Maureen Halldorson: A Mentor Story

A figurative tap on the shoulder in December 2010 led Maureen Halldorson, Manager of Financial Planning for the Royal Bank, to an “absolutely refreshing, fulfilling” mentorship opportunity with the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC).

When her Regional Vice-President asked if she would like to become a mentor, Maureen immediately thought, “I’m a coach. That’s how I deem myself. This is a fantastic opportunity.” Maureen had dealt with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers years ago when she coached a work experience staff member. “That individual became one of our top performers. We are still friends after many, many years.”

Thus, Maureen agreed to mentor two banking professionals, Cecile Tian from the Philippines and Enam Quddus from Bangladesh. The trio attended ERIEC’s orientation session to begin the process. “That session was an excellent investment of time. We met the other mentors and mentees, and watched how they interacted. We heard for ourselves what excited them and what worried them. You knew you had a lot of support.”

Maureen said the orientation session really opened her eyes. “I got to see how other people think. That was invaluable. We all become so comfortable with our own way of looking at the world. It was refreshing to learn about other ways people see things.”

The small group then began individual sessions, meeting weekly from January through April. The team covered everything from resumes and interviews to networking and workplace culture.

“Initially, both their resumes were highly technical. They focused on degrees and skills. We worked on strengthening their overviews of what they, as individuals, had accomplished with their technical skills. It was about the ‘how.’”

Workplace culture discussions covered everything from thank you cards to eye contact, gestures to titles. “When we first started, Cecile called me ‘Ma’am’ as a sign of respect. I kept insisting she call me ‘Maureen’ to reflect Canada’s more casual approach.”

Four classroom sessions at NorQuest College also helped with workplace culture. The sessions offered loads of practical tips such as not wearing a dark suit and white socks. “Cecile and Enam were so open. They wanted to know what Canadian workplace culture was all about.”

Maureen took the pair out for some exposure to job-hunting, Canadian style. Besides visiting some networking websites, they attended different venues and career fairs with the intent of meeting recruiters and making an impact. Both embraced the challenge.

While carving out the time to meet was a challenge for Maureen, the benefits were well worth it. “I really enjoyed seeing them develop. For example, Cecile was initially timid, quite reserved. That came across in her interviews even though she’s very talented and very resourceful. As her confidence gradually improved, Cecile’s posture became more positive and her voice became stronger. Her improved confidence will lead to her success.”

Maureen is looking forward to keeping in touch with Enam and Cecile, and has already recommended the next RBC mentor.

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