Riaz Shaikh, Supervisor Capital Projects, City of Toronto

After immigrating from his native India in 2002, Riaz was unable to find a mentor in his professional field of architecture. “When I came to Canada, The Mentoring Partnership Program didn’t exist,” recalls Riaz. “You could find people, like at the library, who would counsel you and give you some guidelines on resume writing and job search. But there were no professionals in your specific field who you could reach out to for help and advice.” Now working for the City of Toronto as the supervisor for capital projects, Riaz became a mentor with The Mentoring Partnership and is giving an opportunity to other skilled immigrants that he didn’t have himself.

“Throughout my professional journey, I’ve had amazing mentors but none of them was from my field. When I heard about the new program where Canadian professionals are matched with immigrants with the same professional background, I joined it. I wanted to give back,” says Riaz. He has been mentoring recent immigrants ever since and has supported 10 different individuals.

Helping others helps you

Riaz admits that mentoring immigrant professionals is a rewarding experience for him: “The program has evolved so much from when it started. Look what is available out there, the awareness it has created, the number of people who are supporting this program. It’s amazing.” By supporting recent immigrants in their job search, Riaz stays abreast of the job market and industry trends. “Mentoring helps me to understand what employers are looking for and keep up with new developments in my professional field.”

Going for your dream job

Riaz always starts the mentoring relationship by getting to know his mentees personally, including understanding where his mentees want to go and what their dream job is. “We set their goals based on what their dream job is. It’s critical to know what you’re working toward. Just sending out resumes to different organizations without knowing where you want to work and why is not going to bring you any results,” says Riaz. Some of Riaz’s mentees were missing out on the jobs because they thought they didn’t have the necessary Canadian experience. “I would always say to them: go for it and apply for your dream job. Don’t apply for entry level positions. Apply for the positions that match your qualifications and experience. Employers will call you. Once you’re invited to an in-person interview, you can explain your experience outside Canada and demonstrate the potential that you have,” concludes Riaz.

Building confidence

Building confidence is another important element on Riaz’s mentor to-do list. The competition for jobs can be tough for anyone. But if you’re a skilled immigrant trying to find work in your field, it can be daunting when competing with other candidates. No surprise that some immigrants start second-guessing their qualifications, experience and even age. “You have a job waiting for you; it’s just a matter of time. Stay focused, believe in yourself, and stay away from people who give you negative opinions and prevent you from achieving your goal,” shares Riaz. “Mentees have it all. They just need a little push.”   Read stories of other mentors to 10 or more skilled immigrants.