We’ve all heard about the merits of mentorship, but what about group mentoring? Over the past year, three professional immigrant networks, JVS Toronto and TRIEC partnered on a small group mentoring project that proved to be a success. Out of 17 mentees, nearly half have already moved forward in their careers. Six found jobs in their field, one started a business, and one got his license to practice engineering.

What is group mentoring and what is the recipe for success?

Group mentoring involves a small number of mentees with a single mentor. In this case, volunteer mentors from the Association of Romanian Engineers in Canada (AREC), the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) and the Canadian Network of Iraqi Engineers and Architects (CNIEA) stepped up to each support five or six newcomers who shared their ethnic background and professional experience. Over four months, the mentors hosted five sessions to provide mentees with a better understanding of their profession in Canada, introduce them to additional networks and encourage mentees as they improved their English.

In the pilot, groups were formed around shared language and culture, and professions. Sometimes it is easier to pick up on language and cultural nuances from someone of the same background. One participant likened experience to “an oasis of hope and encouragement.” Another said he passed a Professional Engineers of Ontario exam with the help of his mentor and the other mentees.

This recipe for success is helping to grow the idea. The Intercultural Mentoring Network (IMN) is rolling out with the original three partners and two additional professional immigrant networks (PINs): the Association of Filipino Canadian Accountants (AFCA) and the Canadian Hispanic Congress (CHC). Ten network members will volunteer as mentors for two rounds of mentoring – supporting at least 40 mentees in total. Funding provided by ALLIES will enhance the training supports for both mentors and mentees, facilitate cross-cultural interaction between PINs and enable participating PINs to run the program independently in the future. The program helps build capacity, leadership and engagement within immigrant communities.

The idea of group mentoring of newcomers is growing legs and could see many local, professional immigrant networks help their newcomer members find meaningful work more quickly.