Hello there! I’m currently 38,000 feet in the air and flying over South China Sea. According to the little screen in front of me, Hoh Chi Minh city is on my left, while Manila sits to my right. I’m on my way to Paris and I have a 9 hour stop over in Hong Kong — enough time to to take in a bit of Hong Kong before I spend a week in beautiful Paris. It’s my first huge overseas trip and I’m a preeeeetty excited but enough about that!
In the last couple of weeks Tim has referred to me as his mentor a few times. I’m pretty sure he’s half joking as it sounds far too formal for our joke-filled life-long friendship but it’s an interesting thing to think about. Personally, I think it’s a little absurd. I’m not nearly enough ready to mentor anyone.
Well, so I thought.
Last week, Tim was struggling to pick things up after a week of no responses to job applications and simple requests for ‘work experience’. A natural pessimist, Tim needed some encouragement and a few choice words from a good friend to kick his butt into gear. As a result, we spent a bit of time in the last few moments of Sunday evening devising a way forward. I pointed him in the direction of some excellent resources, offered advice on how he should use his time day-to-day while he has no formal employment and attempted to inject some positivity into a rather dark outlook. I think it worked because during the week I’m sure Tim made some excellent progress (I guess we’ll see when Tim posts his blog. Ha!).
Throughout the week I touched base with Tim so that he could raise any issues he had without him feeling like he was ‘bothering me’, I helped guide him through quoting for his first official freelance job and I ended the week by providing some feedback to Tim about a personal project he is working on.
If that’s not mentoring, what is?
I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m ‘qualified’ enough to provide anyone professional advice but the fact of the matter is, I actually do have something worth offering to those just starting out. And so do you.
I’ve been doing this ‘professionally’ for around five years now and have spent over 10 years messing around in the field of design (even thought I didn’t know it at the time). That’s 15 years worth of design related knowledge that I have that I didn’t have when I first started. I don’t know about you but I’m sure it would have been a big help if, at the beginning of my career, I had someone to guide my way instead of having to stumble through the dark the whole time.
The design community always talks about ‘giving back’ to the community but the problem is that it seems like we’re just giving back to one another — other designers of the same experience and know-how. But where is the support for those designers just starting out? What can I, or you, offer them to ensure that the design industry continues to thrive? I know that every designer, myself included, is guilty at snickering at a less than impressive design job. But what would happen if, instead of snickering, we offered helpful feedback? What if we shared the little “Aha!” moments we’ve had throughout our career? I know there are some things that we all need to learn the ‘hard’ way, but surely there are things we could offer to make things a little easier.
I’ll admit that up until last week I was pretty slack in helping Tim find his way and that feels pretty shitty. From now on I’ll be offering up as much advice and know-how that I can without totally overwhelming him. The bottom line is, I do have knowledge that is useful and so do you. Being a mentor might seem absurd, but it doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
So, Tim, I guess that makes me your mentor, right? ;)
You will feel like your knowledge isn't useful because you already know it. What you forget is that there are a million and one other people out there who don't know what you know so share your knowledge. Invest your time and know-how into those who are just starting out. You have a lot more to offer than you think. I'm sorry that reads like a horoscope.