Ask James: What should I ask my mentor?

Not sure how to make the most of your mentor?

In his monthly column, career coach and Chairman of, James Reed, shares his expert advice to help you tackle your biggest career concerns.

In this month’s column, James gives his top tips on what to ask your mentor…


The Question:

Hi James,

I have a mentor (a senior manager in my company) and we have been meeting on a monthly basis. So far so good. He’s told me a lot about his story – how he got to where he is today, and overall I’ve found having a mentor really useful. But, I’d like to make sure I’m getting the most out of the relationship and asking the right questions.

Since you’ve mentioned mentoring in your blogs, I wondered if you’d be able to offer any advice on what questions to ask my mentor?

 Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

 Thank you!



The Answer:

Dear Jen,

Thanks for taking the time to write to me.

I am really pleased to hear that you are finding your experience as a mentee rewarding.

I myself have experienced being both a mentor and mentee during my career and I fully support the benefits of having a mentoring system in place.

In terms of receiving the most from your mentor, you’re absolutely right – it’s important to ask the right questions.

It sounds like you’ve heard a lot of anecdotal advice, but it’d be useful for you to get some tailored to your role and situation. The questions you ultimately focus in on will depend largely on what you’re struggling with, or areas you’d like to improve, but as a general starting point you might find it useful to ask questions about specific situations you’ve experienced at work. Maybe you’ve thought, ‘I wish I knew how to do this…’ or ‘I’d like to know how to approach that better…’

Explain the situation you encountered to your mentor and he will likely be able to give you some tips and advice on how to handle it differently next time, or offer reassurance that you handled it well.

Reflecting on specific tasks and situations will also help you to identify areas that you would like to brush up on. Once you’ve identified these areas, you can then ask specific questions on these topics. For example, you may ask your mentor for tips on public speaking, general management tips, or even how to approach a particular project.

Having a mentor can be a hugely valuable experience, but it is a two-way street. Try to take on board the advice your mentor offers you, and gain as much knowledge from their experiences as you can.