“Hello, Am I Hired?” Confessions of a Crappy Phone Interview

We have all been there – the crappy phone interview. You wish you would have said, “Sorry wrong number” or gotten the tone key to work as a restart button, but instead you are stuck thinking “Hello, hello. Can you just hire me or excuse me already!” Blame it on the alcohol recession. I used to have a whatever-you’ll-get-them-next-time mentality to interviewing, but now I feel like one crappy interview is as crippling as no Kit-Kat’s to a chocolate addict.

My wounds are still fresh from my crappy phone interview that occurred this past week. It was for an editorial position at a dream-job kind of company. I will not disclose their name for the small possibility that I’ll get called back for a face-to-face interview! The job description was all me, “A smart self-starter with excellent editorial skills and judgment. Experience in an online publishing environment is required. Experience working with freelance writers or independent contractors is a strong plus.” Me, me, me!

The day of the interview, I woke up early meditated, researched the company, and wrote down questions to ask after the interview. If I were a student, I would have gotten an +A for preparation. I felt confident and prepared! The phone rang and I put on my best professional voice. I was expecting the first question to be your typical, “So tell me about yourself.” Instead he asked me something that left me saying, “That’s a good question, let me think about it for a moment.” The awkward silence sent my mind on survival mode. I asked him to repeat the question to buy more time all the while experiencing premature menopausal hot flashes and intense anxiety. I stumbled through the answer and knew my nerves had gotten the best of me. Sadly, it was a domino effect after that. I tried my best to save it, but the damage was done.

I can only compare my experience to going through a long and strenuous search for the perfect guy on Match.com. You carefully pluck out all of the losers (at least the obvious ones) and manage to come up with a pool of great guys to contact. You hear back from your grade-A picks and manage to score a date with a I-can-bring-you-home-to-meet-my-crazy-family type of guy, but first you want to chat on the phone. You start thinking about great conversation starters and feeling confident about your first talk – until he calls and asks you if you’re a virgin. Okay, maybe not exactly like that. Regardless, you realize you won’t be dating this person now or ever.

However just like a bad date, a crappy interview should enlighten you. After the interview, I realized that I have the ingredients and the recipe, but I just didn’t cook the best batch that day. Trust me I’ve made some slammin’ recipes in the past. I can choose to act like a desperate chocolate addict or make mental notes and grow from it. Allow yourself to make mistakes and move on with your head held high. Even in a touch economy, there is always room for another batch!

Got a crappy interview story? Share it!


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Inside the Life of a Factory Worker

Everyone has a story. Being able to give a voice to an untold story is what inspired me to become a writer in the first place. I was lucky enough to pitch and write this investigative piece titled “Behind the Label and Inside Maquiladoras” for Urban Latino, which highlights the experiences of several factory workers in Mexico and Nicaragua. For those of you who don’t know, a maquiladora is a sweatshop that offers low pay and poor working conditions for its workers. As a first generation born American, the piece was personal since my mother and aunt also worked as factory workers when they first came to this country from Cuba. Of course, their experiences are different, but I think the common thread is the struggle strong women face to provide a better life for their families.

I remember interviewing Zulema Mena Garay and instantly feeling connected to my deceased grandmother who also shares her last name. As she explained her daily routine of working in a sweatshop and having a production quota of 5,000 shorts per day, I kept imagining myself in the same position. I didn’t get very far. I was so inspired by her strength and determination to fight for her rights as a factory worker. She later joined a non-profit organization named Nueva Vida, which allows women to become business partners and earn rightful assets for their work. In essence, she was a part of a revolution dismantling the oppressive cycle clothing corporations currently have on Latin America and other countries.

I hope you enjoy the piece and share your thoughts on the topic. Do you make it a point to support sweatshop-free apparel? I’m not sure if shopping at Forever 21 counts.






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Inspiration: 11 Things I’m Grateful For On 1-11-11!

I got this idea to write this post after reading my friend’s blog Self Feast. Since today is 1/11/11, she decided to make a list of 11 things that she is grateful for. I took the challenge and drafted my own list. I hope this year will open up new opportunities for us to continue experiencing more treasures that inspire and humble us everyday.

Here is my list, not meant to follow any particular order in less or more significance:

1 – Living the freelance life – I do appreciate the small things about being where I am in the present. I love having the flexibility to wander the city, go to the library for hours, and hit up my favorite cafes throughout the day. Ready and open for new professional opportunities!

