If there’s one thing I think would impact the future for the better, it would be that all young or inexperienced people should have a mentor.
But there are too many young people out there without a good mentor. They aren’t being pushed to grow. They aren’t being encouraged to try new things or be independent. They are misguided, and that could lead to them never fulfilling their true potential.
Everyone needs someone who can look at their work, give feedback, and encourage them to improve. I know one of the biggest benefits that came from Uncollege was an hour-long conversation with a designer they had connections within San Francisco. We met for coffee one day and she gave me some crucial advice about what to focus on which eventually saved me heaps of time and effort.
Every young person should always be looking for people to learn from. We need to get over our fear of talking to people we don’t know. Most experienced people are willing to give back because years ago, they were in your shoes.
There are tons of brilliant people out there and most of them are really nice, trust me. Back in Uncollege, they had us cold email people all the time and I was surprised to see that a good amount of complete strangers were willing to answer questions I had about design.
Every email would say something along the lines of
I was checking out your projects on your website and thought they were extremely well done! I especially liked _____ because of your use of ________.
I’m just getting started with design and was wondering if I could ask you a few questions to learn more about your path and how you’ve become so great at what you do. Are you free on Thursday or Friday sometime after 1 to get some coffee with me? It would be my treat of course.
Flattery can take you a long way, and centering it around them is a great way to make them say yes. Most people love to talk about themselves. It’s also very important to be specific about times to grab coffee, so you aren’t pinging emails back and forth figuring out when to meet.
It takes 5 minutes to write an email to someone working in a role your interested in to ask if they can get coffee, your treat. You could even just ask them if they could look at some of your work via email, or send them a few questions to see if they have any advice. Sure there’s a chance they may not answer back, but that shouldn’t be the only deterrent to reaching out. If they don’t answer, just find someone else you think is smart and email them.
Rather it’s a life-long mentor like a parent or good friend, or a short-term mentor, mentorship is one of the best ways to learn and get better at something. A fear of rejection should never hold you back from reaching for your goals.