Shaping the Future: A Career Mentor’s Perspective

Brian Reid, FCNI Resources Engagement Coordinator, with special contribution by Steven Smeets, FCNI Career Mentor
January, 13, 2021 -

With January being National Mentor Month, Family Care Network wants to honor the many different individuals in our community who volunteer their time and energy to support our kids. We have several different types of volunteering opportunities available but one we are highlighting today has a career focus. FCNI’s Career Mentors engage in one time meetings with our local youth who are interested in learning more about a specific career path.

Meet Steven Smeets, Steven has been a Career Mentor for several of our youth over the past year. As the head chef at Sea Venture Hotel and Restaurant, Steven attended Culinary School in San Francisco where he spent many years working as a professional chef. He has been kind enough to become a career mentor for our kids who are interested in learning more about careers in the culinary field. 

Below, Steven shares his personal reflection on his career path, and why he finds career mentoring important and rewarding

“Since the age of 16, I knew that I wanted to become a chef. Now I know this probably isn’t most people’s experience but I was lucky enough to know exactly what I wanted to do from a young age. Starting out, I only had the Food Network as my guide which I ‘studied’ intently until I graduated from High School and had the opportunity to attend culinary school in San Francisco. Growing up I really didn’t have anyone around me who knew anything about careers in this field. Following my graduation from culinary school, I stayed in San Francisco for the next six years working in professional kitchens before I decided to move to San Luis Obispo. As a professional chef for over a decade now (which sounds like such a long time when phrased like that!) I’ve seen first-hand how difficult it can be for people to break into a career that they are happy with. This is especially true for youth just starting out who don’t have a background working professionally with food or have attended a culinary school. In fact, while I was working in San Francisco I was employed in many cutthroat kitchens where sabotage and talking down to others was considered the best way to demand perfection from coworkers. Personally, I’ve always felt that a nurturing and positive environment produces better results. 

“At my very first cooking job I found myself way out of my league in regards to what was being asked from me professionally. Thankfully, the sous chef who worked there really took me under his wing and was able to help me learn how to succeed. One of the most fundamental things he was able to teach me is that you have to challenge yourself every day because no one is going to hand it to you.

Using my past career experience to help guide a youth is extremely rewarding for me and something that I wish I had available to me as a young man. The truth is that everyone could benefit from a mentor to help them find their way in the world today. With that said, I believe it is extremely important to mentor young people in both a professional and personal capacity. By just showing up it tells a youth that they matter to someone and that there are people out there who want them to succeed in whatever way is meaningful to them. By speaking with them and just being willing to spend a very small amount of your time, you can help them make better decisions and guide them on a path to success. 

“I would encourage other professionals to get involved with Family Care Network’s mentoring program in any capacity that they have time for. After all, if these youth are to become our future, why wouldn’t you want to help guide and shape their future for the better?

“As a career mentor with Family Care Network I have had career mentor matches with several youth. These matches last right around an hour depending on how many questions the youth has. At my very first meeting I was actually surprised by how nervous I was. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a good mentor. But after a couple minutes of sharing, I was able to relax and really speak from the heart about my experiences and what I’ve learned over the last decade in this field. 

“My message to career professionals out there is to get involved in giving back and my message to young people out there who aren’t sure of their career path is to make sure that you follow your passion. After, [as they say,] If you love what you do, you will never ‘work’ a day in your life and I’ve found this to be true for myself.”

What better time than Mentor Month to join our phenomenal crew of FCNI Mentors? For more information on our Mentor Program, please call or email Brian at (805) 781-3535 and Also, visit our website here.