August 30, 2017

What’s your superpower?

When a student inquires about joining my mentoring program, I ask them a series of questions to determine whether we’d be a good fit. One of the most important questions is this:

“What’s your superpower?”

What I’m looking for is some sort of skill, or personal trait, or unique experience from which the student derives a high degree of confidence.

The sort of thing they would feel comfortable talking about on stage at a conference, or at a meet-up, or as a guest on a podcast.

I know a student is a good fit for mentoring if we uncover a superpower like:

Superpowers like these are useful because I can see many potentially valuable “matchmaking” opportunities between the student and some sort of target market. I know exactly what that our next steps are, and that they’ll be valuable to the student.

I know the student is not ready for mentoring if the best superpowers we can come up with are things like:

The reason that these “superpowers” are not very useful in the context of a mentoring relationship is that I can’t see any obvious matchmaking opportunities between the student and any potential target market. Each is very “me” focused. They’re all related to the activities that the student enjoys engaging in.

Yes, some business benefits could theoretically accrue from things like “writing clean code”, but in a matchmaking scenario they’re too low level to be inherently meaningful to a buyer.

It’d be like an amorous friend saying to me, “Hey, can you introduce me to your sister? I wear super clean underwear!”

Might my sister think it’s nice that my buddy keeps his underpants in tip-top shape? Sure. But in terms of whether or not to start a relationship, it’s not enough to go on.