How to Find a Design Mentor

When you’re starting your design career, finding a mentor can be one of the most effective ways to continue improving and building your skillsets as a designer. But good things are rarely easy to come by and finding a great mentor is no different. With the number of jobs available in the creative industry exploding, mentorship is in high demand, and time is a valuable resource for most successful creatives.

But fear not! If you take time to figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a design mentor and become actively engaged in the creative communities around you, you’ll be able to find the perfect mentor to help you accomplish your creative goals. And with the amazing resources available to you, you might discover that having a personal mentor isn’t even necessary to constantly be improving as a graphic designer. Follow along as we share some great tips to help you learn how to find a design mentor that’s right for you!

Where are you in your design career?

The first step is looking at where you are in your creative career and deciding what type of mentor makes the most sense for your current goals. For instance, if you’re earlier in your design education you might not need a full-time creative mentor, but you can definitely start making a name for yourself in the creative communities around you.

Just starting to learn design – If you’re just starting to learn design, you might not need a full-time creative mentor, but you should start diving head first into a design education and making a name for yourself in the creative communities around you.

  • Bootcamps – if you’re interested in making a large monetary investment in your creative education, programs like those at General Assembly have fantastic long-term mentorship programs. You’ll be paired with mentors throughout your course and you’ll be constantly surrounded by other students whom you can learn a ton from.
  • Self-learning – Companies like Skillshare and Udemy are changing the game when it comes to online design education, letting you learn a huge percentage of the skills you need for practically no money at all. Platforms like these don’t offer 1-on-1 mentorship, so if you need help throughout your education, you can schedule individual mentor sessions on platforms like RookieUp, which lets you schedule short mentor sessions with an amazing community of on-demand creative professionals to help you whenever you have questions or want some feedback on your progress.
  • Online communities – When you’re getting started in design, it’s crucial to start immersing yourself in the online graphic and visual design worlds. Not only will you find constant inspiration from the amazing creatives with online presences, but you’ll quickly learn the vocabulary of designers around the world and become much more confident speaking with other designers. Check out lists of the best designers on Twitter and Instagram, and constantly be browsing the top questions on the design sections of sites like Quora and reddit.

Actively learning design – Once you begin to become proficient in design skills and tools, you should start contributing to design communities you find online and seeking out ways to meet other designers.

  • Join a mentorship program – If you live in a major city, there are a number of in-person mentorship programs that pair you with designers near you. Check out programs like XXUX or AIGA’s website to see if they have any programs near you.
  • Engage in the conversation – Start commenting on other designers’ work and asking for critique from design communities. A few great places to start are Designers League and reddit’s Design Critiques.
  • Post your work online – Create a profile and post your work on a few designer communities like dribbble or Behance. Comment on other designers’ work and you’ll slowly build up an audience of people yourself!
  • Reach out to designers directly – If there are any graphic or visual designers you like, reach out to them directly on Twitter, LinkedIn, or other communities asking for critique. This is the best way to get a 1-on-1 relationship started with the people you most respect in the industry.

Starting to work professionally as a designer – Congratulations! Your dream of becoming a practicing designer has become a reality. At this point, you’re probably looking for a mentor to help propel your career to the next level.

  • Tap into your network – Stay in touch with people you’ve connected with throughout your creative education. From the groups of students you learned with in design classes to the communities you’ve been involved with online, you never know where you might find your new mentor. LinkedIn is a great and untapped resource for this type of networking. Twitter is an equally useful tool for this sort of networking. Search by roles or companies that are interesting to you and filter by ‘People”
  • Attend meetups – Meetups are one of the best ways to meet other creatives in your city. Even if you live in a small city, there’s a good chance that there are at least a few relevant meetups happening in your area on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Build relationships with colleagues – not surprisingly, one of the easiest ways to find mentors is through your job! Chances are there are some amazing designers working with you who have been in the field for a long time. Grab coffee with them to see if they’re open to mentorship. Be open about your goals and get a sense for whether they’re open to taking on a new mentee

What are your goals?

Think about your goals as you meet potential mentors. Why are you looking for a mentor? What do you want to accomplish in the next 6 months? What are your immediate goals and what are your goals for 5 years in the future? Are you looking for someone to help structure your education or do you want to find a mentor to help you land your dream job? A few common goals people have with their mentors…

  • Find a job or understand career opportunities in your field
  • Get feedback on your design work and improve as a creative
  • Improve your portfolio and practice interviewing
  • Learn directly from someone via apprenticeship
  • Understand a new industry or career path
  • Gain skills to become a full-time freelancer, grow your client list, or become more independent
  • Share frustration or general questions about the creative industry

How do you make the most out of your mentorship?

