Mar. 14, 2017 by TREC Staff

What to Ask and What Not to Ask Your Mentor

So you’ve landed your mentor and are eager to unlock all their secrets. But before peppering your mentor with questions, take a minute to prepare questions that will help you establish a foundation for meaningful and productive conversations.

Questions to Ask

  1. How do you spend your time?
    Time is a precious commodity. Finding out how successful individuals spend it is crucial. Plus, you’ll get insight on what’s important to your mentor.
  2. How can I help you?
    No one likes a relationship that is all take and no give. Establish you want to reciprocate their generosity.
  3. What would you do if you were me?
    Pretending you know everything isn’t going to do you any favors. Dive into your challenges and ask for direction.
  4. What were your biggest failures?
    Everyone has had career setbacks. And it’s often the failures that define our success. This opens the door for honest conversation and helps you learn from their mistakes.
  5. What am I doing wrong?
    It’s hard to swallow your pride, but ask and then just listen.

Questions Not to Ask

  1. What advice do you have for me?
    This isn’t helpful for anyone and can be a time-waster. Go in with specific goals and target your ask for help.
  2. How did you get where you are?
    There’s no step-by-step roadmap. Every person is different with their own set of strengths and resources. Instead ask, “If you were to start over, how would you get were you are today?” This will give you an idea on what they would do differently in today’s environment.
  3. Can you introduce me to ____?
    Don’t ask for handouts. This includes referrals, resources or introductions. The mentor has invested their time and energy in you already. Unless they offer, don’t ask.

Now that you’re armed with a few do’s and don’ts, you’re ready to start building the relationship.

Want additional resources?

Forbes: 10 Killer Questions To Make The Most of Your Mentor Meeting

Inc.: 12 Questions You Should Ask Your Mentor ASAP

Fast Company: 6 Things You Should Never Ask Your Mentor

Fortune: 5 Mentor Mistakes to Avoid