2 – Bikram – I just started up my monthly membership yesterday and it made me so happy! I feel like it helped me hit a mind and body reset button.

3 – My body – Number two sort of encouraged this one. I’m so grateful for my health! My body always finds the grace it needs to keep it moving!

4 – My boyfriend – I hate to sound cheesy, but he is my number one fan. He encourages me and challenges me to keep pushing forward. Very grateful for him.

5 – My painting classes – I start my first class on Saturday and I’ve been super excited ever since I joined! Look forward to hanging all of my pieces up in the apartment.

6 – My apartment – It may be a temporary space, but it’s our space. I love the location, the staff, and the peaceful space! Very thankful for it.

7 – Sex and the City on E! – Do I have to explain?

8 – A good book – Right now I am reading Oprah’s Happiness book. It’s a great resource for inspirational stories and just adding a little bit of O in my life.

9 – My niece and nephew – They make me smile so much! Hearing Tia Sugey never gets old.

10 – My blog – I’m so glad I finally went live! I feel such a great release whenever I publish something. It sort of feels like the first time I saw my article published in a magazine. That too, never gets old.

11 – My friends and family – I love you guys, you know who you are. Plain and simple.

Thanks Mercedes and Vic!

Image: Google Images


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Why Latinas Should Be Pissed About The Dirty Girls Social Club  Adaptation

I remember being introduced to “The Dirty Girls Social Club” by my sister-in-law when I was an undergrad. Being an English major, I was obsessed with reading books in general, but especially novels written by Latin-American authors. Once I started reading Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez‘s novel, I was hooked. The colorful narrative features six Latina women who form close friendships after attending Boston University. Now in their late twenties, they are faced with their own personal hurdles and critical moments that test their resilience and perseverance. The strong themes of sisterhood, strength, acceptance, and inner growth inspired me to recommend the book to all of my close girlfriends from high school. For the first time, I felt like I was reading a fiction novel that mirrored my own cultural identity.

I personally admired the character who was a writer for a Boston newspaper as much as I looked up to Alisa’s brilliant career. The Mexican-American author began as a freelance writer at The Boston Globe and interned at the Village Voice. She would later publish cover stories for mainstream magazines including RedBook and Glamour. The huge success of “The Dirty Girls Social Club” led to Alisa selling the film rights in 2003. The story is now being adapted into a television series for NBC spearheaded by Ann Lopez, George Lopez’s ex-wife.

One would think that one of our own would try to develop an authentic pilot honoring the creativity and cultural context of the piece, but that just hasn’t been the case. The educated and successful characters I previously mentioned have been transformed into (in Alisa’s words),

“a story about four Latina whores in San Francisco, their white friend who is being abused by her ‘hot blooded Cuban’ husband, and their black friend who is fat-n-sassy.”

The truth is Latinas have always been stereotyped in Hollywood. From Rosie Perez’s performance in “White Men Can’t Jump” to Carmen Miranda’s fruity headpiece and “tropical” dance. These pop culture trends have continued to manifest despite a growth in Latina actresses. Why are these stereotypical messages still being reproduced in 2011? Penelope Cruz may have won an Oscar, but that doesn’t mean that Hollywood’s perception of Latinos has completely changed. It appears to be a formula that works for the masses. Popular culture has become the arena in which we struggle to know ourselves and to make ourselves known, but creating more Sofia Vergara characters leads to a one dimensional script lacking the substance that even one of Alisa’s characters carries on page.

Alisa has decided to write her own pilot, just in case Lopez’s falls through the cracks. Let’s hope that a more honest and authentic version of “The Dirty Girls Social Club” gets picked up. In honor of Alisa’s voice and our story.

Source: Jezebel


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VP of Marketing for Siempre Mujer Reveals Her Secret to Success

There is no better way to get inspiration than to hear from successful Latinas themselves. This summer, I attended a Hispanic Professionals Networking Group event featuring a meet up and Q/A with Ruth Gaviria (first to the right in the photo above), the Vice President of Hispanic Ventures for Meredith Corporation. Before the Colombian marketing guru launched “Siempre Mujer” a Latina lifestyle magazine targeting Hispanic women in the U.S. in 2005, she worked as the Director of Marketing and Brand Development for the publication “People en Español.” Fast forward five years, and now Gaviria is in charge of Meredith’s Hispanic magazine portfolio including “Ser Padres,” “Ser Padres Espera” and “Ser Padres Bebé,” which she re-launched and redesigned in 2008.

