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Cecelia Martinez
Cecelia Martinez

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Leading an effective tech career mentoring session

This January I started mentoring underrepresented people early in their career or breaking into the tech industry. It's been an incredible experience so far, and I've learned a lot about mentoring from peers in the industry and my mentees.

Some people even reached out who are interested in becoming mentors themselves! There is such a need out there for effective, caring mentorship and this post is for anyone who wants to mentor.

Using a session outline

It's helpful to have a set outline or agenda for these sessions. Even though I typically won't follow it 100%, it can keep us on track and ensure the mentee gets value from the session.

This post is an outline you can use as a mentor when discussing their career in tech. These session are usually one hour.

Note: This outline is for a structured career discussion. Depending on the situation, you may want a more informal session. These aren't covered in this outline, but may include things like a Q&A, interview prep, or talking about your own personal experience in tech.


I ask my mentees to complete a form when scheduling their session that asks the following:

  • Provide links to your LinkedIn, GitHub, any portfolio/website or other applicable links.
  • What is your current role or experience in the tech industry?
  • What is your next goal for your professional development?
  • What would you like to accomplish during this session?

This helps to set my expectations for the session and pull specific resources in advance. For example, if the mentee is early in the process and hasn't decided a field yet, we'll likely spend more time in the discovery phase.

Intros & Goals

10-15 minutes

Make sure everyone is on the same page by discussing the agenda and goals up front.

  • About me: A brief overview of my career and journey into tech to provide context on my skills and experience.
  • Tell me about yourself!: Pay attention to how they talk about themselves, what they highlight, their confidence level, and their communication style.
  • Form review: Review information provided in the calendar event form, ask clarifying questions as needed.
  • Session format: Say "I typically follow a structured format where I ask you questions about your goals and skills, and then we make a plan for you together. Does that align with what you're looking for? Would you prefer to cover a specific topic instead?"
  • Session goal: Define a goal for the session (career clarity, a job search plan, a better LinkedIn/resume, etc.).


20 minutes

You have to know your mentee before you can help them. Advice is not one-size-fits-all!

This section contains questions for getting to know your mentee. Dig in to clarify where needed, and if your mentee doesn't know the answer or has inconsistent answers, that's okay!

It can be difficult for people to self-reflect or talk about themselves, especially early in their career. Reassure them if they get flustered, and be patient.

Story time: One mentee struggled listing skills because they hadn't worked tech. I had them describe their last job responsibilities. As they spoke, I identified skills and pointed them out after. Communication, problem solving, conflict resolution, data entry, event management. This helped them draw connections to skills, boosted their confidence, and gave them vocabulary for types of skills.

Ask the following questions, as applicable. For example, if they've already graduated a boot camp and are job searching, skip the earlier-stage questions around types of roles and how they learn.

  • What stage are you in your career journey?
  • What is the time horizon for your goal? (Interviewing now, need a job in 6 months, etc.)
  • If applying to jobs, how long and what has the response been so far?
  • Why do you want to get into tech?
  • What type of role(s) are you looking for?
  • What is appealing to you about that/those role(s)?
  • If you don't know what role, what type of work do you like to do?
  • What research have you done so far about this/these role(s)?
  • What specific skills do you have that will contribute to the role you're seeking?
  • What skills are you in the process of developing?
  • What concerns do you have about your job search?
  • What communities or networks have you joined?
  • What resources are you using to learn? What is your learning style?
  • How are you feeling?

Action Plan

15-20 minutes

If the discovery phase has gone well, it should be fairly clear what steps are needed to get your mentee to their goal.

Note: Try not to overwhelm your mentee, but be realistic and honest. If they have a lot of work to do, help them break it up into smaller, actionable steps.

Provide feedback

  • Are their goals realistic for their timeframe?
  • Is there sufficient overlap between their skills and the role they desire to find a job?
  • Is their resume, LinkedIn, or portfolio helping or hurting them? What can be improved?
  • What are they doing well?

Note: Reassure them if they are overwhelmed. It's normal to feel imposter syndrome or like this journey is hard. It is hard! But it's worth it. Remind them that if they put in the work and keep going, they can get there too.

Action steps

Provide 2-3 actionable next steps to move them forward toward their goal. For example:

  • Update resume/LinkedIn/portfolio
  • Complete a job skills audit
  • Learn a skill through a course or project
  • Adjust the roles they're seeking
  • Adjust their job search process
  • Research jobs to better understand the role expectations
  • Write answers to common interview questions so they feel better prepared
  • Join a community or develop a networking strategy (I always recommend checking out

How I can help

I'll also explain what help I can provide going forward.

  • I will send a recap of our session and a list of resources.
  • I am available via email for follow-up questions.
  • I encourage them to keep me posted on their progress.
  • I connect with them on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Note: Setting and enforcing boundaries is important. I recommend writing down your boundaries in advance so you always have them in your mind during interactions. This can help avoid gray areas. For example, I never give out my phone number, I never provide financial assistance, and I never recommend someone for a job unless I've worked with them and know their skills.

Questions & Closing

5-10 minutes

I like to leave some time at the end for any questions that didn't get answered during the session. I may not have time to answer them all, but will make a note to include resources in my follow-up email.

It's also important to get confirmation that the session was valuable for the mentee. Ensure that the defined goal was met, and that they felt comfortable and supported.

Other Resources

If you found this helpful, check out my other posts about mentoring and careers in tech:

Top comments (2)

bobinskadev profile image

Thank you so much for this!

shubhamsigdar profile image
Shubham Sigdar


An Animated Guide to Node.js Event Loop

>> Check out this classic DEV post <<