International Students: How to Fix The
“English” Problem and Get Your Dream Jobs (Part 2)


International Students: How to Fix The
“English” Problem and Get Your Dream Jobs (Part 2)

Written by Thanh Quach @thanhquach

March 2, 2021 (Updated)

(2 minutes read)

English Problem Job

Continue from Part 1

I just used LinkedIn to send out cold messages to ask people who were professionals currently working in the financial district in downtown Toronto if I could meet them for coffee. The statistic didn’t look that good, out of 100 messages I sent, I probably could set up 2-3 coffee meetings.

LinkedIn was not that popular at that time and people were busy. Eventually, after hundreds of messages, I was able to meet like 15 people. It took me a lot of time and coffee to get a solution for the “English” problem. I talked to these professionals and asked questions, going back and forth.

Long story short, I’d like to share with you 4 “surprising and shocking” lessons I learned:

  1. Employers don’t look for perfect English – they look for well-prepared and clear presentation about things you put on your resume and the interview. Plus that, you can speak slowly and clearly, they don’t expect you to speak perfect English. It is just my own fear (or my own excuse) in my head that they need “Perfect English”.
  2. A lot of your future colleagues and managers or even Vice Presidents are ESL, they don’t speak perfect English! – hard to believe right? But after working 4 years at a big bank, I can confirm this fact.
  3. As long as you can order your coffee at Tim Hortons, your English is good enough for an entry-level job in finance or accounting. I am serious, c’mon you are not looking for a CEO job.
  4. Besides English, employers are looking for more important things such as: attitude, determination, part-time job experience, your achievements…etc, I got my 1st job because I can present these things well, not because I can speak perfect English (I can’t).
 

After learning these lessons, I stopped blaming the “English” problem or let it stop me from getting a job. Previously, I just had no motivation to do anything as I believed that “Oh, my English is not good enough, so there is no reason to fix my resume because I will be rejected again anyway”.

Now, I just think “Ok, English is not the problem, the problem is I don’t really know what to say and how to describe my work experience, let’s work on that.”

 

All it takes is just a change in the way we think of the “English” fear. It took me a lot of time to learn “what to write” on my resume, about “how to describe” my part-time work experience in the most attractive way to get interviews, but it was the moment of accepting the fact “I don’t need perfect English to get a job” that changed my life.

It turned out that the employer didn’t care much about my ESL problem, they loved to hear more about my other skills and my part-time job experience. After getting the job, I felt so stupid because I used to let the “English” fear make me feel worthless and depressed.  

Getting back to our conversation with Andy, I wanted to free himself from the “English” fear. So I asked:

“Ok, can you speak Chinese perfectly?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then, in Chinese, please tell me why the earth is orbiting around the sun?”

“…Wtf… I don’t know man, I am not studying astronomy. I am studying debit and credit, which I am not sure if I still remember anything.”

“See, Andy, the problem is not whether you can speak Chinese perfectly or not, the problem is you just don’t know what to say when it comes to astronomy.”

“Ok, agree, I just don’t really know what to say about that.”

 “So, the problem is not about whether you can speak and write English perfectly, it is just you are not sure what to write on your resume and how to describe your work experience. I have worked with local students and they have the same problem even though they have perfect English. But perfect English won’t help when you don’t know what to say.”

Summary

There are 3 key takeaways from this series of dealing with the “English” problem:

  1. English is NOT the problem that prevent you from getting an entry level job. Please remove the “English” fear (or excuse)!
  2. Employers don’t require or prefer perfect English.
  3. Spending time on understanding your part-time job experience to figure out “what to say” on both resume and interview, because that is what employers care about. 

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