I like to see immigration as an experiment, as regardless of its result what matters most is what we learn from it. On this note, I think experimenting life in a new country makes us richer…and I don’t necessarily mean rich financially (although that’s possible, too), but mostly intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.
After spending over 6 years in Canada, here are the main things this country has taught me:
- I’ve learned the value of soft skills.
Coming from a successful career in B2B Relations in Romania, I used to receive praise from others for my communication style, for always getting straight to the point – that is until I arrived in Canada and learned that my way of conveying information was quite inappropriate here – e.g. my feedback has literally made someone cry, without me having the slightest intention to upset that person 🙂
The reason why this happened is because Canadians deliver feedback indirectly, using the so-called ‘sandwich method’ – meaning that the pieces of bread represent praise/compliments while the filling of the sandwich represents constructive criticism (the actual message).
My feedback in Romania would’ve sounded somewhat like this:
- You have to review and fix the report. It’s missing the following information […] and thus, the calculation is incorrect.
I would now deliver the same feedback in Canada as follows:
- “The top bread”: I really appreciate your taking the time to work on this report; it goes a long way toward helping our team reach its goal. You’re very good at what you do and I know you’re aiming for the best.
- “The filling”: One skill you need to work on, though, is attention to detail, and I recommend that you double-check the report for accuracy prior to delivering it, specifically the following information […]. This will save you time and effort in the future, since you’ll only have to touch it once.
- “The bottom bread”: You’re really on the right track here and your support is much appreciated. Once again, thank you so much for your effort!
In other words, instead of commanding someone to do something because you said so (as in hierarchical leadership style), in Canada you need to learn to wear multiple hats and influence behavior by selling the benefit of what you want changed to the person in question, while recognizing/praising their ongoing efforts. As the saying goes, ‘You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’.
- I’ve learned the importance of networking.
What do you do if you’re coming from a country of generalists looking to further your career in a country focused on specialists, like Canada? Do you apply randomly to various jobs online and sit there hoping to be contacted? Do you hire a professional agency to write your resume and blast it to hundreds of employers at once? Do you go back to school? Or do you take the first entry level job available and hope to work your way up the corporate ladder?
Surprisingly, this was the advice offered to me by people from my ethnic community, shortly after landing. However, after trying all these methods in the beginning, I can honestly say that they are the biggest mistakes a newcomer can make. They are not only a waste of time, money, and effort on your end, but also a source of increased frustration and setback – as Dr. Lionel Laroche, specialized in helping professionals from all over the world to achieve career success in Canada, explains in the video below:
The solution to this problem comes from understanding the power of networking – in other words, learning to connect with people working in your target industry, who already hold the type of position you want. By networking I don’t mean having an agenda, as in focusing on what you can get from those people – but instead, building meaningful relationships based on similarities and focusing on what you can offer (your experience, skills, and passions). This was also the advice offered to me by the instructors at Rotman School of Management, while attending an Executive Program addressed specifically to internationally educated professionals.
From what I’ve seen so far, many immigrants prefer to network within their own ethnic community (I’ve done the same in my first year in Canada). However, I think embracing diversity and expanding one’s circle by connecting with people from other cultures would be wiser – this is how Canadians network. I believe there’s something to learn from everyone we meet, especially from those who share new and interesting information, and challenge our views. It’s also good to remember that ‘Givers Gain’ is a great way to live life in general and it’s a standard that we can all apply to ourselves.
- I’ve learned that patience is indeed a virtue.
Coming from a fast paced country where people expect things to happen instantly and are always in a rush through life, I used to have a hard time as a newcomer to adapt to the relaxed way of life in Canada – yes, living in Toronto still feels relaxing, in comparison 🙂 It seemed to me that people here were taking their time even with the most mundane tasks, it felt like everything was happening in slow motion – and at the same time, every other person I’ve met was stating that they’re busy.
Well, I’ve come to understand that ‘busy’ is a relative term: one could handle a few tasks per day and state that they’re busy, and another could handle twice as much within the same time frame and state the same thing. Thus, the term ‘busy’ is in the eyes of the beholder, it’s a state of mind relative to the ability to manage one’s priorities.
Therefore, I’ve realized that instead of trying to change a cultural norm, I could easily change the way I respond to it – in other words, I’ve realized that the ability to wait for something without getting angry or upset is actually a virtue. So instead of getting frustrated when things didn’t happen as fast as I expected, I’ve learned to accept it and leverage my time by focusing on something else during my wait.
Patience goes against our instinctive behavior, it’s a character trait that needs to be learned and practiced until it becomes a habit. Probably the most important step is to realize that life is better at a slower, more relaxed pace, instead of hurrying and rushing through it. Practicing being comfortable without hurrying, taking the time to ‘smell the roses’, learning to prioritize by handling things in order of their importance rather than multitasking – these are some of the things that I’ve learned in Canada.
Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. ~ John Quincy Adams
What things has Canada taught you? Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below. Look forward to hearing from you 😉