Allison McWilliams is assistant vice president of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development. She writes occasional articles for Inside WFU. This is the second for the fall semester. In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff from her professional experiences with students.
Effective mentors help their mentees to explore and develop around three key outcomes: psychosocial, short-term career, or long-term career. Short-term career outcomes look like socialization to a new organization or role (i.e., how to make the transition from high school to college). Long-term career outcomes look like career planning and skill acquisition (i.e., identifying and selecting a major, pursuing internship and study abroad experience, pursuing post-college career choices or graduate school).
But it is the psychosocial outcomes that often get lost in the mix, and which are absolutely foundational to everything else that we do. This work is all about identity development, exploring and articulating values and beliefs, developing strengths and interests that align with those values and beliefs, and then using those tools to work on the short-term and long-term career goals. Indeed, doing the latter without the former just leads to frustration, disappointment, and disengagement.
How do effective mentors help their mentees with this work? It involves an ongoing, committed process of asking questions, providing constructive and objective feedback, pushing students out of their comfort zones, and helping them to make the connections between what they are doing and what they are learning.