Joh-Hunting: Your Soft Skills Will Get You There

by Teenaz Javat

Zareer Divecha, Gooli Mama and Fariba Sahraei are a few individuals on a long list of immigrants who came to Canada as professionals in their chosen fields and had to change their careers.

They came from Pakistan, Iran and India but they all faced the same problem: they had to undergo a career change in order to survive in the Canadian job market.

This is their story.

With the help of several government and non-government organizations, friends and above all their own grit and determination, they overcame several hurdles and are now on paths to success.

Change, in any form does not come easy. Whether it is the coffee you drink at the start of your day or the food you consume in your daily life, men and women, by their very nature are resistant to change.

That being said, once newcomers enter Canada they have to survive. And change is what they have to undergo in many aspects of their lives.

Take the case of Gooli Mama.

She was an assistant station manager for Emirates Airlines. She was based in Karachi, Pakistan. Her career in the airline industry spanned over 20 years.

When she and her family immigrated to Canada in 2001, Mama found it very hard to find a job in her related field.

She wasted no time and took an entry-level job in one of Canada’s large banks.

“I saw no point in continuing my job search in the airline industry so, instead of getting frustrated, I quickly decided to accept the next best opportunity that came my way.”

Once at the bank, Mama put her soft skills to work. Her superiors quickly recognized her patience, humility and trouble-shooting skills. The bank sent her for further training at their cost and now she is an assistant manager in a local branch.

In Mama’s case the hard skills (flight management) she learned at her previous job at the Emirates Airline simply remained on her résumé. It is the soft skills (people management and problem solving) that she had mastered over the years that stayed with her and have helped her in her new career in Canada.

However, this cannot be said for all who come.

Zareer Divecha was a dentist trained in Pakistan. He left a thriving practise in Karachi before immigrating to Canada in 1993.

In Divecha’s case he was in for the long haul. He had studied for seven years to become a dentist and had practised for six more after that.

When he made inquiries with the National Dental Examining Board of Canada he was told that he would have to repeat his pre-medical studies. Translated, it meant that all his dental education acquired in Pakistan would be equivalent to a grade 12.

This was unacceptable to him.

So Divecha opted for the second best thing he was good at, which is driving. He joined Hertz Rent-a-car as a car jockey. Over time he rose to the level of District Manager.

Fariba Sahraei was a successful journalist in Iran with 13 years of experience behind her. On coming to Canada four years ago, she only managed to get freelance jobs for BBC’s Persian service for radio and online. Since these were occasional assignments, she had to work at a retail-clothing store to make ends meet.

After four years of saving money Sahraei applied for a student loan under the Ontario Student Application Program and decided to go back to school.

She is a student at Sheridan College Institute of technology and Advanced Learning’s Canadian Journalism for Internationally Trained Writers program – www.sheridaninstitute.ca.

Mama’s, Divecha’s and Sahraei’s stories go on to reinforce the fact that change is inevitable and that it is not always negative.

Canada is known abroad for admitting skilled immigrants into the country to replace its aging workforce. The bulk of the newcomers come to Ontario. Most new immigrants have to make that change as if their degrees are not recognised or there is not much scope for them in their career of choice.

Increasingly, many immigrants to Canada feel they are virtually frozen out of their chosen professions.

The government of Ontario has injected several million dollars into re-educating and re-integrating immigrants to join the mainstream workforce.

They have financed several charter and fast track programs in schools and community colleges across the province where internationally trained individuals can either take bridge courses or decide to change their line of work, all aimed at entering the main stream job market (www.settlement.org or www.halton-multicultural.org).

The stories above go on to prove that there is help on the way. One has to only grab the opportunities when they come; and like Mama, Divecha and Sahraei everyone will one day find a niche for themselves in the Canadian job market. For this land was and still is the land of opportunity.

CNM