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Career Lessons from Puerto Rico

Last week, my family and I visited the beautiful island of Puerto Rico for the first time. My Mom is half Puerto Rican and has had cousins on the island for many years,

but this was the first time we all decided to travel together for our summer vacation to visit our cousins and my great aunt, Titi Ileana, on the island.

Although it was hot and humid each day (well into the 90's), it was so wonderful to have each morning to begin with peace and quiet, not the typical schedule and hustle of a work week. It also gave me the gift of time and space while I was enjoying my cup of coffee each morning to think about this blog and three career lessons I wanted to share from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico.

  1. Culture matters. The culture of an organization can make or break your experience in a job. This includes their mission, values, leadership and how they treat and relate to customers or clients. The Puerto Rican culture is very warm and welcoming. In fact when we landed in San Juan, everyone on the flight clapped. Compare and contrast that to our return to the states in Baltimore and the plane was silent upon landing.


  • What cultural attributes do you most appreciate in a workplace?

  • Does your current workplace align with who you are and how you work best?

  • What are you tolerating?

  • What do you want to eliminate?

  • What do you wish you could change?

  • What is within your control to influence one step toward a change?


2. Language doesn't have to be a barrier. Mean what you say and say what you mean. For instance there are multiple words in Spanish for money, such as el dinero or la moneda; al have a slightly different meaning, depending on the context in which they are used.


  • Think about a conversation you had this past week and your intent of the conversation and how it was received.

  • Did you walk away with a crystal clear understanding of next steps?

  • How could you have stated things differently?

3. Unfair treatment can leave you bitter. I often hear from my career clients how much they want to make a difference, but instead most days they feel like they’re not able to do so. They are too busy being interrupted and can't focus on the strategic priorities they know they should be moving forward.


One thing I witnessed during our sightseeing on the island of Puerto Rico was that often times rules were not consistently administered. For instance, when we were in the rainforest, we actually received a parking ticket. However, we were only one of three cars that received a parking ticket. Now that didn’t make much sense did it? In fact, it seemed a bit unfair.


Likewise, it is often times in our careers or in our jobs when we feel that we have been treated unfairly that we seek retributions or become motivated to seek alternative employment options.

  •  Is there a recent situation at work that left you feeling as if you were treated unfairly or there was an unfair outcome?

  • What’s the next best step you could take to resolve this?


Some of you reading this may think it’s silly to use an analogy of a vacation and careers. However, I innately tend to see most experiences through a a parallel lens related to careers and employment- no matter if I’m traveling on an airplane or visiting a retailer or simply ordering food. I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse, but I very quickly deduce whether an employee likes their job or what the culture is by how I am treated as a customer or consumer.


The famous quote from Maya Angelo comes to mind:

'At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.'


If you ever have the opportunity to visit another island, town or employer, I encourage you to be brave and try a new experience. Observe the differences and similarities to your current situation or current culture. Observe what people say, how they make you feel and what matters most to you.


I am so grateful to have had the opportunity away with my extended family and relatives and family to experience life in a different culture - even if only for 1 week.


  • What new experience in your career would you like to have in the next month?


  • What will it take to make it happen?

  • Will you be brave enough to try?

In my weekly email to my clients this week, I shared another experience that was WAY out of my comfort zone: drinking from a coconut. Now, for years, I've stood by the fact that I DO NOT care for coconut AT ALL! However, what I didn't know, was that the coconut water/juice really didn't taste like the coconut I'd had previously at all. I think it's actually the texture that bothers me.

And so I challenge you next week and into the month of July to think also about:

What will be your 'coconut' experience?

Perhaps you have a pre-conceived notion about someone or something at work.

Will you give yourself permission to have an open mind?

My job as a coach is to challenge my clients and often times that involves them walking away with to do's or ideas that are out of their comfort zones.

What will your future self say to you in 6 months?

Who do you really want to be surrounded by? The same people? Different people?

Are you serving those you want to serve?

Can you contribute to your strategic plan each and every day?

Do you get to use your strengths each and every day?

If not, I'm happy to listen and share one positive step you can take.

You can schedule your career strategy session here now.

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