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Tips & Training

Gratitude, self-compassion and growth mindset for new immigrant jobseekers

“You never know” is what I’ve been telling my job searching clients, when encouraging them to put more effort into outreach. Job searching is often unstructured (Van Hooft et al, 2013) and has no one-size-fits-all formula for candidates. Jobseeking effort does not always result in any progress, which can lead to feelings of stress and a lack of control (Kreemers et al., 2018).

New immigrants are undoubtedly in a big transition in life. They are changing to a new job market where the practices and connections are totally different. New immigrants can find the job search even more challenging because of the barriers in language and culture (Liu, 2007), lack of local experience (Sangster, 2001), as well as having an outsider status (Frank, 2013). That is why they may experience a longer job searching time compared to their local peers. In this article, Transition Theory (Schlossberg, 2004) has been used to provide a framework for new immigrants jobseekers to objectively assess their situation and use all resources of support.

More importantly, job searching and under/unemployment are proven predictors of mental health problems (McKee-Ryan et al., 2005). When immigrants are under pressure to find a job and do not receive any feedback from employers, they may feel self-doubt and hopelessness. To ensure the well-being of immigrants through this challenging time, it is important to help them gain control over their emotional response to negative experiences (Kreemers et al., 2018) such as rejections or being ghosted by employers.

“When immigrants are under pressure to find a job and do not receive any feedback from employers, they may feel self-doubt and hopelessness.”

For that purpose, the role of gratitude (Harrison et al., 2019), self-compassion (Kreemers et al., 2018) and growth mindset (Dweck, 2016) in job searching are paramount. Growth mindset, gratitude and self-compassion are central dimensions to people’s self-concept, which can turn into powerful emotional coping tools through the challenging time of job searching in a new country.

Focusing on Self: The lens of transition theory

Schlossberg (2004) identified four factors (4S) that influence people’s ability to navigate career transitions: Situation, Support, Self and Strategies. Self should be a leading factor of the transition (Schlossberg, 2004), particularly when a new immigrant is searching for their first full-time job.

New immigrants may not be in a very favourable Situation when most of them have to overcome the intersectionality of multiple underrepresented identities, such as being a racialized person or speaking English as a second language. And if they have been looking for jobs during the two years of the pandemic, the labour market had been much less stable than before.

Beside using all the Support they may have from schools and non-profit organizations, with well-thought Stategies tailored to the new labour market, Self plays an essential role determining the action and emotional response to the uncertainties of job searching.

Gratitude

Gratitude is an efficient coping tool for immigrant jobseekers. As a career services provider, the hardest cases I have worked with are clients who did not appreciate their own effort and the many hours I spent with them searching for jobs and editing their resume. As an immigrant, I can put myself into their shoes and understand their overwhelming responsibilities, which can be financial pressure, preparing immigration paperwork, finding accommodation and more.

However, it is important to look at what they have instead of what they do not have. With appreciation, jobseekers are more likely to see and promote their personal resources and thus be in a better position to obtain employment (Harrison et al., 2019). The more the jobseekers are grateful for any opportunities of growth, the more they can focus on developing their expertise and the faster they can land a desirable job.

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Self-compassion

Going through the ups and downs of job search requires self-compassion, as it is easy to engage in unhealthy criticism (Kreemers et al., 2018). Immigrant jobseekers should understand the importance of taking care of their emotions. Selling themselves to prospective employers is a vulnerable process when they bring up their expertise and skills for multiple rounds of evaluation. Spending a lot of time, effort and hope to prepare for the resume and interview, they deserve a pat on the shoulders regardless of the results.

Practising self-compassion is highly recommended for those who experienced a continued negative experience – for example, six months of job searching without much progress (Kreemers et al., 2018). By practising self-compassion, jobseekers may find they have more energy to reflect on the lessons learned and improve next time. Being kinder to themselves will not only increase a postive reaction but also increase their self-regulation, which motivates them to take more necessary actions to land their dream job (Kreemers et al., 2018).

Growth mindset

After ensuring that the jobseekers have practised gratitude and compassion, growth mindset can step in to help them scaffold their job searching process. Growth mindset, as defined by Dweck (2016), is the belief that every experience can be a learning experience and that one’s ability can be enhanced with more practice. In the intense competition of the job market in a new country, jobseekers should understand that landing a decent job may take more steps than expected, which help them build up essential resilience.

Following up with people whom the jobseekers have talked to in informational interviews or formal interviews can help them expand their connections and increase their future chance of getting a job. Tracking their progress and reflecting on the lessons they have learned, in writing, can give them much more clarify about how they have performed and how should they improve. Seeking feedback from peers or professional career coach is another good practice where they can have an objective view of their performance.

After all, as new immigrants to a country, they are courageous and ambitious individuals who dare to step out of their comfort zone. Besides taking action for job searching, it is equally important to take care of their mental well-being, as job searching in a new country can be draining. Immigrant jobseekers can keep moving ahead despite setbacks in job search by practising gratitude, self-compassion and applying the growth mindset.

Anh Mai To Author
Anh (Mai) To, MEd is a Certified Career Services Practitioner. She is currently working as the Interim Director of Career Services at Herzing College, Toronto Campus, Canada. She has immigrated from Vietnam to Canada and graduated from the Master of Education program at Brock University in 2020. She has developed expertise in employer relations, post-secondary student career coaching, as well as internship advising and supervising.
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Anh Mai To Author
Anh (Mai) To, MEd is a Certified Career Services Practitioner. She is currently working as the Interim Director of Career Services at Herzing College, Toronto Campus, Canada. She has immigrated from Vietnam to Canada and graduated from the Master of Education program at Brock University in 2020. She has developed expertise in employer relations, post-secondary student career coaching, as well as internship advising and supervising.
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