Your Unique Cultural Lens: A Guide To Cultural Competence

Layer 6: Work Identities – Example 1


My responses to the questions provided to facilitate exploring Layer 6:

1. List all the organizations you have worked with throughout your life, for pay or not for pay.

b. 6 restaurants in high school/college
c. Babylon-Idiomas (Spain)
d. International Committee of the Red Cross
e. ASI Government
f. Capital Partners for Education
g. American Chemical Society

2. List all the types of jobs you have performed.

a. Volunteer
b. Serving customers in restaurants
c. Running a foreign language school and supporting students in their cultural adjustment and education
d. Administrative activities/office management
e. Event coordination
f. Blog editor
g. Foreign policy analyst
h. Mentor
i. Trainer
j. Facilitator
k. Consultant

3. List all the hierarchical levels (titles) you have been assigned.

a. Babysitter
b. Hostess
c. Server
d. Bartender
e. Student coordinator
f. Deputy Head of Chancellery
g. Public Affairs Officer and Intercross Editor
h. Senior Organization Development Consultant
i. Organization Development Consultant

4. What strengths you have been able to develop from these experiences?

a. Written and oral communication skills
b. Relationship building
c. Proficient in a second language
d. Heightened self-awareness
e. Project management
f. The ability to quickly analyze individual and group dynamics
g. Coaching

5. What biases do you think these experiences may have left you with?

a. I gravitate towards people who are worldly and have a hard time connecting or understanding individuals that have not traveled globally and have no desire to

6. How have your transitions or job positions transpired and what impact did those experiences have on you?

I started developing a strong work ethic and an appreciation for financial independence at 16 in my first official job a hostess.  I continued to work in restaurants for 7 years throughout high school and college and through this hard work was able to save a large amount of money and move abroad. Through a good relationship with my school advisor, I procured a part time job at a school in Spain, where I lived for 2 years after college.  I shared a house with 17 other people from different countries and lived with over 50 different people over the course of 2 years. These friendships shaped my worldview and made me even more appreciative of cultural differences.

In an effort to remain in a culturally diverse environment, I moved to Washington D.C. on a whim 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 mission inside me. I realized that in order to be happy in any career, I would need to be in a position where I could have a meaningful positive impact.

After 5 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, human dynamics, and a 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 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.


7. What has been your attitude toward work throughout your career? How has it changed and grown (or not)?

a. I was fortunate to have parents that 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.

8. Re-read the three lists above and note what lessons your reflection evokes.

a. 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.

b. Another important lesson I learned is the importance of having a growth mindset. In particular, taking the time to learn from mistakes and using the knowledge to make stronger, wiser decisions in the future.