Bootcamp: Recruiting Ready Mentees

On February 5, 2021, the Alberta Mentorship Program hosted our second boot camp. This session discussed how to recruit mentees who are ready for mentorship and prepared to invest in a mentoring relationship. We are trying to use our Start-Up Boot Camps as a community learning space to cover important topics for new and growing mentorship programs.

Sarah Tangan, Mentorship Facilitator at Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) lead the boot camp presentation supported by Doug Piquette, Executive Director of ERIEC; and Bruce Randall, Executive Director of the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC). With experience working with ERIEC’s Career Mentorship Program and experience being a mentee, Sarah brings a valuable perspective to the challenges of recruiting mentees who are ready for mentorship.

“I believe that the success of the mentorship program is in finding and inspiring the right mentees,” says Sarah. “The mentee needs to be ready to take action on the feedback they receive.” This means that you need to find those mentees who are not only looking for guidance and support from a mentor but that they are ready for that guidance. When you find those mentorship-ready mentees, you will set the foundation for successful mentoring relationships.

"Often the recruitment of mentors overshadows the recruitment of mentees," says Doug. "But recruitment needs to be considered from both sides." There will be ebbs and flows on your recruitment from both sides due to time of year or the economy. Sometimes the mentees will be coming to you. Other times you will need to seek them out.

Want more expert advice and to ask your questions about mentorship? Learn more about our other Start-Up Boot Camps.

Recruitment Partners

We love our community partners who welcome newcomers,” says Sarah. “They send the professional ready mentees to us.”

"For a while, most of CRIEC's mentees came from other newcomer agencies. Then it became as much about word of mouth," says Bruce. He and his team spend a lot of time presenting at libraries, houses of worship, and community groups. Now, in the current economy and during the pandemic when there are fewer presentations and events, mentees are coming more from newcomer agencies again. Being flexible and maintaining a range of partners can help you keep a steady mentee intake.

Consider who your community partners are and how you can reach them:

  • Reach out to immigrant-serving organizations, not-for-profits, and governmental agencies serving newcomers.
  • Connect to groups working with newcomers before they arrive in Canada and who plan to look for local work.
  • Create partnerships with post-secondary schools that can connect you to newcomers who are upgrading their educational credentials.
  • Use social media to post free events and calls for mentee applications. It can also strengthen your ties to your community partners.
  • Go to partner events and job fairs. Often you can hand out free information or get an information booth.
  • Connect to your own network. For example, Sarah is part of the Filipino community network and can connect to newcomers in that community. Find out which groups your team is already connected to.

The best way to have a good referral system from your community partners is to make sure they understand the people who will be the best mentees for your program. You need them to refer the right people who are most likely to be a good fit so you can avoid disappointing their clients.

And the mentees who felt successful will refer their friends or family to be part of the next round of mentees. "Often we'll get their husband or wife in the next session after a successful mentoring relationship," says Sarah.

"Presentations are great. Coffees are great. It’s about making a lot of connections and just talking and being open and having your two-minute pitch ready to go," says Bruce. Even if these connections are being done virtually now, they will help you find the mentees who are ready for your program.

Mentee Eligibility

It is important to have a clear idea of who you want to be your mentor. Most programs set specific criteria for their mentors. These can be as narrowly or widely defined as needed. They will often be related to your funding, values, and mission. Your criteria could include:

  • Personal Qualities: professional, outgoing, empathetic, dedicated, etc.
  • Demographics: age, gender, education level, employment, etc.
  • Groups or Professions: students, newcomers, religious organizations, sports teams, teachers, health care workers, etc.

The most important criteria for your mentees are the personal criteria. “They need to be open to learning and feedback because this is the purpose of mentorship,” says Sarah. “They will need to work with the advice and listen to the perspective of the mentor.”

In addition, you may want to ask mentees for documentation to confirm credentials such as:

  • Job-ready English usually CLB 7+ or equivalent (from IELTS, TOEFL)
  • Proof of foreign credentials such as copies of degrees in English (from WES, IQAS credential notarization).
  • Proof of attendance for an employment-related workshop or watching a related video such as Find a Job in Canada

See sample criteria from other mentorship programs:

Read more: Recruiting Mentees & Mentors

Mentee Assessment

ERIEC has a thorough process for walking mentees through the application and assessment. Sarah admits that you could do a simpler process, but over time ERIEC has learned that doing interviews and assessments before the mentor and mentee are matched can save a lot of challenges later.

