Ethiopian professionals speak on:

The best career move I made involves sacrificing two summers during my Collegiate career to intern with a large CPA firm. I say sacrifice because the pay was considerably less than a much more lucrative job as a doorman at one of New York's hoity toity 5-star hotels (having worked there the summer for my freshman year, I had a chance to go back for succeeding summers.) In addition, it was a sacrifice because I ended up spending the entire year away from my family, whom I missed terribly (except for a certain pesky little sister!!) [Who we are sure is a very lovely person/The Editors]

The experience exposed me to the world I'd be ultimately join, and gave me a real competitive advantage because I had a very good understanding of the political landscape of the business right out of the chute. Having the firm's brand on my resume also helped tremendously in getting multiple offers of employment my senior year of school.

I seriously advise all young Ethiopians (especially business, engineering and Computer Science/MIS majors) to do an internship. An organization called INROADS specifically obtains summer internship opportunities for minority students. It has affiliates throughout the country, and definitely has a presence in most major cities. This organization is a proven entity and has connections to most Fortune 500 companies and various other industry leaders.

Yefatewoo, Banker, Ke Kola Hager

My best career move was to leave the client side of the business and get into the consulting environment. I basically worked on one plan (Chase Manhattan Bank ) for six long years. Even though I gained valuable experience by working for the bank's benefit plan and its predecessor banks , I wasn't exposed to different plans and the latest technology in this field. In the past year with the new firm, I was able work on benefit plans of several fortune 500 companies. It has been a great working experience for me. I think the consulting environment and change of assignments throughout the year makes it challenging and rewarding.

Yossef, Human Resource/Defined Contribution Plan Consultant, Connecticut

Maybe it is being Ethiopian, but until recently I had a hard time asking for a raise. I always thought if I worked hard, I would be eventually noticed. However, it was easy to get lost in the massive bureaucracy of the investment firm I work for. I finally prepared a memo of all my achievements and contributions to making our department a success, made an appointment with my boss (on neutral territory!) and explained gently but firmly why I deserved a new title, and a raise. He was surprisingly amicable and agreed to everything except that clause about my own parking spot… but next time! The moral of the story being, as they say, "Hageru America new", and even though aggressiveness might not be in our nature as Ethiopians (especially us women) often times we have to make our presence known!

Sewite, Personal Wealth Management, New York City

My mentor in college always told me that "They have to know that you will always be able to walk." I think the biggest career move I made might also be the biggest risk I've taken. I let it leak out that I was getting offers from our competitors. Luckily I work in an industry that is still young and highly competitive for talent. I got a call a few days later from "the man" moving me higher up on the pecking order.

Robel, Software Programmer, Orlando

There are always strategic allegiances in the corporate world. (OK… "sucking up to the right people" might be another term.) It is a delicate game… Do it too much, and you lose respect… never do it, and you will stay out of the loop. I try to treat every one equally, but I also have learnt that sometimes some people need… a little more attention.

Eskinder, Financial Analyst, Los Angeles

My best career and personal move was to get out of the corporate environment. After spending years in HMOs, I found the work in managed care increasingly being run by MBAs and not MDs. I woke up one day and signed up to a six month assignment with Doctors without Borders, and I have never looked back!

Makeda, Physician, San Diego (for now)

I've always known that I wanted to work for myself, so the best career move I've made was to survive in the corporate world just long enough to know it's ins and outs, especially its weaknesses. When I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up, the skills I acquired in big corporations helped me find a niche. Besides, it's not bad having a corporate brand name associated with your business.

Awraris, CEO of a Sports Marketing firm, Atlanta

I didn't drink the spiked punch at the office Christmas party.

Dawit, Engineer, Washington D.C.

My best career move..... moving to a city to be near my family & friends (DC). I Love my current job, but hate the location.

Lulit, Powerplant Engineer, Cheshire (CT)

Learning to network has been my greatest career move. You never know who you end up giving your card to at conventions and meetings. I got an offer from a start-up computer firm after starting a conversation with a few fellows at Comdex. If I hadn't taken advantage of that chance meeting and given them my card, they would never have called me when they were looking for a marketing director when the firm grew unexpectedly. So, network, people.

Yemi, Marketing Director, Seattle

A lot of people (especially my parents) were not too pleased I took a job as a lowly production assistant after toiling away for four years in college. But I knew that that was the only way to understand our business. So for another four years I toiled away at one unrewarding gig after another, although I made sure I learnt the business side as well as the creative side of film production. Eventually, I made my pitch to a studio, and with a combination of sheer luck, force of nature and the right skills, I managed to land my dream job. Don't be afraid to start at the bottom. Just be careful not to stay there!

Wondosen, Production Manager, Atlanta

Best career move I ever made! In 1989 I was working at a dead end job, i.e., very limited, if not nonexistent, upward mobility, which paid really well. I got suckered by the amount of money I was making and stayed with the company for over 4 years! It finally dawned on me that this was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life or any part thereof! I made the decision to join the military here in the US. Although my income level was cut by almost 70%, I have gotten experiences and various opportunities for self improvement and personal satisfaction that no amount of money could ever buy! It also gave me a road map and focused me on goals that has made living just a dandy experience.

Alula, Meteorologist, USAF Officer Cadet, 1st year law student, Santa Clara.

Best career move: Deciding to part ways with corporate America to work for myself. Rough, dangerous and unpredictable it certainly is. Satisfaction: 87%. (13% of me misses the pampering institutions generally provide).

Yemane, Filmmaker, Los Angeles

One of the best career moves I've made is deciding to pin-point the company I wanted to work for, and "temping" within the company until I got offered a position. Especially for young Ethiopians interested in broadcasting, where getting an entry is so difficult, I would advise finding out which temp agency the company uses, and
starting with week-long assignments within the company's different departments. Temping offers you to "try out" the company/department without committing to life-long servitude. It also offers you access to the company's Intranet, where most full-time positions are posted. If you do a great job and start getting 'requests' from department heads, your name/work will be known around the company, and you are in! The disadvantage, of course, is working with no benefits, and some less than inspiring assignments, not to mention no expense account (the humanity!).But it pays off eventually.

Yenantew, Broadcasting, Ke Dega Hager

My best career move was to study a subject and find a profession which matched by interests and natural inclinations.My work involves conducting analytical work on business cases. I find my work challenging, thought-provoking and quite satisfying. However, the hours are long (9-12 hours), there are always pressing deadlines and since the results of every analysis do not always match people's expectations, meetings can sometimes be very confrontational. So enjoying what I do compensates for all of the other short-comings of my job. Therefore, controlling one of the more important variables in directing my career was, in fact, has been the best career move I 've made. I think the following quote by William Faulkner says it the best, "One of the saddest things is that the thing a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can't eat for eight hours a day, nor drink for eight hours a day, nor make love for eight hours a day. All you can do for eight hours is work." - therefore it is important to likewhat you do.

Amha,Financial Analyst, Washington DC

I married my boss!

Woleta, Graphic Designer, Palm Springs


Sound off: For the next SELEDA SURVEY we would like to know the advantages of living in your city. (Quality of life, culture, education, access to the Ethiopian community, having JesseVentura as Governor... and so on.) We want to hear from Ethiopians everywhere... From Nome, Alaska to Key West, Florida. Help us break the DC stranglehold.
Please email your responses to Put "Survey" on the subject line.