A three step guide to finding a great UX mentor

Published July 29, 2020

Finding a UX mentor is one of the best ways to sharpen your design skills and speed up your progress. Having “been there and done that” before you, UX mentors use their professional experience to take you under their wing, put you through your paces, and answer any questions you have along the way.

A three step guide to finding a great UX mentor

Illustration by Dmitry Nikulnikov from Icons8

And you’d be right to be picky — you want a UX mentor who gets where you want to go in your career. This can take a little bit of searching, unless you know exactly where to look…

Step 1: Planning for your UX mentorship

Identify your goals

This is something every experienced coder, designer, and strategist knows: the more upfront planning, the better the result.

You need an idea of what you want to learn from a UX design mentor and why you want to learn it. Are you still focusing on building up your skills and languages, or are you ready to start preparing for your first career jump? Outline all of the things you’re hoping to get out of a UX mentorship, to start off on the right path.

How much time can you commit?

This is a big one, and it goes both ways. Are you just looking to fast-track your learning in a particular area, or are you searching for someone who’ll guide you through your programming journey for months ahead?

An idea — however rough — of how many hours of mentorship you want per week will help match you with someone who’s willing and able to deliver the same.

Most mentors are likely professionals themselves, which means they will need to stick to a clear and simple schedule — and not be called upon at your every whim. (Although some may be more flexible than others.)

How do you want to meet?

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to meet in a variety of ways. In-person meetings with a UX mentor generally produce the best results, but it also limits you to someone in your local area. This can make finding the right mentor more difficult.

Online meetings are a great alternative. There are plenty of ways to video call a mentor, so determine if this is something you’d be comfortable with and pick your mentor accordingly.

Choose the right experience gap

Lastly, you’ll want to decide how much of an experience gap you want between you and your UX mentor. Generally speaking, there should be at least a two-year career difference between you and your mentor — although there may be occasions where you want much more, depending on what you’re looking to learn.

A shorter experience gap means it’ll probably be easier for you and your mentor to relate to one another. You’ll have gone through similar challenges not too far apart. And, if your UX mentor is still a working professional, they can give you the most accurate information on what to expect during an interview.

At the other end of the scale, you may want a UX mentor with decades before under their belt. If you’re looking for someone who can help you map out your entire career trajectory, you’ll want that sort of big picture vision.

Step 2: Finding a good mentor

Research

If you’re involved in digital design, your Googling skills are likely second to none — so put that talent to use! Don’t just settle on the first mentor you find without looking for alternatives. Make sure you find someone who seems like the right fit, meets your goals, and that you get along with.

Additionally, make sure you do your research when it comes to User Experience itself. If you go in with little more than a beginner’s knowledge, your UX mentorship is going to end up being a series of basic questions that you likely could’ve found on your own. Build up a basic level of knowledge so that you can maximize the effectiveness of your mentorship.

Use a service like MentorCruise

If you’re having a hard time knowing where to look for a mentor, you’re not alone. Without a clear mentor in your personal life, it can be tough to know where to look. That’s where services like MentorCruise can help.

MentorCruise makes it easy to find mentors that align with your goals, field, and schedule. We offer a broad range of mentors on a variety of topics so that you can find the mentor that best suits your needs. All of our mentors are vetted as well, so you don’t have to worry about the quality of your mentorship.

Formal or informal?

This may seem like a small detail, but it can play a big role in the success of your UX mentorship. Are you looking for something a little more traditional, or would you prefer to keep your mentorship laidback and casual?

There are benefits to both styles of mentorships. A formal mentorship means you’ll have a less personal relationship with your UX mentor, but you’ll learn more about discipline and will likely have a more concrete learning structure in place.

Conversely, an informal mentorship will help you build up a camaraderie with your mentor. Though you might not learn as many hard skills, you’ll probably enjoy the process more, build a relationship that lasts beyond your mentorship, and potentially form a connection that helps you land a job later on.

Step 3: Commit!

Finally, it’s time to commit to your UX mentorship. For many, this can be one of the hardest parts of the process, as there’s far less excitement to it than the planning and searching phases. This is where you’ll need to buckle down, stick to a schedule, and invest yourself to make your mentorship a success.

Like anything in life, you’ll get as much out of your mentorship as you put into it. Be prepared to make mistakes, to be frustrated, to run into walls, and to challenge yourself.

And also be prepared to enjoy yourself! A mentorship will enrich your journey through UX design, teach you things you’d never learn otherwise, and provide you with a valuable relationship and connection to the field.