Getting the best out of design mentoring sessions

Daniel-san and Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid
“Never trust spiritual leader who cannot dance”

I’ve joined the universe of pro bono mentoring a while ago and it has been a transformative experience. Amongst all the new things I’m constantly being surprised with, there are also some known patterns.

Today I would like to share some of my observations with you in hope it will help you to get the best out of your next sessions.

Be on time

It should go unsaid but some people will just not show up on time or, believe it or not, ghost you entirely.

Unforeseen circumstances are bound to happen, do your best give a heads up to your mentor/mentee as soon and as honest as possible. Quit the “my dog ate my google calendar 2FA code”.

Internalise in advance what your goals are

This is not just important for the mentor, it’s also important for you to understand why you are seeking mentoring in the first place.

Mentors are more the willing to share their experiences, market knowledge and answer questions you might have, however, make sure to steer the conversation towards finding aid for the challenges you have at hand.

At times it is difficult to put into words the source of our angst, however, the more we try, the closer we get from materializing it. You can do it!

Do your due diligence

There are loads of mentors out there, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Before bulk scheduling sessions with dozens of people at a time, spend some time going through their work, checking what they say on social media and, ultimately, ask yourself “is that someone I want to trust my time with?”

Don’t look for shortcuts

The mentor can and probably will help you to get that so desired role, but it doesn’t mean it has to be on their team.

I’m saying this so you don’t go with the wrong set of expectations to your session. It might happen that you both learn that a collaboration would be beneficial but it shouldn’t be the main motive.

If you want to get a job at your mentor’s employer, why don’t you go through the official channels like everyone else? The knowledge being shared during those sessions should step up your game and make you a more desirable candidate.

Don’t badmouth the market

It’s a jungle out there, I know. If you hate the market so much that you feel the urge to badmouth it for an entire hour to someone you barely know, you might consider that it’s not the brightest idea to join/stay in it.

Instead, one may opt for a more constructive approach by having dialogs on areas of improvement and possible action items.

There’s a myriad of things that need urgent care in our tech world but a mentoring session is far from being the right place to tackle those.

Don’t ask questions you can find answers to on Medium

That one is a tad bit controversial, after all, not everyone has access to every piece of content, right? Wrong.

It’s 2020 and the literature on design and its practices is infinite. Instead of asking questions like “how do I define success metrics?”, do a bit of research and aim for something like “I’ve been reading about different ways to define success metrics and I would like to know your take on A vs B vs C”.

Don’t become a mentor yourself because of the hype

Mentoring is no easy task, especially the pro bono ones. It will eat up a big chunk of your free time and the universe will hold you accountable for the influence you have on the life of the people you mentored.

What about you? What are your takeaways as a mentor or mentee?


Getting the best out of design mentoring sessions was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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