Mentoring new Canadians

by Hailey Chan

When Lebanon–native Majeda Haidar moved to Toronto in 2016 after completing her thesis, she was intimidated by the Canadian job market. She became quickly overwhelmed when she realized her foreign credentials would not be valued the same way Canadian work experience is.

Through The Institute for Performance and Learning, she found her mentor, Ken Graham, and their relationship was “life-changing,” Haidar says. Graham, Director of Training and Development at donorworx and longtime mentor to new Canadians, reassured her that the diversity of immigrant work experience was valuable for the Canadian workforce.

In Graham’s old job in the staffing/recruitment industry, he remembers meeting immigrants who had multiple degrees and successful careers back home, but who “couldn’t get a job behind the counter at McDonald’s,” he says. “It pained my heart to see this.” And so Graham began formally mentoring new Canadians.

When Haidar was looking for a mentor, she was looking for someone who could help her navigate the L&D landscape in Toronto but also who could coach her during the interview process and look over her resume. She found Graham, who has an HR background and experience working with newcomers.

It takes a lot of adjustment to start acting and thinking like Canadians do - Majeda Haidar

“The first and foremost thing that I stress and work on with them is to improve their English skills,” Graham says. Canadians often use idioms and the difference between a “wise man” and a “wise guy” may make all the difference during a conversation with a potential employer.

Haidar’s number one piece of advice? Get certified. Before arriving in the country, Haidar achieved her CTDP designation. “I’d recommend [to other newcomers] that they seek certification that will validate your experience,” she says. “Employers prefer Canadian-certified professionals.”

For Haidar, practical advice like this from her mentor and taking advantage of Ontario-funded newcomer programs helped ease her transition into Canada. “That, along with the Institute’s mentoring program was very crucial in building my network,” she says.

That’s her second most important piece of advice for newcomers – network. “The biggest challenge I find with new immigrants in their networking is they’re fearful to do the reach out that we need to do,” Graham says. “They want to hide behind the computer, email and online posting. They never get in front of the wall.”

Culturally, there’s no surprise there. “Certain things people from North America are comfortable doing, we consider uncomfortable. We would think it’s egotistic to talk about your experience,” Haidar says. “It takes a lot of adjustment to start acting and thinking like Canadians do.”

Graham has even gone over and above the mentoring program and invited Haidar to his personal Christmas gathering. “I wanted her to meet more people in Canada and get that network growing more.”

“We’re friends now. And he’s my mentor!” Haidar says.

Our next round of mentoring begins May 1. Sign up today as a mentor or mentee! 

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