The web design community is supportive and giving. Being a part of it is a perk of the job. Many members are willing to share their knowledge and help others.
Mentoring is part of the tradition. But we don’t necessarily seek out these opportunities. They tend to happen organically.
As such, it can be a challenge to advise another designer. You want to make a positive impact. Yet it’s also important to respect boundaries. Nobody wants to become a nuisance or overbearing.
The goal is to help others find their way. Provide sound advice and give them the benefit of your experience. It’s a foundation they can build upon.
That’s what being a good design mentor is all about. Here are some tips for helping others live their dream.
Show Kindness and Empathy
If another web designer approaches you for advice, be gracious. It means that they consider you to be successful and a role model. This is quite an honor. One not to be taken for granted or dismissed.
You may not be able to answer every question. And having an in-depth conversation may clash with your schedule. But a polite response is in order.
It’s also important to demonstrate empathy. We are all in different places when it comes to experience and skills. Sometimes, we let our ego get the best of us. That can lead to unfairly judging someone else. We perceive their skills as less worthy.
However, we all start from the lowest rungs of the ladder. Therefore, approach others with a sense of humility. Remember that you were once in that same position.
Combine Honest Critiques with Encouragement
Has someone asked your opinion about a website they’ve built? Perhaps it was their portfolio or a client project. Giving feedback can be a bit like walking a tightrope.
The same can be said when looking at a snippet of code. Programming affords a lot of flexibility in terms of style. Each of us has a preferred technique. There may be times when things don’t match your standard.
Aim for both honesty and encouragement in these situations. It’s OK to point out a mistake or omission. But do so with sensitivity. Everyone reacts differently to this sort of feedback. The wrong choice of words can be harmful.
One way to accomplish this is to add personal experience to the critique. For instance, avoid bluntly telling someone their design doesn’t work in Safari. Explain the issue with an anecdote instead. You might point out that you had a similar issue. Then, encourage them to dive back into their code and make adjustments.
Be an Attentive Listener
Mentoring involves dispensing advice. But don’t forget to listen as well. This is crucial when discussing career-oriented goals.
If you’re a successful freelancer or agency owner, others will likely want to pick your brain. They’ll want to know how you accomplished your goals. They will ask about the challenges you’ve faced and your thoughts on the future.
But goals are very personal. Not everyone is aiming for the same thing. Therefore, don’t assume their path will be the same as yours.
How can you know for sure? By listening and asking questions. Find out what the other person wants to accomplish in their journey. It’s about having a productive dialogue.
Your experiences can serve as a guide. But they should be put in the context of what your counterpart’s goals are. They’ll have the opportunity to learn from your triumphs and mistakes. And they can apply those lessons to their career.
Give What You Can
For all its benefits, being a web designer is a highly stressful career. The day-to-day pressures are enough to wear any of us thin.
You’re a busy professional. You may struggle to find time to help others. But mentoring does not demand total attention.
These relationships don’t require mountains of free time. And you don’t have to know the answer to every question.
Most of us can’t make that sort of commitment. And your mentee isn’t likely to ask for one, either.
Instead, focus on what you can give. It could be an extra five minutes between tasks or an hour on the weekend. It all counts and will be appreciated.
The Rewards of Being a Design Mentor
Making a positive difference in someone’s life is rewarding. That is all the more reason to be a mentor. You can offer another designer the benefit of your experience.
Plus, being a design mentor can also inspire you. It can refresh your creativity, improve your communication skills, and even unlock your potential.
So, don’t hesitate to connect with other web designers. After all, it’s a big part of what makes this community great.