Adapting: The Art and Craft of Staying in Touch

By Teenaz Javat

“You are only as strong as your network and maintaining your network is all about maintaining relationships,” says Michael D’Souza the newly elected president of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG) and career journalist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Toronto.

In his over 35-year career in the Canadian media establishment, D’Souza – who came to Canada from Karachi, Pakistan as a teenager – has mentored several student-interns. “Having guided several hundred students through the process, I have realized this simple truth. Those who follow up on my leads, meet the right people, and stay connected with them, are very often the ones who succeed.”

“My hair is grey,” he points to the shock of salt and pepper that frames his gaunt face. “And it did not become like that in a day,” he adds. “I have seen hundreds of students and interns go through the internship and mentoring program here at the CBC and at the various programs where I have lectured at and I never fail to let them know how important it is to network right the first time.”

We share a cup of chai (Indian-flavoured steeped tea) and French Vanilla coffee in a busy Tim Horton’s. The coffee shop is overlooking the noisy intersection of Front Street West and John Street in the heart of Toronto’s entertainment district. Strains from the Luminato Festival Stage mike check intersperse our sometimes heated conversation. “People, especially Canadians, are a compassionate lot.” He adds, “They will make time for you if they even as much as see a glimpse of potential in you. But it is up to you to show interest and follow up.”

D’Souza’s views are echoed across the Golden Horseshoe by Antony Vadakkanchery, Program Coordinator at the Halton Mentoring Partnership Program. Having lived in Kenya, Tanzania and the United States, before settling in Canada, Vadakkanchery, a new Canadian has been through the grind.

“Mentoring is all about empowering newcomers,” he says. “When we begin the process of immigrating to another country, the immigration counsellors and lawyers tell us to make sure we have enough capital (money) to survive in a new country for at least six months, as it usually takes that long to get settled. But nobody talks about the social capital we leave behind,” adds Vadakkanchery.

Vadakkanchery’s role at the Halton region office is to match mentor with a mentee. The office has a home inside the Skills Training Centre at Sheridan College’s Iroquois Road campus.

His role is to evaluate the client who is often referred to him by a settlement agency or a community college. “Often our clients are capable of performing in their chosen field. All they need is the right break into the labour market,” he adds. “And for that to happen they need to build on relationships which we offer up.”

Mayank Bhatt who is Chief Administrative Officer at the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce (ICCC), met his mentor at the Humber School of Writers.

A former journalist from Mumbai, India, Bhatt immigrated with his wife and son to Toronto, Canada in 2008.

In the past two-and-a-half years Bhatt has had the privilege of being mentored by renowned Canadian author M.G. Vassanji, whom he met through the Diaspora Dialogue program.

“With Vassanji, my expectation was to be able to write fiction. I think I've met my expectation, although I'm uncertain Vassanji would agree,” he says.

Bhatt credits M.G. Vassanji for “transforming my life like no one else has. Thanks to his influence, I've become a very conscious writer. From him, I've learned that good writing is all about being disciplined. He's taught me patience.”

Now working on his first novel, Bhatt has developed and maintained a strong working relationship with M.G. Vassanji. That relationship has led to Vassanji appointing him on the committee to organise the annual Festival of South Asian Literature and Arts (FSALA) later in the fall in Toronto.

The Mentoring Process brings in professionals new to the labour market and tries to match them up with a more experienced partner. “Newcomers usually know the job, but how to go about executing it is intrinsic to their success,” says Susan Carpenter, Manager, Community Employment Services, Sheridan Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Oakville, who has so far mentored three mentees and finds it a source of immense satisfaction.

“I have established a lasting relationship with them, long past the designated 16 weeks of official mentoring; I still meet my mentees who are now my friends, over coffee.”

According to Carpenter, “The relationship works both ways, the mentee no doubt benefits, but so does the mentor. It is all about building and maintaining lasting relationships which in the end enable all in society to succeed.”

Simple Formula To Immigrant Success:
● Network Right the First time
● Follow up on leads
● Meet the right people
● Stay connected once you have met with them