Think like an immigrant!

Think like an immigrant!

Modern Australia was built on immigrants.

They came in clearly defined waves.

The British. The Southern Europeans. The Asians.

Many other countries are the same, 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.

Recruiters need to think like immigrants;

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 in Adelaide, storeman/packer at 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 recruiter. Or should be. In a sense, all recruiters are immigrants because we have just arrived in this ‘new world of recruitment’, 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.

* Please don’t send in any comments about ‘lazy immigrants’ you have known, your views on the ‘refugee crisis’ or anything else that argues the pros or cons of immigration. This is not a political blog. It’s just a thought-starter planting an idea about the need for sharpness and fresh thinking.


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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18 Responses to Think like an immigrant!

  1. Fergal Bell April 27, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    Good post, Greg. If you were to boil it down, it could probably be described as hunger.

    My sister had a similar mindset. Back in the day, she worked with a car manufacturer in the UK and was involved with hiring temp staff for her team. Her standing instruction to agencies was that candidates be living away from home. Her view was that for these entry level temp roles,these temps would get into work come hell or high water, because they had bills to pay.

  2. Alan Allebone April 27, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    Place an immigrant, you have just converted today’s candidate into a future CLIENT!

  3. Corina Kennedy April 27, 2016 at 11:14 am #

    Great analogy Greg. So true in the digital age. My work ethic has definitely been influenced by my 2 immigrant parents and I view the new world of marketing as a land rich with opportunity, challenging yet exciting.

  4. Ross Clennett April 27, 2016 at 4:51 pm #

    I placed an immigrant accountant into a temp job, with my #1 client, back in 1992. It didn’t do it for any reason other than I knew he was the best person for the job. He was very grateful that I gave him the opportunity to shine. Subsequent to that temp job (that he performed extremely well) he landed a permanent job with a global company. He remained with that employer for the next 13 years, finishing as the Country Financial Controller.

    He and I stayed in touch, bonded by our love of cricket. More than twenty years after we first met, he asked me to give a speech at his 50th birthday celebrations as I was to be oldest friend in attendance (apart from his wife). I flew from Melbourne to give the speech at his beautiful home in the northern suburbs of Sydney. I was very humbled to be asked and very moved when I spoke about our friendship in front of his family and friends.

    My friend had all the attributes you mention, Greg, and one other: Immigrants don’t forget who gave them a chance to prove how good they can be. My friend didn’t forget and I have the gift of a life-long friendship as a result.

  5. Gary Holland April 27, 2016 at 7:16 pm #

    I’ve been an immigrant all my life. Born in Germany, grew up in England and was greatly influenced by my (immigrant) German grandmother and Serbian grandfather.

    In fact, my grandad fled certain execution in Serbia as he’d been fighting Tito’s communists in WWII. He had to do menial work for the British government for two years to earn the right to settle in England. He didn’t complain and was extremely grateful to have somewhere safe to raise his four children.

    I became an immigrant again when I came to Australia aged 22 in 1999. You’re right Greg, immigrants do have a knack for beating the odds.

  6. andrew brindley April 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    Great pos Greg I think this is such a great example of having a growth mindset, you can challenge yourself and do better. Too often people think they have learnt all they need to know and just coast along, moving out of your comfort zone pushes you to do things perhaps you wouldn’t ordinary. Children are also fantastic at this, they as the questions we think but dare not ask anymore yet they have no inhibitions and hangups its done in an innocent way. On the immigrant theme some of our best people have been from overseas, either people we placed or are in our team.

  7. Catherine Byers Breet April 27, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

    Brilliant, Greg. Absolutely brilliant (like most of your stuff, quite frankly).

    Now that I think about it, my husband’s immigrant spirit is what helped me succeed as a rookie recruiter – and beyond. He moved to America alone from South Africa when he was 24. I was a rookie recruiter at a global IT consulting firm. It was the hardest and most important job of my life, and quite frankly I was on the brink of giving up.

    When I wanted to quit, my husband (then boyfriend) said “Stay.” When I was angry about the way my company was treating candidates, he said “Show them how to do it better.” When I was angry with a coworker, he said “Find a middle ground.” When I had a horrific boss, he said “Stand tall, not angry. Show her that there is a better way to lead.”

    And so I did. 18 years later, I have my immigrant husband to thank for showing me how to stay … even when it really, really hurts … and fall in love with recruiting.

    • Greg Savage April 28, 2016 at 9:41 am #

      Nice story Catherine.. thanks for reading my blog and your kind comments, regards Greg

  8. Ioana May 2, 2016 at 8:15 pm #

    Fantastic article, Greg, and so positive!

    I’d dare to say we’re all immigrants in our own careers, we’ve all been “travelling” from one culture to another, even if we stayed in our own countries, we did though change jobs, careers, roles.

    My own story, I lived (aside from my hime couontry) in England and now Australia. Both times homesikness was so strong at first that I wanted to give it all up and get back. Both time, with the love and support of amazing people (first my grandmother, now my husband) I stood my ground. And have never regretted it. It’s such an enriching experience, one that can never be replaced or exchanged. And from my work side of things, some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my life so far have been those taught by people from any other cultural background but mine, like a breath of fresh air.

  9. Carolina Ramonde May 7, 2016 at 11:40 pm #

    As a part of the IT tribe I have been many times inmigrant. I love your article Greg and the way of thinking.
    As an IT Recruiter many times I think how absurde are inmigration laws and the firms reluctant to sponsor amazing talent and skills, forbidding Countries to attract great minds.
    Have a great day!

  10. Gerry Crispin May 16, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    Well done. Thanks.

  11. Puneet Shewani May 16, 2016 at 10:43 pm #

    Lovely article Greg! I just recently got my Australian Permanent Residency so there goes! I guess the hunger is always there with settling in a new environment. As you mentioned, bills to be paid and so on. Look forward to contributing to this lovely country with my recruitment skills!!!

  12. Alex Babic July 6, 2016 at 9:06 pm #

    Hi Greg, I’m just re-reading this post-BREXIT here in the UK. I couldn’t agree with it’s sentiments more. As, myself, the son of an immigrant, and a small business owner, a lot of points chime loudly, especially now. Great post. We will be a poorer nation if we restrict immigration.

  13. Jade July 13, 2016 at 4:49 pm #

    It would be the same as being a intern. I was a recruitment intern,who proactive offered to show what I was made off. That was my foot in the door to my career!

  14. Kiran February 21, 2017 at 9:36 am #

    Greg, the post is simply the best…..

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