Interaction skills are a career tutor’s most important skill: the active listening of words and emotions, clarification, asking questions, supporting, interpreting and summarising. The career tutor’s task is to support, monitor and carry the discussion. A positive, relaxed and confidential atmosphere enhances the success of the guidance discussions. The student is the author of his or her life, with the required resources for resolving his/her situation.

A successful guidance discussion requires the following skills from a career tutor:

  • versatile communication and co-operation skills
  • skilful reflective thinking
  • creative thinking
  • ability to empathise with the student’s situation.

Guidance involves:

  • Time, attention and respect (Onnismaa, 2000)
  • Listening – in a guidance discussion, the student speaks 80 % of the time
  • Asking questions – a good tutor is known for asking good questions
  • Understanding and taking into account students with different ways of expressing themselves
  • Providing support and help
  • Successful tutoring produces feelings of hope and self-management.
  • First the person – then the problem

The eight K’s of encounters (Markkanen, 2009)

  • Kätteleminen (shaking hands)
  • Katsekontakti (eye contact)
  • Kiinnostuminen (becoming interested)
  • Kyseleminen (questioning)
  • Keskittyminen (focussing)
  • Kuunteleminen (listening)
  • Kiittäminen (thanking)
  • Kannustaminen (supporting)

Pitfalls of encounters

  • Lack of objectives
  • Lack of plans
  • Uselessness
  • Lack of analysis and organisation.

The student is responsible for setting his/her goals and the tutor is responsible for ensuring that the discussions proceed in the directions of the set goals.

Solution-focused thinking

  • Paying attention to the successes is more important than going through the failures
  • Staying positive and having confidence in the student’s own resources
  • Future-orientation: being less interested in the problem and its cause than in solving the problem
  • Positive feedback
  • Focus on the student: the students will outline the problem, set their goals and choose the methods of solving the problem themselves

Empathising with the student in the guidance situation

When you empathise with the student, you set your own thoughts aside and listen intently to the other person. This requires that you really concentrate on the other person, let go of any self-orientation and genuinely listen. The career tutor seeks information with clarifying questions, picks key issues from the student’s narrative and is able to return to what the student has previously said. When the career tutor reaches conclusions of what he/she has heard, he/she checks the validity of the conclusions by asking the student.

Interpreting the students’ speech and thoughts, talking over them, making generalisations or supporting their speech in a fast and unnecessary way usually clips the wings of the narrative. Shooting down, humiliating and criticising the student and quick tales of your own experiences are also not a part of empathising guidance.

Giving advice is also not recommended: the best way is to enable the students to see the light themselves and find the solutions for their problems. This form of guidance is the hardest to carry out when the values and experiences of the person receiving guidance differ greatly from those of the career tutor.

At the end of a successful guidance discussion

The student analyses the following:

  • what was talked about
  • what kinds of ideas did the discussion leave the student with
  • what was agreed upon
  • what will the student do next.

Recognising your professional boundaries

The career tutor must be professionally empathic and live with the student’s emotions and affairs. On the other hand, it is also important to know how to draw the line in the following situations, for example:

  • the student unreasonably burdens the career tutor in terms of time
  • the problems discussed are very complex
  • the problems are not only related to studying
  • you are for some reason disqualified from working with the particular student.

In these situations, the student should be guided further in the guidance network or to access completely different services. When the need to guide the student forward arises, turn to the Career Tutor Maps for help. In difficult situations, it is always good to share ideas and experiences.