world and even how we perceive a working day.

As we see young university graduates trade in their graduation caps and gowns for business attire and laptop cases, there are certain questions that we must start asking ourselves: How can organizations find and attract the best talent in a shifting labor market? How do we find the people with the right skills to meet not only today’s business needs but tomorrow’s? What will the workplace of the future look like, and how we can prepare?

While these are all very complex questions without simple solutions, here are three areas that companies—from start-ups to long-established enterprises—can consider in aligning talent priorities with corporate growth.

Embracing flexibility

A key component that makes the gig economy attractive is the flexibility it affords contingent workers. If greater work flexibility is preferred over traditional work schemes, then we too have to embrace flexibility and agility. We have to think about how our colleagues can be afforded the same choice and independence that enables them to meet both their work and personal commitments. At EY, we are longtime proponents of flexible work environments that vary from working remotely or outside typical business hours on a day-to-day basis to formal flexible work arrangements involving reduced or seasonal schedules. As the gig economy grows, it will be even more important to examine what flexibility means for your own people and organizational needs.

The ‘intrapreneurial’ spirit

We recently introduced a simple system called “predictable time off.” The idea is that every member of a team posts to a shared calendar the evenings or weekends they’re busy with plans outside of work so that people know who best to contact in times of high volume. Originally introduced by our Assurance practice, this was so well received that it’s now been rolled out across other business lines as well.

“Predictable time off” is a good example of how to encourage colleagues to think differently and innovatively. By empowering employees to develop creative solutions, they’re able to find new ways to support all members of the team. It’s about fostering “intrapreneurship” or encouraging employees to act, think and behave like entrepreneurs within a large organization. A company that embeds an “intrapreneurial” spirit is able to encourage innovation and therefore raise productivity and efficiency. An added benefit is that it curbs high levels of employee turnover and will help in the long-term with attracting new talent. Perhaps the inclusion of contingent workers is a solution that would also invite untapped talent and a spirit of “intrepreneurship” into an organization.

The importance of purpose

Embracing flexibility and “intrapreneurship” internally are good solutions to attracting new talent. More importantly, they will help companies retain skilled individuals, but they will not achieve this on their own.

A clear sense of purpose can help companies navigate the challenges that come from disruption. It should underpin every new workplace initiative and every shift in strategy. According to recent EY research done in collaboration with Harvard Business Review, the majority of executives surveyed believed that purpose-minded organizations are more successful in terms of their ability to deliver high quality products and services, execution of business transformational efforts, and employee and customer retention. Yet, nearly half admit they don’t have a strategy that reflects their purpose.

When it comes to your employees, it’s important to ensure transparent and regular two-way communication with your people about the direction in which the company is headed and the role they play in achieving these goals. After all, your people are your most important asset, your strongest advocates, and the best at recruiting new individuals into the firm.

As technology and disruption overhaul the workforce across sectors, in some cases eliminating roles, in others changing the nature of existing roles and creating new ones, it’s clear that this is an exciting time for companies to seize opportunities that align their talent management strategies with future growth.

Source: betterworkingworld.ey.com

You Got the Job—Now What?

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Job Interview

Great—you got the job! A lot of people in this situation might think, “Now I can relax, cruise a while, and rest on my laurels.” Actually, your work is just beginning.

Ford R. Myers, career coach, speaker, and author states, “Having worked with thousands of executives who have successfully secured new positions, in my opinion, there are six priorities that you should focus on during the first 90 days of any new job.” These include:

