Career Mentoring Guide

This guide is designed to help develop Career Mentoring activities that work for youth and young adults, host employers and organizations, and Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) programs. It is part of the DYCD Work-Based Learning Toolkit, which provides proven approaches and strategies to create high-quality, safe and legal Work-Based Learning experiences for youth and young adults enrolled in the Learn & Earn Program in New York City.

Career Mentoring Overview

Career Mentoring is a Career Exploration activity in which a youth or young adult is matched one-on-one or in small groups with an adult professional to explore potential careers and related educational issues. Different than the deep, personal relationship developed though mentoring programs such as Big Brother, Big Sister, the Career Mentor serves as a career resource for his or her mentee by sharing insights and providing guidance about the workplace, careers and education. This is accomplished through formal and informal meetings organized at the youth program, in the workplace or online, but never in an unsupervised environment or the home. The Career Mentor provides comments on the mentee’s work, and problem-solves and collaborates with them on activities in consultation with the sponsoring DYCD youth workforce development program. The development of a trusting relationship between the youth or young adult and the mentor is the key to a successful experience. Career Mentoring is a critical component of the range of authentic Work-Based Learning experiences provided through a comprehensive Career Pathways approach.

While Career Mentoring may take a variety of forms, there are common characteristics or core design principles around which Career Mentoring programs are organized. Career Mentors and their mentees:

  • Make a long-term commitment to each other (generally at least a year)
  • Focus on building trust and respect with each other
  • Set clear and reasonable expectations for themselves and their mentoring partner
  • Meet or communicate with enough regularity to develop a strong relationship

Career Mentoring evolves in its frequency, form, and content over the Career Pathway experience.

What is a Career Mentor?

A Career Mentor is:

  • A role model
  • A guide
  • A coach
  • An advisor
  • Experienced
  • Reliable
  • Approachable
  • Relatable
  • Invested in outcomes
  • An additional resource

A Career Mentor is not:

  • Any employer or organization partner a young person happens to interact with
  • A teacher or instructor
  • A worksite supervisor or Internship sponsor (Note: a mentor/mentee relationship may evolve during or after the Internship or Work Experience is completed)
  • A counselor or case manager
  • Paid to be there

“My Career Mentor gives me someone else I can turn to when I have questions, need some advice about career opportunities, or just need to talk about my future.”

Career Mentoring is an important activity that can support and augment both classroom training and workplace activities. It can help youth and young adults make the connection between classroom training or workshop activities and the real world. It connects young people with an adult who can provide ongoing support and guidance about career possibilities, help them understand the importance of learning, explore their options and provide a way for them to practice professional communication skills. Youth and young adults are often more persistent and motivated as a result of their relationship with their Career Mentor.

Youth workforce development programs may apply one or more of a variety of different models in their Career Mentoring program. By applying a combination of models and adjusting the balance between them, a range of opportunities can be provided for youth and young adults. Mentors have options to choose from based on the time they have to commit. Some of the different models include:

  • Traditional mentoring (one adult to one youth or young adult)
  • Small group mentoring (one adult to as many as four youth and young adults)
  • Team mentoring (several adults working with small groups of youth and young adults, in which the adult-to-youth-and-young-adult ratio is not greater than 1:4)
  • Large group mentoring (one or two adults to seven to ten youth and young adults)
  • Peer mentoring (older youth and young adults mentoring others)
  • E-mentoring (mentoring via email and the Internet combined with another model from the list above)

In addition to providing general career advice and context, Career Mentors support classroom training and workshop activities by commenting on their mentee’s work, helping complete an assignment, providing feedback on projects or presentations, directly engaging in a particular activity or exercise or helping them reflect on the connection between occupational learning and professional skills.

Career Mentoring provides a simple way to get a number of employer or organization partners initially involved with Career Pathway initiatives at a low, hard-dollar cost and provides a simple way for employers and organizations to begin the “long interview” process. It also helps develop the mentor’s skills in working with young employees.

Career Mentoring experiences are designed to promote:

  • Exploration of a field of interest
  • Youth and young adult exposure to jobs, careers and working adult role models
  • The ability to practice communication skills
  • The development of professional skills
  • Self-esteem, self-worth, confidence, and flexibility
  • The building of occupational knowledge
  • Positive life outcomes for youth and young adults
  • Opportunities to build a relationship with a caring and knowledgeable adult
The Importance of Structured Activity

Effective Career Mentoring programs include structured activity before, during and after the experience. These activities help ensure that all involved parties have meaningful, productive experiences that result in enriched youth and young adult learning. Proper planning and preparation, attention to legal and safety details, maximization of learning potential, and communication and support for the youth or young adult and participating employers or organizations will help ensure success.

Sustaining and growing Career Mentoring programs and all other Work-Based Learning types depend upon developing and maintaining positive relationships with the employers and organizations that are providing opportunities to the youth and young adults being served. These employers and organizations should be treated as valued customers and partners with frequent check-ins to address participation needs as they arise.

Career Mentoring Tools

Tip sheets and checklists for program staff, employer and organization partners, and youth and young adults are provided in this toolkit to help design, structure and support Career Mentoring experiences to maximize learning. Each tip sheet supplements the Work-Based Learning essential elements described in this toolkit, and provides a set of success factors and lists of activities or tasks to perform before, during or after the experience. A fact sheet for prospective host employers is also provided. Note: These tools and materials are available in Word format to allow for programs to brand appropriately and include contact information.

In this Tool Packet:
Program Staff Tip Sheet: Career Mentoring Success Factors A tip sheet for Learn & Earn Program staff
Youth/Young Adult Tip Sheet: Career Mentoring Success Factors A tip sheet to help youth and young adults get the most out of their Career Mentoring experience
Mentor Tip Sheet: Career Mentoring Success Factors Tips for participating mentors

  • What’s my role as a mentor?
  • How do I get matched up?
  • What should I talk about?
  • How does this work?

Employer Fact Sheet: Career Mentoring What’s involved in my company providing Career Mentors?

New York City Youth and Young Adult Career Pathways