The following provides a few tips on how to structure your initial mentoring meeting:
Step 1: Building Rapport
The people you have the best conversations with are those you feel most comfortable with. Sometimes this level of comfort comes easily while other times it takes a great amount of work. In either case, developing the skills to build rapport will serve you well throughout your life.
A mentoring conversation is short and you have a lot to achieve within that time frame, but taking the first minute or so to break the ice sets a positive tone for the rest of the meeting. Building rapport helps you get to know the person a little better and gives you important clues into the person’s interests and perspectives.
Step 2: Asking Questions
You have taken a couple of minutes to build rapport. Now it is time to ask a few questions. For each conversation, write down at least four questions. Only ask the questions that you think are important in helping you to achieve your mentoring objective. Let’s say that you only are able to ask two questions during the meeting. That’s okay. If at the end of the meeting, you still have questions that you would like to ask, you can schedule another meeting with the person. Writing down a list of questions helps you structure the conversation and feel prepared. Sometimes the conversation will go in a totally different direction, so be open and flexible, while still focusing on your goal. The following are examples you can draw on when creating questions.
- To what do you attribute your success?
- What was the turning point in your life?
- Who was your mentor or role model? What did you gain from this mentor?
- What is your greatest achievement?
- Who has been an inspiration in your life?
- What strategies do you use to stay focused on your goals?
- Do you have any advice for me?
- How has your career progressed within this company?
- What attributes do you feel it takes to succeed at this company?
- What is the best way to bring an idea forward at this company?
- What courses did you take?
Step 3: Wrapping Up the Conversation
You have been allocated a certain time and you don’t want to abuse the time. All conversations must come to an end at some point, so make sure you’ve planned a strong conclusion. A strong conclusion leaves your mentor with a good feeling about the time spent with you and gives you a chance, if appropriate, to set up any next steps.
During the final two minutes, thank the mentor for taking the time to speak to you, provide a short summary of the discussion and what you have learned from it. It is also a good opportunity to discuss any action items that you and the mentor agreed to during the conversation.