"We need the process, not to make it harder but to make sure they are ready," she says. "We have a good system that lets them complete the application online."

ERIEC hosts an information session every other week for potential mentees. Requiring all applicants to attend an information session helps to set expectations for time, commitment, and outcomes early.

If the mentee passes the eligibility requirements, a member of the ERIEC team will interview them. "The interview is one of the critical parts of the assessment," says Sarah. This is where you can assess if the mentee is really ready for mentorship. Are they committed? Do they have the time right now to put in the work? Do they understand how the mentoring relationship works?

Because ERIEC follows a cohort model, accepted mentees will be put on a waiting list for the next cohort. During this time, they will attend an orientation that further prepares them for mentorship and describes the mentee's role and responsibilities. If a mentee cannot join the first session they are eligible for, they can attend the next one. There are times when a mentee will be accepted and seem engaged but will fail to follow through. ERIEC's mentorship staff make sure they do their best to keep their mentees engaged and excited through the process.

CRIEC does rolling orientations and mentorship start dates. So as soon as a mentor is accepted, they have an individual orientation. This can help with engagement, but it requires more time for each orientation. What works for your program can depend on your numbers, your resources, and your team.

Regardless of which method your program uses, you can judge a lot about their commitment from whether or not the mentees stay engaged. Some mentees will have good reason to miss an orientation date or be slower to respond, so it is good to be flexible and judge this on a case-by-case basis. It is good to be attentive to a mentee's needs and situation, but you do not want to pair a mentor with someone who is not serious about mentorship.

"I have to be a recruiter and a counsellor," says Sarah. "I really want to convince them to buy into the culture of mentorship. I give them a lot of stories. I always tell them that 'All masters have mentors.' "

"Ask them if this is the right time and are you ready to work with a mentor," says Doug. "If they aren’t engaged now, they won’t be ready for mentorship."

Be Clear About Expectations

Both ERIEC and CRIEC conduct separate orientations for mentors and mentees to prepare them for mentorship before they meet for the first time. We conduct the orientation to prepare them to meet their mentor or mentee. This could include what to wear, confidentiality, how to talk to your mentee or mentor, and expectations.

"There are still misinterpretations or misunderstanding of the expectations. If you just ask them, 'How do you define mentorship?' Everyone has a different answer," says Doug.

Often, they are familiar with mentor-like relationships. But within a formal mentorship program, there are specific expectations for the mentee's role. They will need to be flexible and work around the mentor's availability. They will need to be prepared to reflect and act on advice. They may be creating and working towards specific goals.

"They need to explore the concept of mentorship beyond just getting a job," says Doug. It is having a trusted place to have those work-related discussions. It is a safe place to learn the Canadian workplace. "Some mentees may get a transitional or dream job, but we want to practice mentorship in an intentional and practical way to understand the culture."

"Mentoring means different things in different cultures," says Bruce. "You should have good open conversations about what mentoring can be. This is really important for setting people up for success."

The real value of mentorship is those deeper discussions and support. This will make a mentee more resilient and better able to transition or find the next job. It is about building the mentee's confidence when they feel supported and encouraged by their mentor.

"You can find them a job. That is great. But they will still lack the soft skills and the understanding and with still face the integration and transition into the work," says Doug.

"A good mentor in my mind will ask me the question instead of giving me the answer," says Bruce. "The right question will have me look inside for the solution and will be reached with the support of my mentor."

CRIEC started doing Sharing Circles at the end of mentorship. It is a time to gather and share experiences. They have found it is an effective way to end mentorship.

"Getting a job was not the first thing that they spoke about," says Bruce. "They would talk about the relationship."

Everyone would say they learned so many things. Mentees would often say that they have learned how to find mentors for the rest of their life because they understand the value of mentorship and the mentoring relationship.

