Mentoring, on both sides of the fence, has been instrumental to my career development.
The best mentors are the ones you respect and admire. They have gone before you and have been in the trenches. They are honest and kind, and therefore mentees can respect when they give you the honest truth that it’s done with their best interests in heart.
I am so grateful for those early formal and informal mentors I had. I remember many of them well and in particular recall all the coffees they shouted when I was a poor undergrad student, but also their kindness and patience with me when I was at my most bright eyed and bushy tailed.
The aim of this blog post is to make it easier for mentors and mentees alike to have amazing sessions together.
Questions for your mentee:
- Invite them to talk about themselves – who they live with, do they have a partner/parents/pets. What do they do in their spare time e.g. sports, hobbies, travel. Find a few similarities and common ground. It also helps to understand how their career fits in the overall context of their life.
- What led you to choosing your degree (or honours/masters/PhD research topic)?
- Who do you look up to in your peer group (e.g. friends or colleagues at university) and what characteristics do they have that make you admire them?
- Are there any types of jobs or areas of work that you definitely would not like to do or have no interest in?
- What makes you passionate about [insert field] (e.g. children’s nutrition, gender equity)?
- What would you say to your 16 year old/21 year old/30 year old self?
- Have you ever seen a job you would love to do in 5 or 10 years time?
- What were your favourite/least favourite subjects at University/TAFE? Why do you think this was the case?
- If you could wave a magic wand right now, what would your ideal job look like? Where would it be, who would you be working with, what would you be doing there?
- Do you see yourself fitting in better in a large organisation with big teams, or a smaller organisation where everyone knows everyone? Why?
- Tell me about your job interview experiences so far? Are there areas you would like to work such as answers to commonly asked interview questions?
- What kind of feedback have you received from unsuccessful job interviews? In what way could you improve this in the future?
- Is there anyone you would like to meet or connect with? Is this something I can facilitate as your mentor?
- How would you like me to help you?
Questions for your mentor:
- In what ways was your university study different to your experience of the working world
- Have you ever gotten a job through an unconventional method? What happened?
- When you reflect on your career, were there significant events that made a difference to your pathway, or was it more gradual?
- What are the characteristics of organisations you like working in?
- How do you spend most of your time? What does your average working day/week look like?
- How have your career preferences changed over time?
- What, if anything, would you do differently in your career?
- How did you learn how to network? What advice do you have for a novice networker?
- What do you do for professional development?
- How have you retained your passion and interest for [insert field] (e.g. children’s nutrition, gender equity) over your career?
- What have been your career highlights?
- What have been some of the greatest challenges in your career?
- Do you set yourself career goals, and can you share what some are now?
- What would you do if you were in my shoes?
Bonus question which works both ways:
What’s keeping you busy at the moment?
This question will help determine the priorities of the other person. What are they focusing on? Are the causes of their busy-ness out of their control, or are their priorities off track?
What are your go-to questions for a mentoring session? Let me know in the comments!
Want an easy, printable version of this list? Download here
Shout out to the mentors I have been grateful to be partnered with in the past:
Elizabeth Fudge, Susan Mann, Kirsty Hammet.
And the many amazing leaders I have been privileged to work with.