How to Integrate International Professionals
Into the Work Life of America
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:
According to the Institute of International Education, the latest statistics for international student enrollment in 2010/2011, show that there is a strong increase in students from China. China is the leading country which sent 157,558 students to the U.S.A., followed by India (103,895), South Korea (73,351), Canada (27,546), Taiwan (24,818), Saudi Arabia (22,704), Japan (21,290), Vietnam (14,888), Mexico (13,713), and Turkey (12,184). The top most popular fields were Business and Management (22%), Engineering (19%), Mathematics and Computer Science (9%).
Many of these graduating students may settle down in the United States. In addition, there is a significant flow of graduates from other countries seeking employment in the U.S.A. Not surprising, is it?
I believe that you will enjoy this unusual main article, From Outsider to Insider: Integration of International Professionals into the Work Life of America.
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Enjoy the balance of the summer and keep your feedback coming.
Until we meet again through the magic of e-mail...
Peace! Love! Shalom!
Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.)
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach
||The Latest from the CareerQuest Blog
"He who speaks first loses."- A saying from India
Would you like to leave $5,000 to $20,000 per year on the table when you accept a new job, and later on kick yourself for doing it?
In American culture we do not like to haggle or bargain. It is a normal pattern in other cultures.
Let me give you three top tips on salary negotiation...
||From Outsider to Insider: Integration of International Professionals into the Work Life of America
||by Don Sutaria
What is so different about career counseling of professionals who were born abroad but are now trying to establish their careers in the United States of America?
I am not a movie critic. However, I have been very impressed by four movies which depict the struggles of immigrants to the United States. My awareness and understanding have been deepened. These are:
The Namesake (2006): While Gogol Ganguli respects his East Indian immigrant parents and their decision to rear him in his United States birthplace, he is torn between Indian traditions and the modern Bostonian lifestyle. This is Mira Nair's thought-provoking coming-of-age drama, which explores first-generation Americans' delicate dance between culture and identity. The movie is based on a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her earlier writings.
In America (2002): Academy Award-winning director Jim Sheridan brings authenticity and grit to this heartwarming drama about an Irish family starting life anew in the early-1980's America. With their two daughters in tow, Johnny and Sara leave Ireland and head to New York so Johnny can pursue an acting career. What follows is a series of adventures, both comical and terrifying, as they struggle to make the most of their new life.
Someone Else's America (1995): The Serbian director, Goran Paskaljevic spins a modern-day tale of the immigration experience. Despite the complexities of today's socio-political situation, where illegal aliens enter the United States seemingly at will to work in sweat shops at sub-minimum wage jobs, the lure of the American Dream sings its siren song to men and women worldwide. We follow a pair of characters in their trials and tribulations as they attempt to adapt to their new surroundings.
Avalon (1990): Based on director Barry Levinson's memories of life with his immigrant grandparents, this nostalgic story was nominated for four Oscars. Sam Krichinsky comes to America in 1914 and marries Eva. Years later, this multigenerational Jewish family faces a culture clash amidst its own personal struggles and triumphs.
The challenge is to integrate international professionals effectively into the work life of America. Many barriers need to be broken down, as we shall see soon. If that is not accomplished successfully, the professional will be highly dissatisfied because of being underutilized and not reaching his or her full potential. The executive coach and career management counselor needs to raise the consciousness of the international professional client about the nuances of work life in the United States. The coach also needs to point out some concrete steps for overcoming barriers. This may be a natural for clients born and educated in the USA, but it is certainly not the case for international professionals who were born, raised and educated outside the United States but have now migrated to the USA.
"...Culture Shock is the toughest component to overcome..."
CAUSES OF INEFFECTIVE INTEGRATION
The causes of ineffective integration are many. I would like to call it jocularly 'The Integration Pizza', made up of eight (8) slices. These are:
- Cultural (Culture shock)
- Technical (Education, terminologies, skill sets)
- Social (Local manners and friendships)
- Physical (Looking different in appearance)
- Mental (A different mindset)
- Emotional (Afraid to express emotons)
- Financial (No cash reserves or family and friends to ask for help)
- Spiritual (Oriental versus western religions and thought)
A SPECIAL WORD ON CULTURE SHOCK
(In real life a kiss may not be just a kiss!! Read on!)
| Before you read any further, please see this brief video. It will clarify a lot of things about culture shock. You will not be disappointed.
