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Mentoring relationships: 7 tips for mentoring newcomers

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Ten Thousand Coffees Team
Ten Thousand Coffees Team -
May 31, 2021

Sharifa Khan was just 21 when she immigrated from British Hong Kong to Toronto, Canada in 1975. She found work as a PR and Marketing Assistant at an agency and rose up the ranks to become a shareholder 11 years later. In 1989, she started her own multicultural marketing agency, Balmoral Marketing Inc. and since then, her agency has grown to a team of 40 people and has earned countless marketing and creative awards.

Khan’s journey to the top wouldn’t have happened without the guidance and effective mentoring relationships she established with members of Toronto’s business community. “Those mentors made a difference in my life,” she recalls. Now, Khan mentors newcomers to help them get settled and work on their professional development in their new home, just like she did herself.

Whether you have a new colleague who is a newcomer to Canada and could use some support, or you simply want to improve your mentoring relationships, Sharifa Khan has shared her top tips for building successful mentoring relationships with everyone.

1. Listen and learn

Whether or not you’re familiar with the newcomer’s home country, successful mentors should take the time to learn about and understand their mentee’s past. “Practice active listening and ask inquisitive questions,” Khan says. “Listen to your newcomer mentee’s stories from back home — both personal and work-related stories.” This practise of sharing stories will help mentors identify core strengths that their mentees hold and qualities that will help them on their career path. “You can then mirror back to them the strengths you see to help them grow and succeed in Canada,” says Khan.

2. Check your biases

“Thicker accents can sometimes feel a bit daunting if you feel like you can’t understand someone initially,” says Khan. “You’ll find this will very quickly dissipate as you continue to converse.” Khan encourages mentors to be aware of stereotypes that their newcomer mentee could be facing and to actively work against them. “Avoid self-judgment,” says Khan. “Rather, keep an open mind about how you can expand your own horizons in this mentoring relationship. You can learn a lot and grow personally through this process mentoring experience.”

3. Mentees need reassurance

Khan says that most newcomers she mentors already have a clear idea of what steps they need to take to reach their career goals and land their first big break in Canada. “They lack the confidence to navigate a new system without reassurance,” she explains. “They don’t want to blindly jump into things. They may want someone with more experience to advise that their decisions are sound.” That reassurance can come from creating a strong mentor-mentee relationship, championing them along the mentoring process and supporting them throughout their career development journey.

4. Be proactive, and teach the sell

Most mentees feel conscious of taking up a mentor’s time. This is especially true for newcomer mentees, so it’s important for mentors to take initiative. “Reach out proactively and let your mentee know you are accessible to them,” Khan says. Many newcomers are accustomed to expressing humbleness and humility in the workplace, especially when speaking to superiors. “In contrast, hiring managers in our Canadian workplace culture often look for confidence, passion and independent thinking,” says Khan. “They expect jobseekers to “sell” themselves differently than what newcomers are used to back home.” Convey these workplace norms to your mentee and help them practise the skill sets needed to sell themselves to Canadian employers in job interviews.

5. Offer guidance outside of career advice

“Sometimes your mentee can use your help and guidance in areas you may not have expected,” says Khan. Examples include navigating processes to complete government paperwork and understanding everyday banking. “Be open and ask questions so you can determine how you can best help your mentee.” Great mentors are there to help their mentees in all aspects of like, whether it's professional or personal milestones, or helping them develop the competencies required to secure a job in their new country.

6. Connect with new immigrant settlement organizations

Are you a mentor that would like to help a newcomer? Khan suggests reaching out to new immigrant settlement organizations in your community. “They offer mentoring programs in which you can participate,” she says. “They specifically serve the newcomer community.” Government bridging programs, which are designed to help new immigrants to find work in their field based on their education and experience, can also be another place to find mentorship programs.

7. Networking is everything

Do you already have a newcomer in your life that you want to support? Even if you’re in different fields, you can still create an impact. “Make introductions for them to contacts within your network, social circles and communities,” says Khan. “Look especially for people in your circles who may have ties to your mentee’s industry, then diligently follow-up yourself to make sure those introductions are made.”

Khan reminds mentors not to underestimate the value they bring from their own life and career experience. “Even if your fields are unrelated, you can share parallel learnings of your own to help your mentee navigate finding a job and developing their career.”

If you want even more info on how to create a successful mentoring program, check out our complete guide to online mentorship in the workplace here - no email address required ;)

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