I'm a data analyst by day and a proud bibliophile. My mentors have been employers, teachers, coworkers, and even significant others.
Good Questions to Ask Your Mentor
Throughout my professional development, I relied on conversations with colleagues I looked up to to guide me in my career choices and development. Keeping the conversation fresh with your mentor is important if you want to get the most out of your relationship. You may know each other well enough (on a friendship level or professional level), but there is still some territory you should cover to make sure that the learning doesn’t stop and that you continue to grow as a result of their influence.
Before you set forth on a hangout or formal interview with your mentor, you will want to be prepared with some thoughtful questions before you begin. That way, you are mindful of their time (and your time). Make sure that you can meet with them and chat in a location and environment that you feel comfortable in—the same can be said for your mentor.
If the space that you meet in is too loud or busy, you won’t be able to hear each other, and if it’s too quiet, like a library, you might be hesitant to converse. In addition, your mentor may have hearing impairments, physical limitations, or maybe they have a higher regard for privacy and would prefer to meet somewhere less public. Once you've established the when and where, you'll want to be ready with some thoughtful questions. Here is a guide to the right questions to ask.
What to Do Before You Meet With Them
You should get organized before you meet by asking the following questions:
- What is your preferred communication frequency between us?
- When is a good time to meet?
- What is your preferred method for meeting?
- Would you prefer I ask you questions, or would you prefer to drive the conversation?
How to Talk to Your Mentor About the Start of Their Career
Here are some important questions to ask your mentor about their career and professional development. Start with approaching them about their story. Basically, don't ask for their advice. People are terrible at giving advice. Instead, you’ll want to dig into their personal story.
For example, how did they get from point A to B or their beginner position to their current position? Also, consider the following questions below:
- What is something a direct report did that really impressed you?
- How have you dealt with a difficult boss in the past?
- How have you dealt with a difficult employee in the past?
- Can you tell a story of how you have recovered from a massive blunder?
- How do you determine which weakness can be overcome?
- What are some books that have inspired you?
- How do you go about learning difficult business concepts?
- How do you go about learning company lingo and terminology?
- How do you go about doing stuff you are scared of?
- What values do you strive for?
- What is your goal-setting process?
- What are the most valuable business lessons you have learned?
- What is one thing you wish you have done?
How to Talk to Your Mentor About Your Personal Career Growth
These are some specific questions you can ask your mentor about how you can grow professionally. You might want to tailor these questions to match the industry you work in or what you would like to get out of the conversation. It might require that you give your mentor some insight regarding these questions so they can be more specific. After all, it's all about how comfortable you two are and how close your relationship is. Consider the following:
- Where should I be networking?
- What skills do I need to move ahead in my career?
- If you were me, what is something you would change immediately?
- Is there a strategy to holding back behaviors that are holding me back?
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses?
- How do I go about improving my weakness?
- How do I go about finding out what are my strengths and weaknesses?
- How do you think others view me?
- What types of skills are important to my field?
- How do I improve my public speaking skills?
- How do I improve my communication skills?
- How do I obtain feedback from my boss and peers on what skills I need to improve on?
- What do you think I should focus on for the next three to five years to get to the next level in my career?
How My Mentor Helped Me Achieve My Career Goals
Everyone can benefit from the help of a mentor. You might have one mentor or several. A mentor can be a family member, a friend, a former boss, a former employee, a coworker, a teacher, and more. Mentors might be valuable in your eyes because they achieved something in their career that you have your motivations set on, maybe they overcame hardship, maybe they are an entrepreneur, or maybe they have good people skills and have learned to navigate difficult situations successfully—there are many possibilities.
My mentors have been employers, teachers, coworkers, and even significant others. I've received advice on where to take my career from a teacher, advice on how to improve on my weaknesses from an employer, advice on how to leave a non-productive industry from a coworker, and advice on how to manage people from my significant others. Think about who matters to you and how they will be able to help you. For all you know, you probably can help them, too. Most relationships are mutual.
Do I Need to Give Them a Gift for Their Time?
No, taking the time to offer advice is voluntary. You might, however, consider paying for their coffee or meal, bringing them a nice living plant, or offering them something homemade like dried fruit, soap, or baked goods. The possibilities are there. You might even decide to simply offer them a thank-you card or gift card. It's the thought that counts, after all.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Brynn B Lewis