How a pandemic led to the perfect mentor match

The COVID-19 lockdown may have disrupted the career plans of recent engineering graduate Kimberley Chu GradIEAust, but thanks to the support of her mentor, Agnes Tong MIEAust CPEng NER, she is focusing on how to achieve her goals.
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mentor and mentee

Kimberley Chu GradIEAust arrived in Melbourne at the beginning of March with a clear focus: explore the city, make new friends and secure her first job as a mechanical engineer. However, things haven’t quite gone to plan. Within weeks of moving into an apartment in the city’s Docklands district, the threat of COVID-19 led to a wide-scale lockdown - and life in Melbourne remains tightly restricted.  

“It wasn’t the best timing!” says Kimberley, a recent graduate of the University of Hong Kong. 

One silver lining of the lockdown, however, is that it encouraged Kimberley to sign up to Engineers Australia’s Mentor Match program. That’s how she met her mentor, Agnes Tong MIEAust CPEng NER, a Chartered Civil and Environmental Engineer with 20 years of experience in waste management, engineering and project management.  

“I wanted to get to know someone who works in the industry and who could provide some guidance,” says Kimberley.

“It’s made a huge difference and I’d encourage any graduate to join the program.” 

 

Making a difference 

Mentor Match is a member-only platform that connects graduate members with experienced Chartered Engineers to provide guidance and advice for planning their careers over a 6-month period.  

Kimberley says it has helped her to feel inspired about her future career, despite the unexpected setback of COVID-19. 

“I feel really lucky to have met Agnes,” she says. “She’s been so encouraging and has helped me to identify my career goals and how I can achieve them.” 

Agnes is a Senior Strategic Advisor, Resource Recovery and Waste Services at City of Greater Geelong. She became an engineer because she wanted to develop ways to improve daily life while also improving the planet. This desire to make a difference also prompted her to join the Mentor Match program. 

“I’ve mentored people in an informal capacity in the workplace, but I know how valuable it can be to have an outside perspective as well,” says Agnes, who is also a graduate of the University of Hong Kong. 

“I had a mentor when I first came to Melbourne and he really supported and guided me when I was looking for work in the waste industry. I still feel very fortunate that I had that experience.” 
 

Guidance and support 

The Mentor Match program kicked off in July and Kimberley and Agnes have met up a few times via Zoom and maintain regular email correspondence.

“I didn’t know that Agnes was also from Hong Kong and that we had gone to the same university,” says Kimberley. “She moved to Melbourne about 15 years ago, so we have that shared experience as well. I was so interested in her area of expertise and her career background and she has given me some great tips on job hunting.”  

Agnes, who worked for Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Authority before moving to Melbourne, says the experience of mentoring Kimberley has helped her to reflect on her own career.  

“I can see of lot of myself in Kimberley,” she says. “But, when I moved to Melbourne, I was already a Chartered Engineer with a bit of experience. Being a graduate without local experience would feel quite challenging. 

“I feel like I can support and guide her to help make the transition a bit easier. It’s been very rewarding to see Kimberley grow and she’s such a positive person with so much to offer.” 


Practical advice  

In one of their first meetings, Agnes encouraged Kimberley to use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique when responding to key selection criteria in job applications. 

“It’s not very common in Hong Kong, so I’d never heard of it,” says Kimberley. “I changed my cover letter as soon as she told me about it.” 

Agnes also helped Kimberley to draft a career development plan to help identify her goals. 

“This helped her to analyse the path she wants to follow and then she went off and found her own tools to help crystallise her options,” says Agnes. “This is another reason that I think she’s the perfect mentee – I just have to guide her a little bit and then she runs with it at her own pace.” 

Although the COVID-19 lockdown affected her confidence, Kimberley says Agnes has already made a difference to her career outlook. 

“It’s been really tough to find a job because of the lockdown, and it was easy to feel pretty helpless at the start, especially because I don’t have family or friends here,” she says.  

“But Agnes has really encouraged me and helped me to identity my career goals and how I can achieve them. I’m so grateful to have her as my mentor.” 

 

Mentor Match is an exclusive, members-only online matching program designed to provide graduate members access to senior Chartered Engineers with the purpose of gaining guidance, connection and advice for planning their careers. The Mentor Match platform matches mentors and mentees based on their specified needs and values and guides their relationship over a six-month period.  

To express your interest in being involved in the next round either as a Chartered mentor or graduate mentee, please email [email protected]