  1. Establish positive relationships with your new colleagues. Be honest, open, friendly, reliable, and clear. Be outgoing and introduce yourself to coworkers (don’t wait for them to approach you).
  2. Develop a reputation for producing tangible results. Immediately, start a “success file” and track your accomplishments and contributions. Make note of the positive feedback you get from others in conversation and in writing—from clients, managers, clients, colleagues, vendors, etc.
  3. Communicate plans and progress to your superiors and to your team. Become known for setting challenging goals and completing projects on time and on budget—with measurable results.
  4. Begin building your own in-house contact network. Cultivate good relationships with everyone, including the employees above and below your level. Get to know people’s names. Reach out to the mail guy, the security guard, the IT guru, your manager’s executive assistant—everyone. You want business friends and supporters in a 360-degree arc around you.
  5. Review and fine-tune your job description with your manager. Sit down during those first 90 days and create an “individual development plan” for yourself and your role, which includes your short-, mid-, and long-term goals. This is critical to ensure that the job you landed becomes the job you love.
  6. Maintain a healthy balance between your work life and your private life. Don’t “go overboard” with enthusiasm for your new job. Family time, hobbies, and “recharging your batteries” are all part of your long-term professional effectiveness and success.

“You must focus on garnering respect, visibility, and credibility during your first 90 days on the job. The precedents you establish during this period will tend to last for your entire tenure at that organization. So, this ‘thumbprint period’ is critically important to your long-term success,” Myers adds.

Source: Reprinted by permission of Ford R. Myers, a nationally known career coach and author of Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring.

UCLA Faculty Who Were First in Their Families to Go to College Help Others Like Them Overcome Fear, Self-Doubt

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UCLA Student and Grad

Gerardo Ramirez remembers his first day of college as one filled with conflicting emotions. He was eager and excited to be starting his freshman year at California State University, Northridge, but at the same time, he was apprehensive and anxious, and feeling a lot of pressure.

“The entire week before, I had nightmares that I couldn’t find any of my classrooms,” recalls Ramirez, who was not only navigating the physical campus but also entering the strange, new world of higher education as the first in his family to go to high school and college.

“I felt worried that I wouldn’t be able to do something as basic as find a class,” he says, “and that uncertainty in my abilities was a common concern for me throughout my undergrad years.”

Ramirez is now an assistant professor in UCLA’s Department of Psychology and one of approximately 100 UCLA faculty members, all former first-generation college students, who are participating in a new effort to offer support and encouragement to prospective and current first-generation UCLA students. More than 30 percent of UCLA undergraduates fall into that category.

Helping first-generation students feel connected

The UCLA First Generation Faculty Campaign is part of a broader effort to raise the visibility of first-generation faculty members across the University of California. At UCLA, the campaign is operating in collaboration with the First to Go program, which focuses on the retention and success of UCLA students.

“This campaign is intended to demystify the faculty rank for students and lets them know that behind the podium are many people whose roots are very similar to their own, and that a similar prestigious end is possible for them in whatever career path they are pursuing,” says Patricia Turner, senior dean of the UCLA College who was a first-generation college student who grew up in Sag Harbor, New York, where her mother cleaned houses and her father ran a farm in nearby Bridgehampton.

Originally from Virginia, neither of her parents completed high school.

First-generation students commonly face unique challenges when coming to college, says Turner, including pressure to improve their family’s economic situation, a narrow understanding of academic and professional opportunities, and lack of mentors.

Turner, who attended State University of New York, Oneonta, and UC Berkeley, says that highly competitive schools like UCLA can be especially intimidating for first-gen students who sometimes believe that professors at UCLA, one of the world’s leading universities, couldn’t possibly relate to them on a personal level.

“Academic success is linked to students believing that they belong to the institution,” says Turner, noting that more than 90 percent of first-generation students at UCLA graduate. “Students need to feel connected, and the response we have received to this program reinforces my belief that our faculty members are deeply committed to the undergraduate experience at UCLA.”

It’s especially important for first-generation students to complete their studies and inspire other prospective first-generation students because of what a college degree can mean economically to their future, their families, communities and society. According to a study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce published in 2014, those who have bachelor’s degrees earn on average $1 million more than high school graduates over the course of a lifetime. In addition, Ph.D. holders earn $1 million more than bachelor’s degree holders.

Inspiring others to succeed

Being in college won Ramirez respect among his siblings and other family members, many of whom looked to him as an example of what is possible with hard work and dedication to academics. He also was able to offer them one-on-one counseling — something many lower-income high school students often don’t receive — and guide them on college admission requirements and financial aid and application deadlines, among other details.

