In business, as in life, first impressions are the most lasting, and no one knows that better than etiquette specialist and blogger, Claudia Ahrens-Hernandez! On her blog, Cafe con Claudia, Ahrens-Hernandez shares how proper etiquette and manners can make a positive impact on individuals’ personal and professional lives.
We’re honored to have the opportunity to feature Ahrens-Hernandez in this week’s Latina Spotlight, and find out how she turned her passion for good manners into a proper career!
What inspired you to start your blog, Cafe con Claudia?
Several reasons…. But basically I followed a passion for:
1 – The love for writing and communicating;
2 – The need to own a situation and doing something about it (instead of just complaining);
3 – The yearning to connect with other women that enjoy these subjects and are willing to do something about it as well.
Why did you decided to focus on etiquette and manners?
Etiquette is a word that many associate with aristocrats, rigidness and snobby societies. Nothing is further than that. The title ‘Etiquette’ is simply the umbrella under where the basic essence of a human being rests.
In today’s globalized world, I’ve seen how millennials and even our own generation X lack basic manners and don’t even understand the phrase “think of others”. It is a somewhat selfish generation. In Spanish, I call it “yoísmo” (me, me, me, and then more me). When I was a child, I would never dare to call my friend’s mom by her first name; it would be: “Señora Lourdes”; the same applied for every elderly person I met. Likewise, cursing was a reason to be grounded!
Today, I have been sitting in restaurants where I hear teenagers talking to their parents with big ugly words and showing all the food that is in their mouths while talking! And the parents… simply continue eating.
And what about a whole “family dinner” where you see parents checking messages on their phones, kids playing violent videogames on their tablets, and teenagers texting with friends?
And lastly, I have experienced interviewing excellent candidates for a Director’s position come in dressed as if they are going to the beach afterwards…. No comments there.
I simply can’t enjoy these types of situations… and could not just sit and be quiet about it. Also, didn’t want my own children to believe that this kind of behavior is okay.
That’s why I got certified as an Etiquette Consultant and have been learning, experiencing and trying to become a walking encyclopedia in the subjects of etiquette, style, beauty and lifestyle.
How have you seen your work impact others?
Luckily, there are many professional, entrepreneur and stay-at-home women that truly care and actually enjoy having a nice dinner, a productive business meeting, and looking fabulous while at it. They have found a comfortable place at “Café con Claudia”. I feel privileged to have this opportunity to exchange ideas, opinions, and stories with everyone and learn from each other.
Who or what inspires you to think big?
Women like you. Latinas like us. My children. My parents who shaped me to be like this. My dad made sure I learned more than one language. He learned English by listening to tapes, so with me, he took me to English classes after school because he knew it would open doors as it did for him. My mom, who could not finish high school, knew how important academic and social education were, so she was adamant about it – we hardly ever skipped one day of school and she made sure we were respectful, considerate and socially graceful everywhere, with everyone.
What is your advice to aspiring and established Latina professionals?
Check this out: One of my first jobs in the US was for Leo Burnett, a global ad agency. I was applying to be the Senior Executive Assistant to the President for the Latin American region. There were 2 more candidates that, as I later knew, where as academically qualified as I was. I was the “lucky” one to get the job! After one year, my boss, who I always called Mr. G (to everyone’s amazement; everyone called him by his first name), told me as we were chatting in the office: “Claudia, do you know why I chose you? Because from all the people I interviewed for this position, you were the only one that was poised, polite and professionally dressed. You were the only one that sent a hand-written thank-you note after the interview. You came in and you got my attention immediately, and after a year, I am glad I chose you.” Needless to say, I was promoted and kept growing not only professionally, but I was also able to establish beautiful friendships that after 13 years, are still alive and filled with love.
The moral of the story: Yes, be professional, educate yourself and grow, but never, never, ever forget your manners – from knowing how and when to drink red wine, to properly and timely replying to an email, to teaching your children respect, consideration and humility, to host a charming soiree and properly dress for each occasion. Latinas are beautiful creatures by nature; in addition we are “luchonas” (hard workers), so we can achieve anything we put our focus on!