The following is a story from Civic Action Leadership in January 2019. Written by digital marketing and communications professional Sean MacKay, you can find the original story here

ELN Member Spotlight: Sean MacKay


ELN Communications Lead Sean Mackay is a digital marketing and communications professional working in Toronto’s real estate industry. Sean works as Managing Director at Livabl, an online publication covering stories that help home-buyers better understand real estate market trends. In his spare time, Sean is a mentor with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), an organization that addresses the persistent problem of immigrant underemployment and sits on the communications committee of Toronto’s Urban Land Institute (ULI). You’ll also be able to spot Sean exploring Toronto’s diverse dining scene or in a coffee shop with a book in hand.

To learn more about Sean and his experience volunteering with TRIEC, read his thoughts below. 

Mentorship matters when it comes to career success for newcomers

By Sean MacKay

In early 2018, I had the opportunity to mentor a communications and marketing professional who had immigrated to Canada two years ago. Like many who arrive in the GTHA, she’d had difficulty landing a job in her field and took on a role she didn’t enjoy to bridge the gap while searching for a more rewarding opportunity. While not getting called back after pounding the pavement for months isn’t unusual in a competitive industry, her experience clearly diverged from what many job-seekers encounter in the market for a number of reasons.

Because it hadn’t been a requirement in job applications before, she’d never written a cover letter and had issues tailoring the structure and tone to the roles she was applying to. While her English was strong, she still didn’t feel confident explaining her experience and career goals. As we worked on overcoming these obstacles, I began to recognize how ignorant I’d been to the challenges recent immigrants face in the workforce and just how much work remains to ensure that newcomers can thrive in our job market.

In conversations about diversity in the workplace you’ll hear a lot about the business case for D+I initiatives. In McKinsey’s 2018 study, Delivering through Diversity, the consultancy found a significant correlation between diverse leadership teams and financial outperformance in employer data from across the globe. Studies like this support a strong business case to work toward further developing sustainable diversity and inclusion initiatives at all levels of seniority.

It’s not just about success in business performance though. There’s a strong moral imperative to immigrant inclusion in the labour market. I’d go as far to say that the GTHA’s ethnic and cultural diversity is one of the hallmarks of our region, yet it’s not enough for GTHA to be known simply as a place that welcomes a large number of immigrants every year.

As of 2016, university-educated newcomers were faced with an unemployment rate that’s twice the rate for people born in Canada who have achieved the same education level. University-educated newcomer women earn half as much as their Canadian counterparts. It’s clear that there’s a critical role for city builders to play across sectors, industries, neighbourhoodsand larger communities to ensure that newcomers arriving in our region have the tools they need to break into and flourish within the job market.

The number of opportunities for impact is huge and I’m by no means an expert on the vast ecosystem of vital government programs, not-for-profit initiatives and community services that support newcomers when they arrive in our region. But, if I can make one recommendation for city builders, it’s well worth exploring the work that the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) has been doing since 2003.

I was connected with the comms and marketing professional I met last year through TRIEC’s Mentoring Partnership that pairs experienced professionals with recent immigrants who are looking for employment in similar fields. Over three months of frequent meetings, the mentor and mentee cover essential skills, knowledge and best practices for job searching and employment success in Canada, which can go a long way for someone new to the Canadian job market.

My time as a mentor has given me a new perspective on the tremendous need for this region’s professionals to work individually and collectively within their respective organizations to improve the environment for immigrant professionals. Although not everyone has the bandwidth to take on a commitment as a mentor, as city builders, it’s important we equip ourselves with the tools to support immigrant career success in the organizations that we’re involved with.

To get started, I suggest checking out McKinsey’s Delivering through Diversity and TRIEC’s State of Immigrant Inclusion reports. On the importance of flexing your mentorship muscles, check out this ELN blog post on our 2018 Mind Your Mentorship event.

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