Before you meet with a new mentor, take some time to lay out what your ideal mentorship would look like. You want to set up your conversations to ensure you get as much value as you can every time you chat (and don’t waste the time of your mentor).

  • Set an agenda for each chat – write down a list of questions and thoughts you want to discuss prior to each meeting so that your mentor can review them beforehand and reach out with any clarifying questions.
  • Decide on next steps – During each meeting, spend the final few minutes of your conversation talking about action items and next steps.
  • Have a shared online home – Use a platform like Trello or Evernote to create a shared space where you and your mentor can share notes, inspiration, projects, and more.
  • Ask if you can help – the best mentorships are not one-way streets. Even if your mentor doesn’t need any help, you might learn something new in the process of listening to what they’re up to!
  • Be grateful! – Mentorship takes lots of time, usually with no tangible compensation for the mentor. Be thankful and always pay for coffee 😉

So get out there and start looking! Mentorship is one of the most impactful parts of your creative journey and you never know where you might find your future mentor.If you’re having trouble finding a mentor and need someone with you as you build your creative skills, check out the mentors on RookieUp.

How to Choose the Perfect Design Mentor for Your Creative Career

Choosing a professional mentor can be one of the most impactful decisions you’ll make in your career, but it can also be one of the most difficult. In a lot of ways, finding a mentor is like choosing a new home — there are a ton of factors that should go into your decision process, you’ll probably evaluate a lot of different options before finding the perfect fit, and making the right decision can have a pretty strong impact on your life. Whether you want to find an online mentor or an in-person mentor, there’s a lot to think about.

Like finding a new home, it’s also important to remember that the more time you spend figuring out what traits in a mentor are most important for you, the more quickly you’ll be able to find someone who is the perfect fit to help you achieve your creative goals. However, unlike finding a new home, choosing the wrong mentor can also be a huge waste of time to your mentor. So let’s look at a few of the qualities you should be evaluating when looking for a mentor, so that when you find your mentor you’ll be set up for success.

What are your mentorship goals?

One of the first things you should consider when thinking about your ideal mentor is pretty simple: what do you want to get out of it? Are you very early in your creative career and want a mentor to help you learn the concepts and technical skills you’ll need to progress, or are you a bit more settled and are looking for someone to help you plan your next 5 years? Write down a list of your 3-5 top goals before reaching out to any potential mentors. A few main goals could be:

  • Find a new job or figure out your career path
  • Get feedback on your recent work or portfolio
  • Master technical skills or understand basic design concepts
  • Improve your portfolio and prep for interviews
  • Learn from someone on-the-job via apprenticeship
  • Understand a new industry / career path
  • Learn about freelancing and how you can transition to a full-time freelancer
  • Share frustration and get advice for moving past issues at work


After figuring out your main goals, you’ll want to decide what seniority you want your mentor to have in their industry. Depending on where you are in your career and what you want to achieve, a more junior mentor might be more beneficial than a more senior mentor.

  • Junior Mentors – If you’re just getting started in your career and are looking to improve your basic skillset, understand design concepts and fundamentals better, or understand the best way to get your foot in the door, a mentor with just a few years of experience might be perfect.
  • Mid-level Mentors – If you’ve been working as a creative for a short amount of time or are graduating from design school and want to find a mentor who can guide you through your first few years on the job, a more mid-level mentor might be ideal. Someone who was in your shoes a few years ago and can help you navigate the potential pitfalls young designers make early in their careers. A mid-level mentor might also be perfect if you’re looking to move into freelancing or launch your own creative business, as they’ve likely had to work very hard to build their own independent careers and can help with lesser-known tricks and strategies.
  • Senior Mentors – If you’ve been working in the field for more than a few years and are looking to get to the next level, you should likely try to find a senior mentor with 10+ years experience in the industry. Similarly, if you’re a younger creative looking for someone who has extensive experience reviewing portfolios and doing interviews, speaking with a senior mentor as you get ready to look for jobs could be hugely impactful.


Finding a mentor in your industry, or the industry you want to enter, is one of the most important things to think about. Figure out what type of career you’re interested in and structure your mentor search around that.

