FINDING A MENTOR AS A YOUNG CREATIVE PROFESSIONAL by gloria lin
Breaking into any dream career requires being proactive with your resources, and one of the best resources available is the knowledge of others in the form of getting a mentor. Tap into this wealth, and you’ll be amazed by how much you’ll learn and grow.
Who to look for:
Your needs as a mentee will vary, but generally I’ve looked for the following:
1. Someone who does what I want to do—this should be someone I respect, whether it’s their character, experience, or the way they present themselves. Some are my classmates doing what I want to be doing in a year’s time; these are short-term mentors who inspire me to achieve. Some are alumni, or supervisors from jobs and internships. Generally, I look for mentors who know something I don’t, are familiar with the tools of the (advertising) trade, and has the track record to back it up!
2. Someone who truly cares about your progress—someone who goes out of their way to help you and is genuine with feedback is someone you want to keep getting feedback on. One of my career mentors has only met me twice, yet every time she’s nearby she is always willing to drop everything to call me on her way to work. It’s the little things that show she truly believes in me despite barely spending any physical time with me. This ties into my next one…
Where to look:
Get your feet wet and out into the world! Many great mentors can be found in your supervisors at work, professors, and in your involvement. Join clubs and professional organizations (Adwave, for one) to open your doors to some potential mentors. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself: being a mentee requires a lot of initiative on your part, and this is the first step. Look outside the box, too: check your LinkedIn connections and ask your friends for recommendations to people they may know.
If all else fails, don’t be afraid to try something unorthodox and make Google your friend. As a high school senior, I was frustrated with being unable to find mentors to explore the creative careers I was interested in. So I looked online and found sites like studentmentor.org, a free online mentorship program that connects you with a professional based on your needs and interests. Through the program, I got paired with an advertising professional at Neo@Ogilvy in Bangkok, Thailand--this mentorship gave me a first look at a field I’m now fully committed to pursuing. This was also one of my first looks at what agency life is like--at a globally renowned agency, no less.
Point is, try every avenue possible to seek the help you need.
What you should expect:
You are responsible for knowing what you want. Be clear with what you expect, so your mentor knows best how to help you. Both mentor and mentee need to be responsive, communicative, and open for the relationship to work. You don’t want to take advice from someone you have trouble trusting, and don’t know much about—put in the extra effort to get to know your mentor, and you might find a friend.
A mentorship is like any other relationship: it requires commitment and open communication. Be open to criticism as that’s where growth comes from, and don’t be afraid to take initiative. Actively seek the help you want, and you’ll find mentorship to be incredibly rewarding.