Ask DN: How to find a mentor?

9 years ago from , Product owner for Gravit Designer

I think anybody knows how important it is to have a mentor to grow as a designer. However it is very hard to find one, who actually has time for you, to work on your designs or give valuable feedback.

So for the last year or so I tried to find a mentor, wrote to countless designers on well-known communities and also stated that I'm willing to pay for their mentorship. However most didn't even reply. In the end I found one or two designers who were willing to help, but as it seems even they may not have time anymore in the future.

So what's your advice to find a mentor? Is there maybe even some here who would like to be one? What's your advice?


  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, 9 years ago

    I think anybody knows how important it is to have a mentor to grow as a designer.

    Having a mentor sounds great, but I always had the impression that a majority of (web) designers were self-taught, and never had mentors or teachers.

    It would be interesting to do a survey. I'd be willing to bet that the reason you're having a hard time finding a mentor is because our industry just doesn't work like that anymore.

    5 points
    • Bruce Vang, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

      Being self taught, I would have loved to have a mentor during my first couple of years.

      But you do have a point. Teaching yourself the discipline to read tutorial sites, books, and ect...is essential for designers to learn. Nobody is going to hold your hand once you get past the fundamentals.

      3 points
    • Joseph FelicianoJoseph Feliciano, 9 years ago

      I agree.

      I view mentors as a sort of digital thing now. Follow those who you admire and respect. Hopefully they post and write often enough for you to study the them.

      You may not necessarily get to directly ask questions but I find that most people gladly answer a simple question via social media when they have the time.

      0 points
  • Stephen GraceStephen Grace, 9 years ago

    I can't say that I have one direct mentor (other than perhaps leadership at work), but I do have a network of people I know I can rely on and go to for feedback or advice. What is helpful here is that no one person is carrying all my burdens & having to 'look' after me. I would imagine it's difficult to ask one person to invest that much into me. And how would a virtual stranger be able to promise me they'll be honest, accountable, reliable etc? My experience also has been that if (or when) that mentor leaves, it can be crippling because you have been leaning on one person so much.

    The process (unfortunately, I guess) has to be organic to have any real benefit. You both have to respect & trust each other enough to feel comfortable to be in a mentoring kind of role. It's hard to go 0 to 100 with that sort of thing. I would suggest investing your time in friendships that you want to get more out of, and try to drop any expectation that it must work out as this or that to be successful. If you cultivate a handful of deep friendships with designers, it's enough to be supported, challenged and encouraged. At least it is for me.

    Best of luck. Would be nice if there was a mentors job board eh!

    5 points
  • Catalin CimpanuCatalin Cimpanu, 9 years ago

    I am a self-taught designer but I also have a so called "mentor". I didn't ask him to be my mentor but he voluntarily helped me because I asked "the right questions" (so he told me).

    Why you can't seem to find (or keep) a mentor is because you may be asking the wrong questions or just asking the wrong people.

    Maybe the word "mentor" is not the perfect word to describe the relationship between someone that gives you good advice just from the kindness of his heart and with nothing to gain from his actions (maybe respect from the pupil's part).

    Maybe the perfect word is "friend". Try befriending them first, then asking them to "help you" with an advice to a problem instead of requiring strangers to enter a long term mentoring relationship which might give the impression of hard work that does not yield any usable results for their career.

    3 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

    I don't think you find a mentor. I think a mentor finds you

    By that I don't mean some mystical mist falls from the skies and out walks someone to guide you but you build a relationship with someone who ends up becoming a mentor overtime.

    Might be helpful to take inventory on the friends (or co-workers/ex-co-workers) that you frequently get advise from.

    A mentor isn't always someone who has 20+ years experience when you don't. Sometimes its just someone who's only a few months (or a year) ahead of you that can help you expand thinking to grow as a person/professional.

    1 point
  • Tommy BüngerTommy Bünger, 9 years ago

    I am in the same situation as you, and thinking about what kind of a mentor I want.

    Sascha Greif have a point; "I always had the impression that a majority of (web) designers were self-taught, and never had mentors or teachers.". But I also think it is important to think about what you want to gain from your mentor.

    Yes, it is important to learn new techniques and such via fx tutorials and/or books. However, I don't think that a mentor is to learn you fx new techniques. For me, a mentor shows and give you inputs on how to evolve as a designer, not though tutorials and how you create a new logo or web design. The mentor shows you some kind of a path, and pushes you down the path. But you have to walk it for yourself. When you have walked the path on your own, then show your mentor what you have learned, and get feedback from him/her.

    What I would recommend is to think about what you want to gain from a mentor. Look in your network, and see who you trust and have that 'something' that no one else have. I also think, that it shouldn't be one who is too close to you. I would never take a dear/good friend as a mentor. It may disrupt the relationship with feedback and comments, that might hurt you. When you're designing something, you're showing something of yourself. And when the critique comes, it might heart you extra if it comes from a close friend.

    Good luck finding a mentor, and do let us know how it turns out. It might inspire others... Including me.

    1 point
  • , 9 years ago

    Thanks for all of your advices people. First thing I will do is to immerse myself into a community, starting with this one here. Since finding a direct mentor is very hard, and truly so like you say, why not have many "mentors", who give you small little advices from time to time.

    0 points
  • Ben Grace, 9 years ago

    I'd suggest 1) finding a good art director you can work under. 2) Looking to see if there are meetups in the area.

    The trick is, most really good designers are going to be busy. If you approach them out of the blue, you will likely get the same responses you've been getting.

    Find a way to make the connections first, then work on finding a mentor. You need to let the potential mentor know that you will not be super demanding of their time and willing to listen. Handwritten letters work wonders. Play to their egos, but in a real way. I started a facebook group for local designers and I've made some connections that way.

    0 points
  • Du HoangDu Hoang, 9 years ago

    Ask for an internship with designers you want to mentor you. If you guys click, then that's a relationship that will continue long after your internship ends.

    0 points
  • Brian FryerBrian Fryer, 9 years ago

    James Altucher's article The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Reinventing Yourself has some great tips for finding mentors:

    D) Three types of mentors

    Direct. Someone who is in front of you who will show you how they did it. What is “it”? Wait. By the way, mentors aren’t like that old Japanese guy in “The Karate Kid.” Ultimately most mentors will hate you.

    Indirect. Books. Movies. You can outsource 90 percent of mentorship to books and other materials. 200-500 books equals one good mentor. People ask me, “What is a good book to read?” I never know the answer. There are 200-500 good books to read. I would throw in inspirational books. Whatever are your beliefs, underline them through reading every day.

    Everything is a mentor. If you are a zero, and have passion for reinvention, then everything you look at will be a metaphor for what you want to do. The tree you see, with roots you don’t, with underground water that feeds it, is a metaphor for computer programming if you connect the dots. And everything you look at, you will connect the dots.


    LL) How do I meet mentors and thought leaders?

    Once you have enough knowledge (after 100-200 books), write down 10 ideas for 20 different potential mentors.

    None of them will respond. Write down 10 more ideas for 20 new mentors. Repeat every week.

    Put together a newsletter for everyone who doesn’t respond. Keep repeating until someone responds. Blog about your learning efforts. Build community around you being an expert.

    0 points
  • Luchia BloomfieldLuchia Bloomfield, 9 years ago

    I have a mentor for business, but not for design. I think it's difficult to rely on one person to always be there for you and that's why online communities are so great.

    Forums are great for that - you get to know the people and they really do take the time to give you feedback when you ask for it, especially when you take the time to become involved in the community before asking for help.

    0 points