After coming to Canada in 2008, Joaquin (Jo) Milo connected with community agencies like ACCES Employment, COSTI and JVS Toronto to support his job search. They in turn put him in touch with TRIEC and The Mentoring Partnership. Now an engineer with Enbridge, Jo has returned to The Mentoring Partnership to mentor other newcomers in his field.
As a former mentee himself, he understands the challenges and difficulties that his mentees face, such as settling in a new country, in a new home. “We had to get to know Canada, its people and places,” he says, “and learn as much as possible about what Canadians enjoy and talk about on a daily basis.” This requires staying open to new ideas and experiences without letting go of one’s own beliefs. Jo’s common ground with his mentees not only informs his mentoring, but inspires it. “I was in the same situation, and I had someone to help me,” Jo says. Now he’s paying it forward to other newcomers in his field.
He warns mentees against undervaluing their out-of-Canada work experience or feeling that they need to transform themselves to find work. “You don’t have to start from scratch!” he says. “Just change slightly how you deliver your message.” He works with his mentees on the cultural differences and soft skills that make a difference in an interview.
Jo is quick to point out that he also benefits from his mentoring relationships. Mentoring strengthens his confidence when meeting and speaking with new people, and by working with mentees from diverse backgrounds, he takes away cultural knowledge that is valuable learning in itself. Canada is, after all, a multicultural country: he can apply his new knowledge with future mentees and colleagues. “I’m learning a lot from them – different points of view, how they look at things, and that helps me in my personal life and professional life.” And with each new mentoring partnership, Jo grows his own professional network.
His advice to current or prospective mentors? Remember that your mentees are more than job seekers—they have families, bills, survival jobs, and other commitments outside of their mentoring partnership. Getting to know your mentee will help you be a better mentor, and will contribute to the trust that is the foundation for a good mentoring relationship. Remember to value your own experience in the Canadian workplace; your insight will be of great value to your mentee.
“I tell them, you’ve already made the hardest decision, to leave your family, leave everything at home. The rest is just here and there, the small things.” And that’s where programs like The Mentoring Partnership and people like Jo can step in to help.
Despite a busy schedule with full-time work and part-time classes at the University of Toronto, Jo knows he will always make time for mentoring. “I enjoy helping people, that’s part of my personality,” he says. “Mentoring is going to be a way of living. I can help more people, and I don’t have a limit.”