I know, I know! We were taught since childhood not to speak to strangers. Kids nowadays are taught ‘stranger- danger’.
But let’s face it, as a newcomer chances are almost all the people you meet will be strangers! Your settlement worker, an interview conducted on Zoom and hopefully in short order, your colleagues at work. All strangers.
For the past two decades, when I have been speaking to groups of immigrants, I often encourage them to go to a grocery store and speak to a stranger. And of course, I get the look ‘are you crazy?’ which grows more when I ask them to ensure the person is not from their ethnicity and they must speak in English and hold the conversation for ten minutes at the minimum.
And with a sinking feeling I know that they will disregard what I advised. In the COVID-19 world, this is becoming even more pronounced.
Here then are the top 7 reasons for newcomers to speak with strangers.
1. Build confidence. The very act of speaking to a stranger requires a lot of guts, but it will over time build your confidence and you will find yourself actually enjoying it!
2. Improve language usage. You will be speaking most likely to a Canadian or another immigrant like yourself (hopefully not from your home country!) and your common language will be English or French. And these conversations will improve your spoken English or French which will help you in interviews and in your job.
3. Improve listening and communication skills. Getting to understand accents and managing your own accent involves active listening. Watch and listen and that will benefit you as you get into the Canadian workforce.
4. Help you understand Canadian phrases and idioms. “Can I have your John Henry?” and I looked at the courier guy trying to figure out what he was talking about! Yes, Canada like any other country has its share of phrases and colloquialisms and what better to do this than with a perfect stranger.
5. Prepare you for casual chat with colleagues when you get your first job. As a newcomer, someone told me all you need to do is talk about the weather and hockey! True as that may be, you will soon learn the art of small talk or water-cooler chat as it is referred to.
6. Prepare you to speak to clients (also strangers) if your job requires it. From the second meeting with a client when working, you will find pleasantries being exchanged whether it is an in-person meeting or online. Your practice speaking with strangers will come in handy here.
7. Primes you as a candidate who is deserving of a promotion in time because of your soft skills. Having an easy conversational style shows a strong control over soft skills. In Canada, there is an old saying, you will get hired for your technical skills, but get promoted for your soft skills!
According to a Harvard–Cornell study nearly everyone rates “having a conversation with a stranger” as one of their least desired activities. Probably right up there with giving a speech!
So how does a newcomer do this?
In the safety of their home. Online. With others like them!
Immigrant Networks has been created by an immigrant for immigrants! It is a free service that matches you with strangers based on your profession and country of origin. You will learn firsthand the power of peer-to-peer networking! Also learn and get insights more about the hidden job market in Canada here.
You will also meet Canadians who will help mentor you to success!
Lesson for the day: speak to many strangers online, you may just get a job offer or tips on how to get one!