HOW THEY DID IT:
MENTORS SHOW THE WAY
FOR NEWCOMERS TO CANADA
BUDHI KHAREL When I came to Canada, if I had the information that I got through The Mentoring Partnership from the start, I would have gone even farther. I want to share information with mentees as soon as possible. I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction from seeing mentees succeed. Times are changing and newcomers are changing; they’re coming with more knowledge. Maybe they were a doctor or manager in their own country – they have the hard skills, but they have to get the soft skills. I tell my mentees that first, they must be good communicators. They should remain positive and keep an open mind. They should to be willing to share their challenges while they seek advice and guidance.
SMITHA VENKAT I saw a lot value for skilled immigrants in mentoring. It helped me bridge the gaps in my career and gave me opportunities in my career. So, now I want to do the same and help other people who are new to the Canadian workforce.
KHALED SOUHANI Being a mentee and knowing what new people experience when they come here, what they face, it’s an opportunity to share my experience and knowledge to help them. A lot of new people coming to Canada don’t know where to begin. I was lucky enough to be a mentee and proceed in my career. It’s about sharing this and helping people.
MARGARET EATON It takes a whole village – or a city in fact – to make The Mentoring Partnership a success,” said Margaret Eaton, executive director of Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). “It’s not just mentors who are leaders – it’s important to recognize that the skilled immigrants they mentor are also leaders in their field. All the more so because they have shown the strength and courage to start again somewhere new.
Those who immigrated a good many years ago recall how hard it was to find meaningful employment, to find work that was commensurate with one’s qualifications and experience.
A few were lucky enough to find a mentor, someone who guided them, helped them navigate the professional landscape, explained the dos and the dont’s...but that was mostly done informally, through a personal network of friends or family members who may have immigrated earlier and knew more than the newcomers did.
There were few organizations or groups devoted to helping newcomers find their feet.
That changed with the establishment of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).
Formed specifically to address the persistent problem of immigrant underemployment – the fact that extremely highly skilled people come to Toronto from all over the world and end up in low-skilled jobs, TRIEC Mentoring Partnership has paired thousands of newcomers with mentors in their field since 2004.
Newcomers bring valuable professional experience to the GTA, but often struggle to find employment where their skills can be fully leveraged.
Mentors can help them build professional networks and provide guidance on how the local job market works, ensuring employers benefit from the untapped potential of immigrants, rather than wasting the tremendous skills and experience that they have to offer.
“It takes a whole village – or a city in fact – to make The Mentoring Partnership a success,” said Margaret Eaton, executive director of Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).
“It’s not just mentors who are leaders – it’s important to recognize that the skilled immigrants they mentor are also leaders in their field. All the more so because they have shown the strength and courage to start again somewhere new.”
Partnerships run 24 hours over four months with 75 per cent of mentees reporting finding work in their professional field within 12 months of completing the program.
Mentoring brings many benefits. Newcomers who find employment after taking part in the program are able to contribute to the labour market, which boosts the economy.
Mentoring also helps the mentor learn leadership and cross-cultural communication skills. As recent census data has shown, Toronto is becoming ever more diverse, so these are important competencies that today’s professionals need to be able to demonstrate.
There are great success stories from people and organizations who have given back to their professional communities including former newcomer mentees in the program who have gone on to become mentors. Each has his or her own motivation for mentoring again and again. Some have been immigrants themselves. Some see it as part of being a leader in their profession. All share a deep energy and commitment for giving back to their profession and making a difference in the lives of others.
The mentees who become mentors are in the perfect position to help new immigrants.
They have a first-hand understanding of the challenges with their first Canadian job search and have established their professional networks here in Canada.
“It is easy to become discouraged and lose hope when your job search does not bear fruit,” said Ovais Aziz, mentee turned mentor. “The first thing I try to do is to help them get their confidence back and reassure them that they have something valuable to offer. I remind them about their past successes and achievements and encourage them to continue working hard to find that first job, the foot in the door.”
FROM A MENTEE TO A MENTOR: MY TURN TO GIVE BACK Each year, TRIEC honours mentors and organizations for their outstanding contributions in its mentoring program. Those recognized in recent years include:
SANJEEV OHRI is an experienced Business Analyst and Scrum Master at RBC bank. Having completed 10 partnerships with a successful track record, he brings a lot of knowledge and helpful advice to the people he mentors through TRIEC Mentoring Partnership.
