Giving Career 1-1s
Giving Career 1-1s

Giving Career 1-1s

Have confidence in your ability to help!

When 1-1s end up more centred around careers, it can be intimidating for the mentor. In most cases, the people you'll be giving 1-1s to are your peers.

In intro and advanced 1-1s, you usually have the advantage of having thought about these ideas a lot already, and developed your own perspective on the major questions and divides in each topic.

This might be less true for career-planning, and that's fine, as long as you know how you can still leverage your experience to best help your community members in thinking about their careers.

It seems that often people are underconfident about their ability to support other students about career decisions. It's probably the hardest type of 1-1 to get used to at first - you feel like you're going to have a large impact on someone's whole life, and that's true and also really cool!

We think you should have more confidence in your ability to help:

Your perspective will usually provide something helpful to your mentee; just make sure you display honestly your reasons for thinking what you do, and what your uncertainties are.

It's actively good to be uncertain and confused about questions surrounding your mentee's career decisions, because just by identifying uncertainties you might be helping them a lot. If they know what they're uncertain about, it's much easier to know how to make progress.

Talking through reasoning and uncertainties is really useful to do with another person instead of on your own, so it's great that you are doing this, even if you know less about the specific careers or issues than the person you are talking to.

The more uncertain you are, the more you can ask them clarifying questions, and prompt them to think more deeply about each part of their different career decisions, which seems very valuable.

How to provide value in career 1-1s

Career 1-1s don't mean giving concrete advice about what career they should have.

You don't have to (and probably shouldn't) just tell them what to do!

We think the process looks a bit more like:

  • Lay out the options they've identified (research and add your own too)
  • Identify the key reasons they might want to do each
  • Work out with them what information they could find out that would make them choose each way over the other

Here's 4 ways you can provide value that aren't just telling your mentee what to do:

(This advice is linked over in our


  1. Link sharing and resource provision
  2. Asking clarificatory questions on confusing things
    • Even if you don’t know much about careers, you can still ask useful questions that help clarify people’s thinking.
    • Aim to be Socrates and ask questions that get people to clarify their own thinking and notice new perspectives.
    • Notice things that are confusing to you or that you don’t understand, and ask the participant to explain it to you. Having the participant do this will help the participant clarify their own thoughts.
  3. Drilling down on motivated reasoning by asking questions
    • You can also help people avoid motivated reasoning by playing Devil’s Advocate and question their assumptions and conclusions.
    • Be careful not to do this too forcefully and don’t make them feel like they have to change their mind; but ask open questions that get people to re-evaluate things that they might have been taking for granted.
  4. Providing your own quick takes
    • It’s okay to provide your opinion, even if it's relatively uninformed. Just make sure that you’re being upfront about the things that you do and don’t know, and your relative confidence in your opinions.
    • It’s important not to come across as falsely authoritative; but it's always okay to share your thoughts on things as long as you are not misrepresenting your beliefs.

Have a clear idea of what they can do next, and help them do it.

Some great next steps to offer:

  • Suggest articles to read
  • Suggest podcasts to listen to
  • Suggest other people your mentee can talk to

However, we don't want you to just defer to other resources - you can also aim higher.

You could also:

  • Look at your notes from similar 1-1s in the past to suggest opportunities that person was looking at
  • Do some digging yourself
  • Consider suggesting relevant scholarship programs at your university/college
  • Consider what courses or modules in their course they could take to help them

Also, it can be super valuable to keep your mentee accountable to make sure they actually do these things. Just ask them in the next 1-1 whether they did them; this should give them an incentive to get it done.