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. (A lyric from Herman Hupfeld's 1931 song As Time Goes By, from the Broadway musical, Everybody's Welcome)
Do you know what happened between Richard Gere (the Hollywood actor) and Shilpa Shetty (the Bollywood actress) in New Delhi, India, on April 15, 2007?
Shetty and Gere appeared at a press conference as a part of the AIDS-awareness program to advocate safe sex to truck drivers in India. At this event, Gere kissed Shetty on the cheek in jest. However, this kiss was considered a huge attack on India's cultural and moral values, as if Bollywood is not contributing enough to it! Extremist Hindu groups burned effigies of Gere and set fire to glamour shots of Shetty, in several protests across the country.
Shetty came to Gere's rescue by saying "I understand this kissing is Gere's culture, not ours. But this was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to overreact in such a manner. I understand people's sentiments, but I do not want a foreigner to take bad memories from here."
On April 26, 2007, an Indian court in Rajasthan issued warrants to arrest Gere and Shetty. However, the legal action against both Gere and Shetty was thrown out by the Indian Supreme Court. Gere had earlier apologized for unknowingly causing any offense and Shetty could not understand why "so much has been blown out of proportion."
Guess what happened? It was a cross-cultural faux pas (a social blunder)!
In my opinion, culture shock is the toughest component to overcome, even after years of living in a new culture. The element of cultural surprise may just be lurking around the corner.
Psychologists at the University of Michigan have recently found that people in different cultures think not just about different things, but think differently. Two people from different cultures may look at the same image and give different answers. The answers may reveal your cultural background.
Easterners, the researchers find, appear to think more "holistically," paying greater attention to context and relationship, relying more on experience-based knowledge than abstract logic and showing more tolerance for contradiction. Westerners are more "analytic" in their thinking, tending to detach objects from their context, to avoid contradictions and to rely more heavily on formal logic. That may explain why Americans notice the biggest, fastest and shiniest objects first.
What exactly is culture shock?
The term culture shock was introduced for the first time in 1958 by Kalervo Oberg, an anthropologist who lived in Brazil, and trained Americans and their families who went overseas. What seems to create so much trouble is something more subtle and more intimately subversive—the feeling of inadequacy that results in from not knowing quite how to behave and act among strangers who themselves seem to know just how to behave and act. The sum of the sudden jolts that await the incoming newcomer to a foreign country is known a culture shock.
The classic piece written by Kalervo Oberg is being reproduced here in its entirety to retain its flavor:
"Culture shock is precipitated by the anxiety that results from losing all our familiar signs and symbols of social intercourse. These signs or cues include the thousand and one ways in which we orient ourselves to the situations of daily life; when to shake hands and what to say when we meet people, when and how to give tips, how to give orders to servants, how to make purchases, when to accept and when to refuse invitations, when to take situations seriously and when not. Now these cues which may be words, gestures, facial expressions, customs or norms are acquired by all of us in the course of growing up and are as much a part of our culture as the language we speak or the beliefs we accept. All of us depend for our peace of mind and efficiency on hundreds of these cues, most of which we do not carry on the level of conscious awareness.
There is also something called the "Reverse Culture Shock" or "Re-entry Shock" when a person stays in another culture too long and returns home. This is outside the scope of this article and discussion.
Now when an individual enters a strange culture, all or most of these familiar cues are removed. He or she feels like a fish out of the water. No matter how broadminded or full of goodwill you may be, a series of props have been knocked out from under you, followed by a feeling of frustration and anxiety. People react to the frustration in much the same way. First, they reject the environment, which causes the discomfort: "the ways of the host country are bad because they make us feel bad". When internationals in a strange land get together to grouse about the host country and its people—you can be sure they are suffering from culture shock. Another phase of culture shock is regression. The home environment in the country of origin suddenly assumes a tremendous importance. Everything back home becomes irrationally glorified. All the difficulties and problems are forgotten and only the good things back home are remembered. It usually takes a trip home to bring one back to reality.
