Half Her Life Vanished
By JChandler on March 19, 2010
Some time ago, I worked with a woman who was having difficulty finding employment. Though she had been in Canada for a number of years the work she had been doing here did not remotely resemble the skills she used in her former country. Her resume had been completed with the help of a school she attended for retraining but she didn't seem proud of this one page resume staring back at her. When I began to ask some questions about certain information buried in it I learned half her life had vanished.
As we began to chat about her life experience I couldn't help but ask "Why is this not on your resume." She replied, "Well, they didn't think it was necessary, they told me to focus on my Canadian experience." (which was not relevant to the positions she was about to apply) Now, I don't know about you but I don't think I would feel very good nor confident with half my life missing from the page of my resume. You could clearly see how proud she was of her previous work and indeed she should be. This woman was educated, held a good professional position and demonstrated leadership in the positions she held. Somehow, this was not translatable in North America?
This is not the first time I have seen this and it always incensed me. There are ways for people to transition into work in another country without leaving their valuable experience behind. Yes, maybe there are some initial challenges and yes, unfortunately there is unwillingness to accept certain backgrounds/education as valid in the new country. However, there is usually a lack of understanding on how to obtain what they need and even after retraining in their field I have seen associations and unions fail to welcome the foreign worker.
I have had employers tell me that they wouldn't hire immigrants because their customers wouldn't like it. I have had employers assume clients were uneducated and didn't understand English, due to their accent. When in fact these people had a higher education than most of the individuals they were in contact with. With doctors working in farm fields, teachers cleaning homes and engineers working in the back of our restaurants we are really the ones with the problem, not them.
This woman, that I worked with, is a symbol to me of how the system fails to fully value the foreign workers who come to our country. When I spent the time to fully understand her background and honor it she looked up with tears in her eyes and a huge smile on her face and thanked me. What she had done before had relevancy and there were transferable skills that met the needs of the current opportunities she was exploring. On the last day of our time together she stood up from her chair and hugged me. There is no doubt in my mind that she walks a little taller knowing who she was and who she is was honored and marketable.
There is tremendous sacrifices made when one immigrates. My parents were immigrants and they made their way to Canada, gave up the citizenship and contributed well to this country. Many of the people I encounter, do the jobs you and I and our kids don't want to do. It angers me when people treat them as if they are a burden. What makes a person a burden is when the system at large fails to prepare them for the requirements of living in their new country and then wipes half their life away to train them in something they don't even have an interest in. Putting a roof over their head and food in their stomach motivates them to take the job/training advice but that doesn't mean it was the right thing for us to do.
If you know someone in your community who is new to the area or country, take the time to get to know them. More often than not I have had some of the most interesting conversations and if English is their second language they are getting a chance to practice with you as normally they are afraid to try. The world has opened up to me in ways only seen through the eyes of one who has lived it, if you worked in my field you would see; goals, dreams and holding on to who you are is just as important no matter where you came from.
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