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The spaghetti challenge, seeker event at IPC.
Pathways event at IPC

IPC Pathways is a career exploration program at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia.   If you are a youth or young adult – whom we call seekers – and you have a connection to Immanuel, whether or not you are a member, this program is for you. The program offers seekers:

  • Career mentoring conversations with Immanuel mentors
  • Career exploration resources to be added to this website

We look forward to adding content to this website, with the help of Immanuelites. We plan:  more entries to the Signposts blog; our favorite books, articles, organizations and websites about career exploration; and a “Pathways at Work” bulletin board with ideas for “shadowing for a day” opportunities, summer jobs, internships, and gap year experiences.

The sections below answer questions about how the conversations work, why you should be a seeker, how to register, how to use the mentor directory, and how to ensure successful conversations.  

If you have any questions, please reach out to Steve Parker or Lynley Ogilvie.

Career mentoring conversations at Immanuel need not be long, perhaps 20 minutes to an hour, but that’s up to you both and your sense of how it’s going.  Meeting after the morning or evening church service somewhere at church works well, or if you prefer, at a local coffee shop. Some have shared a meal at a McLean restaurant.

The expectation is for one meeting.  The goal is not to set up a long-term mentoring relationship.  Hopefully you will stay in touch, and additional conversations are welcome if both parties agree!  

Mentors must respect the confidences of seekers if confidentiality is requested.  Needless to say, only discuss what you are comfortable discussing.

What do we talk about?

Mentors and seekers should approach this in whatever manner is comfortable for both.

  • The purpose is simple:  to give seekers a chance to share where they are in their career exploration, ask questions and share concerns. This gives mentors a chance to tell their career stories, which is key.
  • Ask each other questions to get things going.  See the examples in the tips for seekers below.

Why are you having this conversation?

That’s up to the seeker. The mentor career profiles identify three categories:  specific careers, lifestyle issues and career choice. Many are interested in more than one category.

In the best conversations, mentors and seekers share a common understanding about the purpose of the conversation.  We suggest you both share what you hope to accomplish at the outset.

The goal is for the seeker to have multiple conversations with different mentors

At the end of the conversation, we hope you discuss who else the seeker should chat with, either inside or outside Immanuel.  The mentor should consider introducing the seeker to others who could be helpful, or let the seeker use the mentor’s name when introducing himself or herself to others.  

Having multiple conversations helps:

  • Learn more about specific career opportunities
  • Get different perspectives
  • Offer spiritual insight into career choices
  • Learn to network more effectively
  • Understand how those who have travelled different career paths have wrestled with common issues

Please email Steve Parker when you complete a conversation so he can send you an online survey. This survey takes only a few minutes to complete. We need your feedback!  

Everyone benefits from career advice.  Advice can come in many forms and from many different sources. You can benefit from different kinds of mentors – at work, in school and friends.  All of them can positively impact your life. Ideally, you will always have multiple mentors in your life.

Why, then, talk with an Immanuel mentor?

Immanuel seekers have raved about their conversations with Immanuel mentors.  Check out the testimonials here.

Immanuel is a great place to learn how to network.  Study after study shows that the best career opportunities come from personal connections, not simply applying for jobs online.  Why not get better at networking in a loving community that wants you to succeed?

Choosing a Pathways mentor is not a long-term commitment.  It is a request to have a cup of coffee or a meal and stay in touch from time to time.

You can talk with someone who has no agenda other than yours.  Work colleagues, friends, teachers, and guidance counselors all offer great opportunities for advice, but they have their own perspectives and goals.  An Immanuel mentor can be a resource without any goal other than to listen and share.

Immanuel mentors have amazing experience and wisdom.  Think about all the great careers represented in the congregation. Think about those who know how to ask good questions or who are great listeners and story-tellers.

Immanuel mentors know people.  Pathways mentoring conversations have led to introductions to others both inside and outside Immanuel who were valuable sources of specific career experience and wisdom.

