Duo for a Job is a Brussels-based association whose mission is to put in contact immigrant youth seeking for employment (so-called mentees) with experienced professionals in (early) retirement (mentors), ideally from the same professional sector, in order to support the young person in his/her job search. The young professional, forming a duo with the mentor, receives advice and guidance, can work on his/her main relevant competencies, can learn the Belgian labour codes and have access to new networks. Among other, the benefits of this exchange are varied:  young migrants become more confidents, it encourages cultural and inter-generational exchanges, and it spreads awareness of potential discrimination and added value of migration.

This initiative was built on two main considerations:

  1. First, there was a real concern about young migrants’ situation in Belgium. Youth, in general, have difficulties to find a job, the unemployment rate among young people is as high as 23%. This difficulty is emphasized for young people with a migrant background, actually, they suffer from discrimination both in schools and labour market. Moreover, young migrants’ professionals face various problems such as the non-recognition of their diplomas, lack of professional networks, limited knowledge of career’s possibilities and language barriers.
  2. Second, Belgium holds the highest rate of inactive persons between 55 and 64 years old (41%) in Europe. However, 70% of the persons above 50 years are still enthusiastic to be active and share their experiences.

Since the establishment of the first duo in September 2013, 236 other duos have been created. The outcomes are encouraging since 72% of the mentees have found solutions (internships, traineeships or jobs) at the end of the mentoring period (6 months).

The duo is well supported by the association all along its work. Actually, in order to form the best possible match for the duo, every detail is respected and taken into account: field of expertise, personalities, time preferences, languages… The aim is that both parties feel comfortable with each other. Success in matching is outlined in statistics: only 12 duos out of the 236 formed did not work out over the last two years.

Both mentees and mentors register on a voluntarily basis and have to comply with some eligibility criteria but there is no selection procedure. Total acceptance of everyone enables Duo for a Job to expand the sectors covered and diversity on both sides. After an individual interview with the potential mentor (to identify his/her main competences), another with the mentee to be (to understand his/her main needs in term of job-search) and a four-day training for the mentors, DUO for a JOB’s team identifies the best match possible and invite both mentor and mentee for a first meeting.

The objective of the first meeting is to get to know each other and see whether mentor and mentee click in terms of personality and professional aspirations. If so, the duo is officially launched during the second meeting, with the signature of a mentoring convention. Once the administrative task is completed, duos start to work together to broaden job opportunities for the young professional. Duo’s meetings are organised once a week in the headquarters of the association. Besides these weekly meetings, Duo for Job organises CV workshops and mock interviews for the mentees and exchange of bests practice meetings for the mentors. The association supports and oversees the duo all along the mentoring period.

Snehal is an Indian mentee, she arrived almost one year ago in Belgium. Her husband had a professional opportunity here and she decided to follow him. She has already been working in India for big IT companies but still faces various issues: I have experience in IT but I am not aware of Belgian market regulations, CV format in Europe, salary requirements and work permit. This is where my training at Duo for a job starts.

Snehal is a New European, meaning that she is a person living in Europe but having connections with more than the country where she lives. Even if she emphasizes that she did not have time yet to totally master Belgian culture, she is a quick learner. Having a dual cultural background is very helpful in my case because India is deemed for IT companies. Recruiters know that my previous experiences are valuable. This is also the reason why she does not need to make diploma equivalence.

She meets Philippe, her mentor, every week: Wednesday is our day! Philippe helps her both in administrative tasks and translations but also in looking and preparing for jobs, interviews and networks. Each mentoring duo takes a different track since it is adapted to the mentee’s needs and demands.

According to Snehal, there are two main challenges, the language barrier and the mental strength when looking for a job. One of the biggest challenges is the language barrier, speaking French would widen my job search and ease the administrative tasks. I am therefore learning French with the support of my mentor. I am very lucky because I can practice it with Philippe, we decided to speak in French the last 15 minutes of every meeting.

Another big challenge is to have the mental strength to stand up and start a new application once you have been rejected, especially if you went far in the selection procedure. Looking for a job is a very difficult process and to have someone else involved in this path with you is very important. My mentor is present at any time to listen and encourage me, to keep me on the right track and to motivate me when I feel like I could give up.

The program lasts six months, no matter whether the mentee finds a job before the end. Indeed, it is still useful to have someone that can assist you in the signing of the job contract and guide you when you start a new job.

All in all, I am very happy about my work with Philippe at Duo for a Job, I already recommended the organisation to friends, even to a PhD graduate. The main problem for young people with migrant background to find a job is not related to qualification or education, it is to have broader knowledge and access to labour market.

More information on: www.duoforajob.be



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