  • Freelancing – Finding freelance design mentors might seem daunting since they don’t work for a single company and therefore are a bit harder to track down, but luckily, Twitter is an amazing tool for finding freelancers around the world.
  • Agency – If you want to work for a design agency or studio, check out resources like Biddlist for lists of the top agencies. Find an agency whose work you like and reach out to a few employees there!
  • In-house – You might want to work in-house for the design team at a larger brand or company. For more traditional companies, LinkedIn is the golden standard for finding employees by company name and job title.
  • Startups – If you’re trying to get into the startup game, check out sites like Angel where you can filter and search by industry and then find employees who work there.


One of the most important similarities you and your mentor should have is a common background. Finding someone who has been in your exact shoes before and already gone through the process of launching their career is tantamount to having a super power. They’ve already made mistakes and can help ensure you don’t make the same ones. A few things to look for in terms of mentor background:

  • Did they switch industries? If you’re trying to switch into a totally new industry, finding someone who understands how to get their foot in the door can be hugely beneficial
  • Did they previously work in the same industry as you? If so, they probably know how to position your existing skillset to help you get a job and they can help you figure out which of your existing skills will be most beneficial in your new career
  • Did you go to the same school? If you went to the same school, they likely know at least a few folks in their field who also went to your school. As antiquated as the college network can feel in the modern world, it is still useful since people love social proof.


Depending on what industry you’re trying to break into, location can be a very important factor to consider. Think about your goals and decide whether you need an in-person mentor or whether a digital relationship is enough!

  • Mentors who live in your city: There’s no denying that finding a mentor who lives near you makes things a lot easier. Not only is it easier to feel connected to your mentor when you actually see them in person, but they’re also more likely to have connections to companies and other professionals in your city, which is important if you’re looking for a full-time job
  • Remote mentors: The benefits of remote mentors are also pretty strong. It’s generally easier and less burdensome for a mentor to dial into a quick video that than it is for them to meet for coffee for an hour. Additionally, if you’re looking for a remote or freelancing job, having a mentor in your city isn’t necessary at all.

How do you actually find your mentor?

After narrowing down your criteria for the perfect mentor, what next? Luckily there are a huge number of ways to find your mentor, whether you want an in-person mentor in your city or are looking for a digital mentor. At a high-level, here are the best ways to find your mentor:

In-person mentors

  • First of all, leverage your networks! Look on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and every other network you have to find people already working in the roles and companies that you’d kill to work for.
  • Go to meetups in your city and become an active contributor in the creative community around you.
  • Apply to mentorship programs like those organized by AIGA.

Digital mentors

  • Engage in online communities. Check out groups like The Designers League, which have very active communities of amazing designers around the world.
  • Post your work on dribbble and Behance
  • Follow designers you like on Twitter and Instagram and engage with them. After a while, shoot them a private note to ask if they’d be open to a quick Skype chat.
  • Check out online mentorship platforms like RookieUp, where you can easily set up video mentor sessions with a community of experienced designers.

So now write down your goals based on the criteria above. After that, if you’re looking for more detailed tips on the best way to find your mentor, check out this article on finding a mentor! Then get out there and start testing the mentorship waters. It can be a lot of work, but we promise that the benefits are worth it.

The Importance of Mentorship for Creatives

We think that mentorship should be accessible to anyone, no matter where you live, who you know, or where you work. But unfortunately, finding a professional mentor today can be pretty daunting. The internet provides nearly infinite ways to contact people you admire, but the double-edged sword of that easy access is that experienced creatives get hammered with messages and have to turn down or ignore most requests to connect. Even if they wanted to chat with everyone who messaged them, the process of scheduling and coordinating can take just as much time as the mentorship itself.

At the end of the day, meaningful mentorships generally manifest through in-person relationships and connections, which naturally means that people in certain locations or circles have a much easier job finding mentors than people outside of creative hubs. We’re building RookieUp because we think there’s a better way…

When building a mentorship platform for anyone learning a creative skill, it’s pretty important to get the “mentor” part right. So we spent a huge amount of time searching the creative world for mentors from different fields, backgrounds, industries, and skillsets. Our goal is for aspiring creatives from every possible background to be able to find someone perfect for them in a few moments. Our mentors cover a vast range of areas:

    • Creative fields: Our mentors are creative professionals working in Graphic and Visual Design, User Experience and User Interface Design, Product Design, Motion Graphics, Illustration, Lettering, Photography, and Front-end Web Development.
    • Career/Industry: Our mentors work as freelancers working for themselves, as entrepreneurs running businesses and agencies, as full-time design educators, at startups and enterprise technology companies, at agencies large and small, and in-house across a number of industries.
    • Backgrounds: Our mentors are Art & Design school graduates who have freelanced since they were teenagers, entirely self-taught creatives who have built their own international agencies, former biochemists and former national park rangers, Art Directors with 20 years of experience, and mid-level designers working at amazing tech startups.
    • Education: Our mentors come from a huge range of educational backgrounds. Some attended college for art & design degrees, some are entirely self-taught, while others quit a job they hated to attend full-time bootcamps and start a new career.

