Helping refugees get into business: the value of mentorship

Business Impact - Helping refugees get into business: the value of mentorship
Business Impact - Helping refugees get into business: the value of mentorship

Refugees can often be a forgotten, neglected group in our society, particularly in the business landscape. Young male refugees, in particular, often face a negative and unjust perception, despite just wanting to live an ordinary life and achieve their professional ambitions like everyone else.

Being a business leader, I have always acted as a mentor to those starting up in their career, so I was overjoyed when the opportunity arose to coach a young man, named Mahmoud, in support of his ambitions through Migrant Help‘s Dream Academy programme.

I didn’t come from a wealthy background. I had a difficult upbringing and at 23 I was made redundant and faced extreme challenges when seeking a new position. If I had not received a a startup loan from The Prince’s Trust [a UK charity focused on young people] I wouldn’t have had the chance to achieve the successes that I have accomplished.

It is all too easy to be ignorant of the struggles and barriers faced by refugees wanting to get into business in the UK, so it was important for me to be part of the solution and aid Mahmoud with the skills required to help him achieve his mission in creating his window cleaning business.

Passing on business skills

My mentee, Mahmoud, has faced barriers which initially prevented him from setting out on his business venture. Some of these challenges have included access to resources, education, finance and professional networks. Despite these obstacles, Mahmoud’s drive and determination to upskill and achieve his aspirations inspired me greatly, reinforcing my desire to help those less fortunate to start working towards building their future prospects.  

Migrant Help’s Dream Academy enables entrepreneurs to pass on transferrable business skills to migrants wanting to enter the workplace. The scheme consists of one-to-one mentoring sessions that are designed to help refugees and those seeking asylum identify and take the steps needed to achieve their goals.

There are still many who believe that you must come from wealth to be successful and grow a business, but this is far from the truth. Psychologist, Angela Duckworth, hit the nail on the head when she said that all successful people had one thing in common – grit – and this psychological trait is often put forward as a key tenet behind success. Grit is essentially a mixture of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of long-term goals. ‘Gritty’ people stick to their guns and are unperturbed by any obstacles or hardships they may encounter.  Mahmoud had grit, tenacity and passion and just needed that helping hand to give him the foundations and guidance on how to start out in the business world.  

Why I mentor refugees

Mentoring has not just positively impacted my mentee, but it has also changed my outlook as a leader. Giving back strengthens the sense of purpose that should be at the core of a leader’s mantra, and I have found it greatly rewarding to play a small part in making a big difference. Business shouldn’t be solely focused on profit and it’s vital to tap into B Corp principles to ensure that you don’t lose sight of your intention and core values.

Mentoring also helps you to increase self-awareness and strengthen your communication skills. We can all learn from each other, regardless of our working title or situation in life. It’s also important not to get too caught up in work and lose your sense of purpose.

I have found mentoring to be rewarding and it feels amazing to positively transform someone’s life and help them start to achieve their career ambitions. Everyone deserves opportunity and refugees typically face more challenges than the average person, so I am keen to encourage and inspire other people in senior positions to dedicate a small amount of their time to be a part of the solution.  

The current cost of living crisis in the UK has presented further hardships for people wanting to start working towards achieving their business dreams, so it has never been more crucial for business leaders to share expertise with refugees to help them on this journey. 

Seeing the hope inside yourself

Oprah Winfrey once said: ‘A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.’ This really resonates with my aims and ambitions through joining the Dream Academy initiative. Far too often, refugees lack a vital support network and fall through the cracks of society when all it can take is some simple guidance to reinforce their self-belief and help them achieve the greatness they are aspiring towards. 

Syd Nadim is the Executive Chairman and Founder of UK digital agency, Clock.

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