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Mentoring Conversation Guidelines

Immanuel’s IPC Pathways program has been operating since the fall of 2017. Dozens of members have had one-on-one career exploration mentoring conversations in a pilot program. Until recently, youth and young adults (who we call seekers) have been matched with mentors based on the information available to the volunteers who have been guiding IPC Pathways.  Going forward, seekers will be given the opportunity to review Immanuel mentor profiles and directly seek out conversations with those they are interested in.

Interested in participating in a conversation? Check out “Suggestions for Career Mentoring Conversation.” For seekers, we also suggest “Choosing a Mentor for a Conversation” and “Tips for Seekers” and for mentors, “Tips for mentors.” This is based on our experiences at Immanuel. Are we missing your favorite tips? Please send them to

Suggestions for Career Mentoring Conversations

Here is a brief overview of things we’ve learned from Pathways mentors who have had career mentoring conversations.  Additional information can be found at Career Mentoring Conversation: Tips for Seekers and Career Mentoring Conversation: Tips for Seekers.

What is expected of me?

Career mentoring conversations at Immanuel need not be long, perhaps 20-30 minutes, but that’s up to you both and your sense of how it’s going.  Meeting after the morning or evening church service somewhere at church works well, or if you prefer, at a mutually convenient coffee shop.

The expectation is for one meeting, which might lead to introductions to others.  The goal is not to set up long-term mentoring relationships, although staying in touch can be good for both mentor and seeker!  

Mentors must respect the confidences of seekers if confidentiality is requested.  Needless to say, only discuss what you are comfortable discussing.

What to talk about?

Mentors and seekers should approach this in whatever manner they are comfortable with.

  • The purpose is simple:  to give the seeker a chance to share where they are in their career exploration, ask questions and share concerns. This gives mentors a chance to tell their career stories, which is key.
  • Ask each other questions to get things going.  See the examples in the tips for mentors and tips for seekers.

Why Are You Having This Conversation?

That’s up to the seeker. The mentor career profiles, when available for review by seekers, will identify three potential types of categories:  Those who want to discuss specific careers, those interested in lifestyle issues, and those who feel they can help choose a career. Many are interested in more than one category.

In the best conversations, mentors and seekers share a common understanding about the purpose of the conversation. At the beginning of the conversation, we suggest that the seeker share what he or she hopes to accomplish with the conversation and that the mentor share what he or she offers.

The Goal is for the Seeker to Have Multiple Conversations with Different Mentors

At the end of the conversation, try to discuss who else the seeker should chat with, either inside or outside Immanuel.  The mentor should consider introducing the seeker to others who could be helpful, or let the seeker use the mentor’s name when introducing himself or herself to others.  

Having multiple conversations helps:

  • Learn more about specific career opportunities
  • Get different perspectives
  • Offer spiritual insight into career choices
  • Learn to network more effectively
  • Understand how those who have travelled different career paths have wrestled with common issues

Choosing a Mentor for a Conversation

Mentoring conversations can be rewarding, even life-changing.  How do you increase the chances of having an inspiring, even life-changing conversation?

First, check out our blog on the subject: The Basics of a Career Mentoring Conversation.

Second, think about what you are looking for in a conversation.

  1. Is it to lead you further into a specific career?  If so, look for mentors with specific experience or potential leads into that experience. 
  2. Do you want to explore lifestyle issues raised by different careers?  Look for mentors with experience and interest in lifestyle issues. 
  3. What if you have no idea what you want to do?  There are many people with experience finding their way to unexpected, fulfilling careers. 

We look forward to adding a feature to our Pathways program that identifies mentors with experience and wisdom in each of those three categories.  Stay tuned!

Career Mentoring Conversations: Tips for Seekers

The conversations you have with mentors should be productive, interesting and fun!  First, please review The Basics of a Career Mentoring Conversation.

Follow your instincts and style about how best to conduct a conversation, but keep a few things in mind:

  • Treat it as any conversation you might have with an uncle, aunt or an older friend, about your career path.
  • Use the conversation to learn the mentor’s career path story.  While his or her path is almost certainly not yours, hearing what he did, or what she liked and didn’t like will be useful.

