Five Questions to Ask Your Mentor About Career Development

By Emily Loberto

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Determining what questions to ask your mentor about career development can be more complex than it sounds. The average person spends around 2,000 hours a year at work, totaling about 100,000 hours over their lifetime. With such a significant portion of your life dedicated to your career, making those hours count is essential. However, career paths are rarely linear, and most people don't discover their passion immediately upon entering the workforce. Navigating the intricacies of a career can often feel like finding your way through a dense forest—overwhelming and unclear. 

Whether you're at the starting line of your professional journey or contemplating a career shift, one invaluable resource you can tap into is mentorship. Mentors serve as a roadmap, offering insights from their own careers and helping you discover the steps you need to take to achieve your goals. A mentor can be anyone—from your current manager or a past coworker to a professor, family member, or friend.   

However, once they’ve found a mentor, many people struggle to find the right questions to ask. To ensure that your time together is valuable, attending meetings well-prepared is critical to fostering a meaningful, long-term relationship. We’ll outline some essential questions to ask your mentor about career development, designed to help you maximize your potential and leverage your mentorship effectively and confidently. 

Questions to Ask Your Mentor About Career Development

Your relationship with your mentor is unique, and the questions you ask should be tailored to where you are in your career journey. The questions below serve as guidelines, guiding your conversations and setting you on the path to success. We recommend personalizing these questions and adding specific follow-ups to help you achieve maximum impact. 

Question 1: Which skills are the most crucial to my long-term success? 

When posing this question, be sure the focus does not rest solely on hard skills, such as using a certain type of software or coding in a specific language. The rapidly increasing pace of technological development means that many of these skills could become completely obsolete in the next few years. It’s a scary thought, but one you must be prepared for.   

Instead, steer the conversation toward soft skills, such as communication abilities, innovative thinking, and effective decision-making. These skills will always be relevant no matter your industry, role, tenure, etc., cannot be affected by the ubiquitous adoption of AI, and will make a huge difference as you navigate your career path. 

Question 2: How can I enhance my current skill set to advance in my field?

Before diving into this question, ensure that your mentor knows which skills you already leverage within your role and where you hope to one day advance. This will allow them to understand where your skill gaps may lie and help you craft a plan for personal growth and professional development. 


Question 3: How do you balance professional achievement with personal fulfillment? 

Balancing your personal and professional lives isn’t always easy, which is why it's so important to find work that fills your battery rather than draining it. When your job is personally meaningful and fulfilling, it will cease to feel like work.  

By asking your mentor about their journey to achieving this balance, you’ll open the floor to a conversation about what fulfills you and how you can fuel that spark within your professional life.  

Question 4: What do you wish you had known at the start of your career? 

This question will prompt your mentor to reflect on when they were in an entry-level position and the strategic decisions that led them to their current career. This question is especially effective if your mentor is in a role that you hope to one day be in yourself, as it will outline a potential path you can take to get there.

Question 5: Which tools do you recommend I leverage as I embark on my career journey? 

There are many incredible tools out there curated to help you build a fulfilling and successful career. Your mentor can help you determine which ones will be the most beneficial for your current situation and give you strategies and insights on how to leverage them effectively.  

These career development questions to ask your mentor will help open the door to insightful conversations that drive you toward success. By leveraging mentorship effectively, you can navigate your career path with confidence. 

Jumpstart Your Journey with PlumFlourish 

Wherever you are in your career and mentorship journey, PlumFlourish is here to help. This free and comprehensive tool gives you personalized, data-driven insights into your talents and how to develop them to build a successful and fulfilling career.  

Through a tailored profile, self-guided career planner, and library of resources aligned to your personal growth, PlumFlourish allows you to blaze your own trail and take charge of your professional life. 

Get started here.

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