Think like an immigrant!

Many modern nations, including America and Australia, were built on immigrants.

And most pay homage to those immigrants now.

I am an immigrant myself, arriving in Australia two weeks before my 21st Birthday.

I am the son of an immigrant too.

When you are an immigrant, an outsider, you think and behave differently. This I know from personal experience. It's a tiny bit like the first week at a new school. Everyone else is chilled, knows the ropes, very familiar, complacent even.

You are alert, watchful, looking to learn, needing to be brave.

Anyone keen to thrive in the modern world of work needs to think like an immigrant;

  • Immigrants are massive optimists. By definition. They have moved somewhere new because they perceive a better life. They want to be here. They need to succeed. It gives them an edge.
  • Immigrants are brave. They need to be. Every step, every corner rounded, is a new experience. They need to experiment. To ask a lot. Be prepared to fail a few times. To bounce back. They act as if the have no safety net, because typically, the don't.
  • Immigrants learn new skills. They have to. Language maybe. Driving on the right side of the road. Food. Local traditions. Sports.
  • Immigrants are opportunists. They typically don't have a lot, so they are alert to a 'chance'. The see a gap, they take it. They don't have the luxury of waiting for something to 'turn up'. They seek it out. Immigrants do not have a sense of entitlement that locals might.
  • Immigrants embrace new ideas. They still hold on to what is dear to them from the past, but they absorb the new. They search for new ways in most cases. Their paradigms are not set in concrete. They don't limit themselves, because they don't assume limits on what is achievable.
  • Immigrants are humble. They will do any job that sets them on their way. (Me? Cleaning toilets at a caravan park in Coolangatta, barman at the Arkaba hotel, Adelaide, storeman/packer for RM Williams). They know that they don't know what they don't know. They don't limit what they are prepared to do for success.
  • Immigrants work harder to get ahead. They have to. They are 'on their own'. No 'old-boys' network. Make or break. Persistence is in the DNA.

All these immigrant traits are also those of the modern worker. Or should be. In a sense, all of us are immigrants because we have just arrived in this 'new world of work', where everything is changing. We need to embrace that world, using the skills we learned in the 'old country' if they still apply, but wide open to change, hard work and fresh thinking.

20 years ago I had a client say to me, "Greg I only hire people who have at least one grand-parent who cannot speak English". A baffling remark at first, and certainly politically incorrect and probably illegal too. But what he was alluding to is that he liked to hire sons and daughters of immigrants because he valued they way they thought, and the values they brought.

Hardly scientific or unbiased recruitment methodology, but I admit I have never forgotten that comment, and I dare say it has influenced my hiring decisions since.

Do not discriminate based on what language family members speak, obviously, but hire people who think like an immigrant.

And make sure you do yourself too.