How to be a Great Design Mentor and Where to Find one for Yourself
There has been a lot more discussion online about mentorship among the designer community. Being a mentor boils down to being a trusted advisor who is readily available to provide support and advice that’s best suited to the mentored individual.
A mentor can be immensely benefiting in one’s life and career. In this post, we’re going to discuss a couple of different tips on how to be a good mentor and how to find one as well.
Set clear expectations
Just like with any other arrangement, it’s best if you and your mentee sit down and set expectations for the relationship. What does the mentee want out of the relationship and what do you want? What can you bring into the arrangement and what can they?
It helps to set clear rules for your engagement as well. If you can only meet with them during lunch time, make it clear to them. If you don’t mind them texting you and emailing you freely, go ahead and let them know and give them your contact information. Clear expectations will make the mentorship more successful.
Get invested in your mentee
A mentor relationship should be a personal one. You will need to understand your mentee on a deep level to best advise them. To be a fantastic mentor, one that has a significant impact on another person, you must take a genuine interest in your mentee. You don’t have to be their best friend, but you have to know them well enough. That’s how you become significantly more effective at guiding and mentoring them.
One way to get to know someone is through active listening. It will allow you to understand them better, to dig deeper into their problems so you can better advise them on their struggles, frustrations or problems. That’s not only how you get to know someone well, but it’s also how you distinguish yourself to be an incredible mentor.
Celebrate their wins, big or small
Another thing great mentors do is help you celebrate the wins. Mentors are there to help you reach your goals; that means it’s going to be a journey and there will be struggles as well. It’s important to help your mentee keep going, as it can be tough for them. Acknowledging their progress, their hard work, and their achievements will have a positive impact.
Even celebrating something small can help motivate them to keep going. It doesn’t have to be just taking them out to a celebratory dinner for getting a promotion – though that’s a fantastic win! It can also be as simple as a good pat on a pack for completing a project they weren’t sure about taking or asking for a raise. You want to build their confidence and acknowledge their efforts to keep them motivated to achieve their biggest goals.
Lead by example
Your mentee will pick up on your behaviors as well. This will reinforce what you’re trying to teach them if you practice what you preach. Your actions and behaviors will influence your mentee whether you realize it or not. I do think it goes without saying that a genuinely influential mentor will lead by example. Don’t assume anything!
When it comes to a mentor-mentee, be the change you want to see in them. It will most certainly help them grow as they will also be learning not from what you say but what you do. How you treat them matters; how you act in public and within your own career will have an effect on them as well. Be the kind of influential and amazing mentor you had (or wish you had)!
Where do you find a mentor?
Alright, that was some quick advice on being a great mentor; what about finding one? Below are three tips on how to go about finding a mentor. The below tips are geared toward younger and junior designers with less experience in the field and who have fewer industry connections.
The first thing you must try is finding an online community! There are plenty of design Facebook groups out there; some bigger and some smaller. There are other design communities online such as Designer News or even on Twitter or Reddit.
It’s good advice, in general, to immerse yourself into a quality online community. However, if you’re looking for a mentor start your search there. You might want to consider Slack groups (paid and free) too! There are plenty of online resources available to you. Look up designer roundups that feature the most relevant designer out there to see where they hang out online.
There are also so many local in-person events, clubs and groups for you to check out! There are national organizations such as AIGA that host meetups in most major cities. There are regular meetup groups such as Creative Mornings that also have local chapters around the world! Major cities have plenty of in-person local memberships as well. Have a quick search to see what’s available in your city!
Additionally, go ahead and check out your local meetup groups as well. They may be on fewer organizations, but plenty of clubs meet on a regular basis. Consider looking into a local college’s (or your own, if you’re living near it) to see what kind of meetups or memberships they have for designers or for mentorship programs. I know that we spend a majority of our time online but don’t be shy to meet someone locally as well.
Approach someone directly
Alternatively, you could be direct. If you admire a specific designer don’t be afraid to reach out to them. That’s happened to me multiple times personally. I’m currently mentoring a junior designer who cold emailed me saying a few nice things and asking if I could check out a couple of her designs she was working on. That was maybe a year ago? She sends me emails every few weeks. You never know, it might work for you too.
At the very least you can ask them for a recommendation if they know something that would be a great fit to mentor you based on your needs. People are always willing to help! Be direct (and kind too!) and you will get what you want. Many designers love helping out others! If we can’t do it ourselves, we’ll gladly point you in the direction of someone who can.
Being a mentor can be a fantastic and rewarding experience. It is something that does take practice but the few tips I’ve shared with you today will certainly help you up your game!
If you’re looking for some help, go ahead and start looking for a quality mentor that will help get you where you need to be going.