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Five top tips for finding a mentor

Hands hold a notebook and flip through the pages
Hands hold a notebook and flip through the pages
Alys Tomlinson,
| Photograph: Alys Tomlinson
Written by
Careers and Employability
Published date
12 January 2022

Our team suggested these five tips to help you find a mentor to help with your career goals.

1. Understand what a mentor does

Mentors offer their knowledge and experience within a particular area to a mentee over a period of time ranging from a few months to a few years. They can support you to learn a profession and give you feedback on your journey. They are a guide for you whilst you do the work to get to where you want to be. A mentor/mentee relationship can support you in building your network, boost your confidence, and help you define a clearer path to achieving goals.

2. Have at least one goal you want to work towards

To get the most growth out of this journey, set the first building block. Ask yourself what it is you are hoping to gain from the experience. Mentors are not mind readers, it's important throughout your time with your mentor that you tell them what your needs are to understand if they are the right fit for you. Remember it’s a two-way relationship – if you meet with them and it doesn’t feel right, that’s okay. If after your initial video chat, coffee or phone call you’re not sure you’ll get the help you need from this person, that’s okay. It’s completely valid to send a quick follow up email thanking them for their time but explaining that you’re not sure it’s a good match. They’ll appreciate you not wasting their time as much as you’ll appreciate not wasting your own time. And if they aren't the right person, they might know someone else that they can point you towards.

3. Don’t aim for someone super famous

Let’s face it, Phoebe Waller-Bridge probably isn’t going to reply to an Instagram DM – it’s not totally off the cards, but you’re likely to have more success with someone who is experienced in their career but might have free time to dedicate to mentoring. Start your search locally. Make the most of the resources you already may have available to you, see what mentoring programmes exist in your college or place of work and find out if and when you might be eligible to apply.  Expand your search outwards from here if you identify that what you need requires a different approach. Keep an eye out for our guide to all of the different mentoring programmes that currently exist within UAL colleges.

4. Make use of networking spaces to meet potential mentors

Networking can seem intimidating at first but remember it’s not all about the hard sell! You can have fun networking, and chats don’t have to be solely about work. You can use these opportunities to meet people more senior than you, and having a short introductory chat, exchanging details and following up could lead to a long-lasting mentorship. If you know someone you want as your mentor is going to be at a certain event, you can also research them beforehand. If they have a portfolio, website, or profile on LinkedIn/Instagram, a bit of online stalking can allow you to go into your initial contact with them well informed. We’re not suggesting going as far as finding out their dogs names or favourite colour, but knowing what they have done in their career can help you find talking points, and understand their experience. It’s also worth putting it out there that you are looking for a mentor, tell your friends, peers, tutors, followers - your network can be a powerful gateway to opportunities you never knew existed.

5. Remember you are just two people at different stages in a similar journey

It's often likely that your mentor was once at the stage you are currently at, they may have had their own mentor when they started out, they may have one now! Whilst the mentor/mentee relationship may eventually come to an end, often the friendship that gets built during that time can last a lifetime, so it's definitely something to consider nurturing. Researching your mentor can help you see the journey they took to get to where they are now.

If you want to find out more about mentoring at University of the Arts, visit our mentoring page.

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