One of the best career moves to make is to seek and find a mentor. One of the biggest career mistakes is not to ask him or her tough questions. Whether you have known your mentor for many years or just a few months, the relationship needs to support your career building, as you transition from one role to another, or in your search to increase visibility in your current organization.
A truly effective mentor has the capacity to be loyal to your goals, is available, and honest, too. Their level of candor is the key to your success. Simply praising your work, being encouraging, and sharing examples of their experiences can be a wonderful way to feel supported and valued, but that’s only half of what a mentor can offer. In order to make the most of your relationship with a mentor, three tough questions need to emerge as part of your ongoing conversations.
- What kind of impression do I make on others and how does that show up in my professional style?
- What strengths do I have that I need to leverage better and to what end?
- What do I need to focus on in order to make the most of my potential on a short term and long term basis?
Each of these questions can inspire “game changing” conversations that can help with your personal brand, focus on your strengths, and on the long term outcome of career development. All of this is at the core of an effective mentor/mentee relationship.
As Latinas, however, this can be particularly tough, because we often feel discomfort in focusing a conversation on ourselves. In the presence of our mentor—someone we admire and possibly someone who is our senior—we may especially prefer to listen more than we speak. Since our culture places a high value on personalismo or a personal regard for others, we often work hard at making others comfortable with us. While that makes us highly effective collaborators and team players, it can be a great way to talk about anything but ourselves. A good mentor however, will keep the spot light on us, relate their stories and experiences to our specific career challenges, and have the courage to answer those tough questions.
If all this feels like a fairly high set of expectations for you and your mentor, you’re right. It can be very difficult to get clear feedback about what might need to be done differently in order to build a successful career. Most of us want to avoid awkward situations and negative conversations about ourselves. Yet avoiding those conversations in today’s competitive labor market can make our job or role on a team less secure and less promising.
In my coaching experiences, there have been many times when a client exhibits some habit or style that undermines their leadership and their entire team sees it but no one wants to bring it up—not even that person’s boss. This can go on for years and truly limit their career. With the right kind of feedback and learning new behaviors, it can be remarkable how much the person will grow. A strong mentor can provide you that kind of feedback and support your growth—if you dare to ask the tough questions.
Written by Dr. Maria Hernandez | Contributing Writer on Business
This appeared in www.NewLatina.net on May 3, 2012
Latina Cubicle Confidential™–Three Questions to Ask Your Mentor
To share your experiences contact Dr. Maria G. Hernandez at Latina Cubicle Confidential or join her live at the next LatinaVIDA™-Visibility, Identity, Direction, Action. Dr. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies.