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

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