Many of us are fortunate enough to have had mentors in our lives who were also friends or relations, who have helped us or we have helped along the way. These are relationships to protect and be grateful for as we discussed last week.
But there are ways to have a mentoring relationship with people we don’t know, at least at first—a formal kind of arrangement in which the mentor is compensated and there is more structure to the arrangement.
Do you need a formal, paid mentor?
Individual needs vary but here are some examples
you identify a need not being met by current situation/have tried it on your own.
You feel stuck or stagnated
Need support and feedback,
working in an isolated situation
Want someone to hold you to your goals
You’re willing to commit to the schedule, structure, the follow-through
You can be pro-active, not passive in what you want from the arrangement, give your mentor something to go on
You’re willing to accept constructive criticism, follow assignments/suggestions, commit to at least trying things
You should respect whatever boundaries are agreed upon, no special treatment
Mentors are not therapists/life coaches—keep focus on your work or relevant life issues
Mentors are most effective once you already have some skills, are fairly developed already to help you to the next level of excellence. At a more mature level you know the kind of mentor that suits you best.
How do you find a mentor?
Word of mouth
Google (of course!)
Website—Mentorly—matches mentees and mentors, different price categories, the site vets the mentors and prices according to their experience, recommendations etc. Online only.
Someone you admire—make inquiry
A local mentor may be good for various reasons, can be less formal, more accessible, able to meet in person
What to have I mind?
Goals and intentions—specific or broad—what do you want to focus on (the mentor can help with this too)
What you can afford or what it is worth to you
or could you barter help of some kind
How often you would like to meet or talk
What if it’s not working?
Give it the agreed upon amount of time/number of sessions to decide; a specific end point may be helpful; helps with focus, puts people at ease too to know there's an end point
Voice specific complaints or issues/aim for open communication without simply complaining or whining/
challenges are part of the deal
Would YOU like to be a formal mentor?
Have the right mindset, you have something to offer
You have broad expertise/knowledge as well as specific to your field
You have some experience in teaching or being mentored yourself
You want to work with people to achieve their own goals, your role is supportive not authoritative, not controlling
Able to keep on topic
Able to commit to a schedule
Able to set expectations
Good communications skills, good listener, direct, positive, friendly
Organized, able to meet commitments
Good role model
You have a base from which to draw mentees—mailing list, website, etc.
Have testimonials about your teaching and communication skills
Understand your own limits in terms of time and comittments
Benefits to you:
Grow your workshop or other connected business, enhanced reputation
Set your own hours
Articulating important art ideas helps your own work
What if it’s not working:
You’re only obligated to do as much as original agreement but follow through on that
Honesty, constructive feedback if you need to end relationship
As mentor, decide—
How much time to commit
Structure—can be set times for meetings, by skype or email…or set as needed. Can go on for a specific amount of time, say 6 months with monthly interactions. Can be very informal—call me when you need me.
What is good compensation Starting out, $50/hr or so For a lot of skill/experience-- $100/hour or more. You may have them pay ahead for a set number of sessions or pay each time. Do you prefer live meetings, skype, email? With email feedback, will you charge by hour or set rate? What is your focus as a mentor? Open to any issues, or prefer to focus on art business, studio practice, creative process—general or specialized
There was a time when being mentored/apprenticeship was the only way to learn from another artist. Now it’s one of many choices, but remains one of the very best for personal feedback and support. For those who want to mentor it’s a fairly easy way to run your own small business. Just be very honest about your qualifications and ability to do the work.