Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 6: Work Identities – Additional Example


I started developing a strong work ethic and an appreciation for financial independence at 16 in my first official job as a hostess. I continued to work in restaurants for seven years, throughout high school and college. Through this hard work, I was able to save a large amount of money and move abroad. I had a good relationship with my school advisor, who helped me procure a part-time job at a school in Spain, where I lived for two years after college. I shared a house with 17 other people from different countries, living with more than 50 different people over the course of two years. These friendships shaped my worldview and made me even more appreciative of cultural differences.  I gravitate toward people who are worldly and have a hard time connecting with or understanding individuals who have not traveled globally and have no desire to.

In an effort to remain in a culturally-diverse environment, I moved to Washington, D.C., after responding to a vague ad in the Washington Post for an administrative position at an “international organization.” This turned out to be one of the most pivotal transitions in my life. I started working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and became deeply involved personally and professionally in the international humanitarian world. The global challenges that ICRC tries to alleviate on a daily basis reframed my worldview and fostered a sense of mission inside me. I realized that in order to be happy in any career, I would need to be in a position in which I could have a meaningful positive impact.

After five years at ICRC, I began a one-year journey of self-discovery to find a career direction that I was passionate about. After many informational interviews, I discovered the field of organization development. It was the perfect intersection of my interests in psychology, business and human dynamics combined with my drive to improve relationships between people.

I obtained a master’s in the field and transitioned into an entirely new career. I took the first consulting position that was offered to me because I didn’t see the larger value that my indirect experience held. I also didn’t think anyone else would offer me a job without a long list of organization development titles on my resume. The position ended up being a terrible fit, and I was the most unhappy I have ever been in a job. Seven months in, I received an unexpected offer from another organization through LinkedIn. After the mistakes made during the last transition, I approached this interview process with a higher sense of self-value and an appropriate level of entitlement. I interviewed the organization as much as they interviewed me, and it paid off.  I accepted the position after determining that it would be a good fit, and it has turned into my dream job. I am challenged, supported and mentored on a daily basis.

I was fortunate to have parents who were strong role models. Work has always been a welcome reality as it challenges me on multiple levels and provides the financial independence that I value.

I’ve learned if you follow your interests and passions, however unrelated they may seem at the time, your experiences will build on one another and potentially culminate into a career that is a good fit with your values and interests. It still takes active work and dedication, but following those interests is like having a compass that shows your own true north. Another important lesson I learned is the importance of having a growth mindset, in particular, taking the the time to learn from mistakes and using that knowledge to make stronger, wiser decisions in the future.