Self confidence and a ‘can do’ attitude are the main ingredients needed for a successful career for immigrants in Canada, according to new research.

Such attributes are even more powerful than professional skills, education and work experience, says a report, Secrets of Success, from the University of British Columbia.

In partnership with Vancouver based immigration support group SUCCESS, psychology professor Norman Amundson interviewed 10 men and 10 women aged between 20 and 45 over 12 months. They were split into two groups: those who arrived in Canada within the past one to 10 years and those who have been in Canada more than 10 years. All were professionally employed within the Vancouver area for at least three months and considered themselves to be successful.

Amundson said the study aimed to provide an accurate picture of what it takes to get ahead in a new country. Almost all, some 95% said the starting point for any newcomer is having a strong drive to succeed. Confidence, persistence, discipline and ability to maintain a good attitude in all situations were repeatedly mentioned.

Most, 85% also said that having skills that are in demand in Canada before arriving was useful. They also said that a positive approach is enhanced by learning, networking, finding part time work or voluntary work. All these moves helped them to integrate and understand Canadian work culture as well as improving their communication skills and helping them to gain confidence.

The successful immigrants also said they were willing to take risks and be flexible. ‘It is a valuable approach to study people who have managed to find their way through the immigration transition,’ said Amundson. He is keen to carry out further work.

Thomas Tam, chief executive officer of SUCCESS said the report has broad implications for Canadian immigration, as the country relies heavily on skilled immigrants. ‘New immigrants are not a liability to this country. New immigrants are assets, with their new knowledge, new expertise they bring with them from their original country,’ he said.

Timothy Chen, an IT technician with Vancity, said that he left his managerial job at a computer company in China years before he immigrated in a deliberate effort to develop more transferable skills. By the time he was ready to move in 2006, he already had a job lined up in Vancouver. ‘Being prepared is very important to surviving,’ he said at the launch of the report.