A Shared Experience: Mentor Edition

Justin Moore has had the opportunity to work for clients ranging from small businesses to large corporations, and for up-and-coming local bands as well as national recording artists. With a list of great clients who entrust him with their business needs, he’s grown Sublmnl Design’s capabilities from its humble beginnings designing local print ads for small businesses into a semi-full service agency offering a variety of design and marketing solutions. As AIGA’s Education Director, he oversees the Mentor Match-Up program for AIGA Charlotte and has served as a mentor for three years in a row. If you’re interested in participating in our 2015 Mentor Match-Up, register on the official event page.

I find Mentor Match-Up to be a very rewarding experience, one where I can give advice and help the next generation of designers who are hitting the professional ranks. When I was a student we didn’t really have anything like this available to us. I was searching for someone to help guide me as I was winding down my days as a student and getting ready to hit the “real world.” I searched every agency in town and sent emails to anyone/everyone I could find contact info for, just hoping that someone would be willing to answer a few questions for me. Some did, most didn’t. It was a little disheartening. So, when the opportunity for me to be the one answering those questions arose, I jumped at the chance to help someone who was in my shoes years ago.

I have always had great experiences with the program. Each of the students I have mentored seemed to have the same overall questions: “is my portfolio good enough?” and “how should I conduct myself during those first job interviews?” Each time I like to start off by meeting my mentee to spend time talking with them, getting to know them, and finding out their professional goals. I find this helps me understand their thought process and how they might react and think through the projects they are presented with. Once we have a good rapport built between us, I like to check out their portfolio. I don’t like leading off with “alright, let’s see your work” because they’re normally already terrified about showing their work, so I want to take the time to make them comfortable and get to know them before we get into looking at their books.

I normally go through their work piece by piece and allow them to explain the project to me, why they did what they did, etc. Once we reach the end of their book, that’s when I like to go back through and offer any feedback on the pieces they showed me. Again, to me, it’s all about trying to make sure they’re comfortable and not intimidated by someone looking at their work and giving feedback on it. Once the initial meeting is over, we normally keep in touch through online communication every week or so, and try to meet up in person once a month to see updated work, and how suggestions on their original portfolio were implemented. Basically, I’m just doing anything I can to help them get their stuff ready for their job search.

I have learned so much over the years acting as a mentor. The mentees not only learn from us, the mentors, but I find that I learn just as much from them: how the new designers coming up think, how they approach the design process, how they react to suggestions and criticism. These things have helped me in my everyday professional life. I have taken things I have learned while dealing with my mentee and applied it to my daily dealings with clients. It helps me sharpen my listening skills and I have become much more patient in listening and—more importantly—”hearing” what a client might be trying to express to me even if they don’t know how to put their thoughts into the correct words.

Overall, I have found that this is an incredibly beneficial program for both sides of the coin. The mentees get invaluable advice and guidance from people who have been where they are, and have successfully navigated the professional world. The mentors get the satisfaction of helping the new generation and learning from them, and possibly applying things they may have forgotten over the years back into their daily professional lives. I really can’t say enough about this program. Everyone who has participated as a mentor seems to come away from it just as satisfied as the students/new designers who are participating as mentees.

By Justin Moore
Published December 11, 2014