Career counseling can also be termed as ‘career development’ is a ‘lifelong process involving psychological, sociological, educational, economic and physical factors, as well as chance factors that interact to influence the career of the individual.” Academic training often leaves a student in confusion about their abilities, skills and choices. This is when a student needs a mentor or ‘dhronacharya’ to help him or her understand his or her goals and stay focused. Mentor or ‘guru’ can be a school teacher, college professor, a psychiatrist, sociologist and a career consultant. In the recent years, the role of career consultant or counselorhas become a very important aspect of mentorship because it is integral to the holistic development of an individual.

Career can influence a person’s life and a right direction or guidance can help in personal development of a student. Career counseling is a relatively new ‘action-oriented’ mentorship program that addresses a student’s career needs and influences a person’s professional life. The focus of the article lies in the role of a career counselor as a mentor.

According to the International Coaching Federation the profession of coaching or mentorship is essentially based on action, accountability and follow-through. The coach or mentor gives solutions or frames strategies for a student or client, they also nurture the skills and resources that the client or student already possesses rather than just giving information to the student.The task of the career counselor is just not limited to giving advice but also help in improving in the areas of time management, goal setting and developing study skills. Role playing and solution-focused therapy are vital tools used by career counselors. Role playing involves helping a student to practice for interviews, preparing them how to talk to employers and how to address uncomfortable questions tactfully. The solution-focused therapy is a goal directed counseling theory meant for career counselors. It involves setting career goals, developing job-search strategies and practicing skills like building a network and interviewing.

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Mentor is that person who will guide you in fulfilling your career quest. A true mentor will share his stories of success and will not hesitate to criticize you constructively. A good mentor will clear all your doubts and use his professional connection to help you out in your job search and other career related issues. It is a relationship based on lifelong commitment and it will not be an exaggeration to say that it is an investment for the future. In this context, it is important to know the job of the mentor-

What is the Job of a Mentor?

A mentor can help you to assess your strength and limitations

Help you develop skills required to meet your career goals

If you and your mentor belong to the same organization then a mentor also works more as a coach. He or she helps to develop a sense of belonging in you and help you to understand the culture and functioning of the organization. It can be a mentor in your college or office.

A mentor can solve your career and workplace problem.

An effective mentor can actually show you a new way to look at a problem and find its solution.

A mentor should help in your decision-making process and provide you with alternative ideas to reach your career goals

You can share your ideas with the mentor easily

Your mentor should motivate to perform well in your work or studies.

How to Find a Suitable Mentor

Now the question is, how do you find yourself a mentor? Here are some points you should keep in mind while selecting a suitable mentor-

  • Check whether your school, college or university has a formal mentoring program or not. This formal mentoring program includes a personality test whereby a student gets a compatible mentor.
  • You can choose a person you admire and respect as your mentor. A person can select more than one mentor and they are called ‘serial mentor’. Serial mentors are those with whom you have a short term relationships. They are also called ‘mentworker’ since him or she both receives and shares his knowledge, he is both the learner and mentor. This ‘mentworker’ does work of both mentor and also helps you to develop a networking pitch essential for your career advancement.
  • Decide your career goals and find what skills you want to develop with the assistance of the mentor. This way your search for a mentor will be more organized.
  • Choose a person who works in the same functional area as you are and share the same value as a mentor. Test the mentor’s ability by asking for advice. You should reveal information about yourself in the process of finding a mentor. If a person’s wavelength doesn’t match with yours then chances are that he or she will not agree to be your mentor.
  • Never ask your direct supervisor to become your mentor. Choose someone with whom you can talk freely about your career and work place issues. It is better that you opt for an experienced mentor working at the head of an organization. He will be able to guide you to climb the career ladder by giving you the correct information. You can gain a lot from his or her experience.
  • If you have already found a mentor then you should feel good after a few meetings with him or her. Check whether his advice is benefiting you and whether the rapport is right for a mentoring relationship.
  • The mentor should have good listening skills and flexible enough in giving feedback. You should feel free to discuss all your failures, mistakes and all career related issues with him or her. If you are honest with your mentor then the relationship of trust grows in the relationship with your mentor.
  • Don’t demand too much of your mentor’s time and don’t become overly-dependent on your mentor.
  • Choose a person as a mentor who has a successful track record working with other students.
  • Does the person you are selecting as your career consultant have the time, patience and interest to help you out.
  • Does the person help in your intellectual growth?

You need to nurture this mentorship relationship by setting mutual expectations and find out how it will work. You should also decide with your mentor the mode and frequency of your communication. Be open to him or her if you want end the mentorship relationship without any bitter feelings if your mentor is unable to guide you or if there is a lack of compatibility. When your mentor provides you with a constructive feedback and encourages your career goals then you will know that the mentorship is actually working well for you. If you find that your mentor is encouraging you to progress in your career and contributing more than you expected never forget to thank him or her. This will strengthen the bond with your career counselor. He or she will feel encouraged to share more knowledge and data with you. If you are still a college student, you must find out whether your University or college has an organized mentorship program or not. If not, then talk to your parents and consult a professional career counselor who can work as your mentor. He or she can help you connect with the ‘real world’ and provide you with first hand experiences of how a workplace functions like. A good mentor can help you connect the theories of books with real practice. A mentor is the one who will literally open your eyes to the world and will give you new perspectives to look at problems and find solutions in different ways. A mentor will make you self-aware and confident by encouraging your dreams.

The word ‘mentor’ is derived from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. Mentor was the surrogate father of Odysseus’s son Telemachus during his prolonged absence. So the role of a mentor is important and can make a lot of difference to your life irrespective of what occupation you belong to. For instance, if you are a doctoral student then your mentor can actually help you to complete your degree in a short duration of time. They are better guided professionally and do well in their careers because their mentors have helped them link the theories in books with its utilization in practical life.An academic advisor just provides curricular advice. A mentor’s responsibility is wide since it includes all facets of career development in its ambit. The work of the career counselor doesn’t end when the student gets their graduation degree; they take genuine interest in their future and help them to take crucial career decisions. The relationship with mentor and mentee becomes a personal one as it evolves and the student can also become a collaborator or colleague in the future. Thus effective communication, accessibility, trust and motivation are core values of a relationship in a mentor-mentee relationship or the bond between a career counselor and the client.

Have realistic expectations from the mentor and prepare clear agendas for your meetings. Identify the areas where your mentor can really help you. Go back and research on what your mentor or career counselor said, if you think there are any gaps in your mentor’s advice, revert back to him or her immediately and clarify all your doubts. This way you can you utilize the meeting time fruitfully and develop a symbiotic relationship with your career counselor.

About the Author :

Surela Chakraborty writes feature and lifestyle articles. She is known to experiment with different genres of writing. She started writing in her school days but has made her passion a profession. Her articles have been published in both print and digital media. Research is her forte and she has more than three years’ experience in this field. Connect with her @SurelaC