7 Steps to Career Success in Canada

7 Steps to Career Success in Canada

Career Success in Canada

By Lynda Goldman
Monster Contributing Writer
“You’re Hired!” Those may be some of the best words you hear when you come to Canada – especially if it’s a job you really want.
Just as Canada is a new culture, your company has its own culture. It’s your job to understand what it is, so you can fit in and be successful. This is not just for immigrants – Canadians also have to figure out the company culture when they change jobs. But immigrants have an extra step to take in learning out how to work in Canada and how to work in their new company.
Here are some tips for immigrants on how to work successfully in Canada.  
1. Learn the do’s and don’ts of working in Canada.

Baljit Chadha, came to Canada at age 21 and is now president of an international trade and marketing firm. He offers this advice in “You’re Hired. Now What? An Immigrant’s Guide to Success in the Canadian Workplace.

“The working conditions in Canada may be different from what you are used to, so you have to adapt. For example, in Asia, when the boss speaks, everyone steps behind. Here, everyone speaks equally.”
2. Find out the company culture.

At your interview, you may have observed how people dressed and acted.
  • Were they dressed in business suits, or were people dressed casually?
  • Does the atmosphere seem structured, or more relaxed?
  • Were people moving quickly or at a more even pace?
Each company has its own rules, processes and procedures. It’s your job to figure this out by observing and asking questions.
3. Understand Your Manager's Needs and Objectives

“Learn what your manager wants from you,” says Shelley Brown, President of Bromelin People Practices. Not only should you get a job description for your job, but you should also ask for a copy of your manager’s objectives so you know what he or she is trying to achieve.

Brown says it’s also important to ask your manager how much responsibility you should take, how often you should report back, and how he or she prefers to be contacted – by phone, email, or at his or her office.
4. Learn about Canadian business communication styles.

In some Easter European cultures, communication is very direct. People may write emails such as “Send me the documents by 10 am.” They can appear rude and offensive to Canadians without realizing it. In other cultures, such as South Asian, people may not say exactly what they mean, in order to save face – but Canadians won’t understand what they are trying to say.

Canadians tend to use words and phrases that make it easier to work together, such as “How can we resolve this issue?” or “What could we do better next time?” instead of, “This work is unacceptable.” It’s important to understand how Canadians communicate to avoid misunderstanding.
5. Learn what professional behavior means in Canada.

Observe how the people above you dress and act in your company, and model yourself after them. Canadians are very time oriented, so be sure you always arrive a few minutes early, and never make anyone wait for you. Always do what you say you will do. Nothing makes a worse impression than promising something and not doing it.
6. Treat men and women equally in Canada.

“Treat women and men equally, with respect and courtesy,” says Sandra Bizier, Account Manager for TD Commercial Banking. “People make a big mistake when they only act respectful to executives, and disregard the administrative assistants.” This is important to note if you come from a culture that is based on rank and status.

In Canada, people notice if you only act respectfully to people who can further your career. You may also have a female manager, which may be new for you. Be sure to treat your female manager with the same respect you’d pay a male manager. You might also encounter a male assistant. Never be condescending to anyone.
7. Show initiative.

“A new professional in our department came from a culture where he didn’t question clients directly… He thought he was showing respect by not speaking unless he was addressed. His clients, however, were waiting for him to take the lead and provide solutions to their problems,” said Jeannine Pereira and Lynn Lapierre, Associate Directors for Ernst & Young LLP.

Lack of initiative is one of the most common misperceptions that managers have of immigrants from cultures such as East Asia, South Asia and Africa, where the workplace is based more on hierarchy. In these cultures, bosses tell employees what to do and how to do it. In most Canadian companies, managers expect you to take initiative and find solutions to problems. (Always check with your manager about how much initiative to take, because this can vary from one manager to another.)   
What if you don’t get a job description or orientation, or there isn’t even a phone or desk set up for you when you arrive?
This is where initiative comes in. There is usually a “go to” person in every office – the person who takes pride in knowing where everything is, and how things function. Befriend this person, and ask for help in getting oriented. Don’t forget to say “Thank you!”
Here is the recipe for success: Learn about working in Canada. Figure out how your company operates, and what your manager expects from you. Then jump in and start contributing your best work!