On January 12, 2021, the Alberta Mentorship Program hosted the first of two community calls this January. The goal of the calls was to provide open question and answer sessions for anyone interested in mentorship. During this session, our mentorship mentors respond to questions about recruiting and matching mentors and mentees.
Our mentorship mentors were Doug Piquette, Executive Director of the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) and Bruce Randall, Executive Director of the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC). Both Doug and Bruce bring 15 years of experience building their respective mentorship organizations and can offer advice on a myriad of challenges that others building mentorship programs might face. The community call was moderated by AMP project manager Cheryl Whitelaw.
The most challenging part of beginning a mentorship program is finding enough mentors to match with mentees. Mentees are motivated and eager. How do you recruit mentors?
“This is something that is a constant challenge for any mentorship program,” says Doug. “Outreach is a constant strategy. Just when we think we are getting ahead, all of a sudden we get to the point where we are running out of mentors.”
Sometimes the challenge isn’t only having enough mentors but finding mentors in a related sector. For example, ERIEC is currently seeking more mentors in the engineering and the oil and gas sectors.
Recruitment is an iterative process. You will learn what works for you, your organization, and your community. It may not be the same as what works for ERIEC or CRIEC. Both Doug and Bruce agree that they’ve developed similar but not entirely the same methods to reach out to mentors in Edmonton and Calgary. However, they both recommend taking all opportunities to speak, write, and share about your program. The results will come with the work and practice. Put in the time. Believe in your program. And like many aspects of starting a new program, this will get easier as you gain experience and practice.
So how does ERIEC and CRIEC work to constantly recruit mentors?
Both Doug and Bruce recommend stepping back from the sales pitch of “we need mentors” to creating a real connection about what their mentorship programs do.
“Mentoring is aspirational and then there are the nuts and bolts,” says Bruce. “If you go in and just talk about the nuts and bolts you will lose the audience.”
Hook them on the passion, and then get to the nuts and bolts later. Because your mentors and potential partners tend to be givers and value relationships, show them how your program builds individuals and the community and where they can make a meaningful difference. That will matter more than the logistics or administration of the program.
Looking for people who have this mentoring attitude means that you will find mentors in places you might not expect. In addition to partnering with and presenting to professional organizations, employment groups, or networking associations, consider where else you might find the givers. This could be in houses of faith, Rotary Clubs, Toast Masters, service clubs, or libraries.
A great way to show why mentoring can be a powerful experience is to bring a mentor and a mentee with you to a presentation. Showing how mentoring benefits people professionally and personally is more effective than telling.
Read more about why someone might choose to be a mentor.
Once people understand WHY they should mentor, you need to answer questions about mentorship and the logistics of the program. Know your key messages. Know your nuts and bolts. You don’t have to have all the answers instantly, but if you are confident, your audience will be confident.
“In the early days, it was harder because the program was so new,” says Doug, “but this will get results. People are looking for a reason to participate.”
If you are looking to sell employers, be able to talk about how mentorship addresses some significant internal challenges. Ultimately you are there to solve a problem and show how mentorship can offer a solution.
“I ask: ‘What is the big rock in your road,’” says Bruce.
If the rock is not knowing how to prepare millennial employees for leadership, mentoring programs provide great professional development opportunities. If the rock is wanting to create a truly diverse and inclusive company, mentoring can help employers explore and foster this. When you know what their problems are, you can help employers see the benefit of working with you.
Read more about How Mentorship Benefits Employers
When ERIEC began in 2008, Doug found it helpful to run a few focus groups. He presented ideas for the program to a group of professional immigrants (potential mentees), with business people (potential mentors), and related agencies (potential partners). The feedback he got from these groups was invaluable. It was also a great way to become familiar with the material and adjust it to better reflect and serve the community and local organizations.
This can be done formally or informally. Even by talking to colleagues and practicing your presentation, you will get helpful feedback.
Both Bruce and Doug believe in the power of a coffee.
“A cup of coffee is your PowerPoint,” says Bruce.
While bigger presentations can be a great way to connect to a lot of people, one-on-one meetings over a cup of coffee are most effective. Even after a first meeting with someone at a presentation, you will probably find that someone from your team needs to meet with them one-on-one.
Websites are great but they are passive. People go to them for information. Social media can be more interactive, but it doesn’t always create the human connection. Encourage people on your website and social media to contact you and meet with someone on your team over the phone, video chat, or a cup of coffee.
When you are short of mentors, you or your team members can be mentors. Both Doug and Bruce have mentored many individuals before and during their work with ERIEC and CRIEC. Not only does this solve a problem but it gives you great insight into your own program and the challenges and joys of being a mentor.
Once you have a mentor ready to volunteer, it’s time to make sure they feel engaged and connected to your organization. “That is when the love starts,” says Bruce. “No one wants to be a transaction. We want to belong to organizations that make us feel good.”
When you get a new mentor, spend time with them individually or in a group orientation, set expectations, and provide them with resources that they might need to feel prepared. When you have more mentors on your team, you could connect new mentors to experienced mentors as a great way to share the knowledge and lessons learned.
The easiest way to get a new mentor is to keep a mentor who has already volunteered. Making the mentors feel valued will keep them coming back to support your program again and again.
Our social media portals have graphics, videos, and links that you may use to support your own marketing, social media, and presentation.
What are your strategies to match mentors to mentees?
There are many options for matching program and algorithms but ERIEC and CRIEC opt to keep matching hands-on. Their team read resumes from mentors and mentees and try to come up with as close a match as possible based on the sector they work in, similar projects, and education.
Doug says they’ve started sharing the resume with the potential mentor, so the mentor can also decide if this mentee is a good match. This has helped ERIEC with setting up productive matches that last.
Want to know more about Matching?
How often do we have to intervene in the mentoring relationship? Do we have to follow up after each meeting or is it up to them to give us feedback after each meeting?
The short answer is: “Keep this as simple as possible.”
The long answer starts with: “It depends...”
You will want to have some set check-in points for your mentoring matches. Perhaps it is after the first and third meeting to see where they are at and how it is going. This will be especially important for new mentors. You want to make sure they feel equipped and supported.
“Mentoring is human. It requires a human touch,” says Bruce.
Instead of focusing on too many specific check-ins, make sure that you’ve provided useful resources and orientation to your mentor and then just be available. Your mentors and mentees need to know that you are ready to help if there is a conflict, if a mentor or mentee stops showing up, or if mentees have questions that mentors can’t answer.
ERIEC and CRIEC also invite participants to other workshops and events so they have more ways to connect to participants and program organizers. That continual connection helps matches succeed and helps the programs build lasting relationships with mentors and mentees.
Need more resources for your mentors and mentees?
Find free resources on our website for:
For new mentors, the following resources might be helpful:
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 Community Calls are provided support from the Government of Alberta - Labour and Immigration, Workforce Strategies.