When you’re trying to land your first job or looking to make a big leap, it’s helpful to talk to someone who can provide guidance and answer your questions. That sort of relationship can accelerate your efforts, but only if you proceed thoughtfully.
Whether you’re looking for a formal mentoring relationship or just hoping for a quick call or coffee with someone already in the industry, treat the process as you would any major project. Take the time to prepare, and set a specific goal for what you’d like to learn and achieve.
The most effective people come prepared with answers to common questions along with the questions they wish to ask. Here is how I approach it when mentoring someone or when looking for a mentor myself.
A quick aside: A lot of us love the opportunity to help others grow, and will jump at the chance if we have the time and energy. So don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you think might be able to help you.
What are you looking to gain from our conversation?
Are you looking to build a personal network, or are there specific questions you hope I can answer? Both are perfectly valid, and it isn’t necessarily binary, but it’s good to be clear about what you’re after early on. For example, I’m not generally interested in networking (meeting people just to connect; I can find this draining). I am interested in meeting people I can learn from and whom I may be able to benefit in turn.
These goals are both good, but the purpose and results are very different. In my experience, the best long term network is built on early conversations that are genuine and candid. (No different from any other valuable relationships in our lives.)
Looking to learn?
Here are some questions people have asked me that prompted great conversations:
- Do I need to specialize as a designer or should I be a…