In the fall of 2017, in the midst of an unexpected career transition, Irina McLaren joined the TRIEC Mentoring Partnership program. While she had some doubts over whether she could mentor an immigrant professional just beginning their career in Canada, she decided to sign up anyway, and was glad she did as that’s when she met her mentee, Kiran. After successfully completing their partnership, Irina decided to share her experience as a mentor below.

When I was matched with Kiran, I was still feeling fairly uncertain about how I could help. A mentor is known to be a trusted adviser who is able to provide guidance on topics of their expertise. I didn’t know whether my advice was of much value considering my recent experience. Kiran’s willingness to maintain an open line of communication throughout this partnership was the key to making it successful. In fact, being able to talk about what worked well and what could have been better, is what made me realize that mentor-mentee partnerships can be equally beneficial and can teach you (the mentor) more than you thought! Especially when you have a mentee that’s willing to discuss their experience with you, while working towards a common goal. That’s why Kiran and I are sharing four important lessons we learned from working together.

Communicating Effectively

Considering we were matched through TRIEC, it’s no surprise our relationship started out very formally. Both the mentor and mentee complete a rigorous application and are required to attend a workshop which addresses key areas of development for communication. As challenges come up, TRIEC encourages both the mentee and mentor to seek out support from their designated coach to help decipher cultural differences or address language barriers to communication. Kiran and I were fortunate to have had the support of a coach, Priyanka Mahapatra from the Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre, who helped us build the foundation for a relationship that continues to help both of us develop our communication skills.

Practicing Vulnerability

Every relationship has its ebbs and flows. What makes our partnership one of a kind is that we both value transparency and are quite direct. Now that doesn’t mean that it’s not awkward when we misunderstand each other. Believe me; we’ve had to check in with one another to ensure we’re communicating clearly what we really mean. The reason we’ve been able to move past less than positive conversations is because of our willingness to share how we’re actually feeling and thinking. While some conversations may be difficult, we’ve both learned that having them is important for strengthening the mentor-mentee bond, and that this skill can be applied to other relationships, both professional and personal.

Being Authentically You

While it may feel uncomfortable at first, being authentic is the best thing you can do to develop an honest mentor-mentee partnership. This is especially true when you have a short window of time to work together. I like to get to know my mentees on a personal level by asking questions about their support network. Knowing the background story helps ensure that the recommendations I’m making to my mentee are reasonable. Without much context, it can be difficult to know what will resonate with them, and in some cases, suggestions made based on assumptions can offend someone you’re just getting to know.

Personal Connection

Like many, Kiran was naturally inclined to talk about the job search. I wanted her to feel comfortable talking to me about her career goals, life aspirations as well as her fears. To help her feel like she could trust me, I shared my story, and over time, she did too. And as Kiran became more comfortable, we started to relate to one another, making us realize we are more alike than different. As Kiran’s mentor, what I wanted more than anything was for her to feel a sense of belonging. Not only so she could find a job, but so that she could start to feel like Toronto is her new home.

When I first signed up for the TRIEC Mentoring Partnership program, I was finding my way. I knew I wanted to help a newcomer launch their career like I once did, but I wasn’t sure I could be of much support. Having the opportunity to get to know someone new from a very different part of the world helped me change my perspective. You don’t have to be the “perfect” mentor to help someone find what they’re looking for. You just have to be willing to spend a bit of your time.

After 3 months of mentoring, Kiran Kaushik Dash was able to land her first job opportunity in Canada at OncologyEducation as a Project Coordinator. To learn about Kiran’s experience connect with her LinkedIn. Irina McLaren works as a Clinical Programs Specialist on the Kidney Transplantation Portfolio at the Ontario Renal Network, a division of Cancer Care Ontario. Connect with her via her personal website irinamclaren.com. Kiran and Irina frequently keep in touch, and have plans to co-facilitate a workshop teaching job-seekers how to find their next job opportunity through networking.