Some of the symptoms of culture shock are: excessive washing of the hands; excessive concern over drinking water, food, dishes and bedding; fear of physical contact with attendants or servants; the absent-minded, far-away stare (sometimes called the tropical stare); a feeling of helplessness and a desire for dependence on long-term residents of one's own nationality; fits of anger over delays and other minor frustrations; excessive fear of being cheated, robbed or injured; great concerns over minor pains and eruptions of the skin; and finally that terrible longing to go back home, to visit one's relatives, and, in general to talk to people who really make sense..."
"Develop your personal plan of action."
- Study culture (Social, economic, historical, political).
- Improve command of American English (Verbal and written).
- Develop presentation and platform skills.
- Learn how to dress for success in your field.
- Improve voice and speech.
- Increase your accent intelligibility.
- Learn to read body language.
- Respect other people's time and be punctual.
- Take the Dale Carnegie course or equivalent.
- Understand sub-cultures within USA.
- Understand cultural concept of time.
- Understand cultural concept of space.
- Get advice from a mentor who has experienced culture shock.
- Read American magazines in your professional field.
- Network with other professionals.
- Join professional organizations and participate in them actively.
- Develop computer literacy.
- Participate in company training programs.
- Develop time management skills.
- Take courses at New York University, American Management Association or other institutions of learning.
- Develop speed reading skills.
- Develop Internet skills.
- Learn to manage in a dot-com/hi-tech environment.
- Learn project management skills.
- Familiarize yourself with information systems management.
- Promote yourself through self-marketing.
- Develop awareness of electronic commerce.
- Develop a business plan.
- Learn the basics of finance.
- Learn strategic planning for business.
- Socialize at functions.
- Develop and cultivate friendships.
- Improve listening skills.
- Take a course in social graces.
- Appreciate native humor.
- Enhance conversational skills.
- Be aware of business etiquette.
- Develop and cultivate friendships with people from all cultures.
- Strengthen relationships with family members.
- Learn team development.
- Develop leadership skills.
- Take assertiveness training.
- Learn conflict management and negotiating skills.
- Be consistent in good grooming.
- Try to keep your weight under control.
- Smoke in private, preferably not in public.
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation.
- Learn to think holistically.
- Improve memory.
- Delve into differing opinions and respect them.
- Invest in lifelong learning.
- Express appropriate emotions freely on occasion.
- Live within your means.
- Learn investment strategies.
- Save for a rainy day.
- Give to causes of your choice.
- Take care of your soul.
- Read and assimilate spiritual materials.
- Join a synagogue, temple, church or a similar organization.
- Volunteer in areas of concern to you (like homeless shelters, etc.).
- Harness the power of positive and optimistic attitudes.
Just Do It! Do It Now!
- The challenge is to integrate international professionals into the work life of America.
- The causes of ineffective integration are: cultural, technical, social, physical, mental, emotional, financial and spiritual.
- The solutions have to be custom-tailored to an individual's needs; for example: learning American English, and speech and voice improvement.
- If you are an international professional reading this article, what you have just read becomes only an empty academic discourse unless you: respond to the potential solutions, develop your personal plan of action, and make a resolution to carry out your plan of action.
Editorial Comments: This article is based on the writer's personal experiences and those of his international colleagues. The writer, an American citizen since 1978, came alone to the United States 49 years ago, from Bombay, India, as a young college student. He had only $209 in his pocket, because that was all that was allowed from a hard currency area. The balance for educational expenses was reimbursed every month as an educational loan, which had to be paid back within 5 years. The monthly payment was cut off if the grades were not maintained at an A or B+ level. This amount was supplemented by working on campus as a dishwasher, food server, draftsman, babysitter and a clown at a gas station.
(Note: The U.S. Visa for Temporary Nonimmigrant Technical Workers is H-1B Classification. It applies to persons in a specialty occupation, which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. An American employer must sponsor the candidate. This Visa has a fixed time limit (usually 3-6 years), in which the alien may perform services in the United States. If the assignment is over, the employer is required to inform U.S. Immigration immediately of the worker's changed status. These rules are constantly in a state of flux. It may be wise to consult a good immigration lawyer at the appropriate time.)
Don Sutaria, also known as "Career Doctor Don", is Founder and President of CareerQuest. He has been quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, on radio and television and has taught at various colleges. He is the author of Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career is a Pathway to Your Soul!).
||Don Sutaria, M.S., I.E. (Prof.)
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