Although Latinos haven’t necessarily been at the forefront of the human potential movement, maybe it’s time for that to change.

Personal development and empowerment can seem to some to be ‘fluffy’ topics.  After all, a career is built on solid, daily activities.

Why would you spend time ‘navel gazing’ when there’s work to be done?

Throughout our working life, we carefully construct our career out of the very practical building blocks of an education, gather our skills and move up the ranks.

Not everyone strives to be CEO one day, but we all want to find ourselves in a job that provides for our family and gives us some personal satisfaction.  

But while steadily putting one foot in front of the other, we may forget that taking time to reflect is crucial.

Self-reflection and self-analysis is good not only for our own well-being, but for that of our career as well.

When we take stock, we learn what we’re good at, and what we are not so good at.  This inventory of skills is one of the first things many leadership programs or coaches will recommend.

I know for myself, personal empowerment and development was necessary for my sanity.  As a former teenage single mother and domestic violence survivor, I knew I had a lot of healing to do.  And interestingly, all this internal work became useful for my career.

But what is most important is what you do with this information – how do you use it to catapult your career (as well as internal balance)? 

As workers, Latinos don’t shy away from hard work, but it’s equally important to take time to do the work of personal growth.

As business schools continue their research, the two sides of personal empowerment and career development are starting to become more integrated.

Personal empowerment not only helps you to identify and leverage your strengths, but also compensate for your weaknesses.  It helps you come to terms with who you are, and thereby find a better place that works for you.

This kind of introspection helps you learn how you can really fit into an organization, and how to better get where you need to go.

Personal empowerment allows for better communication skills, and teaches you not to take things so personally.  This can be helpful if you get negative messages, for example, from your boss.

Programs such as those offered by the Center for Creative Leadership are at the forefront of not only manager developing and training new managers, but also of offering best practices for Fortune 500 CEOs.

And programs specifically geared for Latinos and Latinas, such as the National Hispana Leadership Institute’s Executive Leadership Training Program, or Mestiza Leadership International’s Latino Leadership Program take some of these themes and practices and customize them for a Latino audience.

After all, isn’t ‘knowing oneself’ the first step in figuring out where you’re going and why?  And more important – where you want to end up!  

Elite companies and organizations are recognizing the importance of personal empowerment and sending their high level executives to these programs.

But don’t wait.  Reading books, taking courses and seminars, and enrolling in larger programs such as those mentioned above could be what will catapult us, as Latinos, into a new kind of leadership.

As we take on responsibility for our own personal empowerment – whatever that means for each of us individually – this will necessarily spill over into career success.

And as Latinos, since our numbers are the only ones contributing GROWTH to the new U.S. workforce, it behooves us to be prepared.

How better than to empower ourselves first?

Next, we’ll talk about what ‘empowerment’ means…

Aurelia Flores is Senior Counsel at a Fortune 500 company and former Fulbright Fellow who graduated from Stanford Law School. Her website, PowerfulLatinas.com, offers stories of success, along with resources and programs focused on Latino empowerment.