It’s not a Job Interview or a Headhunter Interview

This is not about the mentor helping you get a new job.  It’s to give you perspectives and ideas about the paths you might consider following.

It’s not about the Mentor Telling You What to Do

Mentors are not equipped, and don’t know enough, to tell you what career path to pursue, or even to give general career advice. The goal is for you to share your story and questions, and to hear their stories and learn from them.

Use the Experience to Learn How to Improve Your Conversations

Mentoring conversations are an art, and practice improves the benefits. Pathways is partly about learning how to have these conversations in an environment that is accepting and supportive (duh, it’s Immanuel).  One goal is for you to want to have several more conversations with others who have been down a path of interest to you.

Plan Ahead for your Next Conversations

Whatever you do, remember at the end of the conversation to ask: “Who else should I talk to?  Are you willing to introduce me, or may I use your name when I reach out to that person?” It’s the best way to learn about opportunities and figure out your future.

Additional Resources on Mentoring Conversations

There are many great resources to improve your mentoring conversations.  Here are a few:

  1. The blog on this web site: Making Young Mentoring Conversation Count
  2. This article in Forbes has five great suggestions for improving your mentoring relationships.
  3. One of our favorite resources is Designing Your Life, by William Burnett and Dave Evans, a New York Times best-seller based on a popular career exploration course taught at Stanford.  The book has great thoughts (pages 115-117) about conducting a mentoring conversation, which they call a “Life Design Interview.” 

Career Mentoring Conversations: Tips for Mentors

Thank you for agreeing to have a career exploration conversation with seekers. Experience shows that this probably will be at least as rewarding for you as it will be for the seeker.  

The subject may be serious, but remember to keep things light and have fun!  

Please review The Basics of a Career Mentoring Conversation.  Here are a few additional thoughts to guide you. Feel free to follow or ignore these – you need to be comfortable with how you do this, so be authentic and use your own style.

  • Before you meet with the seeker, please review the seeker’s Pathways profile and start the conversation by asking questions about them. Open-ended questions are always good.
  • Always consider the interests of the seeker first! Try to respond to your seeker’s questions as best you can.  A great conversation need not follow any agenda you scripted ahead of time.
  • Be prepared to learn from your seeker!  

Be Sure to Tell Your Story

The purpose is simple:  to give the seeker a chance to share where he or she is in career exploration and to ask questions and share concerns.  The seeker hopefully will ask you to tell your story; if he doesn’t, tell your story anyway.

  • As a good listener, your job is to hear what she says, ask the occasional good question, and share any experiences that might be of interest.
  • Don’t hide the hard stuff form your career stories.  Seekers want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.

What Questions Should You Ask?

There are many questions you can ask to get things going.  For example:

  • Are you thinking of your current work objectives as part of a career, a vocation, or a solid job until you discern your next step?
  • How does your life mission fit what you are doing or want to do?
  • What do you like, and what don’t you like, about the work experiences you’ve had so far?
  • What factors do you think have influenced your career goals?  Parents? School? Friends? Work experience?
  • Have you considered a graduate degree and whether it might factor into advancement for you in this field?
  • Are you aware of ______ group(s), which are helpful for networking in this field in our area?

What these Conversations are NOT For

Pathways conversations are not:

  • A place to give career advice.  You likely don’t know enough about the young adult to do that. You are there to listen and share your story.  And maybe to suggest others to talk with. That’s it.
  • A large time commitment. No follow-up is required unless you are so moved.  Whether you follow up with the seeker is up to you, but it is not expected. Ideally, you will take an interest in the seeker and perhaps email him from time to time and say hello when you see him at church.  And then you can ask for updates about her path.
  • Any requirement to help find a job or internship.  We are making that clear to seekers. If you think an introduction to someone else for a similar conversation might be helpful, feel free to pursue that, but that also is not a requirement.  Seekers are encouraged to ask you who else — inside and outside Immanuel — they should talk to.
  • Anything other than to listen, and if you are so moved, ask questions guided by your wisdom and experience.  One thing that is clear is that young adults value hearing about the experience of others.
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