My article for Blog Idol contest: MicroSkills and macro changes

About 250,000 immigrants arrive to Canada each year. Most of them settle down, and find jobs, and many of these jobs are in the IT (I’d say even most of these jobs are, or were, until recent ridiculous changes in the occupation list came into effect, but then I am an IT person myself, so my perception is inevitably biased).

Now, finding a job in an unknown country with a culture that may be radically different from your own is hard. You may not know hundreds of little things – and, what’s worse, you may not even know that you don’t know. For example, if, in your culture, people routinely eat raw onions, you might eat them before a job interview, because no one told you that it might create any problems. Likewise, if in your country a woman’s office outfit normally includes a low-cut blouse and/or a miniskirt, tons of make-up and a bucketful of perfume, you would naturally dress that way to be interviewed for a position of, say, a system administrator. You’ve done that all your life, and everybody around you did, so what’s wrong with that?

When you look for a job, you need someone to tell you basic things, even if you were born in this culture, and so much more if you haven’t. Here’s a story from the wonderful book by Cathie Black, “Basic Black”, full of career advice and insightful comments, that I strongly recommend (you can read big chunks of it right at the Amazon website).

When I was just out of college, working at Holiday magazine, I had a roommate who worked as the assistant to the cartoon editor at another magazine. She’d been there about a week, and one evening when she came back to our apartment, we got talking about our days…

“My boss writes his letters on a yellow legal pad,” she told me.

“Can you read his writing?” I asked.

“Why?”

“Well,” I said, “deciphering someone’s handwriting to type a letter is always so hard.”

She looked at me blankly. “I don’t type them,” she said. “I just fold them, stick them in envelopes, and send them out.”

Now, I was pretty inexperienced myself at that point, but I knew that sending out hand-scrawled letters on yellow lined paper just couldn’t be right. “I don’t think that’s what your boss has in mind,” I said. “I’m pretty sure he’s expecting to get those back, typed, so he can sign them.”

Her face went pale. “Oh my God!” she shrieked. “He never told me that!”
(Read more at BlogIdol website…)

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