When you think Tim Horton’s, Hockey Night in Canada, The Rockies, weather and Tommy Douglas what is the first word that comes to mind? I would guess for most of you this would be “Canada”, eh! These are some of the many distinctive elements that make up the unique national identity of Canada. This week’s podcast is with Roy MacGregor, one of Canada’s most gifted story- tellers, author and Globe & Mail columnist. Roy says “Why is identity so important? A separate national identity is key when you live so closely to a large influential country like the United Sates, much like a teenager expressing their uniqueness and independence from their family. We even speak differently in our little world”. Countries and professionals that are successful in the competitive global marketplace have a number of things in common – they have a clear and distinctive identity, they have something to offer that the market needs, and they are proud of who they are.
Roy has invested his career discovering and sharing what makes Canada such a wonderful and complex place to live and work. Ironically, his first full time writing job was at the magazine The Canadian. He then went on to work for MacLean’s magazine, The Ottawa Citizen, and The National Post. Roy now writes a daily column in the Globe & Mail called My Country. Over the past 35 years Roy has travelled from St. Johns to Victoria as a keen observer and written a number of books that are a powerful mirror to remind us of who we truly are. He shares some of these observations in his book Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People. Roy discovered that while there are some regional differences, there is a surprising number of commonalties about our cultural identity.
“We are accepting”
“We don’t sell ourselves”
“We are not Americans”
“We love hockey”
“We value community”
“We’re obsessed with the weather”
“We are resourceful”
“We wear our flags outside our country”
Interestingly enough the Spicer commission discovered that the one thing that Canadians described as the most defining feature, Medicare, was created by a Baptist Minister from the Prairies – Tommy Douglas. Medicare is ultimately a practical example of the native heritage that was welcoming, and focused on people helping people. It takes a community of people to raise a Canadian. While we are a melting pot, Roy elaborates on this idea by saying that “This country moulds the people who come to it, and it molds the way we think”. Does this mean we are all the same or think identically? No, but at a high level we have a common set of values that shape us as people and influences the choices of our nation.
Identity as described in Webster’s dictionary means “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual”. The root word of the word, “id”, means “it”. We know what “it” is when we describe the elements that make up “it”. Tim Horton’s, and “eh”, lead us to the understanding that “it” is Canada.
What makes you unique? Why, in a very competitive market, would I hire you? How would an employer know about you? Canada has a name, a birthday, and distinguishing characteristics that are unlike any other country in the world. You too have a name, a birthday and are unlike anyone else in this world
Recently I was coaching a client in our Career Identity Program. I asked ‘What do you have to offer?” The client stumbled with the question. I further clarified with a second follow up question and asked, “Why would an employer hire you?”.
Silence, and then the penny had dropped. He understood why the answer to the first question mattered when he was in his job search. They are both identity questions.
Three identity questions that every employer is asking..
What do Canada and a successful career have in common?
Knowing who you are – Clearly what talents and knowledge do you have to offer?
Knowing how to market who yourself – Consistently & Confidently
Evolving what you do in a global marketplace – Continually adapt what you have to the changing conditions in the marketplace.
Maybe you feel that up until this point you have not found the place for yourself, and you are discouraged. Roy’s advice is “I am a great believer in not dwelling on the past. If bad things happen, shut the door and move on.”
What does Roy love about Canada? “ I love the people. I love the fact that they have amazing stories – very moving, very sweet. It has always been the people for me.”
On a more personal side, I myself immigrated to Canada as a young boy. My family came seeking new opportunities. A big reason my parents came here was to give me a better life, and I am very thankful. I think our country is a unique hybrid between Europe and the United States, with the best of both.
Happy Birthday Canada!
Struggling with your identity? Join our free teleclass based on my book Get the Right Job Right Now! The next one is on Wed July 3, 2008 12-1 PM ET. Looking for more of an individualized support in finding your own career identity, book an initial session with me. Click here
I stand on guard for thee, along the road with you!
PS Post to my blog what you love about Canada