Mentee turns Mentor
You don’t need to have a Danish background to become a mentor. Cristina Saíz is proof of that. She has a Spanish background and has herself been a mentee in KVINFO’s Mentor Network. When Cristina made contact with Efi to offer herself as mentor, Efi actually found it to be an advantage, that like her, Cristina came from Southern Europe and had been through the process of finding a job in Denmark. Today Efi also considers becoming a mentor.
Mentee Eftychia Eva Kantou:
· Efi came to Denmark from Greece 3 years ago to finish her master in biotechnology at DTU, the Technological University of Denmark.
· The goal was to get a job within her subject area.
Mentor Christina Saiz:
· Christina came to Denmark from Spain 5 years ago and has finished her education at DTU, the Technological University of Denmark.
· Today she works as a chemical engineer at Biogen in Hillerød
· She became a mentor after having been a mentee herself in KVINFO’s Mentor Network
Written by Jørgen Poulsen
Greek Eftychia Eva Kantou and Spanish Cristina Saíz are both bright examples of young people, who come to Denmark to study and who subsequently stay in Denmark to work. In this way, they help Danish companies who otherwise find it hard to find enough highly specialized employees in industries that are growing. This applies, for example, to IT and the pharmaceutical industry. However even though you have been studying for many years in Denmark and speak Danish, it can be difficult to break the code on the Danish labor market. In this regard a mentor course can do wonders.
It is not just inclination that makes young women study in Denmark. Behind the decision lies to many the economic crisis as a harsh reality, which, especially in Southern Europe has, led to high unemployment among young people. Efi explains: “I’m from Corfu and came to Denmark almost 3 years ago to complete my master’s degree in biotechnology at DTU. Greece has a terrible economy so it made sense to travel to a country where there are better prospects in terms of employment.”
Her student counselor in Greece had pointed to Scandinavia because the pharmaceutical industry is flourishing here. “I chose Denmark rather than Sweden or Norway because it was furthest to the south.” she says with a smile on a day where the summer has drowned once again in rain.
Got a Mentor with an International Background
It was the job center that made Efi aware of KVINFO’s Mentor Network. “I looked at the site immediately. Even though the caseworkers are very friendly and helpful at the job center, it is something else to spar with someone who has been through the same process recently, and who is in the same industry as you.”
Efi filled in her online profile and after a few months she was contacted by Cristina, who had become a mentor after being a mentee in KVINFO’s Mentor Network herself. It was Cristina’s mentor Anne Mette McAloone, who encouraged her to become a mentor. You don’t have to have a Danish background to become a mentor. The important thing is that you have the necessary experience and are active in the Danish society.
Efi udfyldte sin onlineprofil og efter nogle måneder blev hun kontaktet af Christina, der var sprunget ud som mentor efter selv at have været mentee i KVINFOs Mentornetværk. Det var Christinas mentor Anne Mette McAloone, der havde opfordret hende til at skifte rolle og blive mentor. Man behøver nemlig ikke at have dansk baggrund for at blive mentor. Det vigtige er, at man har den nødvendige erfaring og er aktiv i det danske samfund.
Nevertheless, Cristina was initially in doubt because she had not grown up in Denmark: ”Obviously it will be another approach since I’m not Danish. I do not have the final truths about how the Danish society works. However I know how it works out in the workplace and in society when you come from the outside. Therefore one of the things I’ve written on my mentor profile is that I have 5 years of experience working in Denmark with an international background. It is a good start to support others. As a former unemployed myself, I can also support and assist them through their period as unemployed. It was a great learning year for me. I spent many hours in job search, networking and getting in touch with people. Therefore I thought I could still support others.”
Thus Efi got her wishes for a mentor fulfilled. As a graduate Cristina had been job hunting, she had industry knowledge and moreover it was a mentor course in KVINFO’s Mentor Network that helped her get her dream job. Efi even thought it was a plus that it was a woman from Spain who offered to become her mentor: “We go so well together. We both have an international background, have both studied at DTU and we both used the Mentor Network to find a job. It was perfect. Cristina was a little worried that I would not react positively to her proposal to meet up for a cup of coffee because she is not Danish, but to me that
Found work almost immediately
The mentor support came just in due time and place: “It was adifficult period for me. I had been unemployed for four months and the winter seemed quite depressing to me. Many unemployed feel worthless after a while. Cristina was very supportive and realistic about my situation, so it was really good to meet her. With Cristina’s help I realized that you don’t have to a giant stack of papers and endorsements to get a foot inside a business.”
They met just over once a month. “We reviewed my CV, which I abbreviated greatly. It was originally 3 pages long. Cristina opened my eyes to the fact that my Linked In profile and my applications should be short and accurate. As soon as I got my CV dusted off and corrected some things in my application, I was called in for my first interview. Cristina also had some good points before the interview, which meant I was very relaxed – and I got the job!”
The mental support along the way was probably the most important thing in their mentor/mentee relationship. Efi points out: “It was important to rebuild my self-confidence. Cristina was a great role model for me. With her own story she showed me, that it was not impossible for a foreigner to get a job and that there were others in the same situation as me.”
The mentor experience was also a success for Cristina because it helped Efi find her dream job so quickly: “I was proud on her behalf. It was her who did all the work, but my support contributed so I was very happy. Like the rest of us, Efi had been afraid of not finding a job and unsure of how the future would turn out. It took me one year to find a job, so anything less than that is in itself a huge success, I think.”
To Cristina it has beeninstructive to see things from the other side: “When Efi sent me her CV or a draft to an application, I would have to have an opinion about it. It was a new situation for me – before it was I who received feedback. Suddenly I had to think carefully about things and convey my experiences and what I learned in a constructive way. It is really exciting with the new approach. It has also been nice to meet Efi and experience how others perceive Denmark.”
Cristina is ready to continue as a mentor in KVINFO’s Mentor Network: “When Efi feels ready to fly on her own, I’d like to be a mentor again.” she concludes.
Also on another level Cristina is a role model to Efi: “Cristina thinks that I should also become a mentor. I will probably do it when my everyday life is somewhat more settled. I would like to contribute because many people are affected by their unemployment. As time passes, you feel that it’s getting more and more unrealistic to get a job. Therefore it is good to remind people that it is not impossible at all.”