The Best Career Development Questions You Should Be Asking Your Mentor

Ginger Abbot

Mar 10, 2021

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If you have a mentor in your life, you probably look up to them and value their guidance a lot. No matter what kind of mentor they are or how long you’ve known them, there’s so much to learn when someone in your life is willing and there for you to help you develop your life, career, and education. Whether your mentor is a professor, advisor, teacher, boss, or even someone in your life that you trust, it can be easy to feel like there are a million questions to ask them, but not enough time. If you feel stuck in the question circle, there are plenty of ways to explore your knowledge together.

No matter where you are in your career path, it’s never too early or too late to ask your mentor all about how they got to be the person they are today — and how you can use the knowledge and opportunities they offer you as best as possible. While each of these questions may work differently in each relationship, it can at least be important to ponder these ideas while you explore your relationship further. Here are some of the best career development questions you should be asking your mentor.

1. What is Your Greatest Strength?

Self actualization is one of the best professional skills that you can develop over the years. That being said, your mentor probably already has a picture of what their best strengths are in their own mind so they can recognize their good work while striving to be better at the same time. Opening up the conversation around strengths can help guide you towards discovering your own, and how to identify and build upon them.

2. What is One Thing You Still Struggle With?

It can be easy to feel like your mentor has it all figured out, and that they never have struggles or run into stumbling blocks. And while looking up to them and trusting them is a great thing, it’s important to understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and you can learn much more from their problem-solving abilities than you can from pretending they’re perfect.

3. What Are Your Current Goals?

When you’re just starting in your career or still in school, it can be easy to see a career as one destination. Talking with your mentor about what their goals look like can bring a bit more perspective to your situation. It can show you the potential for growth no matter where you are. 

4. What Does Your Work Life Balance Look Like?

Having a mentor isn’t always about how to be the best at work. Your work and your life are inherently connected because they are all a part of you, and finding a balance between work and life can be one of the most difficult parts of adjusting to a professional trajectory — especially if you’re highly motivated, or if your work is truly your life’s passion. Starting up a conversation with your mentor about how they achieve their balance can give you some guidance along the way.

5. What Can I Be Doing Better?

Asking about your flaws and areas of improvement can sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable, but it can actually help you grow more than you realize. Allowing yourself to be open and inviting when it comes to constructive criticism shows that you’re eager to improve, which is ultimately a strength overall. The only way to improve your flaws and weaknesses is to work on them actively, and opening up that dialogue is a part of that.

6. What’s One Thing You Wish You’d Done Differently?

While this can be a tough question for some, your mentor is around to help you and guide you, which includes steering you away from mistakes they’ve made themselves. By finding out what your mentor wishes they would have done differently, you can keep it in mind and avoid those same mistakes in your own career.

7. What Made You Fall in Love With Your Career?

This question might be for a time when you’re feeling unsure or when you’re facing a tough decision about the future of your career. Hearing all the great things about your career and your industry from someone you trust and look up to can help you see the great side of everything around you.

Questions You Should Ask Your Mentor

Whether you’re new to the mentor life or you’re a bit stuck on where to take the conversation, there are so many ways you can spark even more learning in your career and your life. Asking any of these questions can bring you places you didn’t even know were possible before, and that’s the beauty of it. What questions do you plan to ask your mentor soon?

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