Mentors are trusted advisors who guide your career development throughout your long-term professional relationship with them. The right mentorship opportunity can help you outline a clear career path and choose steps to achieve your professional goals. In this article, we explore focused questions to ask your mentor so you gain useful insights from their experience and expertise.
Read more: The Definitive Guide to Mentorship
Sample questions to ask a mentor
A mentor often offers career advice, skills training, networking opportunities and references for your job search. While many people choose mentors in their own field, you may also choose an advisor in another industry to provide broader career insights. The following questions can help you learn from your mentor’s relevant experiences, identify opportunities for professional growth and better understand how you’re seen in the workplace:
Let’s look at each of these questions in detail with insights you might gain from asking each.
1. How did you get into your career?
Mentors are typically in a more advanced position on a career path similar to yours. As a result, understanding your mentor’s journey may help you refine your own professional path. You can learn the typical steps in this profession, including education and early jobs and what you need to achieve at each level of advancement. Perhaps your mentor pursued opportunities outside of the typical career path that provided many benefits. Your mentor’s professional journey can serve as an outline to follow or provide you with options you had not considered.
2. What is an obstacle you encountered, and how did you handle it?
Overcoming obstacles is essential to succeed in any career. Your mentor has likely faced challenges similar to those that you may encounter in your own career path. You can use your mentor’s experiences to help you anticipate issues and prepare your own response. Ask your mentor how they feel about the results of their reactions to obstacles and what steps they took to remain focused on their goal in the face of setbacks. You can learn from their successes or discover ways they would handle the situation better had they known then what they do now.
3. What career accomplishments are you most proud of?
Career accomplishments can include earning promotions or subtle successes such as conquering a small but challenging issue. Consider discussing the accomplishments that gave your mentor the greatest sense of pride to help you establish your own career goals. Your mentor’s perspective on career accomplishments can encourage you to value improvement as well as measurable success.
4. Have you read any books that helped you develop your career?
There could be many resources that helped your mentor on their professional journey, from fictional works with valuable messages to non-fiction books on productivity or leadership. This question can lead you to a variety of literary works filled with information and inspiration for your professional journey. Discover what books your mentor has learned the most from, and make a point of reading these books yourself. They may also be able to provide you with other helpful resources such as documentaries, podcasts, online interviews or presentations and more.
5. What do you see as my strengths?
Understanding the skills you excel in can help you identify the professional opportunities that are best suited to your talents. Your mentor can help you assess your strengths objectively, providing you a list of skills you can mention on your resume or use during your next job search. You can use your mentor’s assessment to answer interview questions about your strengths, including examples that demonstrate how you use your strengths to complete tasks and achieve goals.
6. What areas can I improve?
You can advance your career by improving areas that could be more developed, but you may not be able to see your own weaknesses clearly and objectively. Seek your mentor’s guidance on career-related skills you should improve. Your mentor may be able to help you find resources such as continuing education, additional training or potential practice opportunities.
7. How am I viewed by others?
Mentors can help you see yourself as others see you and to understand where your skills and talents are most appreciated. If your mentor works in the same company, they can give you an idea of how your coworkers or managers perceive you. A mentor from a different company may have insights into your overall reputation within your industry. This information can help you build on your strengths and address areas where you’d like to change others’ perceptions of you for the better.
8. How can I prepare for my performance review?
Performance reviews are annual meetings with your supervisor or employer that reward your success and encourage your improvement. Your mentor can provide insights into what to expect during your performance review, especially if you are in the same company. They can also offer advice on responding tactfully to the feedback you receive. You may try role-playing important interactions during this meeting, such as taking criticism or asking for a raise. Performance reviews help you set goals for improvement within your company, so preparing with your mentor for these meetings can ensure you stay on your intended career path.
9. What is your leadership style?
Effective leadership skills are essential if you’d like to advance into a management role. Discover what philosophies your mentor finds useful and how these have impacted their ability to successfully lead others. You may choose to utilize these leadership techniques or adapt them to your own style.