The Importance of Mentoring for New Immigrants in Canada

By May 5, 2016 August 6th, 2019 Jobseeker

By guest contributor and former Career Edge intern Sujit Das, CPA, CGA, ACA

In every stage of our life, we embrace with some torch bearers who show the path. They may either be parents, teachers, leaders, senior peer groups, colleagues, friends or others.  Parents embed the norms of behavior and code of conduct in our blood which can simply be said as ‘Charity begins at home’. Afterwards, our ‘SHIKKHAGURU’ that is, ‘teachers’ in educational institutions shape our lives to materialize our aims and to be a good human being. Peer groups, colleagues, friends and others also help to reconcile the up and down sides of practical and career life, advise how we can rectify our norms or behavior to achieve a desired result. We are facing many bumps from starting education in primary school to a work life in work culture that are well known to all of us.

Could all of us imagine what will be the flip side if we start an immigrant life in a completely new and challenging culture? I believe, more or less, every one of us faced the same sorts of challenges when we touched the land of immigrants, Canada. As a new immigrant, we face uncountable challenges either in workplace, at home, to adapt [to] socio-economic changes or cultural barriers. To face new challenges in a new environment, to grow and to make a place in a competitive market, to embrace with a new culture, we need to take a ray of hope, ray of inspiration, ray of right direction at right time from the lodestar. One of such torch bearers is ‘Mentor’.

“It’s very hard to be successful without having a good mentor, it is essential to have someone you can look up to and emulate. Also, a mentor will show you the tricks and pitfalls of the game because they have likely already been around the block.”- Varun Gulati (San Francisco, California – ‎Co-founder at UClass; Product Owner at Renaissance Learning – ‎Renaissance Learning).

Mentoring means teaching and/or advising. It also involves what we call “uplifting behaviors”- namely inspiring, motivating, and encouraging. Its core purpose is to enable the mentee’s growth. Mentoring is a very special relationship that you have with somebody that could share their industry insights, their expertise; share stories about how they got to where they have got in and provide encouragement that you need to be successful in your job search here in Canada.[1]

How mentorship helps the new immigrant?

The generic purpose of mentorship is to help the “mentee” in developing professional relationships with accomplished mentors for:

  • Professional Development – beyond industry, the focus is on intrinsic challenges as well as discovering and leveraging expertise
  • Personal Development – the focus, here, is on the mentee and how mentees manage work/life decisions

We have to always keep in mind that this is not a job placement program and does not guarantee industry-specific insights.

How the mentor benefits:

  • Enhances leadership and coaching skills
  • Develops cross-cultural communication skills
  • Gains a better understanding of the skills and experience of immigrants
  • Becomes more aware of the job market and industry trends
  • Participates in professional development sessions customized to address mentor needs
[Original source: Become a Mentor, The Mentoring Partnership]

Empirical evidence:

I started my Canadian life with the hand of Career Edge through a paid internship at Scotiabank. Career Edge is a self-sustaining social enterprise that has remained passionate about connecting highly motivated, well-qualified interns with leading organizations since 1996. […] I was enough fortunate, I must say, to have mentor like Scott McAthey, Director, Decision Support Services Governance at Scotiabank. I did my internship for one year under his prudent guidance. I believe he helped me in the following ways:

  • Dedicated to my professional development throughout the internship period, proactively setting up regular meetings with me to provide orientation, support, feedback, and mentoring.
  • Proactively provided me with organizational resources that provided practical job-related knowledge that helped me not only excel in my role as an intern, but also contributed to my long-term professional development.
  • Proactively exposed me to several networking opportunities that allowed me to meet other professionals and colleagues – cross-functionally – in both formal and informal settings, which helped me to excel in my role as an intern, and contributed to the growth of my professional network.
  • Provided regular formal and informal feedback on my work as an intern, helping me to achieve my work deliverables, career-related goals and enhancing my professional development.
  • Proactively encouraged me to pursue professional growth opportunities like working on significant projects/presentations, exposure to other parts of the organization, and participation in company events.
  • Contributed to my career launch in a significant way by ensuring my internship provided me with meaningful work experience.
  • Promoted and highlighted my skills and experience to others in the organization, and offered knowledge and networking opportunities within and/or outside the organization.

Some of the advice that we should seek from our mentor is just to learn about their experiences. We really want to learn about the workplace culture, so asking questions about the culture, like how are things different here in Canada than back home, we are going to hear some amazing insights about how it is to deal with our manager, our colleagues. The mentor will be able to give us a lot of those insights, so ask a lot of questions and structure your sessions to really focus on different things at different times. Maybe one session is just about our resume, where we talk about our resume and how we could tweak our resume and then we could move into talking about the workplace.

Vijay Chander came to Canada from the Philippines as a student, which afforded him both the opportunity to learn what Canadian employers were looking for and also understand the cultural dynamics necessary for successful integration into Canadian diaspora. It is this background that has served him well through his ten mentoring relationships with new immigrants in Canada. “I realized that a lot of new immigrants were coming who were very well qualified but had no idea how to integrate into the society and how to find jobs,” says Vijay, a Senior Program Manager at Rogers Communications. Vijay firmly believes that mentoring plays a critical role for a new immigrant in Canada. “A mentor is the bridge for the new immigrant,” says Vijay. “A mentor can help guide the mentee with real world experience – we can immediately say what works and what does not work anymore. We provide our mentees guidance in adapting to a new culture and surroundings, and if necessary, on how to present oneself.” [Vijay Chander is a mentor with The Mentoring Partnership; original source: Vijay Chander – Mentor to 10 or more skilled immigrants, The Mentoring Partnership]

Fabian Marks sees the value that a mentor brings to a newcomer’s career search process.  “As a mentee, I totally appreciated the advice and guidance I received from my mentor. This helped me secure a position in my field, and I hope to be able to return the favour to newcomers.” Having arrived in Canada in 2008, Fabian works as Director, Marketing, Global Wealth & Insurance, Scotiabank International. He became a mentor because he knew there was a need for mentorship, especially for newcomers to Canada. “Having been there myself 6 years ago, I know how challenging it can be -when you have a family to take care of, this is life changing stuff.” [Fabian Marks is a mentor with The Mentoring Partnership; original source: Fabian Marks – I wanted to return the favor to newcomers, The Mentoring Partnership]


Following his internship, Sujit secured a permanent role and has continued to take on new challenges and opportunities at Scotiabank. We wish him great success in his new Canadian life and look forward to having him switch from being a mentee to a mentor as we work together to launch more careers for newcomers in Canada!

To learn more about Career Edge’s paid internship program for internationally qualified professionals, visit www.careeredge.ca.


References:

  1. Rothwell, W. J., & Chee, P (2013). Becoming an effective mentoring leader: proven strategies for building excellence in your organization.
  2. http://www.prepareforcanada.com/working/success-strategies/how-can-newcomers-benefit-from-mentoring/
  3. http://www.financialpost.com/related/topics/mentoring+immigrants/4465549/story.html
  4. http://www.ontarioimmigration.ca/en/working/OI_HOW_WORK_MENTOR.html
  5. http://www.thementoringpartnership.com/

Special thanks to TRIEC for allowing us to share the stories and guidance originally published by The Mentoring Partnership.

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