Mentoring can make a difference even if you’re satisfied with the career choices you’ve made.  Pathways isn’t just for those who need to decide on a career, or for those who want to find or change jobs. No matter how happy you are with your career decisions, you probably still have many choices in front of you about how to live your life in that career and how to make a difference in the world.

Communities are great places to discuss shared values affecting important decisions.  Communities provide support for their members.  Career choices are value-based choices. Mentoring conversations provide an opportunity to explore those values.

For some, career choices are spiritual choices.  Your vocation says a lot about who you are and what you are trying to accomplish on earth.  How does your life’s purpose fit your vocation? Talking with an Immanuel mentor is an opportunity to share your thinking with a member of your worship community.  And it’s an opportunity to hear the stories of those whose faith likely influenced their choices.

The mentor profiles are in an Airtable program.  The program contains dozens of Immanuelites who have volunteered to be available to chat, over coffee or a meal, about career exploration.  

Can I invite my friends to view the profiles?

This is an Immanuel resource. Mentors have agreed to be available to those with connections to Immanuel, whether or not they are members.  If you have friends who are connected to Immanuel, we strongly encourage you to send them a link to this page and invite them to request access.  We would love for your friends to strengthen their ties to Immanuel!

What’s there?

The profiles show:

  • Mentor careers, by category
  • Those who are available to discuss specific careers, those interested in lifestyle issues, and those who feel they can help choose a career
  • Whether their experience is nonprofit, government, large company, and/or small company
  • Age (by range – did you really think they’d tell you how old they are?)
  • Their stories, briefly in their words, about what they offer seekers
  • When they’re available to meet
  • Their pictures, and links to their LinkedIn profiles
  • Email addresses, to request conversations

You can scroll through the profiles manually, or use a search feature contained in the upper right-hand corner of the Airtable page.  

How do I sign up?

Two simple steps.

First:

Just click on this link and submit the form, or email Steve Parker or Lynley Ogilvie and we’ll email you the form. Completing the form only requires you to give us your name and email address.  

The form also offers the option to provide additional information which, if you ask us, will allow a small group of Pathways administrators to suggest conversation matches.  (Reaching out to mentors would still be up to you, unless you ask for our help, which we’re happy to provide.) The information you submit on your form will be viewable only by those administering Pathways.

Second:

Once you submit your form, we’ll send you a link to the Airtable mentor profile program.  You will need to register for Airtable (which is free) using your email address and a password you select.   You can also download an Airtable app for Android or iPhone.

Then you’re ready to go!

Questions and comments? 

Email Steve Parker or Lynley Ogilvie.

It’s time to start having conversations!  

How do I pick mentors?

Think first about why you want to have a conversation.  Look in the Airtable directory under the “What do I offer a seeker?” tab which displays how mentors have answered this question.

  1. Is your goal for the conversation to lead you further into a specific career? 
  2. Do you want to explore lifestyle issues raised by different careers?  Many mentors have experience and interest in lifestyle issues.
  3. What if you have no idea what you want to do?  Lots of mentors have experience finding their way through many paths to unexpected, fulfilling careers.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find someone who perfectly matches your interests.  

  • Part of the purpose is to find good listeners who can ask good questions and share their stories.
  • The conversations are also designed in part to give you leads to others inside and outside Immanuel who might be helpful to you.

How should I request conversations?

Simply click on the email addresses in the Airtable email field and it will create a new email to the mentor.

We suggest a short, simple email.  Be yourself, keep it light. It’s probably a good idea to say something about why you picked the person. Here are a few suggested approaches to give you ideas, but again, you of course should use your own style.

“I found you in the Pathways database and would like to have a cup of coffee with you because you’ve worked in the government.  I’m interested in government service, but I need to learn more. I saw you’re available before or after the evening service. Is there a day in the next month or so that works for you?  We could meet at the church.”
“I saw in your Pathways profile that you have worked in consulting. I’m in college and I’m thinking about a career in consulting but I’m worried about the demands and work/lifestyle balance.  Would you have a few minutes to chat about your experience and share your thoughts about how I might get a better sense of what it’s like, maybe in a summer internship?”
“I’m just out of college and looking for a job.  I have a number of different ideas for careers, and saw in the Pathways database that you are available to discuss that, and you’ve done lots of different things.  I’d love to hear about how you made your choices.”

