Tech mentorship is a fantastic way to learn how to land a promotion, find a new job, acquire new skills, and grow your network. If you’re an engineer unsure which coding language to learn next, a product manager looking to hone your strategy skills, or a designer seeking portfolio feedback, mentorship can help you set and meet those goals.
At Merit, we’ve facilitated thousands of hours between mentors and mentees on everything from building a roadmap to battling imposter syndrome to working cross-functionally on a team. As a result, we’ve learned that asking for help can feel intimidating, even daunting. What questions do you ask a mentor?
If it’s your first time meeting with a mentor—or you’re new to mentorship—it may be difficult to know how to make the most of your session. One of the best ways to maximize your time is to think about what questions to ask your mentor.
This list of questions is designed as a starting point. The more specific your questions are—and the more context you can provide—the better able your mentor will be able to help.
Tips and best practices
Know your goal. It’s easier to make the most of your session when you know what you’re hoping to get out of it. Write out 3-5 questions you’d like to ask your mentor—use the list below if you need some inspiration—along with what your current career goals or challenges are. If you're not clear on those yet, that’s okay! Let the mentor know in your call that you’re looking to find clarity, and they can ask questions to help you refine your focus.
Provide context. If you’re asking about a particular situation or challenge you’re facing, be sure to give background. A mentor will most likely ask questions to understand better, but the more information you can provide upfront, the easier it is for the mentor to share their own relevant experiences and tailor their suggestions to your situation.
Do a little research. Not every mentor is equipped to answer every question. A designer probably won’t be able to answer questions about what coding languages to learn, and a product manager won’t be able to provide feedback on your design portfolio. Take a few minutes to review a mentor's LinkedIn profile to get a sense of their experience. That way, you won’t ask a product person how you can get started as a software engineer.
Have realistic expectations. Mentors can help you refine your goal, provide suggestions, and share perspectives. However, mentorship is intended to help you find paths forward, not give one clear-cut answer.
Get multiple perspectives. The more points of view you can receive on a particular situation or goal, the more holistic view you’ll get of approaches to move forward. Each mentor can provide advice based on their background and experiences—the more experiences you can learn about, the more inputs you’ll have to craft your next steps.
Follow up. Mentors love to know that they’ve helped! If you have an update to share after a session, let them know. It’s a great way to develop a relationship and express gratitude for their time. If you’ve made progress and feel stuck, you can always set up more sessions with the mentor.
30 questions to ask a mentor
Most questions tend to fall into a handful of categories. At Merit, we’ve found that mentors are usually asked about job searches, career pivots, interviewing, skill-building, and career growth. Use the list below as starting points for formulating questions you can bring to your mentorship session. Each question is generic, so tailor it to your situation and bring context to your session.
- How can I optimize my resume for the roles I’m applying for?
- I was rejected for a role. How do I ask for feedback from the company?
- I got a job offer, but I’m not sure I understand everything that’s in the offer. Can you review the offer with me?
- I received a job offer, but I’d like to ask for more compensation/equity/benefits. Can I and how do I negotiate an offer?
- How can I find companies that are committed to fostering a welcoming, diverse work environment?
- I’m applying to a lot of jobs but am not sure if I’m getting anywhere. How can I track my progress?
- How should I organize my job search?
- Where should I look for open roles and companies that are hiring?
- I’m considering multiple career paths. How do I decide which one to pursue?
- I’m planning to leave my job soon, and I’m nervous about quitting. How should I give notice?
- If I switch industries or roles, will that make my resume weaker?
- I’d like to pursue a new career path. Where should I start?
- What kinds of questions should I ask in an interview?
- Could we practice doing a mock interview?
- How can I prepare for coding challenges?
- How can I position myself as the best candidate for the role during an interview?
- What can I do to stand out during the interview process?
- My upcoming interview will be remote. What should I do differently?
- Given my goals, what skills should I be working on developing?
- How can I become more confident speaking in front of groups?
- What can I do to improve my presentations and make them more engaging?
- People aren’t reading the documents I write. What can I be doing differently?
- What coding languages should I learn to be more competitive?
- What would make my design portfolio stand out more?
- I have an upcoming performance review. What kind of preparation should I do beforehand?
- I don’t have a large network. Where can I look to build my network?
- How do I set career goals and define a career path?
- How do I effectively ask for and receive a promotion?
- What professional groups should I join?
- What steps can I take to build a stronger network?
When preparing for a mentorship session, create a list of 3-5 questions to ask your mentor. Learn more about the mentor’s background to make sure they’ll be able to provide perspective based on their professional experience and background. Be sure each question is specific enough that the mentor has enough information. If you’re still unclear on your goal going into the session, it’s okay to say that; a mentor can help you reach clarity.
Last but not least, gather multiple perspectives. On Merit, it’s easy to find and book time with multiple mentors with a variety of roles and backgrounds.