If you can’t tell, our mentors are pretty diverse (and awesome), and they’re so excited to help aspiring creatives of all backgrounds get their start. We asked a few of them about the role mentorship has played in their creative journeys. Here’s what they had to say…

Heath Brockwell

Heath is a NYC-based Art Director with over 20 years of experience in the creative industry.

Why are you interested in joining RookieUp?

I’ve mentored in the past. It got complicated having a full-time job and having to commit to multiple hours on a weekend. What excited me about RookieUp was that time would be scheduled in advance and we could meet up via Google Hangouts. This way everyone gets to enjoy the weekend and still time to catch up and share our experiences.

Do you have any stories about how mentorship has been helpful or impactful to you in your career?

I still reach out to the people who were my mentors when I was just starting out. They give me insight and it’s great to hear their point of view. Some of them have careers that have taken off. Others have gone off in a different direction that I never imagined they would do. I sometimes learn more from the mentor that is doing something completely different like teaching yoga.

When were the times in your career that you felt like a mentor would have been the most helpful?

Anytime I’ve been laid off from a job. Hey, it happens and you have no control over it. Talking it over with someone (especially in a creative field) who knows your work and what you are like to work with can be a big help. You get insights that human resources is not going to tell you.

What types of things do you talk about most with your mentors?

What are they doing with their lives. How do they balance the demands of doing great work and also having a social life.

Hayden Aube

Hayden is a Montreal-based designer and illustrator who has taught thousands of students design skills online.

Why are you interested in joining RookieUp?

Plainly, it’s something that I wish existed. I’ve put a lot of time into organizing calls with mentors in my own life and RookieUp would have made the whole process a lot easier. I’m thrilled that not only does the platform exist but that I can be that contribution to others that many pivotal people have been to me.

Do you have any stories about how mentorship has been helpful or impactful to you in your career?

If it wasn’t for the guidance of a few key mentors I definitely would not be where I am today. Most notably, my life-changing decision to stop working as a web designer and pursue illustration came after Mother Volcano, a studio in Portugal accepted my request to come spend a week with them. After getting to see with my own eyes what a career in illustration looked like, I was able to make that leap.

When were the times in your career that you felt like a mentor would have been the most helpful?

While I have found mentorship very beneficial through transitions in my career, I have found recently that it is so vital for me making the step from a good illustrator to a great one. In fact, I realize now that unless I seek out and connect with better artists I will never truly become the best I can be.

What types of things do you talk about most with your mentors?

I would say the main thing I speak about with my mentors is the why to what I do. I have found that if the reason for my work is very clear to me, most other aspects of what I do take care of themselves. That being said, it has been incredibly helpful to review work, discuss what projects would yield the best results, how to better myself and how to keep myself fueled and inspired.

Christian Rudman

Christian is a Portland-based Photographer and Designer who started a successful studio.

What role has mentorship played in your career?

When I began actively pursuing photography in 2008 I was learning on my own trying to nail down the basics and I shot a lot of shitty photos. Then I decided I wanted to try out some photography courses at my local community college. Took an intro and lab class and after a semester decided that school taught was not my thing. I began to really dive into photography by teaching myself through online tutorials and youtube videos.

I became a decent photographer after a couple years and started working, but I didn’t really start hitting my stride until I struck up a mentorship with a guy named Bush. He was a documentary storyteller for a media team that worked in written, photo, and film documentary story production. I did a two year residency with him and learned more in those two years than I could have ever learned on my own. If I had my way and never allowed someone else to have input in my creativity and methods I would not have grown as well as I have in my skills. I wouldn’t be decent artist and I definitely would not be as well rounded of a storyteller.

What tips do you have for someone just getting started on their creative journey?

Be willing to be vulnerable and allow someone to have input in your creative process, you will never regret it. Always seek to learn from others who have walked the path you are walking down, it will help you avoid so many mistakes in your professional career and show you a better way to be the artist you will become. Invite great people into your life and it will make you a better person. Invite great artists into your art and it will make you a better artist.

Geremy Mumenthaler

Geremy is an LA-based Product Designer who was the first employee at Noun Project

Do you have any stories about how mentorship has been helpful or impactful to you in your career?

