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    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.  


    Calm Reflection


     There is no greater sorrow to be felt than for a parent to bury their child.  There are those parents who do so at the end of a long battle with their child fighting a disease and those who learn their child has died in an accident.  There is no comfort, no closure.  There is only a daily struggle to endure the loss that interrupts the day ever so unexpectedly at the site of a picture, a toy, a small memento of what once was—life.

    The death of a child at the hands of a stranger—a chance encounter that goes terribly wrong because of ignorance or arrogance, bias or stereotypes feels much harder to accept.  When Trayvon Martin’s death surfaced in the national headlines, there seemed to be a collective cry of disbelief,  “Haven’t we seen enough of this? Haven’t we made any progress in race relations?”  It was the right response and it forced upon the nation a trial that may have resulted in what some would call a sound legal finding but surely no justice.  We felt that outcry because Trayvon Martin’s murder was not typical.  He was not dealing dope on the street corner. He was not a drop out. He was not part of a gang. He had no police record.  He was a teenager with all the potential of living a strong and productive life.  Yet as a black male, he drew the biased attention of one person who assumed he was up to no good.   A fight ensued.  One gun shot. One life.

    If we are to dignify the short life of Trayvon Martin, I do not feel it is worth looking further at his murderer or whether the jurors debated enough. Instead, let’s call attention to gun violence and the grief of so many other families losing their young black sons.  The Pew Research Center reported that just in 2010 alone there were 31,672 deaths due to firearms and one third of these (11,078) were homicides and of those—55% were homicides of blacks.   Of these victims, 85% were black men between the ages of 18 and 40. And even harder to accept, 94% of the black victims were killed by other blacks.  Regardless of the challenges that may surround some communities—racism, joblessness, poverty—it is the availability and opportunity to use guns that changes everything with tragic consequences.

    We will never resolve the circumstances surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death.  One thing is clear: Had there been no gun involved in the conflict with his murderer, they would both be alive. We can overcome the outrage of Trayvon’s death with the right debate about access to guns, the pervasiveness of profiling and bias.  We owe it to him and we owe to his parents to at least do that.


    What is the GOP Code Word for America?


    These are the “word clouds” of President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention and Governor Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.  These images represent the words they emphasized in stating their vision for the nation’s future.  Each reflects not only the difference between the candidates but the difference in what has now become Blue and Red America.  President Obama’s speech looked at the wide range of issues facing a nation in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  It is not surprising that the key word in his speech is “new”.  President Obama has made the case that we must address challenges we face in health care, alternative energy use, job creation and nothing short of restoring hope in the nation’s future.   

    Governor Romney’s speech centered on the words “America”, “Americans”, “American”, and “President”.  For some the image drawn from this speech is one of fierce patriotism and loyalty to the nation.   I was not inspired, however.  Each time he referred to Americans I kept seeing the faces of the people at the convention who were cheering him on and I did not see a whole lot of people like me.    When Governor Romney said, “Now is the time to restore the promise of America”, I had to ask which America he wants to restore.  My view of America today is that it is finally getting to a place where the promise of opportunity has reached the diverse communities of color that make up the nation.

    Is America a code word here for the GOP?  I think so. The America that the GOP seeks is a trip down memory lane when women and minorities were less visible in society and certainly less outspoken.  It’s an America that lets 1% of the population have their way with few restrictions.   It’s an America that didn’t need to worry about partisan politics because the work of protecting special interests was easier to hide without the transparency that new media has brought to us today.  It’s an America that was comfortable keeping gays and lesbians in the closet where they didn’t need to be heard or seen.

    Governor Romney, what America are you talking about?


    I Can’t Decide What’s More Upsetting-The Supreme Court Giving Partial Approval to Arizona’s Immigration Law or Governor Jan Brewer Claiming Total Victory!

    Let me start by affirming that the Supreme Court struck down 3 of the 4 elements of Arizona SB1070.  The specifics of this are:

    • The Supreme court said it is not a crime for undocumented immigrants not to carry an alien registration document.
    • The Supreme Court said it is not a crime for undocumented immigrants to look for a job or perform work in Arizona.
    • The Supreme Court said it would not be legal for a state or local police officer to conduct an arrest without a warrant when police have probable cause to believe an individual committed a felony, a misdemeanor or a crime that would make them removable from the United States.

    The Supreme Court did uphold  that state and local law enforcement officers in Arizona are authorized to determine the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be in the United States illegally. Law enforcement can ask for an Arizona driver’s license, Arizona ID card, tribal enrollment card or other official ID issued by a US federal, state or local government.

    On the surface, this seems to say that when an undocumented person follows the law and stays out of trouble, there is not likely to be any reason for an officer to stop and ask to see identification.  Since the majority of immigrants are not drug dealers, thieves, or murderers we can only hope that they will avoid this situation entirely.   Of course I crossed my fingers when I said (wrote) “hope”.  An officer with time on their hands can profile a person who j-walks and ask for documentation when on any other day or for any other person that would be ignored.  So much for the 4th Amendment!

    Then there’s Jan Brewer: The woman who had no problem pointing her finger at the President of the United States as if she were scolding him for eating cookies before dinner.  Not only is she claiming victory, she claims this is vindication of her state’s active position against undocumented immigrants to safeguard Arizona.  The 10th Amendment is written on her bathroom mirror.  I suppose in true political fashion the Governor knows how to make lemonade out of lemons.  Unfortunately all her bravado is giving rise to more anti-immigrant activists who join her in her delusion that one State in the union can preempt the laws of the United States.  

    I say let’s see how this works in about 2 years when Arizona’s economic ecosystem starts to suffer because all that inexpensive labor has gone missing. --M