Common questions to ask a mentor

By Robert Half on 7th December 2017

Asking for help is one of the most fundamental ways to achieve personal growth. Although it’s common for professionals to turn to blogs, books and training to help them reach their career goals, the impact of mentoring in the workplace shouldn’t be overlooked. 

The simple act of having a quick one-to-one meeting with a more accomplished, senior professional isn’t a new idea. Here’s why mentors are so beneficial for career growth, expert guidance on how to find one and the best questions to ask when you have a moment of their time. 

Why have a mentor?

Successful mentoring relationships can accelerate your career, make you more productive and help you optimise your workflow, all of which are proven to increase your happiness at work. 

Integrating quickly into a new workplace is easier when you have support from a workplace mentorship. They’re great for support in those first few days and make you feel much more welcome in a new business. They aren’t just helpful for those who are new to a company, either. 

Business mentorship programmes can help with the sharing of knowledge and enhance colleague relationships. Outside of the office, independent mentors are often a welcome cure to a stalled career, a career change or reaching that seemingly impossible career goal. 

Related: Take control of your career progression

How to find a mentor

Contrary to popular belief, a mentor is not typically a successful stranger that you admire within your field. The best mentoring relationships are generally shared with individuals you already know—be that within your business or through a connection outside of work.

This might be someone who you find inspirational, someone who has already achieved some of the goals you possess or someone more senior to you.  You can also try organisations like The Aspire Foundation, which helps connect female professionals to foster a culture of mutual success. 

Questions to ask a mentor

Time with a mentor is often limited—a quick half an hour coffee break or time over the phone. Make the most of that time and have a list of mentor questions ready beforehand. Here are some common question ideas:

1. If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of professional advice, what would it be?

This question is great for uncovering essential pieces of advice that sit at the core of your mentor’s own learning path. If you can take the same advice, you may reach your end-goal faster. 

2. Do you have any feedback you could give?

If you feel a particular piece of work is stronger or weaker than your usual, it might be helpful to hand it over for feedback. This takes your mentor’s experience and puts it into a real-world context which helps you both in the short and long-term. 

3. Are there any organisations that you’ve found particularly useful which I should consider joining?

Your mentor has learned a thing or two during their career, and may be a member of an organisation or association which could help you learn more, get support or make advantageous connections. 

4. How did you get to be where you are today?

Asking your mentor for personal stories of their experience within the industry, the career path they took or what they like to do in their spare time can help to forge a more lasting relationship and makes reconnecting far easier in the future.


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