How to: The Role of a Vocational Mentor

March 28, 2022

by Susan Reese, Professor of Spiritual Formation


A few weeks ago, I happened upon a conversation with a mentor of mine from my college years. As soon as I saw him, I knew he would offer a kind smile and his question would be, “What’s the story?” This moment took me back to the many times he would simply ask, “What’s the story?” when I felt confused as a young adult sorting through God’s will and purposes for my life.

This conversation took me back to the many times he and his wife sat with me, listened, heard my questions and longings, and prayerfully asked a discerning question or two. I was very aware of how I trusted these mentors to hear my story, pray with me, and, perhaps, give a word or two of wisdom and encouragement. I was keenly aware that these mentors were devoted to God because I could “hear” the depth of their relationship with God in their prayers for me and others. They lived life in Christ as persons and as a lawyer and a nurse by living faithfully with and amongst others. The way they lived their lives empowered many others to live Christ in their vocations.

As we consider the calling, or role, of a vocational mentor in Kairos, I want to remind us that our primary calling is salvation in God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our secondary calling is to specific tasks in life through which we serve God, family, friends, and the Church. Vocation refers to all of life and the many roles we fulfill in everyday life, not just what we might get paid to do. Some vocational mentors have specific training, others have more informal training. A vocational mentor has a sense of who they are and a skillset that they have developed which has equipped them to be a vocational mentor. Mentoring comes with expectations, so it seems worthy that the student and vocational mentor set expectations in the mentoring relationship. These expectations can be named by having a conversation around questions, such as:

Who am I becoming as a person?
Who am I called to serve?
How is one equipped for this respective vocation?
What will it mean to finish well in Kairos and in life?

Roles and expectations necessitate responsibilities which require something of who we are and what we do. It is important for the student and vocational mentor to describe how they will be responsible to each other in the learning process and notice what support will be needed in the challenges and growth points of the respective learning and work. As in Kairos, pay attention to what feels timely and is a good work for the given day.

One’s role as a vocational mentor requires trusting the work of the Spirit in their life as well as the student’s life. The life of a disciple, or vocational mentor, means imitating Jesus in his ability to see and recognize people. The role of vocational mentor can be to share experiences and encouragements of imitating Christ in their respective work, but more so asking questions that will prepare the student to imitate Christ in their own life and work. Ultimately, the vocational mentor can cultivate intentional humility and Christ-like servanthood with the student. Prayerfully be present as the student learns about being an influencer of the Kingdom with what she or he has been entrusted to be and to do.

“Lord, let me know clearly the work which You are calling me to do in life. And grant me every grace I need to answer Your call with courage and love and lasting dedication to Your will” (Vocation Prayer – Saint Meinrad Prayer Book).

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