Published July 31, 2020
Breaking into the design world can be a tricky business. Whether you are fresh out of grad school, or going for a career change later on in life, landing that first design job can sometimes feel like an insurmountable task.
Illustration from Icons8
Plenty of new designers may never have considered the idea of a mentor. You might not really know what mentorship entails, or how a mentor can help in your career.
But for designers who are just starting out getting work by themselves, a mentor can have huge benefits. When you’ve got a whole new career path laid out in front of you, the expert guidance of a mentor can help you work out which turns are worth taking, and which may end up wasting your time.
If you’re considering getting a mentor, the first question you need to ask yourself is: are you at the stage of your career where having a mentor would make sense?
Design mentors are largely targeted at new designers, and are most effective in providing advice and support at the beginning of a design career. They can help you get started, provide advice about what works, and offer support to get over those first difficult hurdles.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that design mentors are only for the young, fresh out of grad school designers. Career changes and sideways moves are more common than ever these days, and if you’ve taken the plunge and started out on something completely new later on in life, a mentor could be just the thing to make the decision seem less daunting.
A design mentor isn’t going to take over your career and magically solve all your problems — sorry! You need to be realistic about how a mentor can help you, and not expect too much from them. However, with the right mentor, you can achieve so much more than you would on your own.
A design mentor will be able to share their experience of the design world, and provide advice and support to you in the early stages of your career. They have to be someone you can trust, and someone who’s insight and knowledge you respect.
New designers from all disciplines and practices could benefit from a mentor. You may be an illustrator, looking to move from editorial work into packaging design. Or you could be a UI designer, looking to make your first brave steps into start-up culture.
Whatever kind of design work you do, a design mentor will be able to critique your work, help you hone your craft, and offer tips and gentle guidance on your career path. They can also often open doors for you and provide advice on soft skills. But it is important not to take advantage of a mentor, or expect the world from them with nothing in return.
While what you take from mentorship will come down to your unique situation, there are 4 key benefits for taking on a mentor at this stage in your design journey:
True, a mentor will critique and help you develop your work. But they’ll also help your confidence come on in leaps and bounds.
Mentors can provide moral support and constructive feedback, to ensure you feel proud of the work that you do. A mentor can also help you identify and focus on your strengths — something which can be hard to do on your own.
An outside perspective can be crucial when it comes to pointing out assets and skills that you might be too close (or too humble) to see properly. A mentor can also identify areas where you need improvement, and offer advice about how to address them.
A good portfolio is the most powerful tool that a new designer has at their disposal, but putting one together can be tough — where do you start?
A good design mentor will help you build up your body of work, and provide great critique and feedback on your portfolio to make it ready to send to potential clients. Knowing what not to include in a portfolio is almost as important as knowing what to keep in, particularly if you are just starting out and don’t have a great deal of experience or published work.
Freelancing can be amazing, but it can also be a grind. Constantly pitching to new clients, dealing with invoices and worrying about where your next job is coming from can get you down. It can be daunting — even off-putting — to anyone just getting started.
A mentor can reassure you at the beginning, and help you work through issues you might encounter, whether with clients or with your business itself. Your mentor will likely have been there and done that, whatever the problem, and will have a wealth of experience to share to help you through tricky times.
Ultimately, a design mentor can help you work out if freelancing is the right path for you right now. You might be better off targeting agencies and studios, instead — and that’s okay! A mentor can help you with that, too.
Thanks to their years of experience, design mentors will have great contacts. Better still, they’ll be able to put you in touch with loads of other people who can help your career and open doors in the industry.
Successful networking is not as easy as it seems, and a mentor will be able to teach you how to make your own connections. That way, when the time does come for you and your design mentor to part ways, you’ll have everything you need to succeed on your own.
Working with a mentor can be a genuinely rewarding experience for anyone, but for new designers just starting out it can change your career in ways you might never have imagined.
With the wisdom, experience and moral support of someone you trust — and who knows how the design world works — landing your first job as a designer will be a breeze!
Ready to find your mentor? Start searching with MentorCruise today.