5 Questions Every Mentor Should Ask

Much has been written, including in this blog, about the importance for first-time job seekers and young professionals to build solid mentor relationships. In most cases, mentees ask most of the questions as they seek answers to the mysteries of job searches and career success.  So, I was pleased to find some excellent tips for prospective mentors in yesterday’s New York Times “Corner Office” interview with Tony Tjan, chief executive of Cue Ball, a Boston-based venture capital firm.

Tjan credits one of his partners, Mats Lederhausen, for creating a “mentoring framework” that consists of the following five essential questions for a mentor to ask a protégé:

  1. What is it that you really want to be and do?
  2. What are you doing really well that is helping you get there?
  3. What are you not doing well that is preventing you from getting there?
  4. What will you do differently tomorrow to meet those challenges?
  5. How can I help, and where do you need the most help?

The sequence is important, according to Tjan. “You have to understand the larger purpose; understand the person’s self-awareness around their strengths; understand external or intrinsic blocks to doing that; and understand the person’s plan and motivation to change before you just assume you can help,” he explains. “It’s just as important, for clarity and to reinforce self-awareness, to have the person play back to you after the meeting in an e-mail what they heard and said.”

If your mentor hasn’t asked these sorts of questions, discuss them (and your answers) with him/her. It will be a richer mentoring experience for for both the mentor and mentee.


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