Paying It Forward, From Mentee to Mentor

By Robert Half on January 17, 2023 at 8:35am

Ajmal Aria (pictured left) is the director of operations for Opening Doors, and his mentor through Upwardly Global, Lyn Irish (pictured right), is the director of finance programs at Robert Half. The original version of this article was published in Half Times, the digital magazine for Robert Half employees.

Upwardly Global is a national organization that works with refugees and immigrants to restart their careers and bring their skills and perspectives into the American workforce. When Robert Half partnered with Upwardly Global during our Season of Service, our director of finance programs, Lyn Irish, thought it was a great opportunity to use her skills and background to help others.

For the past three years, Lyn has mentored refugees looking for employment. She knew she would be helping others with their professional journeys, but she didn’t anticipate the amazing journey she would take with her mentee, Ajmal Aria.

Ajmal and his family came to the United States from Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2020. With a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), a master’s degree in business administration and a strong work ethic, Ajmal thought he would find a job quickly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Lyn and Ajmal began their mentoring partnership through Upwardly Global in 2021, after Ajmal had spent months searching for a job without success. Lyn and Ajmal spoke every two weeks about how he and his family were adjusting and also discussed strategies for finding work and networking opportunities.

Landing a dream job

In July 2021, Ajmal finally secured an interim role in the San Francisco Bay Area. While he was excited about the opportunity, he ultimately wanted to find a permanent position at a company that aligned with his education and interests. He and Lyn continued to meet, strategize and network to find a new job.

In August of 2021, Ajmal started a new position as an operations manager for Opening Doors, a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive life-changing and life-saving services for refugees, immigrants and human-trafficking survivors.

For Ajmal, it was his dream job. And after a year of building employee trust and improving processes and procedures, Ajmal was promoted to director of operations and is now considered an integral leader at the organization.

“I really appreciate the efforts that Lyn and other volunteers put together at the beginning of my journey through Upwardly Global,” says Ajmal. “Today, I see myself here at Opening Doors in my new role making a difference in others’ lives. Recently, I received an email from Upwardly Global that they would like me to be one of the volunteers with their job seekers and share my experience with them.”

Ajmal now volunteers at Upwardly Global to work with and share his experience with job seekers. And that’s not the only way he’s paying it forward. Ajmal is also a hiring manager for Opening Doors, and when they need temporary talent solutions, he uses Robert Half to fill those positions. A win all around.

Interested in becoming a mentor? See these five tips for getting started.

From mentoring to co-mentoring

Lyn says she has also benefited from working with Ajmal. “Working with him as a mentor and helping him succeed at his current organization was a humbling experience,” she says. “The process opened my eyes to the challenges immigrants and refugees face during the job search.”

Lyn says she will continue to work with Upwardly Global, helping others to find employment and eliminating job search barriers.

“This is another great example of how mentoring is powerful and impactful,” says Wendy Brenes, senior program manager for mentoring and leadership development at Robert Half. “As mentoring relationships mature, we find they often evolve into everlasting, co-mentoring experiences, where each is giving just as much as receiving on a more peer-to-peer level.”

She continues, “While we have a strong mentoring culture within the organization, there are many, like Lyn, who reach beyond Robert Half — sharing their knowledge, skills and insights with others and making this world a better place.”

Lyn says she couldn’t be prouder of Ajmal. His hard work and persistence led to his new position and provided the opportunity to pay it forward. They continue to touch base regularly, but not always as mentor and mentee.

“I consider Ajmal a friend and peer I can talk to about successes and challenges,” Lyn says.

For more information on career mentorship for immigrants and refugees, visit Upwardly Global’s website.

For additional resources on mentoring, and to learn about International Mentoring Day, visit

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