Finding a mentor takes a bit of forethought and hard work, but the payoff of that relationship can have a significant positive impact on your career – from quicker advancement and better realization of your career ambitions to guidance and support as you tackle the personal and professional challenges of the workplace.
How to Prepare for a Meeting with Your Mentor
Once you find someone who may be a good fit, take some time to prepare before your meetings, whether they’re your first or subsequent encounters. Although each relationship will progress differently and change organically, establishing goals ahead of your meetings, consistently driving engagement and holding yourself accountable will help you get the most out of your mentoring relationship.
Show your mentor you appreciate their time providing guidance and sharing their knowledge with you by spending some time thinking about what kind of mentoring relationship you want.
First ask yourself why you’re looking for a mentor in the first place. Is it because you’re looking for career guidance in your current role? Or perhaps you’d like to be promoted to manager soon and need help developing your leadership qualities? Or maybe your goals are even more concrete than that: You’d like to develop a skill by a certain date so that you can raise your hand for an opportunity at work.
Whatever it is that you want out of your mentoring relationship, establishing short- and long-term goals will help you determine what you aim to accomplish from your time together. Answering these questions for yourself will help you devise proper questions to ask your mentor in the future.
You are asking this particular person to be your mentor, meaning they’re probably pretty good at what they do. After all, that’s why you’re asking them to offer their time – and knowledge – to help you grow. It is expected of you to be the driver in this relationship, which includes scheduling your meetings and organizing an agenda for each meeting.
You also need to think about how often you want to meet, and for how long you want to commit to your mentoring relationship. Are you looking to work with this particular person for a few weeks, until perhaps an upcoming annual review or job interview? Or is this a relationship you’d want to maintain for longer?
Once you’ve figured this out, communicate this with your mentor so that you establish reasonable, transparent expectations for your relationship. It is also a good idea to ask them about their preferred communication method. You certainly don’t want to text them over the weekend if they prefer to email on weekdays only.
Hold yourself accountable
After each meeting, it is a good idea to send bullet points on next steps. Being clear about what you heard and what is expected will help you both be accountable to your promises to each other. Be sure you are setting aside time in between each meeting to complete the tasks you’ve promised so that you can be prepared for the next time you meet. If things arise that will delay your tasks or commitments, simply communicate that with your mentoring partner.
Questions to Ask Your Mentor
Being a mentee has a lot of opportunities, and the key to learning as much as you can is prepping ahead of time and coming to your meetings prepared. Below our mentoring experts have curated lists of questions you can ask your mentor during your time together.
Questions to ask a mentor about their professional experience:
- What were some challenges you faced in X position?
- What professional experiences did you have that led you to your current position?
- What skills have been most beneficial for you?
- Are there certain things I should be doing so that I can learn skills that will help me prepare for my own career?
- What career accomplishments – whether it’s working through challenges to earning promotions – are you most proud of?
- What’s one thing you wish someone had told you when you were at the career stage I am currently?
- What is the most meaningful part of your job?
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Download our Promoting Your Mentoring Program Toolkit
Questions to ask a mentor about their personal experience:
- How and where do you find inspiration?
- What values are you committed to? How have they changed since you started your career?
- What is your biggest fear, and have you overcome it? If so, how? If not, what is stopping you?
- Why did you decide to be a mentor, and what are your goals for our relationship?
- What do you enjoy doing during non-work hours? How did you get interested in those activities?
- What’s on your bucket list?
- What is your strongest character trait? What is your weakest?
- What can I do for you in this mentoring relationship?
- How do you establish work/life harmony?
Questions to ask a mentor about career development and advancement:
- If you were me, how would you have approached X situation?
- How should I discuss a potential promotion with my manager?
- Which leadership skills were the most difficult for you to develop?
- Where or what do you turn to for continuous learning or skill development?
- What habits have you found help you to be more productive?
Questions to ask a mentor about navigating an organization:
- Who are the people I need to align with in this organization to achieve success?
- How do I become more strategic in my work?
- When trying to gain buy-in for a new project or program, what is the best way to persuade my colleagues?
- What should I know about this organization’s structure or culture in order to advance my career?
- What is an area of our organization that you would like to learn more about?
Questions to ask a mentor about seeking feedback :
- Where do you think I can improve that would be most beneficial to the goals that I have shared with you?
- What could I have done differently in this specific situation that may have improved the outcome?
- What do you see as my weaknesses? How might I turn them into strengths?
- How often should I be asking for direct feedback from my manager?
- What advice would you give me to help me improve my communication?
With the right intention and questions to ask your mentor, you’ll be on a path to a more productive mentoring relationship. This impact will be felt by yourself and your mentor, leading to a more successful outcome for you and your career.