10 Questions You Should Always Ask a Potential Mentor

How do you find the perfect mentor to help you along your entrepreneurial journey?

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, which is why finding a mentor can make it that much easier. But how do you find the perfect person to help you along? YEC entrepreneurs weigh in.

Question: What 1 question should you ALWAYS ask a potential mentor?



“What Do You Wish You Knew at My Stage?”

“I always try to balance my mentor relationships between updating them on my goals and my background, and getting a strong sense of who they are and most importantly, who they were at my stage. What did they wish they knew? What obstacles did they not expect? How did they manage to get over them? These are all crucial for your development as an entrepreneur.”


She’s Got Systems

“What Motivates You?”

“You can get great technical advice, connections and encouragement from many sources, but understanding someone’s internal motivations will help you align your values before you begin a mentor relationship.”


eLearning Mind

“What Has Been Difficult?”

“Ask about failures instead of only focusing on how he or she has been successful. Find out which hurdle or setback was the hardest to overcome, and how it was dealt with.”


Planet Green Socks

“How Can I Make Your Life Easier?”

“It’s true of managers and mentors, you have to manage up. The best mentoring relationships are a two-way street. If you’re seeking a mentor, the relationship should benefit you in some way, but don’t stop there. See if there is anything you can contribute that will make your mentor’s life easier. It can be as simple as determining a preferred method of communication, a skill, a connection, etc.”



“What Used to Be Your Biggest Weakness?”

“If your potential mentor laughs and answers this question honestly, that’s a great sign that she or he is self-aware and willing to be honest with you — key qualities for a potential mentor. Also, if you can tell that your mentor has overcome those former weaknesses, that’s a sign of personal growth that fueled their entrepreneurship.”



“What Do You Think Is the Biggest Mistake We Are Making Today?”

“This gives great insight into how deeply a mentor has thought about your business. How well can they talk about the major parts of the business and how do they defend their argument? This question provides a lot of information about a mentor.”



“What Are Your Guiding Principles?”

“Every good mentor I’ve had has passed along a nugget of wisdom that has stuck with me and shaped me into the businessman I am today.”


Motivate Design

“What Would You Do Differently?”

“The relationship with a potential mentor is new, so solution-based questions can be more comfortable and respectful. The answer tells you if their feedback will help — the goal being to find a mentor that teaches and inspires you to think differently. It also allows you to see if they know about your business, your industry, your challenges and your opportunities.”



“What Is Your One Major Success?”

“A mentor should provide know-how and help you avoid repeating the same mistakes. In order to succeed, this type of focused advice is crucial. Perhaps you need to learn how to grow internationally, create a great team or perfect your business etiquette. You should always ensure your mentor is able to address the exact area you need to focus on in order to achieve maximum success.”



“How Can I Work Smarter?”

“It’s a great sign when a mentor can answer this question well by condensing general tips on efficiency into a short conversation. Your mentor’s experience on specific sectors or wins will never be 100 percent identical to yours, but efficiency is a universal good that applies across all sectors of business. Plus, you gain insight into whether their work style and personality are similar to yours.”


Business Collective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.

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