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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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Dear Career Coach, I have lived in London for nearly 15 years but, coming from Senegal, I still have a strong accent. I am worried that this may be stopping me from getting better jobs. Can you help?

Fatima, London

Hi Fatima

Even after many years of living overseas, many people will still retain strong accents from their countries of origin. Rightly or wrongly, accents can cause people to draw their own conclusions based on their own perceptions and prejudices. A black friend of mine has found that having a cut-glass English accent is opening doors for her in the USA while a Jamaican client has found her own accent a problem in the UK. Some accents are perceived as more ‘musical’ than others and some less than open-minded people may choose to equate a foreign accent with a lack of intelligence, not stopping to consider how they sound when speaking a foreign language! But, as we know, one’s accent has very little to do with how bright you are. In fact, it is a positive sign that you can speak more than one language.

To counter this misperception, don’t let your accent prevent you from presenting yourself as the talented professional that you are.   You have no reason to apologise for your accent – some foreign languages don’t even contain the sounds that are found in English.  However, be aware of how your accent may impact on your ability to communicate your expertise; there is a difference between simply having a foreign accent and lacking the communication skills needed to get your job done.

Communication skills are a key element of succeeding in a job interview and, eventually, in the job and being aware of how others may not understand you will help you improve your communication. Focus on pronouncing the words you are speaking carefully and slow down a little when you speak to give people a better chance of understanding what you are saying. Make sure that you use correct grammar and a good and appropriate range of vocabulary to demonstrate your expertise.

While others may disagree with me, diminishing a strong accent in a business setting can be an advantage and can influence assumptions. You will not always get honest feedback when you are working with or aspiring to the higher levels of management, especially if people believe you will see such comments as negative criticism or even racial bias; but unfortunately there are many people who can and will act on their assumptions.

Need some help to solve your career dilemma?  Whether you are a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, our experienced careers coaches can work with you – on an individual or group basis – to help you get back on track with your career.

From online CV checking to face-to-face coaching, presentation skills training to making the right impact at interview, our careers services will help you reach your goals.

Contact us now to discuss your needs:  careers@reconnectafrica.com
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