In a new pilot project, mentors from Arup offer industry-specific insight, professional guidance, support, and access to networks to help develop and realise the potential of refugee professionals registered with Renaisi. This case study describes the experience of both the mentor and the mentee.

Back of man's head. He's looking at a computer screen.

Tam studied civil engineering at Damascus University and Urban Development Planning at UCL in London. He worked as a civil engineer for three years, designing and planning new buildings, and on-site supervising construction works.

Tam arrived in the UK in September 2017 and has been seeking employment in his professional field since March 2020. In that time, Tam made lots of applications, but only got three calls back, which did not lead to any interviews. Despite having permission to work even while he waited for his application for asylum to be approved, many applications were automatically rejected, due to his asylum-seeker status.  

He finally managed to find work as a project coordinator for an infrastructure planning and implementation project in Northern Syria with an NGO based in London but lost that job when the pandemic struck.

“I believe my lack of exposure to the job market and work in the UK is the main barrier. It prevented me from taking any proper steps and kept me lost. Also, I lost my previous job right before covid, which was the biggest challenge so far.”

Tam, mentee

Tam was matched with Bettisabel Lamelo, a senior urban designer at Arup. Arup is a British multinational professional services firm headquartered in London which provides design, engineering, architecture, planning, and advisory services across every aspect of the built environment.

“I was once in a similar situation when I moved from my country of origin, so I know how difficult it is to try to enter an employment market with no experience in that country. Back then I would have appreciated someone mentoring me into taking the right steps to secure a paid job, so now that I am settled, I’d love to do that for someone in the same position.”

Betti, mentor

About the mentoring project

Mentors and mentees commit to meeting for 10 hours over a three-month period, starting with agreeing on achievable goals. At the end of each session, the mentor and mentee agree actions and record these in a log along with goals; sharing the log with each other and Renaisi to monitor progress.

Mentors share their expertise, knowledge, and contacts. They help mentees understand how their skills can translate to the UK labour market, how to best present themselves to employers and identify training and professional memberships and accreditations that will assist them in their job search. Bettti helped Tam improve his CV and interview skills for the UK, explored different career paths, and discussed aspects of the urban planning profession.

“I enjoyed when Betti explained to me her work and how work is usually done in big firms and companies in the UK. I achieved my goals as Betti helped me to figure out what positions I should apply for. I learnt that it’s not about the number of applications, but the quality of a certain application.

Tam, mentee

The benefits for mentor and mentee

The programme is designed to benefit both the mentee and mentor. Mentors get the chance to understand the experience of refugee professionals seeking employment in the UK. They develop confidence in communicating with people from different backgrounds, gain awareness of their strengths and weaknesses as mentors, and a sense of fulfilment. Betti said:

“I learned to be more flexible and patient – it’s important to not try to arrive to a fast conclusion but to give enough time to unpack ideas and options for a mentee. This was a very enriching experience and I felt good for helping someone with their career progression.

I feel I gained something very valuable from the mentoring experience, as I further developed my communication and listening skills, which is a key skillset not just for mentoring but for life in general.”

Betti, mentor

Tam said:

“Betti supported me in properly writing my CV and cover letter and taught me how to unpack the job descriptions to be able to write in the light of the tasks. It was very helpful, I got a call back after one of the job applications, which made me feel that there is nothing wrong with my skills.”

Tam

Tam has since had an invitation to interview. He and Betti have agreed to stay in touch once a month. Betti said:

“If I had to give one piece of advice to a fellow professional who is considering becoming a mentor on the programme I would say to just go for it as it is a great experience!”

mentor

If you are interested in restarting the careers of refugee professionals and accessing an untapped talent pool get in touch with Hannah Brooke, Sector Engagement Manager.

Hannah Brooke