I’m Sorry We Don’t Hire Generalists Here

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A refrain many newcomers to Canada hear from employers is that they are looking for specialists and experts in one field, NOT generalists.

Wissam worked 5 years in the Finance industry in Lebanon. When he emigrated to Canada, He couldn’t find a job for 8 months. In fact, he wasn’t alone: a recent study shows that 26% of immigrants said a lack of Canadian experience in a specific specialty remains an obstacle to finding work in Canada.

Just Can’t Get Satisfaction

When I met Wissam, he was in a survival job, earning 50% lower than his old job in Lebanon. I knew he could do better if he positioned himself as an expert in a specialized field, using the same skills he’d used for his job back home. I helped Wissam identify his transferable skills and knowledge. I helped him reposition himself in Finance. As a result, he secured a $75,000 job as a Senior Financial analyst within 3 months.

Find Your Specialty

Everyone has transferable skills of great use to employers in different industry sectors. Even in sectors that are facing talent shortages and skills gaps, like financial services.

Assessing your own experience, in order to work how you can fill gaps in the sectors you want to move into, is an essential exercise if you want to stand out from the crowd utilizing your core transferable skills.

Identify Your Innate Skills

To help Wissam work out his new direction, I asked him a series of questions in order for him to identify the skills that made him successful in his career.

1 — Think about the successes you’ve achieved in your previous roles. — What are the steps you undertook to achieve these successes?
2 — What personal qualities played a part in you reaching these successes?
3 — What are the steps you undertook to achieve these successes?
4 — How did your successes made you feel?
5 — Who else was involved in the achievement of these successes?

Identify Your Industry Tasks

Then on a complete different worksheet, I asked Wissam to focus on the tasks he completed in his previous roles, by asking him a different set of questions:

1 — List each function of his job.
2 — List the skills he used to complete each task.
3 — Rate his competency level on a scale of 1 to 3 (1=highly skilled; 2=moderately skilled; 3=needs improvement).
4 — Identify those skills he enjoys doing.
a) — Right a list of those skills which he both enjoys doing AND in which he is highly skilled.
b) — Right a list of those skills which he both enjoys doing AND in which he is moderatly skilled.
c) — Keep separate those skills he both enjoy doing and in which he is moderately skilled.


We then worked on Wissam’s transferable skills. He identified the following skills: analytical skills, communication and interpersonal skills, ability to adapt to changes, ability to utilize consultative skills.

We Then packaged his transferable skills around a specific niche industry and looked at the organizations he wanted to work for. We found a common denominator in that Wissam liked to contribute for the better of the people and society in general.


As a result of all this deep searching for Wissam’s transferable skills and the repackaging of those skills into a specialty in a relevant industry in the Canadian marketplace, within only 3 months, Wissam found a Senior financial analyst job in a non-profit organization at the same pay scale as he enjoyed in Lebanon.

What is the potential for your career if YOU stop marketing yourself as a generalist and start to position yourself as a specialist?

If you’re a former executive immigrant who’d like to transition your career to Canada, follow me on LINKED IN, tweet me on TWITTER, like me on FACEBOOK.

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