“It’s 4!!!” The email subject line announced. Ilaneet, my usually calm and soft-spoken service partner at Community Living Toronto broke this news using three exclamation marks. Later, when I relayed the message to my colleagues, some had tears in their eyes – tears of joy and relief. For staff at CultureLink, the hiring of these four clients was the happy outcome of months of hard work and years of relationship building.
It was not easy. Afsana is one of these four Community Living Toronto’s new hires. Earlier this year, she came to CultureLink visibly frustrated. With a master degree in Public Health, extensive international experience in the field and a willingness to start from scratch, her warm smile only met with cold receptions in the Canadian job market. Here everything is different. Sadly, what had been very valuable elsewhere doesn’t seem to count here.
Unfortunately, Afsana’s situation is not unique – it’s no secret that internationally-educated healthcare professionals have the hardest time pursuing a career commensurate with their experience and background. Each year CultureLink Mentorship Program and Job Search Workshop receive dozens of clients like Afsana, who seemed to be reduced from hero to zero in the immigration process. Most of them did not know how to navigate the system to get their credentials recognized, and whether or not those credentials are even recognizable here in Canada. After a thorough reality check, many of them found that resuming to a medical doctor’s career requires seemingly endless time and resources which their age, family and financial situation would not afford.
What a coincidence that CultureLink office is located in the Crossway Mall. Most of the clients who showed up in our office found themselves at a crossroad – tired and feeling lost.
With the help of CultureLink Job Search Workshop’s patient and knowledgeable staff, Afsana polished her resume and other job application documents and set out with her goal on working within the Canadian public health system. Now what’s next? Here enters the partnership between CultureLink Mentorship Program and Community Living Toronto.
Our Mentorship Program has had a productive partnership with Community Living Toronto since 2011. Through our partnership projects, newcomer professionals were introduced to various volunteer opportunities with Community Living Toronto and they gained valuable work experience while making a sizable impact in the community.
As we served more and more clients like Afsana, we reached out to Community Living Toronto to seek opportunities for them. There are many logic reasons for this move: The job requirements of many Community Living Toronto positions can be readily met by our newcomer healthcare professionals. However, even though Community Living Toronto specializes in caring for clients with intellectual disabilities, they are not classified as a healthcare institution in Canada. Therefore, internationally-educated healthcare professionals have often overlooked this as a feasible alternative to medical professions. It’s in our role to direct our clients. Community Living Toronto is also known as a progressive and pro-diversity employer. They are a perfect employer for new Canadians. Moreover, Community Living Toronto is big on mentoring too and their internal mentoring program Compass is widely regarded as a successful model for staff development in the non-profit sector.
Our partner responded enthusiastically to the idea of having a ‘Speed-Mentoring’ event with CultureLink. Many Community Living Toronto staffers stepped up providing event support. Several planning meetings and intensive outreach by both partners’ began in earnest to find volunteer mentors and appropriate newcomer mentees. We found Community Living Toronto’s determination to make a real difference remarkable throughout the whole organization from senior management to frontline staff. As a result of these efforts, the successful Mentoring Event took place on June 25. Afsana and 24 other newcomers met with Community Living Toronto mentors to get information and discuss tips on applying for relevant jobs at Community Living Toronto or with other related employers.
Following this event, we handed 22 job applications to Community Living Toronto. Ilaneet, Community Living Toronto’s Diversity Specialist who has been a main drive behind this initiative, followed up with their Human Resource department diligently. She also offered to collect feedback for unsuccessful applications so that people would know what to improve.
The rest of the story you already know.
The following are email excerpts from two of these new hires of Community Living Toronto to CultureLink staff:
From Luiz: “Thank you once again for your recommendation to my admission process at Community Living Toronto and for all support that CultureLink have always given me since I first met all of you at Community Living Toronto for the speed-mentoring event. I am very excited to share with you all that I have been working there since September 2nd, and it has been an amazing experience with plenty of opportunities. Thank you for your commitment and efforts for establishing great partnerships that helps so many newcomers to find their job opportunities in this country.”
From Afsana: “I am really happy to join in Community Living Toronto. I found nice people are working there. I am really happy and grateful to you for your spontaneous support and advice. I will never forget your cooperation during my tough journey here, I found only few people besides me, ‘you’ are one of them.”
Fei Tang, Manager Community Connections and Mentorship Program