human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Diversity creates innovation

Job applicants with foreign names should be at the top of the application pile in companies with international ambitions.

Rolf Assev, job mentor at Caritas Norway

A job mentor is a volunteer who meets an immigrant or a refugee regularly to talk about work, career opportunities and how the Norwegian work culture is.

Rolf, who is a partner in the technology incubator StartupLab located in Oslo, recalls that he was in the mountains for the winter holidays and talked about refugees and how little they did to help them. That same evening he did some searches on the Internet and Caritas appeared along with a concept he found interesting. A few weeks later he was introduced to Mohammad Abdalmuhsen, a chemical engineer and Syrian refugee.

Being a job mentor gives me insight into a world I don’t know and hopefully it will give me a lasting friendship with a wonderful person. Mohammad has met the whole family; something my family really appreciated.

It did not take long after Rolf introduced Mohammad to his professional network before he had a job. Only 24 hours after Rolf had introduced Mohammad on StartupLab’s intranet, he got an internship with one of the associated start-up companies, Defigo AS. The company makes smart doorbells that can control everything from lock, ventilation and elevator to alarms.

Mohammad is simply a great person. It is impressive what he has managed to achieve in just a couple of years. He is very talented, but also very humble. He is probably overqualified for this job with a good margin, but he takes pride in his work. His background is in gas and energy, and there should be plenty of large Norwegian companies that could have welcomed him into their businesses.

Rolf wishes that more people discovered the opportunities a diverse Norway offers. He has the following message to employers who receive applications from refugees and other immigrants, but who are tempted to bury them at the bottom of the pile:

Diversity is a prerequisite for innovation. Job applicants with foreign names should be at the top of the pile in companies with international ambitions. To merely have people from NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and NHH (Norwegian School of Economics) creates little innovation. If the company wants to think outside the box, they must employ people with different backgrounds. Different backgrounds will lead to better discussions and better discussions will lead to better results.

Facts about Caritas Norway’s job mentorship programme

A job mentor is a person who meets an immigrant or a refugee regularly to talk about work, career and how the Norwegian work culture is and to assist their job search process. The volunteers will share advice based on their work experience, usually within the same profession, and in consultation with the immigrant/refugee. Caritas links potential volunteers with participants and provides training and follow-up along the way. Job mentors are also invited to professional and social events and have the opportunity to get to know the organisation and other volunteers. Being a job mentor is a flexible way of volunteering that allows the volunteer and the participant to decide when to meet.