Mentorship: The Story of Omar and Rommel
Omar is a recently settled refugee from Sudan. Rommel is a seasoned professional in the procurement industry. They recently became mentee and mentor in the Greater Toronto area and found success! We asked them both about their mentorship experience. This is their story!
*Omar is a pseudonym. His name was changed for this story to protect his privacy.
OMAR | MENTEE AND NOW A TRANSPORTATION ANALYST
Throughout my life, I was never in a situation where I needed to struggle. When I first came to Canada, it was wintertime. I moved with my wife and kids. Starting from scratch was a lot to do. I used to take my kid to daycare, and he had a hard time with the harsh, cold and windy weather. We had to walk, and that made me feel bad. Yet, it gave me motivation that things had to change.
Finding housing was challenging because of credit history and it took me a long time to settle down. Coming [to Canada], with the uncertainties, you need to work harder. I was working two jobs. The warehouse was labor intensive. It was a turning point for me. I worked there for about a year and got promoted. I went back to school and studied Supply Chain Management. I got on the Dean’s list with Honors. As challenging as it was, there was so much to be grateful for and optimistic about. Slowly, everything did fall into place, and it keeps getting better!
You get a lot of people telling you their hurdles and experiences which might not be encouraging. Things like “you don’t have a degree or experience from Canada,” “you don’t have the network to succeed,” or “English is not your first language.” I started applying for jobs and rejection after rejection, you start to doubt yourself and your capabilities. Back home, I was working in the biggest telecommunication company. I thought it would give me a head start [in Canada], but it just didn’t happen that way. I worked for free.
Suddenly, I received a couple of employment opportunities from Jumpstart Refugee Talent. I had to refuse them because I couldn’t do the [educational] program while working full-time. I would overthink if I made the right decision. This is where Rommel came in. He was really great, supportive and put in so much so effort. He is such a big inspiration. He helped me see things from a different perspective. Four months after I graduated, I found a job in supply chain as a Transportation Analyst. I never received the kind of support Jumpstart gave me from other agencies I registered with.
The most important thing is to have a plan and not to get discouraged about settling in Canada. I know so many people who are qualified and achieved great things before arriving to Canada and I know they can replicate it, if given a chance. I also have friends who have been recognized for their potential and landed amazing careers in Canada. It is possible!
ROMMEL | MENTOR AND SEASONED PROCUREMENT PROFESSIONAL
My first meeting with Omar was incredible. I’ll never forget when the facilitator introduced us to each other. I compare that moment in contrast to the present and see the noticeable difference with regards to confidence developed. That first meeting was about me instilling confidence in him so he could then trust this program and the process, to yield the results that we clearly did. It was more about allowing him to get to know me, seeing that I meant business and there was no obstacle that we couldn’t overcome.
In addition to confidence building, this is the opportunity to actively listen and identify how you can tailor your approach. Make sure that your mentee is not just landing a job or getting their career started, but are also in an active pursuit of their dreams, whatever those may be. I’d say it’s good to take notes, but don’t allow it to be the focus of your meetings. Make the mentorship personal as much as possible and listen to what your mentee is saying.
Prepare your mentee for common interview questions. There are numerous reliable resources online which can be utilized for this stage. You want to grill your mentee, in a good way, with these questions to get them comfortable in actual interviews. This was the springboard in my mentee’s success with interviews, both over the phone and in person via video conference. I would also send bi-weekly summary notes with inspirational quotes / content so he could easily access motivational material between meetings.
Some refugees have been through circumstances that no individual should ever have to see or live. Certain topics are incredibly difficult to talk about or better left unsaid, unless they want to bring it up in a discussion. My best advice is to not pry. Rather, focus on the goal of helping this individual reach their full potential and to achieve their dreams. This starts by landing that first opportunity, so be laser focused on that.
To even the odds and to create equal opportunities to all individuals regardless of where they’re from, mentorships are significant and need to be done. Most importantly, fostering an inclusive environment that allows individuals to reach their full potential. I’m happy to be part of this mentorship program, striving to alleviate all barriers.