Career guidance is an important aspect of professional growth, and mentoring is a crucial component of this process. In contrast to having a very specific goal that can be achieved rather quickly and so can decrease commitment, having a wider direction and an overall purpose would provide a longer-term perspective and can result in deeper reflections. As a mentor, I have the opportunity to guide my mentee to the next level in their career. Here are some tips on how to provide effective career guidance to my mentee:
1. Understand My Mentee’s Goals
The first step in providing effective career guidance is to understand my mentee's goals. Take the time to listen to their aspirations and ambitions, and understand what they hope to achieve in their career. This will help me tailor my guidance to their specific needs and provide them with relevant advice and resources.
Having SMART goals is especially important because their goals focus both on the efforts. What is one thing they want to be better at so that they can be a better person in their role? Based on their answer, what is one goal they need to set for themselvse so they can improve in this area?
Below is a SMART goal checklist:
- Good goals are specific and refer to behaviours.
- Non-specific goal: I want to write more efficiently.
- Specific goal: I will write more efficiently by outlining my work first and then writing a draft, which I will edit the following day.
- By setting goals that are measurable, you are able to track your progress.
- Non-measurable goal: I want to increase sales.
- Measurable goal: I want to increase sales by 15% next quarter. The caveat is to watch out for making the measurement too small, which becomes burdensome to track.
- Set stepping stones to make the goal seem more achievable.
- Achievable goals rely on you having access to personal and professional resources needed to attain the goal. For example, running a marathon might not be an attainable goal in three months if you have never exercised.
- Ensure that the goal in mind is possible.
- A realistic goal refers to the difficulty of the goal, and if the goal is possible in the stated period.
- Realistic goals build on prior achievement. A goal to make 15 new sales contacts in the next week when the mentee has made no sales contacts in the last two months is not realistic.
- Set a completion date for when the goal should be achieved.
- A goal to earn a promotion in six months, when a mentee just started a new position, may not be timely if the organisation promotes on a one or two year time frame.
- Timely goals align the mentee’s aims with their developmental cycle in their personal and professional lives.
- Keep doing (What you are doing now that you should be doing)
- Stop doing (What you are doing now but you should stop doing)
- Start doing (What you are not doing but you should be doing)
- Never start doing (What you are not doing that you should not be doing)
2. Identify My Mentee Strengths and Weaknesses
To guide my mentee effectively, I need to identify their strengths and weaknesses. By understanding their strengths, I can help them capitalize on their skills and develop strategies to leverage their strengths in their career. Identifying their weaknesses will allow me to work with them to develop plans to address those areas and improve their skills.
To identify their talents/strengths, interests, weaknesses, and unhealthy attitudes, it is useful to draw a life ladder. Draw your own life ladder according to the guidelines below. Share your life ladder and how you felt at 3 important points in your life.
On top of each rung, state a significant challenging life experience/event.
Under each rung, state the biggest learnings from that life event, e.g. how you developed as a person, what skills or attributes you developed.
Here is an example of a fictitious life ladder of some key milestones in an individual’s life. I recommend minimally 4-7 milestones that are significant in shaping the individual’s life.
To help in creating your life ladder, here are some questions:
- Have you developed, created, designed, or invented something or developed or implemented a new system or procedure?
- When have you effectively handled a difficult situation (professional or personal)?
- When have you done something where you really had to laugh at yourself?
- Have you had an experience in a foreign country that revealed interesting cultural differences?
- What was the one moment or highlight in school you will never forget?
- What was the one event in your childhood that had the greatest effect on your life?
- What is the one lesson you have learned from some experience that you still live by today?
Next, invite others to share their life ladder. Identify talents/strengths, interests and potential weaknesses.
- If you look at your life ladder, what do you think is a strength or talent theme you have? What interests stay consistent?
- Based on your life ladder, what can you say about how you handle failure/disappointment? Are there unhealthy attitudes you observe about yourself?
3. Develop a Plan of Action
Once you have identified your goals, strengths, and weaknesses, it's time to develop a plan of action. This plan should include specific steps that you can take to achieve your goals, including identifying relevant training or education programs, networking opportunities, and potential career paths.
Set a target on what you want to achieve over the next few months. Then write a letter to yourself. You will be reading your own letters at the end of the year.
Part 1: The Me Now
Where do you think you see yourself right now? How do you wish to grow? What habits/practices would you like to see yourself practising?
Part 2: The Me in the Future
What do you see yourself doing in six months’ time? What do you hope to achieve in six months’ time? What are some words of encouragement you would like to give yourself?
4. Identify Self Awareness – Values
To identify core values and guide on how you can practically apply your core values in your life.
Introduce the idea of values.
Values are principles to which individuals view as central to their belief system. People behave and act the way they do because of the values you choose to reside in your belief system.
List 15 values that you currently consider important in both your career and life planning. The example list below is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive.
