Teachers come in many forms—those that offer classes here on CreativeLive, good books, and — of course — those people in our lives whom we call mentors. In the corporate world, mentorship is often an integral part of the job. When you’re first brought into a company, an experienced colleague is usually assigned to mentor you. Over the years, those who were once mentees will become mentors. And so it goes.
You’ll often read interviews with CEOs and high up executives proclaiming what a vital role their mentor has played in their success. It’s pretty clear that having some personalized guidance in your career, no matter what field you are in, is invaluable. And if you can some day give back as a mentor, then you can carry on the wonderful concept of mentorship.
Finding a mentor on your own may be a bit more difficult than being assigned one with your new job — unless of course you are currently a working artist and really admire your boss, then he or she may just be the perfect mentor for you. But artist mentoring programs do exist, whether you are looking for face-to-face meetings or long distance communication. The key is to seek out the right source depending on your field, be it an art museum, a photography institute, a local arts council or a professional society.
For example, AIGA, a professional organization for design, offers various kinds of mentorship programs across the country.
Another way to access mentors is to go through your university. Current students can ask their guidance counselor about mentoring programs within their department. Graduated students can contact the alumni association, which may have some kind of program to connect you with alumni who have lots of experience in your field and are willing to chat about your career path or even help tweak your resume.
Even if there is no specific program, you can still access the alumni database to find and contact graduates who are now working in your specific field. Having that university connection will make the introduction easier.
A more direct approach is to simply reach out to someone in your field whom you admire and ask for help. It may sound scary, but it is undoubtedly flattering to them, and you really have nothing to lose. Just be sure that you know what you want when someone actually says “Okay, I can help you!” and offers you some of their valuable time for free. Before the first meeting with your mentor, you’ll need to clearly define your goals and questions. And last but not least—make sure ahead of time that you’re not being billed by the hour for your mentor’s glorious advice! Mentorships don’t usually involve money.
Sartre once wrote “when you want to understand something, you stand in front of it, alone, without help.” Maybe so, but it’s nice to have someone to first guide you to that spot in which you will stand alone.