By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
The ability to keep your job in this labor market is no small achievement. The official national unemployment rate is at 8.2% and among Latinos, that rate is 10%.
While it is key to deliver your best at your current job — you also must ask yourself a tough question — is this a job or a career? While both generate an income, a job is not enough for your long-term future security. There’s nothing wrong with having a job while you prepare for something better.
College students, aspiring actors or writers, often have “jobs” just to make ends meet while they plan for their real careers. The challenge is that anyone can get stuck in a job they only intended to have for a few years.
The overwhelming majority of Latinas in the US are employed in the service and retail sector where jobs are more common than careers. In fact, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement reports that in 2010 there were 8.1 million Latina workers and 65% were employed in service, sales and office jobs. Less than 1 million are employed as executive or senior level managers.
While a job can provide a steady income, few offer the kind of benefits and opportunities that create more secure careers. At the end of a couple of years, a job looks the same as it did when you started. The new skills you learn are minimal. You may have an occasional raise or a bonus. Your opportunity to move up or into better roles is slim.
By contrast, a true career encourages you to learn new skills, develop your potential and advance within the organization. An employer who has a career in mind for you offers you learning opportunities or encourages you to gain new skills.
When you feel your workplace encourages you to be your best and that your performance matters, that’s a career. The more you grow on a job, the more your employer sees that their investment in you matters for their success and the more they will want to insure you stay engaged in the work place.
If you know you’re in a job — and that can happen no matter what kind of industry you are in — you can still be focused on a career with two key steps. First, invest in your own education. If you are in school, stay in school. If you need more education, make a plan to return to get the degree you need for the most options.
When you find yourself unable to enroll in school, consider taking workshops or make a commitment to read up-to-date magazines or journals that allow you to keep current on your industry. You can do a great deal to advance yourself just by making use of free readings available online or at a library.
One site for career planning that offers a broad range of information if you are still in school is Mapping Your Future. Another site that includes information for adults making a career change is called My Plan.
Second, look for those who might already be in the kind of career you want to have so that you can conduct informational interviews. This means you’ll ask them about their experiences and what you can do to prepare for that kind of opportunity.
Follow through on their suggestions and, most important, keep in touch with people who are in the industry you want to join. In business, it is not so much what you know but who you know that can open doors for you.
Your future career opportunities truly rest on being prepared for opportunities and recognizing when opportunity is knocking at your door. Your career can be shaped by the people you know who will bring opportunities to you. Make the time to be ready for that knock at your door.
The difference between having a job or a career may just rest on who is at that door.
Let me know about your career plans and join me live at LatinaVIDA™.
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™.