What happens at a Speed Mentoring event for new Canadians?

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Pradip Rodrigues

It is 5.30 pm and the cavernous hall at a downtown hotel is filled with hundreds of smart professionals dressed in business attire. They are there to attend the 2018 Speed Mentoring Marathon hosted by ACCES Employment, billed as the largest such event in the GTA.

In attendance are over 400 mentors and mentees, all ACCES clients who’ve graduated from their intensive five-week program that prepares highly educated new immigrants to enter the Canadian workforce. There are around 150 mentors from large corporations like Accenture and RBC, many of these mentors happen to be former clients of ACCES who’ve gone on to work in senior positions at top companies as well as professionals like Accenture’s Prachi Bante who signed up to be a mentor to new immigrants.

Prior to the mentoring portion of the evening, the event was kicked-off with an opening ceremony which included speeches from Allison Pond, ACCES Employment’s President and CEO, Deborah Swartz, Corporate Citizenship Lead at Accenture Canada, the event’s lead sponsor, and Bennett Olegasegram an ACCES alumni who delivered a powerful and inspiring story of his on-going professional journey, he is now a Corporate Relationship Manager with JPMorgan Chase. His is the classic story most immigrants are familiar with—lack of Canadian experience, despite having immigrated from the UK and worked at some prestigious multinational banks. How he overcame the obstacles and landed his current job has a lot to do with the kind of help he received at ACCES.

What follows next is actual Speed Mentoring Event.

All mentees are assigned to specific mentors who are seated at twelve break-out rooms, here is where job seekers gravitate toward professionals from their sector or industry like IT, banking and management.

There are special mentoring rooms set up for newcomer entrepreneurs, youth, French-language newcomers and one virtually where soon-to arrive overseas immigrants receive coaching which helps give them head start.

South Asians are perhaps the most visible ethnicity at this event and many of these young professionals have realized that finding good jobs in their related fields requires relentless networking.
Aseem Khera, a management graduate in finance worked with top companies in Mumbai before landing as a permanent immigrant in Toronto six months ago. There are a few things he’s done right since then. Firstly, he lives in Toronto and did a five-week ACCES-run Financial Services Connection a bridge program that prepared him to integrate into his field. “Those five weeks made a huge difference by giving me insight into the work culture here, interview coaching and opportunities to network with banking professionals. I never miss any such networking opportunities,” he says.

With 85% of all jobs in the hidden job market, these are jobs that aren’t advertised on Indeed.ca and are typically filled through internal hiring or recommended candidates. This means that without access to networks a new immigrant has to really struggle to find an opening, this may explain why so many professional new Canadians are condemned to working at a factory warehouses or Tim Horton’s and ultimately commit professional suicide as they’ve been away too long from their fields.

There is an air of anticipation among the hundreds of mentees many of whom are hoping to make a good impression on the mentors, some who are actively seeking out prospective candidates for positions at their companies.

New immigrants like Mamta Shrimankar, a financial professional who comes with 8 years of experience at KPMG, Mumbai enjoys the process of networking and is very optimistic of finding a great job soon. “I got a secondment in Mexico and my husband and I decided we’d immigrate to Canada, we arrived two months ago,” she said.

What sets new immigrants like Mamta and Aseem apart is their swaggering confidence in landing a job in their field. After all these professionals who’ve tasted success in their respective careers prior to coming here aren’t inclined to simply settle for anything less than a job that allows them to showcase their experience and grow.

Ahmed Hussein who landed here five months ago like so many other mentees in this room has been to several interviews but has yet to land a job. “I am giving myself until September then I will decide on a different strategy. I have two options to figure out, one either take a job that will simply get me into the system and then grow or wait until I find a job that I am really looking for,” he says.

In a brief interview with Can-India during the event, Bennett Olegasegram who has mentored so many young professionals says, job searching can be hard and heartbreaking for many newcomers. “There are so many professionals who come with families and then at some point providing financially forces them to take up any job and abandon their dreams,” he says.

But at this Speed Mentoring event, it is clear that even if some professionals are dejected they aren’t showing it and are lifted by the sheer energy in that room filled with new immigrants hoping to find their dream job and mentors who are there to give their time and energy to giving these individuals hope and feedback. – CINEWS

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