As a college student, Ramirez avoided mentioning his first-generation status, but as a UCLA professor, he proudly shares his personal story with his students at the beginning of each quarter.

It’s this kind of support and perspective that inspired fourth-year cognitive science major and first-generation college student Denise Peralta to apply for graduate school after she completes her bachelor’s degree in June. “He (Ramirez) was the only professor to encourage me to go straight into a Ph.D. program. I wasn’t confident that I was ready, but, after hearing his story, I understood why he was pushing me, and I thought I could do it.”

Ramirez also opened her eyes to the importance of being involved in undergraduate research and helped her explore opportunities both at UCLA and other institutions. Peralta currently works in Ramirez’s research lab and hopes to one day teach math at a middle school similar to the one she attended in East Los Angeles. Her career aspirations are driven by a desire to foster a love of math and learning, and to serve as a positive role model.

“I want my students to see someone who looks like them, who came from the same neighborhood or one like theirs — and show them that success and a bright future are within their reach,” Peralta says. “I want them to say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ And first-gen college students also need this kind of encouragement. This campaign gives us that.”

Advice from those who walked a similar path

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Paul Kroskrity became a first-generation college student after growing up in Long Island, New York, and later in Connecticut. He joined UCLA’s Department of Anthropology as a professor 40 years ago and served as chair of the American Indian Studies Program for 26 years. He believes that UCLA and the UC campuses in general are the perfect place for these efforts to flourish.

“The reason why this [First to Go] program is so good is that we have a really high quality institution, but we also admit students that are more diverse than those at the average university,” says Kroskrity, adding that UC campuses are an engine for social mobility. At other universities, he says, it’s not unusual for students who are the third or fourth generation in their families to attend college.

Kroskrity, who graduated from Columbia University and Indiana University, encourages first-generation students to get engaged, stay involved and not allow themselves to be constrained by self-imposed barriers or self-doubt.

“If you start limiting yourself by your own sense of what you are not capable of, or what you don’t know about, or how awkward you feel because it’s something new, you just don’t get the full experience,” says Kroskrity, whose mother didn’t complete high school and whose father was limited in his career because he lacked a college education.

“Take academic risks, talk to people that you might not have considered speaking to before, including your professors,” the UCLA anthropologist advises. “Reach out to people and get the full value of this experience. UCLA exists for them. You are not going to get these four years back, so use them in the best ways possible.”

Source: newsroom.ucla.edu

 

 

 

Here’s how NASCAR’s top female engineer is giving back to her native Puerto Rico

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In the über-macho, rough-and-tumble world of race car driving, the top female engineer in NASCAR is blazing quite a path and using it to give back to her native Puerto Rico.

“When I went to the university it was mostly guys, so the fact that I’m in a job where it’s mostly guys seems normal to me,” said Alba Colón, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Program, General Motors’ most visible racing program.

Colón oversees the engineers who test the engines and designs for the NASCAR drivers. “I fell in love with drag racing and I didn’t realize at the time that I was the first female, the first Latin American,” said Colón, who describes herself as a “worker bee” who is aware of her pioneering role.

“Every day I go to my job and I think, people are looking because you are representing something that is not the usual thing,” she told NBC News. “I take this job with a lot of pride.”

Colón is a graduate of the prestigious engineering program at the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez campus, in the western part of the island. UPR-Mayagüez has long been known for its science and math degrees and is a hub for U.S.-based recruiters.

General Motors hired Colón in 1994 as a data acquisition engineer, and since 2001 she has been with the company’s NASCAR cup series.

For years, Colón has been closely associated with recruiting and retaining graduates from her alma mater in Puerto Rico to come work for General Motors. After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, this role taken on even more importance.

Young people in the island, said Colón, are “very anxious” to get jobs, summer jobs and internships lined up.

“They are very smart and hard workers. They don’t have a lot of resources compared to other universities in the states, but they take the same classes and they have to find how to make things happen with the little resources that they have,” said Colón. “Those are skills we look at, that passion to make things happen.”

Continue onto NBC News to read the complete article.