During the HPNG event, she revealed her experience as a Latina leader in corporate America and shared her secret to success:

I want to share one experience that changed my life. It’s not even job specific. I was identified by management that I was leadership potential and I was sent to the Center of Creative Leadership. I was honored. I was sent there and I was the only Latina woman, and I was the youngest. When you go to these programs they break you down to your core and they build you back up. The goal is to make you a better manager and it’s a formula that works. During that process, a counselor sat next to me and said, “As a woman of color you have to tone it down. You aren’t going to succeed if you act like a part of these people.”

She continued on to explain that she received this feedback because people weren’t used to seeing women of color or Latinas take control in a corporate environment. Gaviria then gave a list of lessons related to her experience at the Creative Center for Leadership: First, adapt to your environment. Second, know when you can be yourself in a professional environment. Lastly, find a company that aligns with your passion.

Thankfully her tips for success didn’t end there,

“Your first advocate has to be yourself. You have to believe in yourself and the biggest part of leadership is listening. When you are saying, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m Latina and I have done this, this, and this.” You are showing me that you are not open to other opinions. What I have learned is that the process of listening and aligning your goals with your client or company is what is going to help you win. The second thing is that you can’t do it all alone. What fuels me is to create that group of powerful Latinos and have us join together. We [as Latinos] aren’t very cohesive. When you look at the American community, you definitely feel a sisterhood or brotherhood. With events like this, I would have to say that things are changing.”

Gaviria’s strong passion and powerful diction made me feel like a part of that change. I secretly walked away pretending that she was my mentor. I recorded the entire lecture, and whenever I feel like I need that motivating push, I listen to her speech all over again. I hope you leave here a little inspired as well.

Share your secrets to success or your view on women of color and leadership below.

 

Image: Google Images

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Theory On Unproductive Work Spaces Justifying Laziness?

Sure, most people have endured the annoying co-worker or a day full of meetings, but is the office really the worst place to work? According to Jason Fried the co-author of “Rework,” the modern day work space (or what he calls the interruption factory) doesn’t necessary encourage a high level of productivity. He explains in his lecture:

When you’re in the office you’re lucky to have 30 minutes to yourself. Usually you get in, there’s a meeting, then there’s a call, then someone calls you over to their desk, or your manager comes over to see what you’re doing. These interruptions chunk your day into smaller and smaller bits. Fifteen minutes here, 30 minutes there, another 15 minutes before lunch, then an afternoon meeting, etc. When are you supposed to get work done if you don’t have any time to work?

I have experienced full-time work days at home and in-house, and call me crazy, but I personally prefer working in an office. I must admit that working at home has it’s benefits when it comes to wearing pj’s or sweats all day and saving money at lunch time, but working at an office offers a priceless sense of comradeship. Productivity should come from within, and we should be able to properly allocate our time between meetings, office talks, or casual Friday’s.

Fried’s speech sounds like a real life version of the movie “Office Space.” He advises people to try passive forms of communication, skip some work meetings, and launch no-talk Thursdays. Is his theory justifying laziness or boosting productivity?

My answer is don’t try this at work.

Source: CNN


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The Power Of Beauty: Getting Underneath Your Cover-Up


I was asked to write a guest blog for “The Power of Beauty” website for DermHa, a natural skincare line. Check it out below!

Ever since I was in grammar school, my mother would powder me up and add blush to my cheeks before walking to school. She would say, “This is so you won’t look so pale. Que linda. (How pretty).” I looked in the mirror and felt beautiful with my Cover Girl-covered face. There I was, a bilingual kid with an accent who wanted acceptance more than anything else in the world. If my mother told me that makeup made me look prettier-I believed her. What I was unaware of was how those early years would mark my relationship with makeup and its relation to beauty as an adult.

When I think about not wearing make-up publicly now, a voice inside of me is saying, ‘no just some under-eye concealer, mascara and lip gloss please!’ I should be able to walk around barefaced from time to time, but why don’t I feel comfortable? I don’t lack inner beauty or self-confidence. So what is the problem here? After reading a women’s magazine blog post, I sent an email out to some of my close girlfriends asking them to challenge that voice along with me and not wear makeup in public. No one wanted to join my made up makeup revolution.

As a Latina, a lot of my earliest life lessons with beauty and makeup were cultural. We take pride in looking good for ourselves and others. It is ingrained in us from the time we are able to walk, but the bigger picture is also society’s view on the ‘power of beauty’. We are living in a society that teaches little girls that looks are a part of who we are and sometimes, that looks are everything. Ad campaigns, magazines, and reality television shows don’t help the idea either.

