Mentoring-life is looking for the pony...
Were I to start off in a life mentoring role, I would ask the individual to think of themselves as the mentor and ask how they would advise themselves.
So a good way to start would be to set out a personal SWAT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis.
Strength is usually based on qualifications and specific experience including jobs held, level of seniority and the length of time in a job. Here you can add in specific passions which might be applicable such as when a person enjoys teaching, writing or public speaking. The only danger here is that one can let the enthusiasm exceed the ability without knowing the full facts. This might be where someone believes they could write the world’s greatest novel while the chances of that happening are negligible. Sometimes the passion can overcome the constraints so this is a very personal thing.
Weakness could cover lack of qualifications or experience and any job hiccups which might limit future employment. Importantly in this area the redundancy or age considerations would have an impact. Reality also plays a part as with strengths, where someone is constrained by having to support other people. It might still be possible to live the dream and go to help people in the Amazon but that requires a reality check.
Opportunities depending on what stage of life one is at, could be in regard to selection of university or courses, or later in life with the experience behind you, the sort of jobs or companies one might aim for. An important point under opportunities is “positivity”, the glass more than half full mentality. This boils down to deciding exactly what you want in life, setting out what you need to do to achieve this and then working on a plan towards the goal. This applies both to personal relationships as well as work.
Threats as against opportunities focus in the first instance on “negativity”. The opportunities and threats scenario is best demonstrated in the story of a husband and wife with two twins, one an optimist while the other a pessimist. Their consulting psychologist told the parent since Christmas was coming, give the pessimist a brilliant present and the optimist the opposite. Christmas morning the parents went out to watch their sons opening their presents, where the pessimist was looking at his pony saying, “I bet it’s not for me” whilst the optimist was digging in a huge pile of horse manure saying, “there has to be a pony down there somewhere”. Hence the threat is that even with optimism you might still finish with a pile of horse shit but at least you tried.
But life is all about looking for the pony.