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The Truth About being a Mentor/Mentee in the Design Industry

By January 1, 2019August 26th, 2022Views

In our line of work there can never be “too much” knowledge. The design world is constantly changing, providing our designers with immense opportunity to perfect their craft. A hands-on mentorship program with full-time employed adults?  The experiences will vary considering each individual’s career, personal life and time management skills. Our designers, Brianna and Karla, both took separate parts in AIGA’s 2017 mentorship program. Brianna, as a mentee and Karla, as a mentor. They speak about their two very different but realistic experiences below:


“As a mentee, my experience surpassed my expectations. I’m grateful that my mentor consistently showed me support and offered great portfolio and career advice. Through her, I was introduced to a community of supportive designers in a slack group she created that offers constructive criticisms. Aside from advice and support, it’s nice to have someone to talk “shop” with and to learn about a more experienced person’s career path. We would meet up, grab a drink and talk about what projects we’re currently involved in and any art/design related events or museums that would be nice to explore. A highlight for me was attending the Debbie Millman talk at Drexel University. My mentor suggested it and I was so glad we went. I am now an avid listener to design matters. I believe that learning from others in my field will help me grow and stay inspired, I’m so thankful to AIGA for making a program like this a possibility. “


“We’re gonna be the best at this!”

Sometimes things don’t go as planned.

That’s the nature of our line of work; you need to be able to bob and weave in step with your clients and vendors. Things come up, schedules don’t align. It happens and you roll with it. Such was the case with my mentorship experience. We met and had grandiose plans to meet every other week at a new place in the city neither of had been to before, take photos, and create some kind of photo essay documenting our experience. “We’re gonna be the best at this,” we jokingly/not jokingly said to each other. We were going to write down 10 places we wanted to check out on slips of paper, stick them in a jar and we’d pull out a slip of paper and go to that place. For me, as the first time being a mentor, I figured it would be a great way for us to get to know each other; allow the conversation and mentorship happen naturally and be inspired.

We made that jar. Photo 1: Take a picture of that jar. Done. Off to a great start; we’re killing it!

Photos 2-10: Never happened. The winter, our schedules, and sickness all just worked against us. We tried to get back on track to our original plan, but our meet-ups swiftly became emails to each other to check in and see if we were going to other pre-planned events. Like I said, things change and you roll with it. Though I still felt a tinge of “I’m not doing this right”. But you know, it worked. Those smaller check-ins were probably more what my mentee was looking to get out of this experience. We met one last time just before the program ended. In person, very casual, at a coffee shop and probably had the best and most genuine conversation.

Even though the program is over and even though it didn’t go the way I had planned, I hope my mentee feels comfortable to see me as a resource and reach out in the future. I would love to be a part of this group again. Next time I think I’ll take it easy.

We made a jar and I believe my mentee still has it. “