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Global Talent Bridge Partner Blog

News on practice and policy affecting internationally trained immigrants and refugees

Empowering Internationally Trained Immigrants: Insights from a Group Mentoring Program

Monday June 12, 2023 | by Stefanie Vasquez

Group of office workers standing with workplace mentor.

In 2022, WES Global Talent Bridge set out to lead a new mentoring initiative. Using a train-the-trainer model, the Global Talent Leadership Network (GTLN), an initiative of WES Global Talent Bridge, and JVS Toronto provided technical assistance over ten months to three organizations. The initiative supported two program rounds of industry-specific group mentoring.

One Immigrant’s Journey: From Therapist to Mentoring Champion 

Talita DiGiorgio’s friendly, confident, outgoing manner made her an ideal fit for the coordinator role in GTLN’s Group Mentoring Program. Talita received a degree in psychology in her home country of Brazil and worked as a therapist for seven years. She came to the United States in 2017 and worked as an au pair in New York. There, she learned about the LEAD program offered by New Women New Yorkers, a New York City-based workforce program to empower immigrant and refugee women. Now, as senior program associate at the organization, Talita understands the barriers that immigrants and refugees face as they navigate the U.S. job market. “I was trying to change careers in the U.S., which is very difficult if you are not familiar with career planning, résumé writing, and job searching in the U.S. So, when I saw the position [at New Women New Yorkers], I was like ‘Wow, that would be something really nice for me to start.’” For Talita, her community and the guidance and mentorship she received from other immigrants were crucial to a successful career transition.  

How Mentoring Programs Can Support Immigrants and Refugees 

Internationally trained immigrants and refugees often face unique challenges resuming their careers in the U.S. Employers may not always recognize these individuals’ education and experience. In addition, the level of technical English required to succeed may not be offered at adult education centers or other programs offering ELL instruction. Another significant challenge for immigrants is a lack of workforce programs and professional networking opportunities—which are critical according to recent estimates showing that 80 percent of people in the U.S. find jobs through networking 

Mentoring programs that are workforce-focused and industry-specific can help bridge the gap between the skills and experiences immigrants have and the job opportunities available to them. According to Racquel Sevilla, WES Global Talent Bridge director for program development, planning, and evaluation, “These programs can assist immigrants and refugees in expanding their network, gaining valuable insights into U.S. workplace culture and industry trends, and ultimately achieving their career goals.” 

Launching a Group Mentoring Program for Immigrants in Collaboration with Social Impact Partners 

In May 2022, WES Global Talent Bridge partnered with JVS Toronto to support New Women New Yorkers and two other members of GTLN, Plus Consulting Career Club and Prospanica, in running a group mentoring program for community members who were seeking work commensurate with their education and experience. “Our goal is to bolster and complement the efforts of our partners to support immigrants with education and experience from abroad through a concrete, proven model,” Racquel noted.  

The GTLN Group Mentoring Program connected internationally trained immigrants (mentees) with professional mentors in their field in a series of group meetings. The program offered mentees a deeper understanding of the job market and an opportunity to develop networking skills. “Our mentor provided us with insights based on actual work scenarios. She was extremely accommodating and undeniably supportive,” said one mentee. With this model, mentees have direct access to guidance from industry professionals—which sometimes continues even after the program formally ends. 

Mentoring is truly effective. It deepens relationships. And this is one of the key advantages of mentoring over networking. What makes this program unique is that it is geared towards meaningful employment, with an occupation or industry focus, and it is done as a group.
– Racquel Sevilla, WES Global Talent Bridge Director for Program Development, Planning, and Evaluation 

This group approach allows for collaboration among mentees and an efficient model for mentors working with several individuals simultaneously. 

To complement the group mentoring meetings, WES Global Talent Bridge gathered mentors, mentees, and coordinators at the completion of each cycle. These gatherings provided an opportunity for shared learning and workshops on topics like “Self-Awareness and Values-Driven Leadership.”

Lessons Learned and a Look Ahead 

The mentoring program’s greatest success was the significant boost in confidence reported by participants, one of whom said that it “encouraged me to think about how to advance in my career path, analyze my goals, and believe in my experience and skills.”  

Group of adults working in a boardroom with workforce mentor.

A group of mentees working during a session with a mentor.

The collaboration was valuable to mentors too. “I enjoyed interacting with [mentees] and hearing how they’re experiencing this country and the workforce. I learned a lot from hearing their perspectives and experiences,a mentor said. The experience was a reminder to mentors of the importance of striving towards their own career goals. “Mentorship is a must-have in our professional lives, not only for an early stage.” Others spoke of how rewarding it was to give back. “What I got out of it was the pure joy of working with such amazing women, just seeing how tenacious and determined and creative they are, another mentor remarked.

“One of the things we learned is that group mentoring is best suited to those who have gone through some career planning and workforce or job readiness training, and who are looking to gain a deeper understanding of their occupation or industry, and grow their networks,” said Racquel. She hopes the program will equip its participants with the knowledge, skills, and tools they’ll need to excel in their professional fields.  

From Mentee to Mentor through Group Mentoring Programs 

For Talita, the group mentoring experience instilled a desire to continue using the model as a springboard for establishing connections with prospective employers, and to develop her own leadership skills. 

I really love the fact that it’s a group. I wouldn’t change that as each one of the mentees was able to help each other […] I am thankful for all the support offered, I think that was a very collaborative work and that is what makes the work so successful.

– Talita DiGiorgio, Mentoring Program Coordinator 

Talita and other program coordinators obtained the knowledge and tools they needed to run group mentoring programs. Looking ahead, Talita sees herself taking on more coordination and leadership roles, leveraging her coaching and interpersonal skills, and building relationships in the non-profit industry in the U.S. 

 

Investing in mentoring programs for immigrants can yield significant economic and social benefits. If your organization is interested in finding a mentoring program in your area, take a look at the Global Talent Bridge U.S. program map. And if you’re already running a mentoring program for immigrants, consider adding it to our map so that others can find it. 

The Global Talent Leadership Network (GTLN) is a hub for immigrant- and refugee-led organizations that support the economic inclusion of immigrants and refugees who hold international credentials in the United States. Visit the network’s webpage to learn more. 

Stefanie Vasquez is the Resource Development and Content Manager at WES Global Talent Bridge.