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Multilingual and International experices are the keys to succeed in Canada

It's a small world, after all

Global experience pushes employees up career ladder

Derek Sankey, Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Chandra Sarkar, right, and Thaier Al-Issa believe global career skills promise a better future in the corporate world.

Ted Rhodes, Canwest News Service
Chandra Sarkar, right, and Thaier Al-Issa believe global career skills promise a better future in the corporate world.

CALGARY - When Thaier Al-Issa immigrated to Canada in 2001, there were more than a few things to get used to. "The first thing was getting familiarized with the weather here," he laughs.

Having earned his engineering degree in the Middle East and worked for oil and gas firms abroad, he was used to working on large global projects. Then he met Chandra Sarkar, an Indian-born immigrant to Canada in the 1960s who has worked everywhere from Germany to Jordan.

After spending years working in the Canadian oil patch, Mr. Sarkar decided to set up a small engineering, procurement and construction firm with global reach six years ago. He knows the value of global career skills and experience in today's labour market.

"We are Canadian citizens, but at the same time, we are global citizens," Mr. Sarkar says. "Today, you cannot sustain your economy in one place."

Mr. Sarkar set up offices in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with 50 employees scattered around the globe. That's how he met Mr. Al-Issa. After some discussions, Mr. Al-Issa decided to immigrate to Canada to work for Mr. Sarkar's company, Rapid Response Project Ltd. "We are energized to do anything, so it's just a matter of getting the OK from the client," Mr. Al-Issa says. "We all have some sort of [global] experience in almost everything."

The value of global career skills, including speaking different languages and employing people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, is increasingly seen as a one-way ticket up the global corporate ladder, employers say.

Mr. Sarkar's team of employees has a wealth of diversity in languages and cultures. Most have worked on several global projects throughout their careers. "That [global] experience gives you a better job future," Mr. Sarkar says. Many large employers have implemented or improved their diversity programs in recognition of this fact in recent years.

There's evidence to back up the notion global experience will put you on the fast-track to success. Multilingual Canadians enjoy a greater range of career options, build stronger relationships with colleagues and clients and benefit from accelerated promotions and salary increases compared with their unilingual counterparts, according to a survey by Harris/Decima on behalf of Berlitz Canada.

"Canadians who speak multiple languages enjoy numerous career benefits, including financial ones," says Darryl Simsovic, president of Berlitz.

A survey found 48% of multilingual Canadians agreed that speaking an additional language enabled or accelerated promotion, while 44% said speaking another language accelerated salary increases.

The study also found 38% of unilingual Canadians said not speaking another language limited their career opportunities.

The success of overseas recruitment drives attests to the fact employees are highly mobile and borders are no longer a reason to remain in one country for your working life. Opportunities Canada Expo, a career fair to be held this month in London and Leeds, England, is the direct result of its initial success earlier this year.

"All of a sudden there are skilled, educated people lined up to make a change and pursue an opportunity in another country," says Lisa Rushka of Momentum Communications, one of the event's promoters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sarkar's daughter, Barnali, now works for her father's firm and already sees the value in diversity and global work experience. "When you meet people that have worked on different projects internationally, it makes you realize the world is really small," she says.

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