Tips for Career Conversations

Effective mentoring involves focusing on the student’s interests and career ideas.

Start a conversation with mentees about their career decisions or ideas. Connect with them by learning more about their strengths and weaknesses, asking exploratory questions about their interests, passions and career choices, and giving them helpful tips and advice. This can give them a clearer vision of their potential career paths.

How to have a career conversation

Effective mentoring involves career conversations focused on the mentee’s interests and career ideas. Your real life experiences are a rich source of information for them. Mentors ask thought-provoking questions, practice active listening including open ended and reflective questioning, and provide objective, non-judgmental feedback and guidance.

Having all the answers is not the purpose of these discussions. Your role as a mentor is to support the mentee to think through their options and generate conversations and experiences based on the reality of the workplace.

Mentoring can take place in any setting. There are no hard and fast rules. Topics you could talk about with the mentee include:

  • The importance of growing their students employability skills – teamwork, communication skills, a positive attitude, willingness to learn, resilience, self-management and thinking skills
  • How they could prepare students for a career in IT – school subject choices, the variety of tertiary education options and the value of exploring possibilities before making final decisions

Reflect on your own career path

Reflecting on your own career path and education is a really useful way to prepare for your mentoring role. Sharing your own career story can be very powerful.

Questions you might want to think about are:

  1. What sparked your interest in this career choice?
  2. Did you change your direction along the way? Were there highs and lows? What did you learn from all these experiences?
  3. What subjects did you do at school? How important/relevant were they in helping you to make the entry criteria for the tertiary qualification you wanted?
  4. If there was one piece of advice you would like to give to young people looking at embarking on your career, what would that advice be? And why?
  5. Where did you get help from when you were trying to decide if this career path was right for you?
  6. Were there particular websites, people or places that gave you quality information?
  7. Were there any obstacles or challenges that you had to overcome to become qualified and then employed in this job? What were they and how did you overcome them?
  8. What other future career options existed for you once you qualified for your initial professional job?

Want to know more?

If you or the mentees would like advice on how to choose subjects and make learning and career decisions, more information is available on the Careers New Zealand website.

Your mentee can also free chat online at or ring 0800 222 733 to talk about their career options.