"Jobs can come and go. The skills you put in your tool kit are there for the rest of your life," says Bruce.

Read More: Define Program Expectations

Be Tenacious and Patient

Finding the balance between being persistent with potential mentees and being too pushy can be challenging, especially with a new program when mentees and mentors are harder to recruit.

"Nudging is the main skill. It’s a fine balance," says Doug. "It's about recognizing when someone isn’t ready now. Sometimes after a break and another nudge it will be the time."

If you can, take a break and then go back to the mentee later. You want to be tenacious, but you do not want to push anyone into mentorship if they are not ready.

"Sometimes we have a mentee who thought they were ready, but they go radio silent for a while," says Bruce. This can mean that they were not ready yet and they need more time. Invite them to other programs or services that could help build their confidence.

If the timing is not right now, stay in touch and keep them on your contact list. The mentee may be ready later and those reminders will bring them back.

"Let them know there is a real benefit in this for you… when you are ready," says Cheryl Whitelaw, AMP Project Manager.

It took ERIEC ten months to get ten mentoring matches. No matter how many matches your program gets in the first year or two, it is progress. Use the time to work on your team's recruitment, sales, and listening skills. It takes practice to learn when to nudge and when to pause, and you will get better at it.

It took a long time and a lot of frustration to get here," says Doug. "But let them know this is a great program and opportunity we are offering. This is a benefit to both the mentor and mentee."

Keep Checking In

Once your mentee is matched and the mentoring relationship has started, it is important to have a few check-in points and to be available to your mentors and mentees.

"Mentoring is not a machine. It is not a connect and forget," says Bruce.

Providing ongoing support, even if your mentees and mentors do not need more than a brief interaction, ensures that your participants leave the program satisfied. It can also head off problems before they begin.

Source: Archimedes Lab Monthly Optical Illusion, 2009

Stories have Power

"From the start, I was automatically hooked because I’ve seen a lot of success stories," says Sarah. Throughout her life, she can remember mentors who gave her support, even in the Philippines.

Before Sarah came on board with ERIEC, she spoke at the Global Talent Conference about her experience as a mentee. It was out of her comfort zone, but she told her story. Telling her story is an important part of finding her "hidden tiger" or her inner strength and potential. She was anxious but took it on anyway.

"It took courage to tell her story in front of 250 people. It was such a compelling story," says Doug. "It was part of her journey and she is a role model to others. Your story can be a powerful learning tool." Knowing your own story and being a good listener is the best way to connect to mentees.

Sarah sees how mentees can struggle before or even during mentoring. Sometimes they get fixated on the job search or that their mentor will not find them a job. She believes the power of mentorship is not about finding that job. It is so much more. "The most important thing I got from a mentor wasn’t a job, it was about finding the hidden tiger," she says.

"I make sure that the success stories are documented," says Sarah. "I want the mentees to identify with the mentees who are now mentors." She believes these success stories are fundamental to inspiring mentees and showing them how mentorship can help find their own job and define their own journey.

"They have the potential, but they lose confidence," says Sarah. "I can tell them I understand where you are coming from and I have surpassed those challenges. That is the power of storytelling."

Andy Molinsky, Professor of Organizational Behavior and International Management Global will be talking about this as the keynote speaker at the upcoming Global Talent Conference. One of his ideas is about finding your zone of authenticity and navigating a new space without losing who you are. This is so important to newcomers because we do not want them to lose who they were in their previous home, but we want them to be able to find a way to work and live within Canada.

"Maintaining the essence of themselves but telling their story in a way that will resonate with Canadian employers makes storytelling an important part of what we do," says Bruce. "We have our process and procedures but in between those gaps are the people who are trying to find their way without losing who they are."

Register for the Global Talent Conference on February 25, a free online conference hosted by ERIEC and CRIEC.

Learn More

Catch up on the recruitment discussions in our previous Community Calls and Boot Camps:

Need Program Resources? AMP has samples and templates for you, your mentors, and your mentees. Review our Resource Guide.

AMP Start-Up Bootcamps are provided support from the Government of Alberta - Labour and Immigration, Workforce Strategies.

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