Jennifer Veenboer has a wealth of experience working in provincial and municipal government. Still, every time she’s mentored a skilled immigrant through The Mentoring Partnership – over 10 individuals since 2011 – she’s humbled by the education, skill and experience they bring to Canada.
Why Jennifer became a mentor:
I joined The Mentoring Partnership as a mentor when I moved to a role with the City of Toronto. I believe that when you’re working in a leadership role, you have a responsibility to mentor the people around you and those looking to build their careers and experience. I’m always amazed and humbled by the caliber of individuals who participate in this important program. Most leave everything behind for a new start here – without family, without friends, without associations or community contacts. I often say to them that they should be mentoring me with their backgrounds, experience, strength and determination.
I believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to access education and meaningful employment. That is why I continue to be a part of The Mentoring Partnership. I am tremendously grateful for what this program offers me as a mentor and how it makes such a difference to participating mentees. All my mentees have impacted my life in some way. I am always touched when I hear a mentee’s story.
Jennifer’s insights into Canadian employment culture and the idea of ‘Canadian experience’:
One particular mentee who was completing a Ph.D. in health economics comes to mind. She was a published author in her home country, but when it came to her job search, she was underselling herself. I helped her overcome this, and she began getting callbacks. In one instance when the hiring manager called me as a reference and asked if I thought the fact that she didn’t have Canadian experience would be a concern, I pointed to her assets and I encouraged the hiring manager to focus on what my mentee at the time had accomplished – not where she accomplished it. That’s the difference. And these skills and experience can only be of benefit to the job, the team, and the organization. She got the job.
How becoming media savvy can help your career:
A lesson I try to impart to mentees I meet with is that there’s nothing that can help you more than reading the news and staying abreast of what’s going on. The reason I say that is, I remember watching a panel discussion on the news one day, where they were talking about immigration policy. The next week, my mentee was talking to me about applying to an organization. The CEO was on that panel I had watched a few days prior. I advised them to find the recording of the panel and learn as much about the CEO and the organization’s position. Having this familiarity with the organization, its leadership and policies helped them get the job. I encourage mentees to be informed, and to get connected. Media and information are powerful tools.
Tips for fellow mentors of newcomers:
When it comes to mentoring, there are two pieces of advice I would offer: Be open to having matches with mentees who have different employment experience to you – look beyond the employment history to the skills they have acquired and have to offer. Skills are different to a job title, and much more important. And, be open to listening and hearing about who they are. What has been their experience? What is their story? What has been their journey up until this point? That shapes a person profoundly and will influence how they approach the full time job of looking for a full time job. It shapes your mentorship relationship including how well they may respond to your approach and your advice; and ultimately how confident they may or may not be. Remember: your role as a mentor is to guide and support – not to do, direct or judge against your own experience.
I hope every mentor who participates in this important program has enjoyed their experience as much as I have. Thank you Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, the City of Toronto, and all the community partners who help make The Mentoring Partnership a fantastic program and opportunity.