As a freelancer, you are the company. While this is a liberating way of life, it can also feel lonesome and without guidance especially at times where you are drowning and/or accelerating in work (by means of skill, workload or just general advancement).
During these times, we often find ourselves in need of guidance to help clear the cobwebs and learn what and how to prioritise our work. Finding and developing a relationship with a career mentor is often associated with the beginning of a creative career, however, guidance and mentorship are crucial at every developmental stage. Realistically, there’s always going to be someone at a more advanced stage of your career path than you are, and finding someone at that stage who is willing to pass down the earnt wisdom can be a great way to prevent making some common errors as well as gain insight second hand.
In terms of how a mentorship works, it’s much like an agreement. The level of formality depends on your desired outcomes. When you’ve taken the time to decide who you’d like to have in this role, schedule a discussion with your mentor to work out any agreement details. Knowing how much time this person plans to invest in mentoring you helps guide future meetings.
There are different types of mentoring that one can undertake. Informal mentorships may involve calls, texts or emails to your mentor when you need guidance. Formal mentorships may have a defined schedule that details the specific dates and times you plan to meet. What you choose depends on your unique situation.
Our friend Leo Young is a Diversity Advocate who set up the Good Nugget’s 12 week mentorship programme which provides people aged 18-25 with mentorship opportunities enabling them to pursue their creative careers. These types of formal mentoring can be life changing. Equally, a more casual form of mentorship via a family friend or someone you met through work or online can be just as effective with continuous communication.
Here are the main benefits of a mentoring relationship…
Constructive criticism from someone you admire
Friends and family members may hesitate to provide the type of feedback you need to make a change in your personal or professional life. Mentors offer constructive criticism designed to strengthen areas of your life that need improvement. Without this insight, personal growth may take longer to achieve. Encourage mentors to tell you how you may improve your strategy to better reach your goals.
Prevent common mistakes with knowledge
Mentors are valuable sources of knowledge. Whether you’re starting a business, going back to college or changing careers, mentors have experienced similar milestones. Choose mentors who will give you the best insight into your current phase of life or career level. Because they have already been through it, they’ll provide advice on issues like how to save money, reduce stress and be more efficient, for example, and be able to connect their experiences with your own.
Encouragement and support
When you need an extra boost of confidence, mentors offer support and words of encouragement to keep you going when life gets tough. Without a mentor, negative thoughts may become more prominent in your daily life, especially when dealing with a difficult subject or issue. Positive encouragement helps motivate you to keep trying your best, despite the challenges.
No Yes-men in sight
Because mentors play a neutral role in your life, they have the ability to give unbiased opinions on subjects you care about. For example, if you have several ideas for a business venture but need help choosing the best option, mentors are great resources for advice. Drawing on their past experiences, mentors provide opinions that they believe fit your circumstance best.
You’re held accountable for your goal setting
By defining goals and creating smaller steps to get there, mentors help focus mentees on what they need to do to advance their careers. These goals are also a way to measure the success of the mentorship. Without goals, a mentee has no direction and no plan to get where they want to go. A mentor helps keep them on track and accountable for achieving their goals. It provides the motivation needed for mentees to work at attaining their goals.
Naturally, when you enlist the help of a mentor, you increase your chances for new professional contacts, which may lead you to new opportunities. If your mentor plans to attend business conferences and seminars with you, show your interest in meeting new contacts.