After taking the challenge on my own, I realized that the voice or idea that we can’t be beautiful without makeup is conditioned. It runs deep and normally it takes looking in the mirror and talking to that little girl with the Cover Girl-covered face. There is nothing wrong with makeup. It sparks our creativity and makes us feel good, but when we become dependent on it, then we need to have a little makeup challenge–even if it means just going to the grocery store without anything (and I mean anything) on. I challenge you to do the same.

Sugey

 


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Inspiration: Generation Y Forms A Digital Revolution In Cuba

In a country where one voice has dominated the political landscape for over 45 years, a University of Havana graduate has been successfully leading her own digital revolution one blog post at a time. Yoani Sanchez is the voice behind the award-winning blog Generation Y, a bilingual site that chronicles the daily struggles and bittersweet experiences of living in modern day Cuba. Being a blogger in the island is a tough task, especially since owning a personal computer and publishing anything outside of the revolutionary ideal isn’t necessarily encouraged.

Despite facing these adversities, the site has a steady readership of over 2 million and with the growing popularity came even more problems. In 2008, the Cuban government shut down her site, but with international support and a new URL she continues to run her blog today. However, in November of 2009 she faced a direct attack after being abducted, beaten, and detained by “secret police agents.”

Sanchez describes her experience as:

“They squeezed my wrists very hard, beat me in the back in the kidney area, and when people stepped in to do something, they said we were counter-revolutionaries…Clearly, the beating hurts even more a day later; I am still really affected by all of this, but it is not going to stop me from writing my blog.”

How To Survive A Blogging Trial Interview

We all know how the cycle goes. You open up your favorite job searching sites and start shopping for your favorite job titles. Since the economic downturn, I have altered my selection process to also include ‘jobs I can kinda see myself doing,’ ‘jobs I am over-qualified for but include health benefits,’ and ‘part-time jobs that I definitely see myself doing.’ Creating variety for myself has seemed to help a bit.

I recently got written back for a part-time writing position at Babble.com. I got super excited once I found out that the modern parenting site averages about 1 million viewers a month. They skipped the face-to-face interview as a first step and got me started right away on a 2-day trial blogging interview. That required creating 5 blogs a day, 25% original content and 75% re-purposed or previously reported content. I have also experienced similar interview processes at Sirius XM, Clear Channel, and MTV Networks, which consisted of four rounds of face-to-face interviews and a week of trial blogging.

Trial blogging or sample writing is the main step to obtaining an online editorial position nowadays. I have succeeded in many trials, but also received no call backs from many others. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what the hiring manager or editorial director is looking for, but I have a few survival tips that always help me out.

1. Study the site you are interviewing for – Sure that includes getting a feel for the voice and style of writing, but it’s also super important to look at all of their sections, figure out their top content, and how they optimize their content. This also helps you realize what elements they can improve on.

2. Find your own voice – Blogging isn’t NY Times journalism. You want your voice to shine, but also balance it out with the writing style already in place. The percentage may vary depending on what kind of site you are interviewing for. When crafting your voice always keep in mind your audience!

3. Be traffic friendly – As an editor, it is very important to make sure your writers know how to tag, categorize, and link content. It’s a huge traffic booster and shows that you know how to increase their demographic. High numbers can mean more money for you in the long run.

The scariest part of the interview process is waiting to hear back. Sometimes you will and sometimes you won’t. I have had to learn to deal with the no call backs, but I like to see it as a blind date. Sometimes you match and sometimes you don’t. The important thing is to take each step as a learning lesson. What could you have done better or differently? With this in mind the perfect gig is sure to arrive soon!

Read some of my Babble.com sample blogs here and here.


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Fave Reviews: Café Con Leche Serves Up Cuban Classics With Style

I love trying out Cuban restaurants in the city! It’s just as exciting as spotting new paladares to hit up on the island. The one thing I’ve learned from growing up in a half-Cuban household and traveling along the eastern and western part of the island, is that not all Cuban food is the same. Another great thing is that it’s almost always affordable cuisine. I was thrilled when I was asked to review Café Con Leche for ULM‘s Sub Urban section. Café Con Leche’s friendly staff and perfectly served up Cuban classics, like picadillo and ropa vieja, left my stomach, wallet, and heart satisfied.

Check out my restaurant review right below!


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