You've probably heard stories of newcomers who found their first job in Vancouver after a long search, only to be summarily dismissed a few weeks or months later. Or maybe you know a foreign-trained professional who was denied a promotion, despite being much more qualified than his or her peers. 

Does this mean that newcomers are being treated unfairly in the Canadian workplace? Should you give up all hopes of career progression? 

Not by any means. However, there are three major mistakes you need to avoid in order to keep your job and get the promotion you want. As you'll see, these mistakes have very little to do with your technical aptitudes, and everything to do with your interpersonal skills.


Mistake #1: Disregarding Cultural Differences

Each workplace has its own culture, but you'll notice that many Canadian companies tend to share common traits:

- The hierarchy is generally not very pronounced, 

- Employee suggestions are welcome,

- Employees are often expected to be fairly polyvalent, and to take an interest in business development even if they don't work in sales, 

- Consensus seeking and teamwork are the preferred management tools.

Does this sound very different from what you were used to back home? If so, you should make a priority of learning your company's corporate culture. 

Adjusting to a new management style can be tough. But if you cling to your old ways (for example, you never make unsolicited suggestions because you fear your boss would find it disrespectful), you may be perceived as overly rigid, too passive, or simply not very committed to the company's success. 


Mistake #2: Being a Loner

In some countries, employees are not particularly encouraged to socialize with co-workers - after all, you're there to work, not to make friends. Not so in Canada, where cooperation and community are major values. Here, it's important to get along well with your peers. 

If you keep to yourself too much, it won't be long before people wonder what's wrong with you. Instead, you want to build a reputation as someone who's easy to get along with, a true team player - in short, a great addition to the company. 

So allow a few minutes for a bit of small chat with coworkers (don't go overboard either!) If your department is doing something after work, join in, even if you'd rather go home. It might feel like a chore at times, but that's how you'll build stronger connections and wider networks.


Mistake #3: Letting your Performance Speak for Itself

Humility may be a great virtue in many cultures, but it won't get you far in North America. From a young age, Canadians are encouraged to focus on their strengths, celebrate their accomplishments, and put their best foot forward. If you want to compete equally for promotions and raises, you have to learn how to sell yourself.

Even if you're doing a great job, don't assume that your employer will necessarily notice it. You need to find opportunities to make yourself visible: for instance, send regular progress reports to your manager, volunteer to head a committee or take on a new project.  

This is not about bragging every chance you get. This is about making sure your superiors are aware of your strengths, and that they will keep you in mind when the time comes to promote someone within the organization. 

We all carry assumptions, rooted in our cultural background, about what's "normal" or not in the workplace. If your career is not progressing as quickly as you'd like, you may want to reexamine what it means to be "professional", "a good employee" or "a valuable team member" in a Canadian context. 

Observe what your peers are doing, and find out what behaviours your managers seem to appreciate and reward. When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask questions. Work hard, but always remember to pay careful attention to interpersonal skills - your career will thank you!