Maximizing Your Relationship with a Graphic Design Mentor

One person mentoring another

Being a successful creative professional involves always seeking out development opportunities and keeping your skills current. Finding the right graphic design mentor can take you to the next level. And it’s up to you to extract the maximum benefit from this relationship.

So you’ve found a mentor, a seasoned designer who’s been there and done that. More than your boss, this veteran can help you navigate the dead ends and expressways of your career.

But in order to take full advantage of the arrangement, there are several mentee responsibilities for you to keep in mind. You’re not riding in the passenger seat — plot the goals of the relationship and set the course for learning. Here are five tips:

Be enthusiastic. Your mentor is taking time out of his or her busy schedule to help you, so express your eagerness to learn. How? For starters, show up on time for every meeting, and come with questions, ideas and topics to share. Listen intently to his or her advice and suggestions. If you disagree or if something is unclear, speak up. Keep a positive attitude. It’s invigorating for mentors to work with professionals who are excited to advance their careers as opposed to those who drag their feet.

Set goals. Your responsibilities include how you apply what you learn to your job. At your first meeting, share your career goals and discuss what steps you need to take in order to achieve them. Your mentor may have other suggestions based on his or her professional experience, so listen with an open mind. Discuss the parameters of your relationship: Will it be flexible, or does your mentor have an end date in mind? Then sit down and write up an agreement that you both can reference periodically.

Communicate regularly. Now that you’ve set some goals, get check-in dates on the calendar. The mentorship won’t bear fruit unless you connect and communicate on a regular basis. Between meetings, important issues may crop up, such as how to handle a sensitive colleague or what do to if you have a creative block. Ask your mentor if he or she is open to chat over coffee or by phone.

Go all in. Prepare to be challenged in your role as a mentee. Think of it as a physical-fitness test, except that it’s for your career: You won’t excel unless you warm up and stretch beforehand. Be willing to take risks. If your mentor suggests that you give a presentation at a staff meeting, embrace the challenge even though your default response might be: “I’d rather be at home behind a computer.” If he or she invites you to a networking event, attend.

Be professional. Your mentee responsibilities aren’t so different from your responsibilities as an employee: be punctual, prepared and responsive to job requests. Treat your mentor with respect and courtesy. Listen attentively to feedback. If you disagree, do so with manners. Be appreciative of your mentor’s advice and time.

It’s a gift to have a good mentor and to be in the role of a mentee. To really maximize the benefit of this professional relationship, you have to uphold your end of the bargain. Your mentee responsibilities center on being open to different ideas and flourishing as a creative professional.

This article was originally published on HOW.

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Tags: Mentoring