We recommend in-person meetings rather than phone calls if possible.  Remember that mentors are busy too, so please try to respect the time preferences in their profiles.   Use your time with them efficiently and productively!

Finally, remember, this is just a single conversation to hear about the mentor’s experiences.  Here’s what it’s not:

  • It’s not a long-term mentoring commitment
  • It’s not about help finding you a job
  • It’s not about giving you career advice

The conversation can be 20 minutes, an hour, before or after church, or in a local coffee shop.  This does not commit either of you to more than one, but you’re always welcome to have more if you both agree!  We hope in any event that mentors and seekers stay in touch.

First, please review “What is expected in a mentoring conversation?” section above for a discussion of what is expected.

Follow your instincts and style about how best to conduct a conversation, but you might keep a few things in mind:

  • Treat it as any conversation you might have with an uncle, aunt or an older friend, about your career path.
  • Use the conversation to learn the mentor’s career path story.  While his or her path is almost certainly not yours, hearing what he did or what she liked and didn’t like will be useful.

It’s not a job interview or a headhunter interview

This is not about the mentor helping you get a new job.  It’s to give you perspectives and ideas about the paths you might consider following.

It’s not about the mentor telling you what to do

Mentors are not equipped, and don’t know enough, to tell you what career path to pursue, or to give career advice. The goal is for you to share your story and questions, and to hear their stories and learn from them.

Plan to make the conversations productive

First, try to get to know your mentor by reviewing his or her Pathways and LinkedIn profiles ahead of time.  Think of questions to ask. Come up with some goals for the conversation.

Also, please try to be efficient with your time with him or her.  We suggest you agree up front on the amount of time planned for the conversation.  

It’s good to agree on the purpose of the conversation, thinking about the three categories identified in the profiles (specific career, lifestyle, picking a career).

Remember to tell your story and ask for the mentor’s story.  There’s lots to be learned from stories. Ask questions when you hear the stories.

Mentoring conversations can be rewarding, even life-changing.  How do you increase the chances of having an inspiring, even life-changing conversation? Check out our blog on the subject: How to make Your Mentoring Conversation Count.

Finally, most important:  Have fun!  Be yourself!  Relax and remember Immanuel mentors are there to support you and your future.

Use the experience to learn how to improve your conversations

Mentoring conversations are an art, and practice improves the benefits. Pathways is partly about learning how to have these conversations in an environment that is accepting and supportive (duh, it’s Immanuel).  One goal is for you to want to have more conversations with others who have been down a path of interest to you.

So you’ve had your conversation – what’s next?

For your to do list:

  • Ask for advice on who else inside or outside Immanuel you should chat with
  • Ask if they’ll introduce you or if you can use the mentor’s name in introducing yourself.  If no names immediately come to mind ask them to think about it and get back to you
  • Send a thank you note, regardless of how productive your conversation was.  They’ll appreciate it and will be more likely to want to help other seekers.  
  • If there are follow-up steps, refer to those in your thank you note.

Remembers to keep going back to the Airtable mentor directory and requesting conversations with more mentors.   We are continuing to add mentors, so it’s worth checking back from time to time to see what’s new.

Additional resources on mentoring conversations

There are many great resources to improve your mentoring conversations.  Here are a few:

  1. This entry in our Signposts blog: Making Young Mentoring Conversation Count
  2. This article in Forbes has five great suggestions for improving your mentoring relationships.
  3. One of our favorite resources is Designing Your Life, by William Burnett and Dave Evans, a New York Times best-seller based on a popular career exploration course taught at Stanford.  The book has great thoughts (pages 115-117) about conducting a mentoring conversation, which they call a “Life Design Interview.”
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