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The authors investigated the strategies that helped or hindered 10 immigrant women workers to do well with change that affected their work. A total of 182 incidents were extracted and grouped into 9 categories: personal beliefs/traits/values, taking action, skills/education, personal challenges, self-care, relationships/support, government/community resources, work environment, and contextual challenges. Results support and extend contentions that both internal/personal and external factors are key successful adaptation to change for immigrant women. Implications for research and practice are discussed. Counseling recommendations are offered for individuals who are struggling with change.
It is well-documented that immigrants are needed to fill Canada's shrinking labor force (McMullin & Cooke, 2004), and they are being encouraged to move to Canada (Grant & Sweetman, 2004). Immigrants with specific education and training in areas such as nursing, health care, and sciences are being targeted to fill these and other skill shortages (McMullin & Cooke, 2004). The minority population in Canada has quadrupled in the past 20 years (Tran, 2004). Decades ago, the majority of Canadian immigrants were Europeans. However, more recently, the face of Canadian immigrants has shifted, with more immigrants arriving from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa (Tran, 2004). Some researchers (Bauer, 2000; Kadkhoda, 2002) have suggested that after immigrants arrive in Canada, employers often do not recognize their qualifications, therefore, these individuals must resort to taking low-paying jobs. Additionally, studies (e.g., Hum & Simpson, 2004) have shown that after they enter the country, immigrants experience an earning disadvantage when compared with Canadian-born workers. Thus, immigrants must deal with both the transitions and adjustment involved in moving to a new country along with the unpredictable and changing workforce opportunities and lower economic earning potential that currently characterize the labor market.
How then do immigrants manage these transitions and adjustments that have an impact on all aspects of their lives? The career transitions literature (e.g., Bridges, 1991; Goodman, Schlossberg, & Anderson, 2006) has indicated that transition theories are useful for understanding the general population's experience of the transition process. According to Bridges's (1991) theory, transition is a psychological experience that can be difficult for some to manage. Transition has three stages: (a) ending, losing, letting go; (b) the neutral zone; and (c) the new beginning (Bridges, 1991). Goodman et al. (2006) also conceptualized the transition experience as a challenging process, as evidenced by their focus on building and identifying coping resources in the second stage of their theory. Consistent with transition theories, research (e.g., Amundson, Borgen, Jordan, & Erlebach, 2004; Ebberwein, Krieshok, Ulven, & Prosser, 2004) has shown that some people struggle with transitions and experience a sense of powerlessness and emotional strain, but others thrive during transition by being planful and realistic and by anticipating possible challenges. According to Goodman et al.'s (2006) theory, these contradictory outcomes could be a result of variation in individuals' coping resources. More research is needed to elucidate how people are successful in dealing with transitions. Our research study aims to fill this gap.
Studies (e.g., DiCicco-Bloom, 2004; Waters, 2002) extending the examination of career transitions to the immigrant population have illustrated experiences of downward mobility, feelings of isolation and frustration, and the necessity for retraining as examples of factors that inhibited immigrants' successful transition to the workforce. Research on immigrants' adjustment and acculturation (e.g., Kadkhoda, 2002; Westwood & Ishiyama, 1991) has primarily highlighted the barriers and challenges to adaptation, which include discrimination, culture shock, second language anxiety, and changes in family dynamics. Berry (1997) indicated that acculturation is the process of adaptation or adjustment when individuals who developed their sense of self in one culture enter into another culture. There is wide variation in the experience of acculturation, with some individuals maintaining their primary cultural identity, some assimilating into the new culture, and others attempting to find a balance between the two (Berry, 1997), Research on adjustment and acculturation (e.g., Ataca & Berry, 2002) has indicated that immigrants experience challenges and struggles when adjusting to a new country and a new career.
There is a small but growing body of research (e.g., Christopher, 2000; Kleinman, 2004; Remennick, 2005; Salaff & Greve, 2004) suggesting that despite the challenges facing immigrants, some are successful in responding to transition and change. It appears that immigrants who are successful display positive personality traits such as resiliency and hardiness and have access to resources such as social support and second language training. In response to alternative examples of immigrants' transition experiences, researchers have called for more studies on the qualities, resources, and supports that facilitate immigrants successful response to transition (Christopher, 2000) and to change specific to their careers (Wang & Jordache Sangalang, 2005).
Furthermore, there is evidence (Ataca & Berry, 2002; Remennick, 2005) suggesting that transition and acculturation may be different for immigrant men and women. Immigrant women have been found to face unique barriers to successful adjustment into the occupational realm such as the need to balance responsibilities at work and home with little or no family support and having to put their own careers on hold while their partners retrain to find work (DiCicco-Bloom, 2004; Read, 2004). Immigrant men have been found to have more access to economic opportunities and English language training than immigrant women have (Ataca & Berry, 2002; Remennick, 2005). Because of immigrant women's unique challenges, researchers (DiCicco-Bloom, 2004; Khan & Watson, 2005; Waters, 2002) have called for more studies focusing on immigrant women's resilience, strengths, will, and determination in the transition experience.
Because of the paucity of knowledge on how immigrant women are successful in responding to the transition and change involved in moving to a new country and managing the impact of these changes on their work, we used a positive psychology approach (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) to investigate the following research questions: What helps immigrant women workers to do well with changes affecting their work and what hinders them in that process? What would have been helpful to these workers to do well with these changes: Positive psychology is the study of human strengths and virtues that enable people to thrive (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). We used a positive psychology framework to begin to build a knowledge base that could guide the development of programs and interventions that foster immigrant women's success in dealing with change and transition.
Given that this study was exploratory, a qualitative …