Becoming a mentor can seem daunting for many reasons. You may find yourself asking—Am I in the right position to mentor someone else? What if I give them the wrong advice? What if we don’t forge a connection?
Don’t let these exaggerated fears stop you. Mentors come in all different ages and experience levels. The knowledge that you have is valuable and your mentee will be grateful for your time and feedback.
Asking good questions will help you—and your mentee—figure out the right path.
1) What are you most excited about right now?
This discussion-starter opens the conversation on a positive note. It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about what makes your mentee tick. Maybe they’re enthusiastic about flexing a specific skill or starting a project. Maybe they’re enjoying working with their new coworkers or team. Or maybe nothing is really “firing them up”—in which case you’ll probably want to dig a little deeper.
2) What’s challenging you right now?
The way your mentee interprets this question should give you a few clues into their personality. They might reference a situation that’s difficult but not impossible—more like it’s making them stretch. For example, they could reply, “I’m working on a task that requires a lot of analytical skills, which I haven’t used much before.”
Or they could interpret it as something that’s frustrating them. To give you an idea, your mentee could say, “I have to go through so-and-so for X project, and they’re making it tough.”
Neither answer is better than the other. However, if your mentee’s response is closer to the latter, ask follow-up questions that’ll guide them toward what they’re learning from a less-than-ideal experience.
3) Is there anything about the (company, industry, product) you don’t know, but feel afraid to ask?
It’s close to impossible to know everything about your employer, customer base, and solutions. Not knowing isn’t the issue; not asking is. Your mentee might be too shy to ask questions (or simply too busy, too overwhelmed, or all of the above). Make it easy for them to get the information they’re looking for.
If they say, “No, I can’t think of anything,” encourage them to write down their questions as they think of them over the next week, two weeks, month—however long until your next check-in. Then they’ll have plenty of time to come up with points to ask you about.
Whether you’ve been mentoring for a long time or have just started, these questions will be sure to help kick off a great relationship with your mentee.