Mastering Soft Skills: The Key to Job Advancement in Canada
by: Richard H. Pinnock, MBA, B. Comm.
If you are a Visible Minority, Aboriginal or a New Canadian, chances are that you are included in the growing number of people who are under-employed in Canada. How do you reach your full potential?
One of the most impactful web sites addressing the issue of talent underutilization is www.hireimmigrants.ca This web site provides employers with important information about how to go about tapping into the tremendous talent that new immigrants bring to the country.1
Two important questions that this organization tries to help focus Canadian employer’s attention on are:
Q1. Why should employers ensure that skilled immigrants are an integral part of the businesses they build? A1. For starters, consider these four important reasons:
a.The Canadian-born workforce is shrinking and the demand for labour is growing.
b.Skilled immigrants can help Canadian companies do business with the world.
c.Skilled immigrants bring international expertise.
d.The local market is changing.
Q2: What's the hold up? Why haven't companies been employing skilled immigrants to their maximum potential? A2: The reasons are varied: some are systemic, some are deep-rooted in habit; some are accidental. Very few are intentional. However, they exist, and while employers often see aspects of hiring immigrants as being challenges, they may also be seen as opportunities:
a.Context of experience
e.Connection to skilled immigrant communities
These same questions hold true for Visible Minorities and Aboriginals. Within the Private and Public sector today, there is a major focus on attracting and retaining the best talent available. Keys factors such as aging Baby Boomers and lowered fertility rates among non-visible minorities have marked the beginning of a significant reduction in Canada’s labour force.
The 2002 Census reports that only 3.7% of senior management positions in the private sector, and less than 5% of senior management positions in the public sector are held by visible minorities. A recent survey showed that just 1.7 per cent of all directors on boards across Canada are visible minorities. Nationally, the visible minority population accounts for approximately 13.4% of the total population. This apparent underutilization of talent poses a serious challenge for Canada. It also offers a major opportunity for highly-skilled Visible Minority, Aboriginal and New Canadians who aspire to become the senior managers and leaders of tomorrow.
It is very important to realize that a prevailing belief among many Canadians is that the minority population, (particularly the growing immigrant population) is made up of lower educated, unskilled laborers. Until May of 2006, there has been very little information, or research, around the impact that the growing minority population has had on the Canadian economy. The Conference Board of Canada’s report, entitled “Maximizing the Talents of Visible Minorities” provided the first comprehensive study of this nature2. The study confirmed that the exact opposite is true –the minority population is more educated and more skilled than mainstream averages.
The public Service Commission of Canada’s “Recently Hired Visible Minorities” report of February 2002 stated “that visible minorities in Canada tend to have higher education levels than persons not belonging to a visible minority.” The children of these new immigrants and those of second and third generation visible minority immigrants, continue to follow their parent’s golden rule –that above all else, you must get an education!
In June 2007, Catalyst and the Diversity Institute in Management & Technology completed their “Career Advancement in Corporate Canada: A focus on Visible Minorities”. The general findings of this study show that visible minorities are less satisfied with their careers, less likely to report positive experiences and perceptions regarding their workplaces, and more likely to perceive workplace barriers than their white/Caucasian colleagues 3.
So why does this glass ceiling continue to exist? Without significant minority representation at higher level jobs, it makes sense that many minority Canadians may not have the same level of comfort and business acumen that is required to move up the corporate ladder. The importance of fully understanding and mastering these soft skills cannot be overstated!
If you cannot write an extraordinary resume, cover letter, and provide an extraordinary interview, you may well be overlooked for the next critical step in your career advancement. While Canadian companies are now planning their strategies for the pending global war for talent –it is vital that we minorities learn how to be perceived as “extraordinary” --how to stand out in a crowd. Without these soft skills job advancement will continue to be elusive –even if you are the best and brightest. Perception is Reality!
If you are among the many Visible Minority, Aboriginal and New Canadians who feel that their full potential is not being utilized, than take my advice and become tuned into the opportunities to develop your soft skills. When the employment market conditions soon prevail, it will still be the candidate who can project “confidence and likeability” who will be selected as the best “fit” among the hundreds of highly-talented underemployed minorities who will be vying for the unprecedented opportunities at management and executive levels.
The time to start strategizing your career advancement is now. The importance of strong communication skills, impression management, industry networking, public speaking, demonstrated leadership through volunteerism and civic activities are the keys to your future success. It’s mastering the soft skills that will really set you apart from the crowd!
Take a look around and ask yourself how many of the other Visible Minorities, Aboriginals and New Canadians have already started on their soft skills development strategies.
Mastering soft skills is the key to reaching your full potential in Canada. Time is of the essence!
Richard Pinnock is the Managing Director of INROADS. He was born in Montreal and has a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill along with an MBA from YorkUniversity. Richard has 20 years of professional management and consulting experience spanning the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. He was recently appointed to the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board. Richard Pinnock can be contacted at rpinnock@ top20strategies.com To learn about INROADS visit www.inroads.org.
1Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), Web site content (www.HireImmigrants.ca)
2Bente Baklid, Allison P. Cowan, Judith L. MacBride-King and Aretha Mallett, Business Critical: Maximizing the Talents of Visible Minorities – An Employers Guide, Conference Board of Canada 2005
3Catalyst and The Diversity Institute in Management & Technology, Career Advancement in Corporate Canada:A Focus on Visible Minorities – Survey Findings, Web Site content (www.ryerson.ca/diversity)