Taking Career Guidance to the Next Level

March 22, 2023

Career guidance plays a vital role in professional growth, and mentoring is an essential part of this journey. Unlike short-term, specific goals that can be achieved quickly but may decrease commitment, a broader vision and overall purpose offer a long-term perspective and foster deeper reflection. As a mentor, I aim to elevate my mentee's career to the next level. Here are some tips on providing effective career guidance:

1. Understand Your Mentee’s Goals

The first step in effective mentoring is understanding your mentee's goals. Listen carefully to their aspirations and ambitions to tailor your advice and resources to meet their specific needs.

SMART goals are particularly important, as they not only focus on outcomes but also on the effort required. Ask your mentee what skill or attribute they wish to improve to perform better in their role. Then, help them set a specific goal in that area.

SMART Goal Checklist:


  • Good goals are behavior-specific.
    • Non-specific goal: I want to write more efficiently.
    • Specific goal: I will improve my writing efficiency by outlining my work first, then drafting, and finally editing the following day.


  • Goals should be measurable to track progress.
    • Non-measurable goal: I want to increase sales.
    • Measurable goal: I aim to boost sales by 15% next quarter. Beware of making the measurement too granular, as it can become burdensome to track.


  • Create stepping stones to make the goal seem more attainable.
    • Achievable goals depend on your having access to the necessary resources. For instance, running a marathon in three months is not achievable if you've never exercised before.


  • Ensure the goal is plausible within a given timeframe.
    • A realistic goal builds upon previous achievements. Setting a goal to make 15 new sales contacts in one week is not realistic if the mentee has not made any sales contacts in the past two months.


  • Define a timeline for achieving the goal.
    • A goal to earn a promotion in six months may not be timely if the organization generally promotes employees annually or biennially.

Action Steps:

  • Continue doing (Current effective practices)
  • Stop doing (Current practices that should be eliminated)
  • Start doing (New practices to adopt)
  • Never start doing (Things to avoid)

2. Identify Your Mentee's Strengths and Weaknesses

Understanding your mentee's strengths allows you to help them leverage these in their career. Recognizing their weaknesses helps you collaborate on developing strategies for improvement.

To gain insights into their strengths, weaknesses, interests, and attitudes, consider using a life ladder activity. In this exercise, each rung of the ladder represents a significant life experience and its accompanying lessons.

Life Ladder:

  1. Each rung should represent a challenging life experience or event.
  2. Under each rung, note the lessons learned from that experience, such as personal development or acquired skills.

Encourage your mentee to share their life ladder and discuss their strengths, interests, and potential weaknesses based on these milestones.

3. Develop a Plan of Action

After identifying goals, strengths, and weaknesses, formulate a specific action plan. This should include achievable steps, such as enrolling in training programs, networking, and exploring potential career paths.

Writing Letters to Yourself:

Write a letter to your future self about your goals and aspirations. Revisit these letters at year-end to measure your growth.

Part 1: The Present Me

  • Where do you currently see yourself?
  • How do you wish to grow?
  • What habits or practices would you like to adopt?

Part 2: The Future Me

  • Where do you see yourself in six months?
  • What do you aim to achieve by then?
  • What words of encouragement would you offer yourself?

4. Foster Self-Awareness – Emphasize Core Values

Values shape our actions and decisions. Understanding and applying your core values in your career can be transformative.


  1. Introduce the concept of values.
  2. List 15 values important to you in both career and life planning.
  3. Narrow down the list to four core values and explain their significance.
  4. Discuss how these values are relevant in your workplace.
  5. Conclude by summarizing how your core values influence your professional life.

5. Explore Potential Career Pathways


  1. Reflect on your interests, competencies, and personality.
  2. Review your past job experiences and assess the skills you've gained.
  3. Identify potential career paths based on your reflections.

Facilitate the discovery process with your mentee, and together, you'll be well-prepared to explore their potential career options.

With these tips, you’ll not only provide effective guidance to your mentees but also contribute to their long-term professional success. With a clear path ahead, you’ll ensure that you're equipping your mentees with the tools they need to ascend to the next level in their careers.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn