NEWSLETTTER | WOMEN IN MOTION
What to Ask your Mentor
We need a mentor in literally every aspect of our lives – personal/family; health; career; spiritual; and even in friendships. You’ve done your research and found a suitable mentor, and now it’s time to get mentored, but, since it’s a two-way process, you don’t know where to start asking, do you?
Vicki Hamilton advises mentees to take a tour of introspection before all else. Ask yourself: “What do I want to gain from this person?” What you gain from an individual is truly the area of expertise that you desire. Is it lifestyle/appearance; how they handle being a single mother; how they handle travel with a career and family; or do you want to understand their personal career journey; want a thorough layout of skills to gain; or want to know what organisations to be a part of?
by Andrew Ngozo
Next, ask yourself: “What does a successful relationship look like to me?” Each of us have different needs, and we may not all learn the same way. All of us have personalities and not all personalities and styles are a match. You need to do your research on your potential mentors to ensure that your areas of commonalities are met. For example, you may require a mentor who has a strong faith, as that is the core of who you are as person. An atheist may not be the best match for you.
After you have answered the above questions, then you can tell your mentor: “I love the way you do ....” or “I want to learn how to do ....” This will give the mentor a way to directly address your needs. Now what questions are you going to ask during the mentoring process?
The relevant questions have everything to do with where you are in life and where you want to go. For the freshly out of college, and between one and three years in the professional sphere, you want to consider asking: “How do I stay relevant and noticed in my job? What do leaders look for to give promotions? How do I find a ‘sponsor’ or champion inside my company? And what are the important relationships that I should begin to cultivate at work?”
If you’ve been in industry for 10 years, your focus should shift and you should ask your mentor: “Am I ready for a manager’s role and what should I do to be considered? How do I find out the requirements for the next advancement in my career?” Ask your guide: “What additional training or experience do you think I need, or should I change my dress to be considered for a leadership role?”
In the personal realm, you might say to your mentor, “I am getting married; how do I balance a marriage and my career? And how do you handle two professional working people where the husband has an opportunity to move?”
If it happens that you have been out of college for more than 15 years, you should ask your mentor the following questions: “I have been at the same company for several years. Should I move to stay relevant in my area? What should I do outside of my job so others in my industry recognise my talents?”
Often it is at such a time when your health also starts to matter the most. Therefore ask your mentor: “How do I find time for myself and keep healthy?” Remember, mentoring is a two-way street! It is not just about what your mentor can do for you, but about what you can do for your mentor. You, even as a mentee, have a lot of value and can impact another person’s life in a positive way.
Leslie Ungar says having a mentor is more like an introspection tour in order for you to better understand yourself by following in the footsteps of the one coaching you. She recommends five key questions that should form part of the mentoring process.
How can I identify my value and effectively communicate it to others?
Can you develop and discuss your value on an on-going basis?
How can I change my mind-set and make myself more visible?
How important is it for leaders to think strategically in the 21st century?
Who is your honest mirror?
Don Maruska and Jay Perry, co-authors of the recently released book, Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organisation, and Life, suggest that the mentee employ what they call a Talent Catalyst Conversation: a script of questions that helps people clarify their hopes and a path to realise them.
In the case of the young and ambitious female executive, Maruska and Perry suggest using some of the answers from the conversation and reverse-engineering some of the questions for the mentor.
However, first share with the mentor your hopes, concerns, and a short story or two about how you have dealt with concerns like those in the past.
Then ask the mentor:
How will I need to grow; what will I have to learn in order to realise my hopes?
What resources do I need to be successful?
What inner qualities do I need to develop to be successful?
Who else would I be wise to include on my fulfilment team?
Matt Eventoff, a public speaker, concludes that even the lowest-level job in a good organisation gives you some exposure to executives or junior executives who may serve as mentors. Most successful professionals will tell you that they did not start in glamorous positions making healthy wages, says Eventoff. What they did have, however, were mentors who helped them grow, taught them, offered advice and often helped them move into other positions.
As you go on a journey of discovery with your mentor, here are questions that you should embalm at the back of your head, but which you can ask your mentor at the drop of a hat:
How did you do it? How did you get from my age to here?
If there was one piece of advice you could bestow upon me that will change my life, what would it be?
What are the things I need to do, immediately, to continue to grow and learn, so that one day I can be as successful as you are?
Who were your mentors? How did they become your mentors?
If there is a regret you had, in terms of something you did not ask your mentor, what would that be?
What is the best way to learn from you? How can I best keep in contact with you?
With the right mentor and the right questions, your mentoring journey can be a happy and fruitful one. Happy mentoring!