Tag Archives: jobs

SFU’s Backpack to Briefcase Conference

One amazing situation/question passed on by our audience at SFU’s Backpack to Briefcase Conference last Saturday: In this competitive labour market, where everyone is so driven, so talented, so educated, and so willing to show s/he has the skills and passion to do the job, how do we, as candidates, distinguish ourselves, how do we find that unique side we all supposedly have?SFU-B2B

Theodore Roosevelt’s words, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there” stand strong when I think about this. We would all benefit from each others’ thoughts on this topic, so I consider the front open to answers and comments. As far as I’m concerned, there are not two people alike, not even after a so called “superficial” 5 minutes conversation. We’re usually not doing a good enough job at getting to know ourselves, and that doesn’t stop at youth or digital gen, but applies to all of us, thus we need help from others (anyone who can be completely honest will do) and we need to access/use available personality tests, such as MBTI, Personality Dimensions etc., to run a comprehensive research on ourselves. We need to start with understanding ourselves, this comes first. When we have a chance to talk to prospective employers at an event, they will see certain traits in us right away (surveys say it’s a game of seconds). We need to be able to help them see the rest of our abilities and soft skills, and we need to be able to convey that in a certain way, we need to become good at displaying it. Not that we should fake it, but do you recall any memories of imagining yourself at this event or party, walking elegant, talking with confidence, smiling, and all that in only a few seconds of keeping your eyes closed? Yeah, that kind of day dreaming.


Then reality kicks in, and at the same event we have just imagined ourselves shining, we stumble in things, or people, or just mumble what was supposed to be a glorious speech. When we look back, we think “gosh, I should’ve said that!” Something’s missing, eh? Yes, you’ve got it, it’s called practice. A gold medal doesn’t come without hard work and lots of perspiration, so imagine the job you dream of is your gold medal. Fight for it. Think about your story. Have it ready. Say it with confidence. One of the students told me he kept a job along to pay for his own studies and I could see the sparkle in his eyes, he was proud of what he has achieved. I liked that. So use your story, make it beautiful, tell your friends about it, become a natural at taking about it. A short and compelling story, told from your heart. That is what will differentiate you from others. People remember stories, and while not all of us can be a good story teller – here’s the good news – most of us have improved by working at it. Once you became good at it – you may add this to your soft skills set.
Good luck!

When in Rome, do as the Romans

If you’re one of those who had a great time at the BC Professional Immigrant Conference this past Saturday at Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, you should read on. Have you missed this event? Then you should read anyway and try to expand your network / become more active on various social platforms, so you don’t miss similar future occasions. New Vancouverites – professionals trained all over the world – came to learn about how to be successful in their new home country. If in theory it’s quite simple – When in Rome, do as the Romans – practice proved as differently. To me, this event was great on a few different levels: I’ve reconnected with some old friends and some of my colleagues I haven’t seen since the Career Development Conference last year, met a few of my former clients from Richmond – so happy to learn about their success stories and even happier they came to see me, made a few new connections, was able to present on such a dynamic topic as Social Media, and to help some of the participants who stayed behind with questions. IMG_0268As a participant on the other hand, I was happy to meet Lionel Laroche, the keynote speaker and the author of – among others – Managing Cultural Diversity in Technical Professions. He addressed an audience of over 500 participants on the topic of Succeeding in Canada. Laroche emphasized many of the points we bring up during our counselling sessions at Skills Connect, yet wrapped in some great stories, these points have moved the audience – myself included – from smiling, to laughing, and to noises specific to suddenly surprised crowds. The learning curve an immigrant expects to go through when s/he arrives to Canada is somewhere from 6 to 12 months, but in reality, as per Lionel’s discourse, this can go up to around 6 to 7 years or more. Once those numbers uttered, I looked around me and I could sense a heavy and silent shock, some heads moved slowly from left to right and back, some sighed heavily, some chins dropped down. As someone who has been here long enough, I could see Lionel’s point very clearly, but this is a hard to accept reality. On the bright side though, as a career advisor, I must say I have experienced beautiful success stories of people who managed to get all settled in a good position in less than a year. Not very many, however. And no matter how fine that position was, it was still at a lower level then what they did before moving to Canada. In a charmingly plain graphic representation, Lionel Laroche illustrated how along this learning and acclimatization curve, some factors proved to be more important than others, and among the central ones we find – again – the language skills and the soft skills. As a newcomer, as soon as you manage to tune your soft skills up to the standards of your new home country and as soon as you manage to develop your communication skills, you’re good to go. Many immigrants come to Canada with really high technical skills. When they fail at securing a professional position, their first attempt to fix this situation is to go back to school to take those technical skills one step higher. And this is unfortunate. Bringing-up an inspiring story about his own start-up in Canada, Lionel Laroche emphasized how it truly is the soft skills newcomers should tackle and improve, not the technical ones. I really enjoyed listening to this stimulating keynote presentation and it is my hope that all the participants have left the venue with some precious information in their pockets. If what you have learned has both inspired and moved you, don’t sleep on it for too long – get started, you’re the master of your own future! If there are questions that worry you, then seek professional advice and try to move on, make a plan and follow it, as time does not forgive. And I’ll conclude with a quote from the American author Wayne Dyer: Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal, live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone.