“For me it was the passion to help. I wanted to do something different from the things I do at my work every day. I really wanted to go the extra mile to help newcomers, and those who happen to be not as privileged enough to get a job easily. I think it is important they have the right coach to prepare them, and help them tailor their resumé and work style to fit with the Canadian workplace. I strongly believe all professionals should start mentoring. I have personally spoken to peers and seniors, to encourage them to do so. I think being a mentor gives you a lot of personal satisfaction. You are helping someone and you are also giving back to the community. Mentoring is a two-way learning process, not only do you help your mentee, but you also learn a lot from them. It’s very much a win- win situation for both people. To me, a mentor is a person who guides people. There are a number of different things a mentor can do – I call myself a coach – I’m someone who guides a person to achieve the potential they have by putting together a plan for them to follow. It’s given me a better understanding and has helped me become a better leader. It has helped me a lot with managing small teams. I also mentor within RBC for junior analysts, as I have the expertise to guide them. I believe I have changed during my time being a mentor. I’ve noticed I have become more mature and confident in my leadership style. To me, mentoring is a constant feedback loop – you do something for your mentee, and then check how it went. At the beginning and the end of every partnership I ask my mentee for feedback on me as a mentor. Then you tailor yourself to that feedback. It’s very effective. I’ve also done different things at different times. I make sure I learn from and try to understand each mentee. I make sure what I deliver matches the needs of the mentee, to make my time with them as a mentor as useful as possible. I’ve been lucky that way that most of my partnerships have ended on a happy note! Most people who were assigned to me through TRIEC Mentoring Partnership ended up receiving job offers following our partnership.I mentored someone that enjoyed the process so much that the moment he finished his partnership with me he wanted to become a mentor himself. That was a highlight for me.”
Ohri’s advice for those who decide to start mentoring includes setting the expectations with the mentee. “Don’t give any false hope – it’s important for me to under-promise and over-perform. I also don’t give any guarantees on employment, as the market is so dynamic and there are so many variables. Find out about your mentee’s motivation. When I start each mentoring partnership I do an assessment to gauge if the mentee is committed to the program, and willing to invest their time in it. It can vary so much with different people.”
ALI RAZA immigrated to Canada from Pakistan in August 2013. With an MBA in Marketing and over 10 years of experience in different industries, he joined TRIEC Mentoring Partnership as a mentee through a bridging program with Access Employment in 2013. He now works at TD Bank as an associate manager in Marketing Planning. Mentoring prepared me to understand the way things work here, how employers review candidates, what is important to employers, and how to create a resumé that’s effective. When you arrive in Canada, you are out of your comfort zone; there are lots of things you are not sure of and it builds a lot of questions in your mind. So you need someone to give you that confidence and reassurance to know that you are looking at things in the right perspective. I was in an ACCES Employment focus group at TD Bank, where I was asked how I ended up in my position, and I explained the process. Following the meeting I received an email from someone at TD who inquired if I would be interested in mentoring. I said why not! I wanted to pass on support to another newcomer, as I benefited from the program when I was a mentee. I am a strong believer in karma. Canada is a country with lots of new immigrants, and it can be very challenging for newcomers. Mentoring can help them navigate their new home. For the mentor, it’s a great way of developing yourself. You can act as a guide, an experienced professional and good listener. You learn something new, learn about your mentee’s journey, and you make new contacts. Being a mentor is very different to being a mentee, as you are thinking about someone else’s career and their success instead of your own. But when your focus is on the mentee, it surprisingly benefits you as well. You build new skills in the process and you discover this as you go along.”
Raza advises new mentees to be proactive and make the most out of their partnership. “I can help guide my mentee but I cannot do it for them. A lot depends on the mentee to respond to the guidance being offered. The partnership is a two-way process; it’s about engaging the other person.” And he tells a new mentor to be a good listener.
“When you listen, you get some great cues and can identify what is important to a mentee as well as what they are going through. You can also gauge their approach and mindset to tailor the career advice offered. Every person is different and you have to build upon that to help and assist them with their journey. Engage with the person – ensure they are fully committed to the partnership. Once you build a relationship of trust and support, they are willing to reciprocate, making the partnership worthwhile and effective.”
The program has ambitious plans to grow in coming years. As a result of its partnership with LEAP: The Centre for Social Impact, they received new funding in 2016 from the Ontario government, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the RBC Foundation to scale and provide mentors to thousands more recent immigrants across the GTA.
To learn more about the Professional Immigrant Networks program, visit www.networksforimmigrants.ca. You can also learn about the latest trends and resources in immigrant employment at www.triec.ca/immigrants. To see a full list of partners across the GTA or to sign-up as a mentor visit thementoringpartnership.com – Rebecca Adams
Learn about becoming a mentee Have you immigrated to Canada in the last five years? Are you looking for work in your professional field? You have skills, education, and some great work experience – and you’re keen to get started and find a job where you can use those skills and talents. But how do you find that job? Where are the positions advertised? How do you build your professional network? A mentor can help you answer these questions – and more. If you’re an immigrant professional in the Toronto Region and want to find meaningful employment that matches your education, skills and experience, there are resources available to help you. Through programs offered by TRIEC and its community and employer partners, you can gain industry insights, professional contacts and job search support from professionals in your field. The path to employment in Canada can involve many steps.
Learn about becoming a mentor Do you have two plus years’ professional experience in Canada? Mentors share their knowledge and insights with a newcomer, building their leadership skills in the process. Mentors are leaders. They give back to their professional communities. They coach people to achieve their full potential, and work effectively with people of all different backgrounds and experiences in today’s diverse workplace. Giving just 18 hours of your time over three months could help change someone’s life.
More info on how to become a mentee or how to sign up as a mentor at www.triec.ca