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Why My Latino Immigrant Parents Freaked Out When I Quit My Job

Why My Latino Immigrant Parents Freaked Out When I Quit My Job


I quit my job. In my career, I have quit three different jobs and each time, my Latino immigrant parents freaked out.

What makes this interesting is that Latino values are American values. We care about education, jobs, and financial stability. However, what’s different is that for many Latino families, parents do not teach their children the importance of testing the job market to evaluate their competitive worth. Latino parents do an excellent job of serving as stellar role models on how to display a strong work ethic, ingenuity, determination, grit and resilience. However, where some Latino parents fall short is building the self-confidence in their children to test the waters and figure out if the time is right to make a career power move. Unfortunately, this happens because our parents never learned how to make power moves and inherently, were never in a position to teach us any different.

In the words of my father, “El trabajo no se deja, se cuida.” – translation, “You don’t leave your job, you take care of it.” This mindset creates a level of insecurity and fear when it comes to change, networking, and learning how to sell yourself. On three different occasions, I had to explain to my parents that I was quitting one job to pursue a better career path.

The first time I quit my job was to pursue my MBA. While all Latino parents have heard of Harvard, most do not understand what’s a Top 25 business school rankings list. Specifically, my parents were blue collar and never learned the American higher education system. They knew enough to get me to college, but could not provide any significant guidance to figure out life after college. Moreover, when I did decide to attend business school, my folks would not have been able to distinguish the value of my MBA between Georgetown University in Washington D.C. or Georgetown College, located in Georgetown, Kentucky. They just did not know and if they could not distinguish the difference between those two institutions, how could they ever coach me to be able to further my career.

The second time I quit my job, my father asked how could I not be loyal to the company that was so good to me for so many years. He was trying to guilt me into staying, but I replied, “Stay for what?” Loyalty is a defining cultural characteristic within the Latino community.   Over the years, I have met and befriended restaurant owners, general contractors, and landscapers that when making small talk, for some odd reason felt compelled to tell me that their Latino employees are their most loyal employees. Such descriptions pained me, because I knew their employees were like me, ambitious, well grounded and yearning to try something new…but afraid to test the waters. It took me years to build the courage to actually say, “I will start interviewing elsewhere and sell myself at a premium.”

Selling ourselves at a premium is a different mindset that most of us struggle with because we grew up knowing that our parents were loyal, hardworking, and cheap… so how dare we ask for more money! Earning a six-figure income almost became a mental block. While not huge money, it was an aspirational goal that we strive for but our parents were not able to advise us on how to get there. There were times I would meditate and ask myself if I was being too greedy, too aggressive, or too selfish. Fortunately, I had mentors that taught me otherwise. Many of us eventually find mentors that teach us otherwise, but not all of us do. As the children of Latino immigrants, we often have no choice but to look elsewhere for career advice.

The third time I quit my job, my parents still freaked out, but they accepted the fact that I had surrounded myself with good people that gave me good counsel on how to rise up. Which leads to my final point – our community needs our own people to share their success stories. We need to see that other children of Latino immigrants can achieve financial success. We need to hear that they too had to overcome many of the same struggles and obstacles but yet figured out how to get it done. We need our own community members to speak up, and describe the roadmap they took so others can follow. We already know about grit and resilience, we just need that voice of confidence to assure us that it’s okay to quit our jobs and that no one will freak out.

I practice what I preach, so I put together a free, online, virtual professional development summit where I brought together 21 Latino leaders from various industries, such as Higher Education, Technology, Journalism, Non-Profit, Federal Government, Entrepreneurship, and Corporate America to discuss their personal stories, insights, and strategies to help aspiring Latino Professionals further their career and earn a six-figure income. The virtual summit is a set of recorded videos where for 7 days, you will receive three videos per day emailed to your inbox. The summit is free and this is my effort to help those who were afraid to test the waters, figure out how to sell themselves at a premium and learn from those that share your background. All you need to do is register at www.RiseUpLatinoProfessionals.com

Now that my parents see that I help others across the country with their careers, they no longer freak out when I tell others to make power moves. The ball is in your court and it’s time to Rise Up y Seguir Adelante.


Jesse Mejia headshotJesse A. Mejia is the Founder & CEO of MBA Catalyst, an MBA admissions consulting firm. Jesse has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, US News & World Reports, USA Today, and has been a featured guest on National Public Radio.  Jesse is the author of ¡Rise Up, Mi Gente! A Roadmap for Latinos to Achieve Success in Corporate America and host of the professional development summit called, Rise Up Latino Professionals: Six Figure Summit.


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