by Magdalena Mot

Attitude: Do You Have What It Takes?

It takes time and hard work to get to the front lines, nothing new here. If you are one of the unemployed or underemployed new immigrants to British Columbia, you’re probably trying to be out there and sell your skills in this wild job market. More often than not, candidates start promoting themselves with listing their degrees, presenting their technical skills, and talking about their extended experience in a specific field or industry. But is this what employers are seeking at a first glance? albatros-smWhen asked, interview candidates are not sure. Most of them are just starting fresh in Canada. Ultimately, it is a different culture and people here may evaluate and assess all those skills at a different scale. Employers have confessed that they are looking first at something that candidates may not consider very important and even exclude from their list of priorities. And what would that first aspect be? Hiring managers love to assess it: it’s your attitude. Hence this may be the right time to ask yourself if you have the right attitude when approaching this workplace culture.

It is sometimes difficult to guess what the right attitude would mean in different situations. This requires a candidate to run a thorough research and be quite knowledgeable about the organization they are applying with. Every organization/ company will have different hiring selection methods based on their values and plans for future growth. Some people are just lucky to obtain a successful position by being themselves… if they happen to be at the right interview, with the right organization, at the right time, with the right people. I will have to agree that there are way too many variables in the above sentence and in 99% of the real life scenarios this actually comes down to hard work.

Are you trying to better understand what employers are looking at when they talk about attitude? A good read that I could recommend here is Mark Murphy’s book Hiring for Attitude (2011). Murphy has tracked over 20,000 new hires over a period of 3 years and he brings in great examples backed with great statistics: only 11 percent of the new-hires fail in their jobs because of a lack of skills or technical competencies. Murphy’s research shows that if a new hire is wrong for a company this happens most of the times due to attitude. When you will get invited to your next job interview, keep in mind that some of the questions will target your attitude, implying, as per Murphy, some of the following:

  1. Coachability (your ability to implement feedback from supervisors, colleagues, customers)
  2. Emotional Intelligence (your ability to understand and manage your own emotions and accurately assess other’s emotions)
  3. Motivation (if you have sufficient drive to achieve your full potential and excel in the job)
  4. Temperament (are your attitude and personality suited to the particular job and work environment?)

An employer will be able to identify if you are a low performer looking at characteristics you may not even consider when you prepare for your interview. Someone with great skills and poor attitude may be as well labeled as a ‘talented terror’ and not as a good candidate. Someone may be assessed as a high-performer or as a low performer by looking at their choice of words in their answers or by looking at the pitch of their voice. For example, interview answers of a high performer will contain 60% more first person pronouns (I, me, we), while those of a low performer will contain 90% more third person pronouns (he, she, they). Check out Mark Murphy’s book for a fun ride on learning about the right hiring attitude. While the book is aimed at hiring managers, I found it fascinating for someone who wants to have a better grasp of the hiring and workplace culture in general.

Good luck in your next Canadian job interview!