Work Like an Immigrant
Fiscal cliff.

Debt ceiling.

In my opinion, these words mean more taxes, less disposable income and an uncertain economic future. They mean retirement may come later rather than sooner. If you’re a recent graduate and you’re transitioning into the “real world,” it also means it’s time to work like an immigrant.

Here’s how:


1. Adopt an Immigrant Attitude

Immigrants who come to this country often leave their friends, family and country behind to seek better opportunities. I’m an immigrant myself, and my family came to this country for a better life.

When you don’t have much to begin with, you have no sense of entitlement. You are grateful for any opportunity that comes your way. No job is beneath you, although everyone has a deep need for a sense of accomplishment. Contrary to what others might think about immigrants, we’re not here for a handout, and we’re not looking for government assistance. Immigrants are hungry for work and to work.

Let me use my grandmother, Lola, as an example. She left some of her children, her grandchildren and even my grandfather behind in the Philippines to come to America. She wasn’t young, either; she was in her 50s.

At an age when many Americans are looking to retire, Lola was searching for a job. She wasn’t thinking about how she’d spend the rest of her life relaxing; she had other agendas. She kept thinking, “How can I keep my body and mind as healthy as possible so I can keep working?” Once she obtained her permits, Lola started working at the laundry department at a hotel. She even took on a second job and worked at a retirement home.

If her story sounds humbling or depressing, think of it this way: This country gave Lola the first paycheck she’d ever earned, with benefits. As a result, she was able to send money to her family in the Philippines.

My grandfather (Lolo) eventually emigrated to this country from the Philippines, and he was ready to work hard the way Lola did. They both worked weekends, nights, holidays and any shift that was given to them. They had a family that relied on them—lots of responsibilities. Eventually, they were both able to retire and then went back to their native land to live the rest of their lives.


2. Demand Excellence in Everything You Do

Do your work—and then some. And while you’re at work, limit the chit chat, Facebook postings and all-day nicotine habit, as well as any other costly and/or negative habits. Instead, do more than what’s expected. Be willing to learn. Be a student. Be persistent. Stay hungry.

Most immigrants have high aspirations, whether it’s being promoted at their company or starting their own businesses. After all, they came to this country wanting better than their current situation. Immigrants have no choice but to be students, and when you’re a student, you’re open to learning and growing.

As an example, consider the story Richard Cho, an immigrant from Burma. Richard’s dream was to be an executive of a national sports franchise. He realized his engineering degree wasn’t going to get him there, so he quit his high-paying job as an engineer at Boeing and went to law school at Pepperdine University.

Once he graduated, Richard knew he needed work experience if he had any chance of reaching his goal. He took a low-paying internship with the Seattle SuperSonics and slept on the floor of his brother’s apartment. The sports industry is filled with ex-players, so Richard knew he had to stand out. He was the first person in the office every day and, oftentimes, the last one to leave.

The hard work paid off. Richard became the first Asian American general manager of a major sports franchise with the Portland Trail Blazers. Today, he’s the general manager of the Charlotte Bobcats.

Even though Richard has his dream job, he never assumes the job will always be there for him. That still means working all hours of the day, even on many weekends. There’s no such thing as a 9-to-5 job or attitude for Richard.


3. View Everyone as Your Boss

If you live your life serving others—your boss, your patients, your colleagues, your fill-in-the-blank—you can’t help but always want to do more, and you’ll always do your best.

Dr. Connie Mariano, former White House doctor to three U. S. presidents and author of The White House Doctor: My Patients Were Presidents, had an attitude of being helpful to everyone around her, whether that was the President or the White House staff. People often mistook her as a nurse rather than the White House doctor because she’s Filipino, but it didn’t take away from her focus on helping people.

That kind of attitude meant people wanted to work with her.

At my past job (where I advised doctors on about their online reputations), I adopted Dr. Mariano’s attitude of serving others. That meant I must execute, perform and be professional around my boss, my CEO, my investors, my doctors, my doctors’ office managers, my colleagues and really anyone I had a working relationship with.

When you think of a boss, that person is in charge and has the authority to fire. So when you adopt the attitude of “everyone is your boss,” you’ll be much more careful with your actions . . . and your tongue.


4. Remember Your Tongue is Your Most Powerful Tool

Your tongue can fuel gossip or end it. It encourages or deflates others. It starts wars or ends wars. It brings people up or brings them down. It attracts or repels people from working at a particular company, and so on.

So be watchful of what you say.


Get an attitude adjustment by adopting the immigrant mentality. Be outstanding in everything you do, treat everyone as though he or she has the power to hire or fire you and remember the power of your words. You won’t see immigrants packing their bags every time they hear critics whisper new negative economic lingo, because they know the real secret to success in this country. As a recent graduate, if you apply these life lessons that are taught outside the classroom, you’re on your way to achieving your own American dream.

Maureen Francisco is an executive producer of NW Productions, LLC, a media and production company that produces the Miss WA USA, Miss WA Teen USA, Miss Idaho USA, Miss Idaho Teen USA, Miss Montana USA and Miss Montana Teen USA pageants. Maureen is also the author of  It Takes Moxie: Off the Boat, Or Out of School, To Making It Your Way in America, which outlines how to achieve the American dream using stories of successful immigrants and those who came from humble beginnings.

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Image: Ludovic Bertron