Thursday, September 16, 2010

4 Ways to Channel Your Inner European

This guest post is by Vicki Salemi, former recruiting executive, journalist, speaker and author of Big Career in the Big City. For more information visit

It’s a funny thing about leaving the concrete jungle for a spectacular international journey. Sometimes you need to escape the metropolis to visit to the rural, beautiful countryside of Sicily to enjoy the mountains, Mediterranean Sea and national parks to appreciate the beauty of success.

During my trip and being immersed in the tranquility and beauty of southern Italy (not to mention the delicious pasta and seafood), several career metaphors popped into my head.

1. Be authentic and don’t sugarcoat it. Have you ever been on an interview and asked if you had experience with a certain system and tried to fudge your way through it? As I enjoyed fresh ricotta on a daily basis (literally, cannolis included), I couldn’t help but wonder: there’s literally one or two ingredients that makes up the fresh cheese! That’s it. Delicious, fresh, organic. So, when you’re pitching yourself as a product during an interview and tackling important projects on the internship, remain true to your main ingredients and try not to fake your way through unchartered territory. The interviewer/your boss will clearly identify the transluscent sugar-coat.

2. Take your time. Slow and steady wins the race. During an interview or even on the internship, have you ever thought the first one to the finish line wins? Think again. Sometimes we feel rushed and buy into the notion that a job well done is a job done quickly. In the midst of Nebrodi Park (seriously, this trip was very insightful), I watched the cows slowly meandering among the trees. The sunlight glistening off the waves of the lakes. And it hit me: You don’t need to be quick to get through a job. Rather, the alternative is often the better case: On an interview or on a project, be methodical. Take your time. Think before you speak. And be sure to smell the roses.

3. Your work is a mirror of yourself. Upon chatting with a manager at the Verdura Resort (so beautiful; on a clear day you can see the northernmost part of Tunisia! But alas, I digress), I asked her about the overall Sicilian philosophy of work. Do they work their fingers to the bone, barely taking fifteen minutes for lunch, I wondered? As it turns out, it’s not uncommon to clock ten to twelve hour work days but the beauty is this: When they’re not at work, they shut it off. They are immersed with their lives, their families and friends. So, too should urban interns in a metropolis. It’s all about knowing when to stay focused and the importance of unplugging at the end of a tedious work day.

4. Create work that lasts the test of time. I realized this (yes, everything goes back to careers even when you’re amidst ancient ruins!) when walking among the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento which mainly date back to the 5th century B.C. Can you imagine creating something out of nothing and having it last forever? Literally. Well, that may be a stretch if your internship requires scheduling conference calls but net net: We become our work product. Make it an outstanding one.

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