Perhaps mentorship is not for every person or every situation, but when a mentoring relationship is well matched it can be transformative.
Doug Piquette, Executive Director of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC), has seen that transformation happen again and again. For him, a highlight of being part of a mentorship program for newcomers to Canada is “the rejuvenated sense of hope that many of the mentees take away with them in the mentorship program,” he says.
Mentorship incorporates elements of training and coaching. It aims to guide mentees through a learning and self-awareness process that will leave them empowered and informed.
“I felt stopped,” says Israel Miralles, a newcomer to Canada. But when he started working with his Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC) Mentor, “He gave me a lot of new ideas. Things that I didn’t know. He told me what other paths I can follow, and that was great.”
The knowledge shared through the mentoring relationship can build confidence, understanding, and resiliency that helps newcomers to Alberta navigate the job search and our workplace culture.
Betty Jiang became a mentor with CRIEC because she knew how it could change the trajectory of someone’s career. “As someone who was mentored early in my career,” she says, “I knew what a positive impact that a program like this has so I was very eager to get involved.”
The professional gains are not only for the mentee in the mentoring relationship. Mentors like Jiang can enhance their career by improving their leadership skills and deepen their understanding of the Canadian business environment. While the primary goal of a mentorship program is to build the skills and capacity of the mentee, there are still many benefits for the mentor.
Mentors may find common ground with their mentees. Carlen Ng realised this when he started mentoring with CRIEC. “Sometimes when people are going through their own careers, they think they are the only one going through all these things,” he says. “But it’s nice to know that there are other people who are just as confused.” This common ground is where a mentor can share their own experience and help their mentee find their own way through similar challenges.
But it is not about solving challenges or problems for a mentee. A mentor is not expected to find a job for their mentee. Instead, mentors are guides. They create a safe environment where their mentees can learn, share knowledge, and explore challenges.
Once Jiang and her mentee had defined the goals of their mentoring relationship, the mentor could support the mentee through reaching those goals. “It was about how do I help and guide her. Not necessarily giving her all the answers,” says Jiang, “but challenging the way that she is thinking and perhaps giving her some other options that she hasn’t thought of before on her own.”
Employers benefit from mentorship because their employees or potential hires will be better prepared for our labour market with the right skills. Mentorship programs can ease the transition for new employees and reduce training time. They may also help employers find those employees who are not what you expect but end up being exactly what your company needed.
One of CRIEC’s former mentees, Charles Osuji is now a partner in the law firm Osuji & Smith in Calgary. When he went to his interview with founding partner Jim A. Smith, Smith thought he had made up his mind on who he was hiring before he saw Osuji. But Osuji’s preparation from working with his mentor and his drive impressed Smith.
“As the interview went on,” says Smith, “I realized come hell or high water I wanted him.”
It was “one of those meetings that changes your life for good,” says Osuji.
Smith has confirmed that his instincts were correct. Osuji is now a partner in the firm and will eventually take over when Smith retires.
Mentorship is becoming a common practice within large corporations, universities, and non-profits. Whether it is one-on-one or small group mentoring, the mentoring relationship builds networks and skills that benefit the participants and their employers.
Because it works.
“Many of the participants have indicated that they are much more hopeful and much more patient with the job search process,” says Piquette. With over a decade of experience leading ERIEC, Piquette has seen many mentors and mentees go on to success in their careers.
The Alberta Mentorship Program aims to spread this mentoring success throughout the province. This site provides resources for mentorship programs, mentors, mentees, and employers. We hope that creating more opportunities for mentorship across the province will build a stronger Alberta.
Jiang enjoyed seeing how quickly her mentoring partner grew through the CRIEC mentorship program, and it is inspiring her to work on her own career goals. “To see her growth over the short few months that I’ve met her, it’s very rewarding,” says Jiang. “It’s very motivating for myself as well. To really see all the positive work and results that come out of a program like this."
Join us and help us create an Alberta mentoring culture.