Getting Started as a Mentee
Starting a mentorship relationship might seem intimidating, but it’s much easier than you think. While these are professional relationships, they don’t have to be so formalized and structured that it prevents you from participating. We actually encourage a more informal approach, which has worked well in our mentorship program.
As a mentee, much of the responsibility falls on you to initiate the relationship. Following these four steps can help you get started in the right direction.
Step 1. Identify your goals
Think about your goals and what you hope to accomplish through mentorship. Goals don’t always have to be aspirational such as, “transition to a UX career.” They can be smaller and focused. In the past, mentees sought mentorship from us to review portfolios. We’ve also had people, who are a “UX team of one,” meet with us just to share ideas with another UX designer.
Step 2. Find a mentor
Based on your goals, think about what type of mentorship you’re seeking. This can help guide you on where to find a mentor. For example, if you’re looking for a mutual mentorship, you might look for a mentor in another department at your work. If you’re looking for peer or direct mentorship, you might turn to your local UXPA chapter or a UX-related meetup. Professors and students at your local university can be another option, as well as your professional network. You can seek mentorship from a renowned UX author or pioneer, but we recommend looking for someone in your local community. Mentorship on a local level helps build a stronger community and those mentors will likely be more accessible than someone who’s further away.
Step 3. Set Expectations
Once you find a mentor, you both want to set expectations on how the relationship will work. Figure out how you will meet (e.g., lunch, video chat, email, etc.) and how often you’ll meet (e.g., once a month, etc.). Also determine the length of the initial engagement (e.g., three months). Most importantly, your mentor should understand your goals and be the ideal person who can help you accomplish them.
A Mentorship Relationship Agreement
At the Triangle UXPA, we use a mentorship relationship agreement, which is a simple form that covers all the basic expectations. This allows both parties to be on the same page, which helps ensure the relationship starts off on the right foot. You can download a sample agreement here.
Step 4. Be Accountable
Throughout the mentorship, be respectful of the effort your mentor is putting forth by being accountable. Be open to recommendations and ideas. Additionally, keep an open line of communication—for anything small (e.g., “I’m running late.”) to bigger concerns (e.g., you’re not sure the relationship is working out). Be professional—even though we encourage a more informal approach, this is still a professional relationship. Always put your best foot forward. Most importantly, don’t use the mentorship for short-sighted gains! It’s not an opportunity for a job at that person’s company or access to their LinkedIn network. Mentors can sense that and sometimes it can hurt.