For aspiring UX designers, junior designers and entry-level designers who are kicking off their UX career, having a good mentor is one of the great methods of career development — in terms of getting proper advice from experienced designers.
Myself, as a UX designer who started a UX career at the beginning of last year (and now getting 2 years next month, wow!), I have also had concerns about my career path and learning curves in work. The initial solutions I had taken were to take additional coursework and to read books and articles.
Here, I would like to make it clear that I am not saying my initial solutions did not work at all. However, after some trials and errors, I concluded that I would better to get career advice regularly — to set up better plans for my career path, what types of skillsets to develop, and problems that I faced/am facing/will face at work.
Finding a mentor was not really easy. I firstly needed to find someone who is willing to spend his/her time and energy on the mentorship. Also, I wanted to make sure that I can continuously get advice and follow up with action items and results, so that I am able to make changes to the career path/plans if needed.
Hence, after doing some research, I chose a mentorship platform called MentorCruise, which provides regular mentorship upon mentees’ needs by paying for it per month. As a matter of respect for the time and energy that the mentor will spend for me, I decided to ‘hire’ a mentor by paying her (and also for the better motivation both for the mentor and myself!).
(By the way, I am recommending MentorCruise for someone who is seeking mentorship in other careers, such as marketing, engineering, product, etc. You can search the list of mentors and contact one of them who matches your needs.)
It has been around 2 weeks since I have started the mentorship and had weekly mentor calls. I shared the items that I am specifically interested in and any issues that I faced at work — reviewing what happened each week, or recalling my trials and errors in the past. (Here, you should be really careful when sharing your situations considering and taking care of the IP rights and confidentiality of the employers that you are currently hired by!)
I heard the learning curves from my mentor that she also went through when she was a junior designer, and got advised in which way she could overcome the issues based on her experiences. Firstly, I could be relieved by knowing some of the issues were one of the typical situations that most of the entry-level/junior designers undergo, as opposed to my personal problems.
Secondly, I could learn solutions and ways to develop my skillsets — which I have never thought of or taught in methodologies that I have studied before. I could also be more confident by having specific action items that will be helpful for doing better UX work, including the collaboration at work, side hustles, improving my understanding of business, etc.
So far, I am quite satisfied with the mentorship and willing to continue it for a while. Although it will take some time to improve my ability as a UX designer by the action items I have/will have, I feel that I am doing better work compared to myself in the last year, or even some months before.
Again, having a mentor is a good way to improve abilities and skillsets (not even limited to UX design, but in every field). However, there is one thing that you should be careful of before looking for a mentor (and I also wish that I would have known it earlier if I could):
To make sure what you would like to know and gather through the mentorship
Goals for the mentorship and questions to your mentor should be always as specific as possible, rather than just asking “Do you have any advice?”. Only vague answers and advice can come up with for the vague questions. Mentors are the people who can advise you after listening to your situations and what do you want to improve further. They should understand each mentee’s context first prior to giving any advice.
You can write down the things that you need advice from your mentor, and find out whether some of those can be solved by doing research by yourself, at first. The mentorship can be more productive if you ask advice from your mentor about the things that you cannot easily find solutions for by yourself, but needs perspectives of a person who has more experiences.
Also, you should keep in mind that it need some time when someone is growing up and improving his/her abilities. It is also very different for each individual. Hence, please do not be disappointed even if you do not feel like seeing the results of your mentor’s advice (in a positive way) as quickly as possible.
Lastly, thanks to everyone who read this article.