Why Having a Mentor is Important for Freelancers
There is only so much you can learn from a textbook. And with technology changing at break neck speeds—there is only so much you can learn in school before, inevetibally, technology changes again.
Internships are a great way for students to get hands on experience working in their chosen field—but there aren’t many internships available for freelancers who are looking to learn without receiving college credit. This is where mentorships come in.
A mentor can help a newbie learn acquired skills, which sometimes take years to develop. The mentor/mentee relationship provides the newbie exposure to skills beyond the textbook teaching to help that person fast track his or her career with advanced skills that will separate them from the piles of résumé for a job. —PRDaily
Whether you are a freelance designer, photographer, writer, or marketing professional, having a mentor can be beneficial—especially when you are first starting out.
When I was in graduate school, I landed a coveted part-time job at Inc.com as an online reporter. I learned more at that internship than I did sitting in a classroom. Why? I had an editor who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes. He was the one who really helped me learn to craft a great lede. He helped me learn how to identify the right people to interview for a story. I made a lot of mistakes, but he took the time to talk them over with me, instead of yelling at me.
Thanks to my 9 months with Inc.com, I built up a portfolio of clips as well as my confidence. It was the highlight of my graduate career.
Had I not had an editor who was so willing to help shape my skills, my experience could have been much different. And trust me, not everyone was so willing to take us part-timers under their wing. That’s why it’s imperative that you have a solid relationship with your mentor.
What a mentee can learn from a mentor is only as good as the quality of the relationship. The recipe to be a good mentor is to be available, invested, open and honest, and to provide access to foster the network of your mentee. —PRDaily
Photography is another area in which having a mentor can shape the future of your career. I know many wedding and fashion photographers who bring along a second shooter for their jobs. The second shooter takes direction from the main photographer, and can watch how they interact with clients, other vendors on site, and their models. They can also see how and why they use the equipment they choose to use, and how they position whatever it is they are photographing.
Back in the studio, a great photography mentor will show their mentee how they edit their photos and explain to them what they are doing and why. I have known second shooters who, eventually, broke out on their own and started their own photography company—and that’s the point. To learn from an industry leader and then create their own brand.
Mentoring has become such a popular idea that even Macy’s has opened up a mentoring program focused on minority vendors. Macy’s realized that the majority of their shoppers in urban markets (New York City and Los Angeles for example) are minorities. So they wanted to help smaller, minority vendors, sell their merchandise to their audience.
Macy’s set up a training program where minority vendors learn the basics of big-time retail—and the most promising students get the opportunity to sell through Macy’s.
In November the retailer awarded its first orders to four graduates: two makers of cosmetics targeted at African-American and multi-ethnic women; a designer who makes dresses primarily for Hispanic women; and a designer of plus-size swimsuits. —businesweek.com
Of course, this is on a larger scale, and most Freelanceswitch readers aren’t going to be selling anything at Macy’s—but it’s a paradigm shift that is worth mentioning.
You must have someone in your industry that you look up to—why not see if you can set up a mentoring program of you own? It can be as intensive or as laid back as you see fit. Make sure you and your mentor have a clear understanding of what is required before agreeing to the partnership.
Are you a leader in your industry? Why not consider taking on a mentoree? It is a great way to share your knowledge with a hungry audience—and you might learn something, too.