Key Questions to Ask Your Mentor for Positive Change

Woman raising hand to birds

Why You Need to Ask Questions

Keep a Record of the Answers

Key Questions to Establish Your Mentor-Mentee Relationship

How To Evaluate The Mentor’s Answers

Is This The Right Mentor For You?

Your Mentor May Be Asking Similar Questions

What a Mentor Needs from You for a Positive Mentorship Relationship

Are You Ready for A Mentorship Relationship?

Personal and Professional Mentoring Goals

Start With Knowledge to Create Positive Change

You want savvy questions to ask your mentor because how the two of you work together determines your success.

A mentor can provide invaluable guidance, support, and advice throughout your personal and professional life. Finding the right mentor can help you make positive changes in both your personal and career life.

So how do you find the right mentor so that you don’t end up not making positive change?

You and your mentor work together to implement positive life changes. From the start, you want a mentor relationship based on synergy. As you become accomplished, you want to grow together as a mentor and mentee. Implementing a mentor or mentoring relationship starts with building a trusting connection.

questions to ask a mentor in session

Why You Need to Ask Questions

One of the great things about having a mentor is that they provide so much more than just life advice. A mentor will help you hone your skills and guide you to success. To be successful, you must ask questions and ask often.

In a recent article, SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), and organization dedicated to mentoring, stated:

Knowing what questions and decisions to seek council on will make all the difference in your successes and failures.

There is no such thing as a perfect mentor and you will always learn more by asking them questions. The key to succeeding with your mentor is to ask open-ended questions that will allow them to share their knowledge, experiences, and wisdom with you.

To get the most out of a mentor, you want to ask questions that focus on what they have done, what they are doing, or what they hope to do. There is no better way to get a mentor to open up than by asking questions that allow that person to feel that they are contributing to your success.

questions to ask a mentor one on one

Keep a Record of the Answers

Recording the questions and answers is one of the first action steps you can take. You’ll improve your listening skills by writing down your mentor’s responses to your questions. 

At the beginning, the answers will help you discern which mentor is right for you. 

Take notes to learn by listening. Take notes that describe what they have done, what they are doing, or any instructions they give you. These notes are great when you are looking for follow-up instructions or more information. 

Take notes to learn by listening and gain a more accurate picture of what you want to accomplish. 

A good mentor does not need to know how you were raised, what you like, or where you go for fun. They only need to know what will benefit your life and what changes you want to make in your path to growth and change. 

At the very least, a good mentor helps fulfill a need for people at a very basic level. The world can be very complex and sometimes, we need to be told the simple facts again and again. If a mentor helps you see the world in a clearer, more positive light, then she has served her purpose. 

To be sure, you don’t want to get bogged down with the wrong mentor. So, before you have your first meeting with a prospective mentor, prepare a list of key questions. They will help you evaluate if you and the mentor will develop a working relationship that will last over time. The following are the key questions to ask your mentor. 

Key Questions to Establish Your Mentor-Mentee Relationship

These questions are guidelines. Rather than parroting the questions, make sure you phrase them in your own words. That way they will have the most meaning for you. And the answers you receive will resonate with you and the change you want to make.

Do you mind if I ask you some questions?
What is your philosophy?
What’s your approach to guidance?
What are your areas of experience: in particular, my business?
What are your areas of experience with life skills?
Describe yourself
What kind of person are you?
Describe what you enjoy
What are you passionate about?
What are you good at?
What are you not good at?
What kind of people do you help?
Describe where those people started and where they progressed
How do you structure your mentoring sessions?

These are examples of questions that will help you understand your mentor as a person—the one you’ll be working with—and as a mentor—the person who will guide your actions for change.

How To Evaluate The Mentor’s Answers

The first thing to remember as you listen to the answers is to keep an open mind.
You want someone you can work with. But you don’t necessarily want someone who is just like you.

You are looking for guidance, so you want your mentor to have skills and experience you don’t possess. Their fresh view of you, your career, your lifestyle, and the world around you may be the perspective you need to make positive change. 

However, if they balk at the first question—Do you mind if I ask you some questions?—you can move on. A mentor who doesn’t want an open exchange is unlikely to listen carefully. They may have a set routine that they apply to everyone. So instead of getting a mentor, you’ll end up with a life boss. That’s not what you need for true change. True mentorship is a two-way street. 

A true mentor works with you hand-in-hand to help you see where you are now and provides perspective so you can move forward. For the rest of the questions, listen to their answers. Then look to your own gut responses. 

If you receive an answer that makes you feel uncomfortable, consider why you are feeling uncomfortable. Some discomfort is a normal part of growth, but if you don’t think you’re compatible with this person, you may want to find another mentor.

Remember, these questions are about establishing a working relationship between the two of you. A good mentor will try to help you grow past your current limiting beliefs, so a bit of discomfort is to be expected.

For example, if you hate public speaking, but they ask you to consider some sort of practice for public speaking, this is a normal sort of discomfort. It’s ok for you to tell them you are uncomfortable with public speaking, so they know this is your current situation.

