For the past 4 years, I have had the privilege of serving as co-coordinator of the AIGA/NY Mentoring program, a NYC-based program connected to the design community. Prior to this role, I was fortunate to mentor several students for six years, and before that I benefited from the support of two mentors in the early stages of my career. I’m passionate about mentoring and elated to share some of the things I’ve learned about effective mentorship.
Mentoring Can Happen in Unconventional Ways
It can occur organically when you meet someone who seeks out your help, and in return you feel akin to that individual. It’s important for the enthusiasm and interest to be mutual to ensure that both persons are invested in the relationship. You can also actively seek out the role of a mentor through various organizations and nonprofits where expectations and parameters are defined beforehand.
Try to understand and hear what someone else is experiencing. To mentor is to commit to supporting someone's journey and accompanying them along the way. Learning about the journeys of others creates empathy and exposes us relationships that we may not have experienced otherwise.
What Are The Intentions of Both Parties?
Be honest about what you hope to gain from this relationship. Someone may seek out your mentorship because of your work or accomplishments. Alternatively, one may seek to be a mentor only because of one’s accomplishments or to add to a list of accolades. Both of these can lead to challenges in a mentoring relationship. Being a mentor is about finding the right balance between helping and teaching, without solely focusing oneself.
As a mentor I constantly try my best to be an active listener – I take notes on the interest of my mentee and research and learn more about what that is. Additionally, I try to provide my mentee with problem solving tools when they introduce a situation they are trying to resolve. This creates a balance of providing insight while working with them to come up with solutions The intentions of both parties are equally important. Both parties should be genuinely interested in going beyond the wins and speaking about and sharing the journey it took to get there.
Learn to Give a Helpful Critique and How to Receive It
Mentoring is about partnering with someone as they experience their own life. Part of that process is learning to give and take helpful criticism (Link to fave article by Chappell Ellison). If a mentee is looking for feedback, it’s important to help not harm. Source articles, share knowledge and fact check. Create a safe space where your mentee can speak honestly and freely without worrying about the severe judgment that can be found in work and other spaces. I have found that a lot of positive impact can come from a mentor sharing their own stories of growth, which creates empathy and understanding.
Learn to Say Goodbye
As with all relationships, mentorships have the potential ebb, flow, and end. A mentoring relationship can last for a few months or several years. As a mentor, I have learned that change is a form of growth and once you have given your mentor the tools they need to move forward, it may be time to move on. Additionally, learning to say goodbye can give you the opportunity to connect with a new mentee.
Ready to Mentor
Mentorship is a partnership of growth, curiosity, and support. As my mentors taught me, a little bit of time can go a long way. Interested in mentoring? Reach out to your friends, peers, and your networks. Interested in what we do? Learn more about the AIGA NY Mentoring program here. It’s a wonderful way to learn and grow. I believe that to mentor is to give another individual your time, attention and care without judgment.
Sabrina Hall is an interactive art director at Scholastic Inc. in New York, NY. She also serves as the co-coordinator of the mentoring program at AIGA/NY. You can find her on Twitter @sabrinahallnyc or her website.
Art used in this issue: "Untitled" by Alexandra Exter