Soft skills versus hard skills
In many countries your qualifications and skills (hard skills) are the most important thing to finding work. In the Canadian labour market soft skills (communication [written, oral, non-verbal], interpersonal and presentation skills) are more often the determining factor in you finding work. The hard-skills will show your ability to do the job whereas the your soft-skills will show potential employers that you will be a good fit working with the existing team and communicating with customers.
While we don’t want to diminish hard skills we do want to bring forward the importance of soft skills in the job-search and in doing the job. There are many potential resources to draw on from English courses and working on Essential Skills to networking and drawing the examples set by professional mentors.
Changing our perspectives together – our hope for exchange rather than integration
There are two schools of thought on improving understanding of cultural influences on communication in the workplace. One strategy is to work with New Canadians on adapting communication styles to suit the Canadian-norm. “You’re Hired…Now What?” by Lynda Goldstein is a great resource to study expected workplace norms.
The second strategy is to work with employers to be more aware of cultural differences to create workplaces welcoming to a diverse workforce. “Recruiting, Retaining and Promoting Culturally Different Employees” by Lionel Laroche is a great resource on adapting workplaces.
Both strategies must be employed to create an atmosphere of cultural exchange and understanding. With newcomers making up 100% of labour market growth in Canada, employers are becoming more cognizant of cultural differences, while individuals also need to look critically at their communications skills to ensure they bring to the workplace what is expected by employers.
Allies on the journey – how to make use of an employment counsellor
Soft skills are developed continuously and awareness of intercultural differences is the key to ensuring you are coming across the way you want to in your new community. There are many resources, in print and online which complement your study, but don’t minimize the importance of using allies to provide advice, information and modelling of strong soft skills. Discuss soft skills and strategies for improvement with your teachers, colleagues, mentors and employment counsellor.