- Profit, gain – have a strong likelihood of accumulating money or material gain
- Recognition – get positive feedback and public credit for work well done
- People contact – have a lot of day- to-day contact with people
- Change and variety – have work responsibilities frequently changed in content or setting
- Practicality – be involved in work that yields a practical or useful result
- Influence people – be in a position to change attitudes or opinions of others
- Status – impress or gain the respect of others, by the nature and/or level of responsibility of my work
- Work under pressure – being able to perform well despite stresses e.g. tight deadlines, lack of expertise or help
- Honesty and integrity – work in a setting where honesty and integrity are assets
- Excitement – experience a high degree of stimulation or frequent novelty and drama on the job
- High anticipated earnings – work in a role with high monetary rewards
- Fun & Humour – work in a setting where it is possible (and appropriate) to joke and have fun
- Work alone – do projects mainly by myself, with little contact or input from others Work with others – have close working relationships with a group and work as a team towards common goals
- Job tranquillity – avoid pressure and ‘the rat race’ in my job role and work setting
- Challenging problems – continually engage with complex questions and demanding tasks, trouble-shooting and problem- solving as a core part
- Time freedom – have a role where I can work according to my time schedule, without set working hours
- Customer service – effectively solve problems and challenges that satisfy customers
- Precision work – deal with tasks that have exact specifications, that require careful, accurate attention to detail
- Help society – do something that contributes to the betterment of society
- Fast pace – work in circumstances where there is a high pace of activity and work is done rapidly
- Adventure – have job duties which involve frequent risk- taking
- Independence – be able to determine the nature of my work without significant direction of others
- Growth opportunity – career progression
- Power and authority – control the work activities & destinies of others
- Work-life balance – a job that allows me adequate time for my family, hobbies or social activities
- Structure and predictability – do work with a high level of structure and predictability
- Opportunity for creativity and self- expression
- Casual and relaxed culture
From the 15, strike out 11. You should be left with 4 values. Explaining why you feel those 4 values are important to you.
- Who or what event inspired you to embrace this value?
- Tell me about a time you practised this core value.
- How frequently do you practise this core value?
Discuss the relevance of these values highlighted in the workplace, and ways you can act upon them. Start by sharing how you act upon your core values in your office/meetings.
Address why knowing the office/organisation culture is important (e.g. fosters a sense of identity, driving force to keep everyone towards the same goal, encourages collaboration and teamwork across departments, etc.)
Ask how relevant and important are your core values in a working environment. Draw out assumptions (e.g. too idealistic/naïve) and address how your core values play out. You may use the following questions to help you assess this:
- Do your core values allow you to freely share ideas or resources?
- Do your core values allow you to consistently listen to others?
- If you do not connect with the project’s goals or project teammates, do you “switch off” or do you go with the flow? How do your core values come into play?
- How do your core values come into play during difficult situations, e.g. managing tight deadlines?
Step 5. Summarise the conversation on core values and the ways they come into play at work. Remind yourself to be intentional in modelling the way for others by living out your core values.
5. Identify potential career pathways and provide guidance
Figuring your potential and career interests
Allow 5 minutes to answer the following questions. The first three questions will give you a sense of your personality. The last two questions will give you a sense of what you think you are good at.
- Where do your interests lie?
- What do you do well in and enjoy?
- What kind of personality do you have?
- What hard skills (e.g. technical skills such as coding) do you currently possess?
- What soft skills (e.g. leadership) do you currently possess?
Reflecting on past experiences, ask yourself to reflect on your past job experiences in the table below. This includes internships, part- time stints held, and previous full-time jobs. Assess each experience based on the following parameters stated in the row below.
Job Experience #1 What I found enjoyable: The hard/soft skills I was competent in: The weaknesses I discovered about myself:
Job Experience #2 What I found enjoyable: The hard/soft skills I was competent in: The weaknesses I discovered about myself:
Job Experience #3 What I found enjoyable: The hard/soft skills I was competent in: The weaknesses I discovered about myself:
Compare what you have stated in Step 1 and Step 2. Clarify disparities if you are genuine competencies that reap tangible results. Do take note of what you enjoy doing and what you excel in, so that you can find examples of the careers you can try exploring in Step 3.
Identify potential careers
a) Suggest a career you are interested in and why.
Address positive outcomes and pitfalls should you choose this career you stated. Do not be afraid to challenge yourself and ask for guidance with potential pathways to a career.
Example of a positive outcome: You want to pursue a career in marketing. You are competent in your marketing role as an intern, and have an interest in design. You can affirm yourself and then state the online courses you can explore or opportunities you are aware of to help yourself build your portfolio.
Example of a pitfall: You have an interest in the consulting industry, but through your internship, you learned that you do not fare well in providing critical insights and are not good at managing relationships due to your sense of self-entitlement. You can address your concerns and ask for guidance to improve on these aspects. You may want to draw your attention to your strengths, or to consider alternative career paths based on these.
b) From your observations of your responses in Steps 1 and 2, offer them some suggestions on the careers you could consider based on your personality and competencies.
Facilitate the conversation with the intention to nurture and grow the individual. Hence, always check if you understand and are agreeable to the suggestions that are offered.
Encourage you to not be afraid to voice out if the career pathway suggested does not sit well with you. Discuss alternatives if applicable.
You may consider asking the following questions:
- Now that I have given my suggestion, what do you think?
- Is there anything you do not understand about what we talked about so far? Would you like me to explain any part of it again?
- Is there anything you would like to ask or clarify?
c) Summarise what was discussed, and then plan out SMART action items and deadlines, if applicable.
Example: If one of the career pathways is to be a software engineer in the fintech industry, you can apply to at least 2 internal transfers as a job applicant. If you haven’t yet reviewed your resume, set an action item to do so.
In conclusion, career guidance is a vital component of professional growth, and mentoring is an effective way to provide guidance to those who need it. As a mentor, taking the time to understand my mentee's goals, strengths, and weaknesses, developing a plan of action, providing ongoing support, and encouraging reflection and self-evaluation can help guide my mentee to the next level in their career.