Aug 01, 2015


Latina Cubicle Confidential™–Three Questions to Ask Your Mentor

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effective mentor

The Value of Mentorship

One of the best career moves you can make is to seek out and find a mentor.  One of the biggest career mistakes you can make is not to ask him or her tough questions.   Even if you have known your mentor for many years or just a few months,  the relationship is one that needs to be able to support you as you build your career, transition from one role to another, or look for ways to increase your visibility in your current organization.   A truly effective mentor is someone who will have the capacity to be loyal to your goal, make him or herself available, and be very honest with you, too.

The level of candor is key to your success.  If your mentor is simply praising your work, encouraging you, sharing examples of their experiences, this can be a wonderful way to feel supported and valued.   But that’s only half of what a mentor can offer you.

To make the most of our relationship with a mentor, there are three tough questions that need to emerge as part of your ongoing conversations.

The first question:

What kind of impression do I make on others and how does that show up in my professional style?

The Second Question:

What strengths do I have that I need to leverage better and to what end?

Third Question:

What do I need to focus on in order to make the most of my potential on a short term and long term basis?

Latina Mentorship & La Cultura

Each of these questions can inspire “game changing” conversations that can help you work on your personal brand,  focus on the strengths  you have and on the long term outcome of your career development .  All of this is at the core of an effective mentor/mentee relationship.

As Latinas, however, these 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 yourself.   A good mentor however, will actually keep the spot light on you and relate their stories and experiences to your 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 you might need to do differently in order to build a successful career.  Most of us want to avoid awkward situations and conversations or hearing anything negative about ourselves.  Yet avoiding those conversations in today’s competitive labor market can make your 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.


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Dr. Maria G. 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. Visit the Latina Cubicle Confidential™ Facebook (link below) or join Dr. Hernandez live at the next LatinaVIDA™-Visibility, Identity, Direction, Action.

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