Having a mentor is very important when it comes to success, especially in the early years of your career. Being able to soak up wisdom and get outside perspective will allow you to make smarter decisions that will fast-track your career.

One of the most important things you can do with your mentor is to ask questions about his or her experiences to get an idea of the tough lessons he or she had to learn over the years. Understanding these lessons will help you gain perspective and make your next move.

Here are some questions you should ask your mentor:

  1. How has your career path changed since you started working?
  2. What do you wish you did differently in your career?
  3. What are you the most proud of in your career?
  4. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your career?
  5. What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn in your career?
  6. What’s something you came to appreciate since you started working?
  7. What has surprised you the most in your career? Why?

Not only are these questions great conversations starters, but they will also help you to see “ahead” in your career. Remember, while this person might have different goals, priorities, and setbacks, his or her experiences can still be very educational and relevant to your career.

It can also give you some perspective so you can manage your expectations. Chances are, this person wasn’t an instant success. If you truly believe that your mentor got where he or she is today with ease, you really need to ask these questions.

Remember, everyone starts at the bottom, no matter how successful they are today. Everyone was once naive, inexperienced, and unrealistic at some point. Everyone makes mistakes and deals with challenges in their careers. Sometimes, just hearing that someone else went through trials and tribulations, just like you, can help propel you forward. He or she figured it out, so why can’t you?


Mentors are extremely valuable members of your network. Not sure who would make a great mentor? Head over to career services at Longwood University and chat with a career coach. Both students and alumni are encouraged to leverage this resource. Check it out!

Ariella Coombs

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