In the future, your mentor will ask you questions that make you uncomfortable because they will be pushing you out of your comfort zone. The whole idea is for you to grow. But at the beginning, you should have a comfortable feeling about working with the mentor. 

As you listen to the answers, it’s not so much about the content of the answers but if you get the feeling that you can get ideas from this person.

Is This The Right Mentor For You?

The reason you ask these questions is to get a sense of the mentor as a person. Will you be able to work with them to make positive changes in your life? 

You want a sense that you can work together. You want to feel that you l get ideas and recommendations from this person. Constructive feedback will guide your next steps toward success.

The key thing is you want to feel compatible. That compatibility is important because sometimes you’re going to have to try things that you wouldn’t necessarily come up with on your own. So you want a mentor within your moral framework, but who is able to take you out of your comfort zone gently.

Are you willing to take ideas from this mentor? At the end of the day, you will have to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Ultimately, that is how you will make progress.

Your Mentor May Be Asking Similar Questions

Because a mentoring relationship is two-sided, your mentor will want to know if you are the type of person they want to work with. So be prepared to answer some questions. And be prepared to answer some questions that make you a bit uncomfortable.

You are looking for a mentor to help you make positive change. The mentor will be evaluating you as a likely candidate for making positive change.

Will you take action on suggestions?
What challenges have you faced in the past?
How is your current work-life balance?
Do you have family or friends who will support you in making change happen?
Are you willing to commit to a mentorship relationship?
Are you willing to put aside time every day to work on your change?
Will you keep our scheduled meeting times?

Be ready to answer the mentor’s questions as honestly as you can. You’ll be laying the groundwork for a positive mentoring relationship.

What a Mentor Needs from You for a Positive Mentorship Relationship

A mentor needs you to be open and honest about your goals, both short-term and long-term. They need to know what you’re willing to work hard for and what you hope to accomplish.

A mentor also needs you to be respectful of their time and energy.

Last, a mentor needs your commitment to the relationship. They won’t be able to help you if you’re not invested in making positive change in your life.

Consider what a mentor needs from you for a positive mentorship relationship:

be coachable
have an open mind
be willing to work hard and apply yourself
be honest
be respectful

In a strong and fruitful mentoring relationship, your mentor will look for you to recognize and show gratitude for the time investment.

Are You Ready for A Mentorship Relationship?

If you’re considering entering into a mentorship relationship, ask yourself if you’re ready to commit to the process. 

A successful mentorship requires both parties to be dedicated to making change happen. You’ll need to be open and honest with your mentor, and be willing to accept feedback. 

If you’re not sure if you’re ready for a mentorship, think about what you hope to gain from the relationship. If you’re motivated and want to make positive changes in your personal life or career, then a mentorship could be right for you.

Here are some things to think about if you are considering working with a mentor.

Are you willing to negotiate? 
Know your values – Can you state them? 
Are you comfortable asking for advice?
Are you ready to be accountable for your actions?
Will you reinforce the changes with your mentor’s guidance?
Are you willing to search yourself?

If you can honestly answer yes to these questions and you truly want to make a difference in your life, then mentorship can help you reach your goals.

Personal and Professional Mentoring Goals

Mentorship involves making changes. You may find as you go through the process that your personal and professional life impact each other. 

For example, in order to reach your professional goals, you may need to make changes in your personal life. And you may need to make them first in order to see professional results. 

People often think of their personal life and professional lives as two separate spheres. But your mentor has a perspective that can point out how habits in your personal life impact your career success. 

It’s harder to shift habits when you think of them as separate from your life. 

Many of the habits and actions that keep you from career success are often rooted in deep personal attitudes. In order to create true change, you may find yourself working on personal goals. 

As you create new habits and attitudes in your daily persona life, you will see the results spill over into your work life. 

Your commitment and willingness to keep an open mind while taking action to make change will result in a positive mentoring relationship. In fact, you may be surprised at how quickly a good mentoring relationship will bring positive change.

people holding each others hands

Start With Knowledge to Create Positive Change

If you want to create positive change in your life, it’s important to start with knowledge. A great way to gain this knowledge is to develop a positive relationship with a mentor. 

When you ask good questions at the beginning of a relationship with a mentor, you learn about them as a person and how they operate to support their mentees. 

A mentor can help you learn about yourself and what you need to do to achieve success.

Additionally, a mentor can provide guidance and support as you work towards making positive changes in your personal life and career.

Asking the right questions at the beginning will help you find the mentor who feels right, will support you in your growth and guide you to actions you wouldn’t have believed possible. 

Ask your questions, evaluate the answers, choose wisely, and start your journey toward positive change.

At elevenation, we understand how intimidating starting a journey to change can feel. Making that decision about choosing a mentor can feel scary. Will you make the right choice?

If you feel you are sincerely ready to make positive changes in your life, know we’ve helped others—young and old, professionals and artists, men and women—reach their goals.

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