The Career Mentoring Process


Jerry McMahon
Kiwanian Jerry McMahon
reports to the club on mentoring
Here's the recipe: if you want to try a career mentoring program, this is a detailed description of exactly how we do it. If you find better resources or develop better strategies, we’d love to hear about them and share them with others here!


• To provide pairs of teens with a mentor to help them explore their talents, gifts, learning styles/strengths, and skills.

• To provide services to help them explore possible careers and job lines that would match their interests, skills, and personalities

Timeline and Tasks

Katie tells about the
Builders Club activities

1. Planning and Preparation

  • Recruit teens and mentors; a 2:1 ratio is fine; start small (3–6 mentors?) the first time!
  • Devise a schedule for mentors to meet with teens once a week for 6–8 weeks.
  • If in school-affiliated program, sponsoring teacher or counselor sees that all teens complete MOIS (Michigan Occupational Information System) survey and have a career folder. It can be found on line at This is not essential, however. We have found many of the on-line instruments below to be more helpful and to require less familiarity with career terminology.
  • Coordinator provides training and materials for mentors. (That means taking them through the outline on this page.) It works best if they each go through the on-line instruments to be used, so that they are familiar with them. Mentors new to computers and the Web will need more assistance to help them build confidence.

2. Interacting with Teens as a Group

The steps outlined below are not meant to fit neatly into one meeting each. Sometimes you will cover more than one at a meeting, and other times a single step will overlap more than one meeting. You are not bound by rigid schedules in this process, so try to let things flow naturally with the enthusiasm of your teens.
While mentors and teens can meet individually, the camaraderie of meeting as a group can be helpful to all—especially for the introductory meeting. Teens are more used to interacting with adults in a group than as individuals, so everyone’s shyness and wariness breaks down more quickly in a group.

Step 1

Mentors and teens meet as a group for introductions and to do the “What Turns You On” worksheet. You’ll find that teens often need a lot of prodding to think about what they enjoy, independent of what they do to please or to meet the expectations of others. It is as if they have never considered the question before. Don’t rush this process—it can be very meaningful for them to have that “I don't know!” light bulb come on in their heads.
Mentors call their teens’ parents/grandparents to introduce self, program, commitment to meet each week for 6–8 weeks, and their responsibility to get child to workplace doing the shadow or tour. Share some “specific praise” comments about your first meeting with their child—they rarely get “official” contacts about their children that are positive!

Step 2

Go through Birkman (register as a new user at and/or Career Key ( Inventory. The 24-question Birkman inventory diagnoses one’s interests and style, suggests the kind of environment in which you would thrive, and links to information on specific, suitable careers. Career Key diagnoses Holland Personality Types: Artistic, Conventional, Enterprising, Investigative, Realistic, and Social; and it suggests careers appropriate to one’s self-described interests, skills, and values. If possible, and especially if on-line exploration time is short, print out information for students to take home. (Note that many on-line instruments require registration with an e-mail address, but you can usually fake it by making one up.)

Step 3

Go over typical ladders in all careers—levels of training and education, “paying your dues,” and getting experience to advance. Stress how many skills and jobs can relate to very different career lines. Remind them that we predict they will have 4–6 very different jobs or careers in their lives. It takes some of the pressure off to know that they will not be stuck forever with their first choice. It is now normal for a work life to evolve and to have several switches of field. Women, especially, are prone to take breaks for childrearing and to work part-time for periods when their children are young. Girls may want to consider how much flexibility is inherent in the fields that interest them.

Step 4

Go over what we know about ourselves—gifts, skills, talents, and interests. Review the many resources out there to look at your options, interests, fields and goals. A superb and comprehensive resource is “Plan the Trip," at It goes into as much detail as you want on all the steps from discovering yourself through researching, preparing for, and finding a job.

Step 5

Talk about Multiple Intelligences: HOW are you smart?
There is a self-scoring survey at It plots your Naturalist, Musical, Logical, Existential, Interpersonal, Kinesthetic, Verbal, Intrapersonal and Visual strengths. The exercise brings home to teens that there is more than one kind of intelligence, that an inability to function well in a traditional school setting does not mean they are stupid—but may mean that they are not taking advantage of their own strong points.

Step 6

Share ideas on Learning Styles—we all learn in different ways!
The Index of Learning Styles page at has both on-line and paper-and-pencil versions, plus a handout explaining your results, describing the differences between active and reflective learners, sensing and intuitive learners, visual and verbal learners, and sequential and global learners. There are suggestions for how each type can help him- or herself, dealing with situations or teachers catering to a different style.
The above and many more resources for self-analysis are gathered at

3. Going touring or job shadowing

Kiesa & Liz
Kiesa and Elizabeth report

The Plan

Pick out 2 or 3 careers of interest and start looking at tour and shadowing resources at This is where your own social skills and network of acquaintances can be invaluable. The closer the experience is to exactly the field the teen is looking into, the more valuable it will be. Odds are great that the field will not be on our pre-solicited list of resources! Your job as a mentor is to dig for someone in the field who might be willing to allow a work-site visit. Our experience has been that you have little to lose by making cold calls, especially if it is to a friend of a friend—any thread of personal connection helps.
If a suitable resource is already listed on our site, coach your teens to call and arrange for a trip. (With middle schoolers, we have found mentors are more comfortable doing this themselves; it is too intimidating for most young teens. But it is helpful for any willing teen to conquer his or her fears and make such an effort. Then again, many mentors are intimidated by this process—here’s your chance to grow!) Go over phone skills like how to introduce yourself, explain what you want to do, make appointment, get directions, ask if they should dress in any particular way.
Encourage parents or grandparents to go along; if this is not possible and you are transporting teens, be sure to get a written permission/release from the parents. (Although this is not a formal school field trip, you may even wish to check with your auto insurance carrier to make sure it is okay.) Beyond liability considerations, though, keep in mind that it is tremendously beneficial to get family members involved in these active explorations: parents and siblings profit from them, as well. And they learn how easy it can be to make further such arrangements themselves. It is almost criminal that so many young people spend years preparing for a career without having personally investigated its real-world conditions first!

The Trip

Call parent/grandparent to confirm going, that they are to provide transportation, and invite them to come.
Help children arrange and go on tour or shadow experience. Meet your child at workplace.
An Aside: while there, ask your provider if she or he would be willing to be posted on our Web site as a career exploration resource for others.

The Thank-You

Assist teens in writing thank-yous to mail to their tour or job shadow provider. You may have to help them with letter format, spelling and sentence structure, addressing envelopes, etc.

The Short Paper

Help teen write a short, one-page paper following this outline:
Introduction Paragraph - What they have learned about their personalities, skills, gifts and talents.
Body Paragraph or Two - What kinds of fields seem like a good match for them;
What they learned from their outing.
Concluding Paragraph - What other things they can do to explore careers—including doing volunteer work, talking with people, using Web and library resources, and working.
Help them remember their lives are their own—they must actively search for information, check out their possibilities, and use the resources available to them, if they wish to be happy in life.

4. Debriefing

Mentors should meet once to review their experience. A short written evaluation is nice, but a group debriefing can be even better. As the group goes over what went well and what needs to be changed, they also learn from each others’ experiences.
If career mentoring is done in conjunction with a school, it can be integrated into classes like health, math (salary and life quality), and English (thank-you’s and short reports). It is a natural for classes using Michigan’s Career Pathways materials (see


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Updated 3 Mar 10