6 tips to make the most out of your design mentor‑mentee relationship
It’s usually tough to find a good design mentor. What’s tougher is finding a mentor that you can build a lasting, valuable relationship with. Whether you’re looking into getting a design mentor or already have one, here’s some tips and best practices for fostering a successful, fruitful relationship.
1. Set clear goals and expectation
Having clear goals and expectations in a mentor-mentee relationship not only creates a solid foundation to build upon, but it also helps you achieve your goals that much faster. What are the overarching goals of this relationship? What does success look like?
Be clear about your objectives and what you hope to gain from your relationship with your mentor.
Be clear about these objectives and what you hope to gain from your relationship with your mentor. If you can both understand these goals, then you can be much more productive with your time together. Plus, it’ll also help measure your progress and results much more effectively.
2. Keep it professional
A mentor has a lot to teach the mentee, but it becomes difficult to achieve this when they don’t maintain a professional relationship. This doesn’t mean you should use super formal language when communicating, it just means to always be respectful and courteous of your mentor’s time and willingness to help you out.
Be punctual and always arrive on time to your meetings. Be responsive to communication and listen attentively to feedback. Ask for your mentor’s preferred communication channels and respect those boundaries. Last but not least, always come prepared to meet with your mentor. More on that below.
3. Always come prepared
Everyone is busy, and your design mentor is no exception. That’s why you should always come prepared with a meeting agenda that outlines what you want to talk about and what you want to get out of that conversation.
Have a list of specific questions ready to ask or specific feedback you’re looking to gain. Your mentor knows a lot of things, but you don’t need to know everything they know. Having an agenda and specific questions to ask helps you to achieve more and build a stronger, more valuable relationship.
4. Embrace honest feedback
The essence of a mentor-mentee relationship is for the mentor to be able to communicate what they know to their mentee. This is not possible without honest feedback. Part of a mentor’s role is to be completely truthful and identify your areas of improvement. With that being said, you should be prepared to receive negative feedback from your mentor, and learn to not take it personally.
Every designer gets negative feedback over the course of their career. It doesn’t make you a bad designer. In fact, learning to turn negative feedback into positive action will make you a better designer. And that’s what your mentor is here to help you do.
RELATED — How to turn negative feedback into design gold
5. Make the relationship a win-win
For you to get the most out of your design mentor-mentee relationship, you must make it a win-win. And by that, I mean that both you and your mentor should be receiving value from the relationship.
One way that you can demonstrate value to your mentor is by applying their advice and making progress to achieve your goals. Your mentor is obviously valuable to you because they have the knowledge and expertise to help you grow and advance in your career.
6. Express gratitude
Everybody likes to be appreciated and that includes every design mentor. A design mentor-mentee relationship becomes more solid when you show enthusiasm to learn and are grateful for the knowledge being shared. Appreciating the effort of your mentor — no matter how little — can go a long way to strengthen that relationship. Express gratitude, and always thank your mentor for their time!
Building a successful mentor and mentee relationship requires conscious effort from both parties. The mentor must be eager to help you learn and grow, and you as the mentee must be willing to show the same level of commitment
Carl is a Product Design recruiter at Facebook. Before recruiting, he was a UI/UX designer working with many tech startups to design mobile apps. Carl is also the co-founder of a Meetup called Global UXD where he helps connect designers with eachother and create new opportunities. Having completed Bloc and Designlab bootcamps before becoming a recruiter, he’s an expert at helping designers land their first design roles. Find Carl on carlwheatley.com and LinkedIn.