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Pathways mentor Lynley Ogilvie at a recent event

IPC Pathways is a career exploration program at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in McLean, Virginia.   If you are a member of Immanuel or are connected to Immanuel, and have career or job experience or perspectives that can be shared with a young adult or youth at Immanuel – whom we call “seekers” —  we want you to participate. Please volunteer to help us and also sign up to be a mentor.  Our goal is to have most Immanuel adults be Pathways mentors.

The sections below answer questions about how the mentoring conversations work; why you would be a great mentor (and, if you think you shouldn’t be a mentor, why you’re wrong!); how to register; how seekers use mentor information; and how to have great conversations.  You’re also always welcome to contact Steve Parker or Lynley Ogilvie  with questions.

So you’ve decided to be a Pathways mentor.  Thank you!

Clink on this link to register.  It will take you less than 5 minutes to complete.

The form will automatically load your information into our mentor profile resource. We’ll review each profile to confirm that the mentor is connected to the Immanuel community.  Mentors need not, however, be members of Immanuel.

Once loaded, seekers who have registered for IPC Pathways may search your profile, along with the other profiles, for those who have relevant career experience and common interests.  Interested seekers can email you to propose a conversation. Please try to respond to their emails in a timely manner. Seekers have been asked to respect your meeting time preferences, and to use your time efficiently and productively.

Our goal is for most of the congregation to be Pathways mentors.  Given the numbers, many mentors may not hear from seekers right away, or at all.  It still says a lot to seekers that so many mentors are available for them. Remember, there are many other ways to volunteer.  We need career exploration content and contributors to our Signposts blog!

When you are contacted by a seeker for a conversation, before you participate in a conversation you might want to review again the sections below on the purpose of the conversations and the tips for mentors.  

If there is an extended period that you are unavailable for conversations because you’re busy or travelling, please let us know and we’ll mark your profile accordingly.

Please send your questions and comments 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.  We suggest that, wherever you meet, it should be a public place.

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 mentors 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!  

First, here are six reasons you should be a mentor:

  1. Seekers need you.  Youth and young adults today want advice from those with life experience.  
  2. You can change a life.  Career choices influence lifestyle, social patterns, where you live and who you are.  Helping a seeker make a more informed decision, even in small ways, can make a major difference.  See these testimonials from seekers on the effects of their Pathways conversations.
  3. More mentors means more choices for seekers.  Seekers have many diverse interests, so we need to offer a rich variety and depth of experience.
  4. Being a mentor is rewarding.  Many believe they get more out of the experience than their seekers.  See, for example, the testimonials of IPC Pathways mentors.
  5. Strengthening inter-generational ties at Immanuel is important to the future of the church.  Young people will be more active in the church if they feel ties to more people in the congregation.  They will invite their friends if they feel we are there for them and want to help.
  6. You can share your spiritual values.  As a community of faith, we understand that career choices are fundamentally spiritual decisions.  It is our responsibility to provide seekers with access to those who share their spiritual values.

We hear lots of reasons why people think they shouldn’t be IPC Pathways mentors:  

“I’m not qualified and haven’t been trained.”

Are you interested in discussing life choices?  Are you a good listener? Then you are qualified.  

Everyone has mentored a young person, a friend, or a colleague.  Your training is life experience.

We’re not saying being a mentor is for everyone, but we don’t know anyone at Immanuel who wouldn’t be a great mentor.

“My career experience isn’t interesting enough.”

We doubt that.  Also, specific career experience is only one of the three things seekers are looking for.  They want the conversations to:

  1. Lead them further into a specific career
  2. Explore lifestyle issues raised by different careers
  3. Figure out what careers they might be interested in  

Even seekers looking to discuss specific careers benefit from those with listening skills and the wisdom to ask questions that could show the seeker new perspectives.

Everyone at Immanuel can contribute to the deep spiritual component that is part of determining a career path.  

You might know people in the congregation the seeker should talk with.

“No one will ask me for a conversation.”

Because we expect many more mentors to register than seekers, there’s a good chance many mentors will not be contacted for a conversation.  But showing that you are available is a visible demonstration that you are there to support seekers as they engage in career exploration.

“I’m too busy.”

Seekers are looking for a single conversation, not a long-term commitment.  Even as we hope you develop a connection, your commitment is only for one conversation.  You should feel free to say no to a conversation when you’re invited. If there’s a period you’re too busy, just tell us, and we’ll mark you as unavailable until you tell us otherwise.

“I might be too busy in the future and am out of town a lot.”

Ask us to remove your name from the database during any period you can’t participate.  And again, you don’t have to say yes to every conversation request.

“I’ve been home for a long time/I’m retired.”

Seekers usually aren’t looking for current job experience. They’re looking for the wisdom and experience of those who have considered and followed different career paths – including raising children at home.

“Let others do this.”

We believe that supporting the younger members is a shared responsibility of the entire community.  Seekers benefit from diversity and choices. The more mentors in the database, the richer the choices, and the more varied experiences we offer. We want most of the congregation to be in the mentor database!

“I’m not a member.”

If you are connected to the Immanuel community, whether or not you are a member, you should be a mentor.

Thank you for agreeing to have career exploration conversations with seekers.  Several Pathways mentors have said this was as rewarding an experience for them as it was for the seeker.  

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

The subject may be serious, but remember to keep things light and have fun!  

Here are a few additional thoughts to guide you. Feel free to follow or ignore these – you need to be comfortable with how you do this, so be authentic and use your own style.

  • Start the conversation by asking questions about them. Open-ended questions are always good.
  • Always consider the interests of the seeker first! Try to respond to your seeker’s questions as best you can.  A great conversation need not follow any agenda you scripted ahead of time.
  • Be prepared to learn from your seeker!  

Be sure to tell your story

The seeker hopefully will ask you to tell your story; if she doesn’t, tell your story anyway.

  • As a good listener, your job is to hear what she says, ask the occasional good question, and share any experiences that might be of interest
  • Don’t hide the hard stuff in your career stories.  Seekers want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly

What questions should you ask?

There are many questions you can ask to get things going.  For example:

  • Are you thinking of your current work objectives as part of a career, a vocation or a solid job until you discern your next step?
  • How does your life mission fit what you are doing or want to do?
  • What do you like, and what don’t you like, about the work experiences you’ve had so far?
  • What factors do you think have influenced your career goals?  Parents? School? Friends? Work experience?
  • Have you considered a graduate degree and whether it might factor into advancement for you in this field?
  • Are you aware of [name of relevant industry or other networking group], which are helpful for networking in this field in our area?

These conversations are not

  • A place to give career advice.  You likely don’t know enough about the young adult to do that. You are there to listen and share your story.  And maybe to suggest others to talk with. That’s it.
  • A large time commitment. No follow-up is required unless you are so moved.  Whether you follow up with the seeker is up to you, but it is not expected.
  • Ideally, you will take an interest in the seeker and perhaps email him  from time to time and say hello when you see him at church. And then you can ask for updates about her path.
  • Any requirement to help find a job or internship.  We are making that clear to seekers. If you think an introduction to someone else for a similar conversation might be helpful, feel free to pursue that, but that also is not a requirement.  Seekers are encouraged to ask you who else — inside and outside Immanuel — they should talk with.
  • Anything other than to listen, and if you are so moved, ask questions guided by your wisdom and experience.  One thing that is clear is that young adults value hearing about the experience of others.

These suggestions are based on mentors’ experiences at Immanuel. Are we missing your favorite tips? Please send them to Steve Parker or Lynley Ogilvie.

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