I’ve been mentoring “unofficially” for about 2 years now. It is something that I kind of just fell into; I tend to be the person that others go to for advice, and I’m always more than happy to help. It’s been a few months now since I started to officially mentor students for cash and I thought this would change things. These students that I mentor are looking for a career change to get into User Experience related work, or they are looking to improve their existing knowledge.
I thought that paid mentoring would be different from my previous experiences and I had some concerns;
- I would be seen as the “professional” and they are the student.
- I’ll be going through the curriculum almost like a teacher and they will just listen.
- I wouldn’t be able to get that same connection I get with people I meet in my network or workplace.
We wouldn’t have that connection of shared interests.
Even with these concerns, I thought it would be worth giving it a go and I’m glad to say so far it’s been extremely easy to find that common interest, respect for each other as peers, and form an understanding of the learning needs. I’m absolutely loving it. I have never learnt so much in a short amount of time.
Personally, when I was starting out in my career I didn’t see the need for a mentor. OK… so I was super naive but as I’ve grown professionally and personally I have seen the importance of it more than ever.
I often hear comments such as, “how and why do you make time for mentoring, especially if you aren’t getting paid?” The answer is so easy. I get paid with knowledge and it’s extremely rewarding. Seeing someone grow, appreciating and respecting that person, and most importantly, enjoying spending time with them is so much more important to me than making money.
I also don’t see mentoring as a one-way benefit. I’ve always said that I learn so much from my mentees but struggled to articulate exactly what that was until recently. I stumbled upon a post from Simon Sinek on “What Mentorship really means” and what he says is exactly how I’ve always felt mentoring should be. In this short video, Simon explains how mentor relationships are one of mentor-mentor rather than mentor-mentee. This really rings true for me and my experience too. I remember conversations where my “mutual mentor” would give me so much praise and be extremely grateful that I have given them my time but I would always reply, “I’m learning too”. I’m learning about myself, I’m learning about leadership, I’m learning about working with different people and I’m learning about which areas of UX I need to personally improve on etc. With every mentoring call or face-to-face I have, I learn so much.
With some of my mutual mentors, we meet when we need to. This can be monthly or more than a couple of times a week. For others, we meet like clockwork. Meetings could be done in a traditional office type setting, somewhere informal with a bottle of wine, or we could even be chatting every day on Slack. Wherever we meet, regardless of how long and how often, there is still a lot of valuable learning.
The opportunity to mentor each other is something that we shouldn’t overlook. Having the ability to talk to someone, for them to really listen, to be able to reciprocate by being that person for them, and appreciating and enjoying watching each other grow is very rewarding.
Feature photo from absurd.design