Hispanic interns: we are family

February 22, 2010 at 5:35 pm 4 comments

By Miguel Corona

Early in my career, I managed the internship and cooperative education program for the University of Texas at El Paso career center, a campus where over 70% of the student population is Hispanic. As students returned to campus from their work experiences, I spent a lot of time with each of them discussing what he or she had learned from applying their academic knowledge in a practical setting. I’d often ask about their respective projects, supervisors, co-workers, and the cities where they lived. When I asked students about their organization’s culture, a common response went something like “… the people I worked with were like part of a big family.” And while I was delighted to know that student experiences emphasized practical work experience in their area of study, I was just as pleased to see that some employers recognized the importance of “family” to our students. Whether these companies recognized it or not, they had enhanced these students’ internship experiences by tapping an important element of Hispanic culture – familism.

Familism can be described as a cultural characteristic where interests, choices, and activities are formed within the context of a larger network. In most cases, especially in Hispanic culture, this means a family network. If you ask any Hispanic American what is most valued in his or her life, family is usually the first or second choice. Familism is often illustrated as a “belief system” that incorporates loyalty, cooperation, and cohesion towards members of a family or network. Other elements of familism might include duty, support, understanding, and respect. Familism also values principles such as interdependence, camaraderie, and community. One can easily see how these attributes can lend themselves to a work setting.

In organizational environments, particularly internship opportunities, supervisors and interns assume particular roles, which are naturally found in traditional family settings. Hence, in the case of Hispanics, it would make sense to highlight this type of relationship by providing guidance and direction to student interns; mirroring the strong relationships they value in their own family networks. Assure interns are incorporated into all aspects of the department or team to which they’ve been assigned. Give them time to network and get to know everyone with whom they’ll interact. By and large, employers can benefit greatly by extending these family tie concepts into their Hispanic interns’ work environments. Aside from the positive emotional effects, employers will most likely see marked increase in their interns’ performance.

Entry filed under: diversity, intern management. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Eduardo Gonzalez Loumiet  |  February 22, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    This is an excellent site, full of very helpful information. I lead a small health IT company in Tallahassee, Florida called Uber Operations. We just hired an intern and are looking forward to her participation in our growing company but more importantly, we are looking forward to teaching her. I will keep an eye on this site and thanks for making it interesting.

    Twitter: gonzalezloumiet

    Eduardo Gonzalez Loumiet, MBA, PMP
    Managing Director, Uber Operations
    Board of Directors, Latinos in Information Sciences and Tech Assoc (LISTA).

    • 2. Miguel A. Corona  |  February 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm

      Eduardo – Thanks so much for the feedback and support. We hope to provide similar themes and topics to help facilitate your work at UBER Operations. Glad to also note you’re part of LISTA – a great organization that does great work in increasing the number of Latinos in STEM careers. Thanks again.

  • 3. gabriela  |  February 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    yeah, familism is very true of our culture. also, you can find this idea of familism in the world of the arts, with film production teams, theatre tour troups, etcetera, because if they are missing the sense of family and that they are truly working for a common goal, which is the completion of an art, it is only then that they are successful, not purely with the results alone.
    i think latin american families are like a masterwork, where the elements are the members of this family.
    having this perspective, and relationship between the employer and the employee will bring more results and will flower the employee’s potential quickly.

    • 4. Miguel A. Corona  |  February 24, 2010 at 5:35 pm

      Indeed it will Gabriela – Thanks so much for your comments and feedback. It is interesting to see how Hispanic culture can be intertwined into a number of settings. Family is really the foundation for so many growth opportunities. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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