From newcomer to mentor: celebrating the impact of volunteerism for National Volunteer Week

When Rizwan Kalim moved to Canada from Karachi, Pakistan in 2012, he was excited and nervous over what his new life would be like.

In his twenties, Kalim had over seven years of specialized experience as an Information Security and IT Risk professional. Having worked for international IT, management and consultancy firms, he expected he would be able to keep working in his field. However when he got to Canada, like many new Canadians, he was met with challenges preventing him from continuing to build his career. 

One challenge, was that while he had the right credentials, skills and experience to make it in the industry, Kalim lacked a local professional network to help him navigate Toronto's job market—something Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) was able to help him start building by pairing him with a mentor.

Avoiding 'the survival job'

"The first four to six months are crucial," remembers Kalim. "If you do not find the right supports, you risk falling into a career that you're overqualified for, just to get by. I first heard about TRIEC when applying for my permanent residency and reached out to take advantage of their services. But I had no idea that my whole life would be changed."

TRIEC matches skilled newcomers from all over the world with mentors who can coach them through the hiring process. Both the mentor and mentees have similar skill-sets and work in comparative industries, so Kalim felt confident that he could land a job in information security and risk when he started the program in 2012. A few months later, Kalim got his first job in Canada in his chosen field.

"My mentor understood the barriers I could potentially face, because he had faced similar ones when he immigrated in Canada. He understood the stresses that come along with moving to a new country, in addition the anxieties of finding a new job. It became a lasting relationship and I continue to turn to him for advice."

The journey from immigrant to student to teacher

Eventually Kalim wanted to give back to the same organization that helped him establish himself in Canada. He began volunteering with TRIEC in 2015.

TD has been involved with TRIEC since the bank signed on as a founding member in 2014. In total, over 1,950 TD employees have acted as mentors through the organization. Giving people the tools to succeed in a changing job market is one of the ways TD is helping to create a more inclusive tomorrow in a changing economy through The Ready Commitment.

In celebration of National Volunteer Week, volunteers like Kalim and thousands of other employees at TD are being recognized for their work in helping to build more inclusive futures and communities. In 2018, TD employees contributed over 170,000 hours in Canada and the U.S through volunteerism.

READ: Helping close the underemployment gap for skilled new Canadians

Throughout the month of April 2019, TD will also be holding a speed mentoring series in communities across Canada and the U.S. for employees to share their work experiences with those looking for career advice. The event is being organized with United Way agencies and other community organizations.

For Kalim, volunteering has also provided a way for him to pass on the wisdom and experience he's gained since coming to Canada to others whose shoes he once filled. Earlier this year, Kalim was awarded by TRIEC for his contributions to the organization after helping 10 newcomers to Canada find a job.

"The moment I hear from my mentee that they have landed their first job," said Kalim, "it is impossible to describe the feeling. I am overwhelmed and feel extremely proud."