Anyone can be a mentor!
Mentorship is more than just a buzzword; it's a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. Whether you're a seasoned creative or just starting your journey, this guide is your roadmap to being a stellar mentor in today's world.
Has someone ever come to you for help, and your first thought was, "Me? But I barely know how to ____." or, "There are people with so much more experience!" As someone working in the design industry for three years, tenure isn't everything. A person with 20+ years of experience may not always know best. No matter where you're at in your journey, you are uniquely equipped to help others. You have experiences others have only read about or seen on a screen. Instead of worrying about what you can't teach, consider all the gifts that make up your unique skillset.
Recognize and embrace your gifts!
First things first, know what you bring to the table. Your unique skills, experiences, and insights are your gifts. Embrace them and recognize that you have something valuable to offer.
For example, a Creative Director will have plenty to share about client relations, managing designers, and leading a team, but if they've been at the same job for 10 years, they most likely don't have the most relevant advice when looking for a job. I love sharing my experiences relating to the job hunt because I've had two jobs in three years and am an active part of a small studio's recruitment process. Relevant experience is everything!
Be honest about your journey
Nobody knows it all, and that's perfectly fine! Be transparent about your journey. Share your own learning experiences and definitely your mistakes. The best thing you can do as a mentor is save someone from the heartache that you went through. I sacrificed sleep, a social life, extracurriculars, and my sanity to get into the Graphic Design program at the University of Florida (UF).
Once I was in and able to reflect on the application process, I wanted to open the door for others so they didn't have to go through all the same stress I did.
"The best thing you can do as a mentor, is save someone from the heartache you went through.”
Foster a safe space
Create an environment where mentees feel safe to ask questions, share concerns, and express their opinions. Encourage curiosity, and curiosity will flourish. You're a mentor, not their boss, so the stakes should be pretty low. Celebrate those wins, no matter how small. But don't shy away from discussing failures. It's where some of the most valuable lessons hide.
Encourage collaboration and an abundance mentality
Facilitate connections among your mentees. Encourage them to collaborate and share ideas with their peers. Learning from each other can be just as valuable as learning from you. I used to think my classmates were my competition, not my collaborators. It didn't let up once I was accepted into the design program. The scarcity mindset seemed to pervade every semester.
Whether it was group projects, internships, or job applications, it was me against my classmates, against anyone else who might "steal" my spot at a coveted design agency. But that wasn't the reality. Classmates and peers are your network and support system, not your competition.
Help mentees identify their objectives and aspirations
Work with your mentees to set clear, achievable goals. Help them map out their path and provide guidance along the way. Even if you can only help from point A to B, they'll be further along than when they started. Lead by example. Share your own goals and the progress you're making. It shows vulnerability and reinforces the idea that mentorship is a two-way street. You never know; your mentee may be the fresh set of eyes your project needs.
Embracing Growth Through Mentorship
Mentorship is a journey of growth for both mentors and mentees. It's about creating a positive and supportive relationship that fosters development. So, dive in, guide others, and watch yourself evolve in the process. I've talked to high school students wanting to start off on the right foot, college students absolutely terrified of the job hunt, new graduates trying to find their place, and even creatives who are older and more experienced than me. I definitely don't have all the answers, but I have plenty to share.