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Questions to Ask your Mentors

October 05, 2021

By Emily Wu

Have you ever had the chance to meet someone experienced in your field but never know what to ask them? Wondering what to take away from a conversation while speaking to a mentor, an executive, or maybe just someone you admire? Take a look at this list of expansive questions to get your conversation rolling as well as learn about why it’s important to in the first place!

Getting the conversation rolling is crucial in order to engage with someone, and the easiest way to do this is by asking questions. Questioning is not about impressing someone, or to fill the silence, but to be gaining someone else’s perspective. It provides an enriching learning environment compared through speaking to someone about their lived experience. As we continue to learn about others’ experiences, we can be guided into our own.

A key factor in order to understand more about the industry you may be going into is asking good questions. Without good questions, it would be much harder to navigate your way through the world. You might have a general idea of your goals, but what should you do to achieve them? Leave a conversation with as much as you can to figure out what steps to take next. You never know until you ask!

Here is a list of questions that I’ve found to prompt open-ended answers:

  • What made you want to get into this industry? What interests you about it?
  • How did you first start or get into this industry? What made you want to?
  • Which skills were the hardest for you to develop?
  • What skills should I develop (as an entry level employee) to move ahead?
  • What do you wish you had known before entering the field?
  • Where do you find inspiration in what you do? What drives you?
  • Did you envision this career path for yourself when you first entered the field?
  • What did your ideal job originally look like for you?
  • How do you engage the people you speak/work with?
  • How do you measure your success?
  • Any advice for someone in my place? (Give a background of who you are if they don’t know you very well, e.g. year, current place in career, 1 or 2 goals, etc.)

Don’t be afraid to ask them for their opinions, especially on what you may want to pursue in the future. Asking for someone’s insight could make or break a decision for you. Remember that speaking to people you look up to can help shape your future and outlook on the world in vastly inspiring ways. Who better to ask than someone with expertise and experience?

Take your pick of these questions and tailor them to whoever you speak with to get the most out of your conversation. Getting perspective and insight from others, especially professionals in an industry, is so important in order to understand where you want to go as well as how to get there. And before you start asking whoever you may be speaking to, make sure they are open to questions, don’t be unprofessional! Happy queries!