Working in the Corporate World as a Gen-Z Latino  

By: Manny Portillo

The summer after I graduated high school in 2015, I scored an internship with CNN’s image and sound department through the Turner Voices program, a part of Turner Broadcasting’s corporate social responsibility department. The goal of the program was to get students excited about the behind-the-scenes opportunities in television broadcasting. To supplement what they could not teach us in person, they gave us a book, “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College,” but no one read it.

That was seven years ago, and the then fresh faces of the 2015 Turner Voices interns have mostly graduated, continued into grad school, or begun the arduous journey of assimilating into the world of corporate America.

That got me thinking, what would I, a Gen-Z Latino, have benefited from knowing at the tender age of 22, entering the workforce?

Who is Gen-Z?

Gen-Z is the next cohort of publicists, marketers, doctors, and engineers born after 1997 – the same year James Cameron’s Titanic was released.

My generation looks a little different than the ones before us. According to the Pew Research Center, Gen-Z is more racially and ethnically diverse. We are digital natives, and we are projected to be the most educated. Nearly 60 percent of 18–21-year-olds are enrolled in college.

On social issues, Gen-Z has progressive ideologies, much like the previous generation, the millennials, and much different from the more conservative Baby Boom generation.

Gen-Z is not only bringing a more diverse, progressive, and educated group into the workforce, but one that has grown up with technology, thus the term “digital natives.”

Latinos in the workforce

Latinos are growing rapidly in the general population and in the workforce. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by the year 2030 there will be 35.9 million Hispanics in the U.S. workforce — triple the amount in 1990, when there were an estimated 10.7 million Hispanic workers. So, by 2030, one of every five workers in the U.S. will be Hispanic.

As the Hispanic workforce continues to grow, we will bring our cultural perspective to both white- and blue-collar jobs.

My tips for Gen-Z Latinos

In my career so far, I’ve learned a thing or two about maneuvering in the corporate environment. Here are my tips for Gen-Z Latinos entering the workforce:

El que busca encuentra
He who searches finds

When you think of the word “corporate,” you don’t think of someone who looks like you. That doesn’t mean you don’t belong there. With more Latinos entering the corporate world, including PR and marketing, you shouldn’t lose your raíces (roots) trying to fit the mold.

Market yourself for who you are. Start by making a list of what sets you apart from everyone else, hard and soft skills, languages you know, and any certifications you might have.

As Gen-Z Latinos, we are tasked with being the liaisons between our community and corporate America. What does this mean? This means speaking up about the importance of the Latino market to decision-makers, and those who might not be aware of the Latino market’s size.

While shedding some of your Latino layers might seem like the easy way to get your foot in the door, you’d also be shedding important insight that you bring to the table. The Latino market is here to stay; keeping your roots close will make you a stand-out star well into the future.

El que nace pa’tamal, del cielo le caen las hojas
He who is born to make tamales, leaves fall from the sky (find your niche)

Nobody wants to be bad at anything, but we can’t all be good at everything. When I first started my PR career, I went in with the mindset that I could do PR for anyone and everyone. While that’s a great goal to have, I knew being right out of college going to make it hard.

Pick a field of expertise — this could be nonprofits, entertainment, or something else. Your first choice might not come naturally, and you may discover that specific sector is not for you. It’s perfectly fine to dabble in different areas until you find the right fit for you. Whether or not you are good at working in a specific sector doesn’t mean you won’t learn something from it.

A acocote nuevo, tlachiquero viejo
A new acocote, old tlachiquero (learn from the experts – find a mentor)

There is quite a bit that you know by being you and having the life experience that you can bring to the table. However, you are still new to the game. Try to find someone with more experience and be their chicle (bubble gum). Don’t drive them crazy but ask them for advice and guidance or better yet, ask them to be your mentor.

While the Latino population is increasing, we still make up a small percentage of professionals in PR and marketing, about 10.5 percent. If you can, find a Latin mentor.

Caminando y meando, pa’no hacer charco
Walk and pee, so you don’t make a puddle (stick to your word and do it)

Building your career isn’t going to be easy. There should be plenty of opportunities to show what you are capable of, but you have to give it your all.

If your supervisor asks for your thoughts/ideas on a specific project, volunteer to take on the project. Follow through and ask for help when you’re stuck. That is vital to keeping you in good standing with your peers.

Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo
The devil knows more for being old than for being the devil (you’ll get wiser with age)

At the end of the day, you’ll make plenty of mistakes in your career. That is normal and you’ll learn from those mistakes. Most importantly, keep your head up and get back at it! The more experience you gain will help you in the long run.

The corporate world may seem daunting from the diverse perspective of a Gen-Zer. The glass skyscrapers used to house cubicle offices could even be described as obelisks to the way the business has been conducted for decades.

After almost a decade of “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College” collecting dust on my shelves, I picked it up and looked through it. The book touches on co-worker relationships, networking, and business faux pas. All very important things. However, while they don’t teach you corporate in college, you sometimes have to put the book down and get to work.

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