January 15, 2024

9 Soft Skills No Immigrant Should Be Without!

There is a term you’ll start to hear quite often now that you’re in Canada — “soft skills.” What does this term mean? Well, to help define it, let’s first look at the term with the opposite meaning — “hard skills.” Hard skills are all the technical know-how, credentials and experience you have in your field of expertise.

For example, if you’re a chef, your hard skills are your cooking skills, know-how with kitchen equipment and so on. An employer looking for an experienced chef will want to know candidates’ abilities in the kitchen, where they studied and trained, and so on.

So, what would the chef’s soft skills be? They are all the intangible qualities that aren’t as quantifiable. For example, how does the chef work in a team? Does he/she have good leadership skills? Is he/she organized, dependable, punctual, friendly? When we are talking about immigrant soft skills, perhaps the most important question is can he/she communicate well in English! Unfortunately, many immigrants don’t fully understand or want to accept the importance of soft skills in getting ahead in Canada.

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Why Soft Skills Matter?

Skilled immigrants are let into Canada on the basis of their technical skills and often focus on improving these technical skills after landing to help them get a job in Canada. So many are shocked when they are told they didn’t get the job. And they are confused by the reason they are given: “You have no Canadian experience.” What exactly does this mean? It is actually a vague way of employers saying: you lack the soft skills I am looking for in an employee. It is often said that hard skills will get you an interview, but you need soft skills to get (and then keep) the job.

The job interview process in Canada is, in fact, mostly about determining these soft skills. The employer has already determined you have the necessary technical skills to land the interview. The remainder of the interview process is about determining whether you will be a good fit for the organization.

So, what are the 9 Soft Skills No Immigrant Should Be Without? In simple terms, they are:

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Communication Skills

The most important soft skill for new immigrants is communication. If English is your second language, this can be challenging, but it can’t be stressed enough how important it is for career success to be able to not only speak, but also write clearly and persuasively.

Effective verbal communication skills, whether face-to-face or on the phone, are vital. Immigrants often rely on existing language proficiency, but continuous improvement matters. Also don’t forget Listening is key; active engagement in meetings is crucial. Employ active listening techniques: nod, smile, jot key points, avoid interruptions, and allow speakers to conclude.

Moreover, nonverbal cues also count; respect cultural differences in body language. While Canadian norms include smiling and direct eye contact, adapting to local practices avoids misunderstandings. Mastering these skills enhances overall communication competence.

Local Language

Mastering English involves more than just ABCs. A crucial immigrant soft skill is local language proficiency. Beyond basic English, excelling in business demands grasping regional phrases and industry-specific jargon. Effective communication encompasses more than grammar; it delves into industry-specific vocabulary. Imagine discussing IT ROI or organizational brain drain countermeasures. Canada, like other nations, boasts its unique language nuances. A “double double” isn’t universally understood as here (coffee with 2 cream, 2 sugars). Then there’s the famous “Eh!” Slang is acquired gradually, but swiftly grasping professional jargon is vital. Research extensively to exude competence. Elevate your language skills to thrive in diverse workplaces.

Presentation Skills

According to many studies, people’s #1 fear is public speaking. Death is # 2. Does that sound right? Truth is that most people hate giving presentations. As an immigrant, it can be even more intimidating, particularly for those who have accents or are still getting accustomed to Canadian workplace culture, so they often shy away from the spotlight. But, in a recent survey, senior managers rated the ability to make presentations as a top qualification for employability. Now this could mean a formal presentation to clients or a more casual way of presenting yourself in meetings and colleagues. Either way, it takes confidence and lots of practice.

Small Talk

Small talk, an integral part of casual communication like water cooler discussions, is deeply rooted in cultural norms. Immigrants, unfamiliar with Canadian societal expectations, face additional challenges. In scenarios like an executive chatting about hockey with a male colleague or discussing family matters with a female coworker, water cooler talk shapes corporate interactions. Overcoming initial hesitation, immigrants should initiate conversations, showcasing their willingness to integrate. This can lead to outings for lunch or drinks, common practices for networking.

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Leadership and Initiative

The fifth crucial soft skill, leadership and initiative, is applicable to everyone. However, immigrants often face unique challenges. Many newcomers, even those not naturally reserved, feel hesitant due to displacement or language anxiety, remaining in the shadows. This results in their often being disregarded for promotions. Therefore, don’t merely await instructions; proactively seek tasks, propose ideas, or spearhead projects.

Conflict Resolution and Negotiation

Teamwork is integral to addressing the sixth soft skill: conflict resolution and negotiation. Bringing together diverse backgrounds and ideas naturally leads to disagreements. Learning to respectfully disagree with colleagues or superiors sans emotions is crucial. If issues escalate, mastering the art of apology is key. However, not everyone reciprocates openness. Dealing with difficult personalities is ubiquitous. Navigating such conflicts is vital for success, reputation, and emotional balance. Crafting win-win solutions for the company and individuals underscores your ability to foster fruitful relationships.

Accepting constructive criticism.

Possibly the simplest conflict avoidance strategy involves recognizing when to cease resistance and embrace the chance to learn, highlighting the seventh soft skill: embracing constructive critique. Grasping employer feedback can be challenging; facing poor performance or a discomforting work environment is undesirable. Though defending actions is vital at times, there’s a juncture to halt defensiveness and genuinely assess the validity of criticism. No one is infallible, and your manager might perceive aspects you don’t. Key is showcasing receptiveness to critique, demonstrating a capacity to evolve. An integral facet is inquisitiveness, often lacking in immigrants; the adage “no stupid questions” rings true, emphasizing perpetual learning. It’s wiser to inquire than to fumble unknowingly.

Flexibility

Embracing growth hinges on the seventh soft skill, embracing constructive criticism, while the eighth skill, flexibility, is its cornerstone. Displaying openness to change and a willingness to evolve is paramount. This proves challenging for immigrants navigating the expectations of the Canadian workplace, a concern shared by employers fearing an aversion to adaptation. In the face of swift technological shifts and pandemic-induced economic changes, adaptability remains vital for all workers. To thrive, we must stretch our capabilities and harmonize with our organization’s evolving demands.

Business Etiquette

The last of the essential soft skills for immigrants is an extension of your ongoing learning — mastering Canadian business etiquette. First impressions matter greatly to employers, and proper business etiquette can significantly impact those initial moments. Behaviour varies across cultures, highlighting the need to grasp positive and negative conduct in the Canadian business landscape. Here are key aspects of excelling in Canadian business etiquette:

  • Handshaking
  • Eye contact
  • Manners
  • Magic Words
  • Physical appearance
  • Smiling

We have provided a brief snippet from our book “9 Soft Skills No Immigrant Should Be Without!” and if you wish to learn more then connect us!

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We, as a community of immigrants dedicated to supporting fellow newcomers, prioritize creating a secure environment where professionals can come together and interact. Join us by signing up at www.immigrantnetworks.com and gaining access to our exclusive WhatsApp group, where you can arrange personalized one-on-one sessions with our Ambassadors for mock interviews, LinkedIn profile reviews, and so much more. Please be aware that this group is exclusively for users with Canadian cell phone numbers.

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