Some mentees have quick casual coffees with their mentors twice a month. Some others “kidnap” their mentors to turn their life upside down in a three months life span. Here is my mentee testimonial.
- The side-eye: learning about the program, and facing imposter syndrome
- “What should I write down?”
- It’s a match(?)
- My mentorship roadmap
- A bunch of pros, and final considerations
Have I heard about Hexagon UX before? Absolutely not.
Have I made myself small when I read that it was a huge association with chapters all over the world (like Boston, LA, and London)? Sure.
“Why me? Do I earn a spot in this program? What if people have dreamt about it for ages, and I just randomly steal their spot?” — featuring, my mind
Have you ever applied for a job? Well, sending a mentoring application has nothing to do with it.
It’s an exercise we are not used to doing. We usually sweep our insecurities under the carpet, where no one can see them.
Other than your elevator pitch and a small description of what you do in your day-to-day work, you should also pinpoint what is not going well in your daily life as a professional, and ask for help in some specific areas.
General motivations like “I want to improve” are way too vague: how can others help you grow, if you don’t have a clear idea of what it’s to be improved?
“Did you ever wonder why I told you to do your own evaluation?
I wanted you to think about yourself, and I mean think about it.
I want you to put it down on paper. And not so I could see it, and not so anybody else could see it, but so that you could see it.
You only have to answer the one guy newbie, and that’s you.” — Scrubs, episode 01×08, J.D.’s Evaluation
Here is what my application looked like:
- “Tell us about your daily life as a designer. What are your current activities and challenges?” > “My day-to-day work is divided into 3 main categories: creating and updating the microcopy for the Italian product, monitoring the competition and updating the design system and glossary, and handling external requests to the design team. My biggest challenge right now is to understand how to be everywhere, without being anywhere. Besides, I have a bad tendency to accept projects that don’t fit in my scope in order to give more visibility to the UX Writers’ vision of content.”
- “Who would be your ideal mentor? Is there a mentor who inspires you?” > “My ideal mentor would be someone who is committed, firm in their convictions yet open to discussion, and who is aware that their work can really improve people’s lives. This person would be willing to help me grow my skills by sharing interesting resources and challenging me on operational activities (e.g. UXW critique sessions).”
Sometimes, you just have to force yourself to be impulsive to overcome stress. Give yourself 5 minutes to start filling it out. Don’t allow second thoughts to stop you.
Worst case scenario, your application is refused. Best case scenario… nop, don’t think about being accepted yet. Don’t sabotage yourself. Others will. Carelessness is key. So are baby steps.
Most mentorship programs have a matching event: during this event, you can discuss with many potential mentors and find the one that can suit your needs the best.
I was so sweaty and panicked during the matching event. I had 15 minutes to spend with 5–6 mentors each, and I missed my chance. I was anxious and felt out of place, so I spent too much time doing some small talk to feel more at ease.
Don’t do as I did. Do your homework beforehand:
- Check the bios and main projects of all mentors
- Prepare an elevator pitch
- Have your goals ready in mind, to make sure that the mentor can help you with them
There we go. I got accepted. I have a mentor — not just A mentor, but the mentor I dreamt of having (hello Gladys Diandoki 👋🏻).
The organizers created our match because she was the only mentor specialized in Content design, and during the application process, I had specified that I was not ready to develop my skills in Product Design or User Research without acquiring first a solid basis in Content Design.
“Well… What now? What will we talk about for 4 months, 1 hour a week? Should I prepare something? Will she be proud of me? Will she think I’m a total zero?” — (featuring, my mind)
I didn’t want to waste Gladys’ time. And I had a profound sense of reverential awe. When talking to other mentees, I realized it’s a common sensation. Never forget: mentors decided to give their time to the community, and no one forced them to be there.
I tried to channel my performance anxiety in a Notion board. For our first meeting, I put down a huge checklist with all the things I wanted to do: portfolio, CV, Medium articles, improving my product design skills, and so on.
The Notion page was mostly for me, not for my mentor. I needed to have it to feel in control, and to check how things were going.
With the wisdom of hindsight, I think I was barricading myself behind a huge roadmap to make her understand I valued her time and that I didn’t want to waste it. PS: Gladys still makes fun of my huge list!
Here is what my Notion page looked like:
- the first section was a database divided into 5 objectives: CV, portfolio, communication, role understanding, and my first gig in a university as a lecturer. For each of them, I created cards with progress status and deadlines to motivate myself.
- the second section was more of a logbook for every session. Every session had a theme, a “before the session” to be completed between sessions, an “after the session” to fill with the next steps or ideas aroused during the session itself, and most of the sessions had a link included (for example, work in progress portfolio, event, resources).
In my case, the answer was simple: yes. My manager at the time (hello Mike Winnington 👋🏻) told me he considered mentorship as a work-related activity — so, I could do it during working hours.
If you’re in a mentorship program, I strongly advise you to talk about it with your manager, and I suggest putting your mentoring sessions on your work agenda if possible. Even if you’re doing the mentorship for yourself, your company will benefit from it. Sure, it’s better not to skip work meetings because of your mentorship, but mentorship hours are working hours.
Why do a mentorship?
On my side, I decided to apply to a mentorship program because I learned all about design as a self-taught, and I needed validation. I also wanted to upgrade my skills (notably, in product design) and to have my work checked by someone external to my company.
Why have a mentor, and not just a manager?
It was cool to discuss with a person who can teach you a lot, without having a hierarchical link to them. A mentor can be much more direct, and can also have another vision of your job. After all, why limit yourself to only one opinion?
You can have a higher degree of confidentiality with your mentor: especially when job hunting, you can discuss CV, portfolio, interviews, and cases.
Especially in the design field, most professionals know each other. What if you created a trio?
At the end of the day, mentorship programs have the impact you want them to have.
Some mentees have quick casual coffees with their mentors twice a month. Some others “kidnap” their mentors and turn their life upside down in a three months life span.
On my side, my mentorship experience changed it all: I really understood my role and responsibilities, switched jobs, got a promotion, started speaking at events, and gained a lot of confidence. It took countless hours, but I know I did it for myself, first.
Have you already checked if there are any calls for applications out there? ✨
Thanks to Mike, for having pushed me to do the mentorship.
Thanks to Gladys, for being a hurricane. In a good way.
Thanks to Marie, Luz, and Eleonore, for having organized the French chapter of Hexagon UX. I owe you a lot.