After art school, I was fortunate to land an internship at a pretty prestigious ad agency as a Junior Art Director. Only my major was in animation, not design. I had little idea how to do the simplest tasks in my job. I could sketch and do storyboards. I barely knew Photoshop, didn’t know what a page layout was, or how to design a simple logo. I was miserable, depressed, and hated graphic design. I felt I didn’t have anyone to turn to.
After a couple of months, I was sure I was going to be let go. However, things turned around for me when an Associate Creative Director named Jerod was hired. He saw me struggling at my job and decided to take me under his wing. One day, after being yelled at by my production manager for being late with some ads, Jerod stayed late after hours one night, and he helped me get them done by sitting next to me and showing me the ins and outs of Photoshop.
After that, I followed him around like a puppy dog, asking him how he kerned that headline, how he added grunge to that photo. I aimed to absorb as much information from him as I could, and I learned quickly. Eventually, the lights turned on, and I discovered that not only was this a fun job, but also that I was good at it. Jerod just gave me that spark of confidence I needed.
Here’s what a professional mentor can provide for you:
Experience – There’s always someone who does it better, faster, longer. Your mentor might have many tricks up her sleeve when it comes to being efficient at their job. Buy that person a lunch or a coffee every once in awhile to discuss!
Career insight – Where are you going in your career? Is that office a dead-end with no professional mobility? Your mentor will have wisdom when it comes to climbing the ladder there.
Network – Your mentor has been around the block. They’ve shaken hands with, introduced themselves to, mingled with other potential job opportunities. Get in good with your mentor, and watch the doors open.
Even if you’re in the middle of your career as a polished professional, there is always, always someone who can teach you a few new tricks. If you’re at the twilight of your career and about to retire, please find that young up-and-comer to show them the ropes!
And Jerod, if you’re reading this, I can’t thank you enough.