One of the most helpful reminders my mentor would suggest was to get off my computer and get back to working with my hands. It was a simple and always helped me sort through the ideas I was working on. I think of that advice most days now and it keeps me from staying in my bubble.

When were the times in your career that you felt like a mentor would have been the most helpful?

Mentorship really paid off when I was presenting my ideas to big clients for the first time. Having someone who had experience to give me confidence in my work, and tips on how to better communicate my ideas was invaluable. Through observation and discussion, I quickly learned the ins and outs of sharing my ideas, something I do on a daily basis.

What types of things do you talk about most with your mentors?

Mentorship is more than asking a few questions, much like therapy, it helps you solidify the skills and ideas you already have. It’s power is in creating a relationship with someone you trust who will honestly nudge you into the right direction, and keep you from wasting time on the unimportant things. Mentorship is the most important thing anyone can do to improve themselves.

Tips for productive mentor sessions

Sometimes totally unstructured conversations with someone you’ve only just met can be a bit, well, daunting. So we’ve put together a few pointers to help ensure that any time you have a mentor session, the conversation is productive, efficient, and fun!

Recommended session flow

Laying out the overall flow of a mentor session right when it begins is a great way to stay on track and make sure you cover everything you want to discuss.

  1. Introductions – spend a minute or two introducing yourself and giving your mentor a bit more context around where you are in your learning process and what you’re trying to achieve (e.g. change industries, become a freelancer, learn Photoshop, etc.). Your mentor will do the same to help you better understand who they are.
  2. Your session goals – take a minute reviewing exactly what you want to get out of the session. What is your primary goal? The time can go quickly, so work out a quick plan to make sure you get to cover everything.
  3. Go go go! – you’ve got questions, so ask them! The majority of your session should be spent diving into the details and getting answers to everything you want to ask.
  4. 5 minute heads up – your mentor should let you know when there’s about 5 minutes left, so you can wrap up the conversation and chat about next steps.
  5. Quick summary – your mentor will review their main takeaways from the session and discuss next steps.

After the session, your mentor should follow up with some of the main takeaways and notes they gathered from the session. They’ll also recommend a project for you to work on next. We know that feedback on your progress is crucial to progressing in your field, so within 1 month of your session, you can send the project to your mentor and they’ll give you a free round of email feedback!

General advice

  1. When we send the intro email to you and your mentor, be sure to send over a final list of questions or work you want to review, especially if you’ve added anything since you first booked your session.
  2. Be sure to have all your questions written down and handy during the session.
  3. Be very specific with your questions and frame everything around your end goals.
  4. If you’re planning to ask both technical and qualitative questions, be sure to devote a specific amount of time to each to ensure you cover everything (technical questions tend to take longer than you’re expecting, especially if you’re sharing screens and working in specific software).


Advice for specific goals

  • Technical Questions
    1. Have the software / files you want to review pulled up on your computer before the session
    2. If you’re hoping for your mentor to show you how to do a new technique, let them know in the intro email thread so they can have the relevant software pulled up in advance of the session
    3. Be realistic about how much you want to cover in a single session. Have a few specific techniques or tools you want to learn about, as well as a few additional questions in case you cover those quickly
  • Critique of your work
    1. In the intro email thread, be sure to send all of the work you want to review and include specific questions or elements you want critiqued
    2. Be open to constructive criticism. All of our mentors want to help you improve, so if you disagree with a specific piece of feedback, let them know why you disagree and why you chose to do something a specific way
  • Freelancing tips
    • Be clear about your goals and what you’re hoping to learn. A few main areas people usually focus on:
      • How to get freelancing work + build your client list
      • How to live as a freelancer + tips for being productive
      • Dealing with freelancing contracts + client relationships + project scope
  • Industry guidance
    • Structure the session around your specific goals. Do you want to understand how a specific industry is structured, get tips on breaking into a new industry, or just get a sense of what skills you need to learn to maximize your chances of getting a job in a new industry?
  • Concept fundamentals
    • If you’re just starting your creative journey, focusing your session on understanding the fundamentals of a specific field can be incredibly valuable. In the intro email thread, be open with your mentor about why you want to learn this skill, what your background is, and how they can help. These sessions are intended to help you understand the main principles of a field and help you structure your upcoming creative journey as much as possible.

If you have any other questions about mentor sessions, finding a mentor, or anything else, reach out to us at anytime!

Introducing RookieUp

Today we’re incredibly excited to launch RookieUp, a new type of company in the wonderful world of online education.

Learning online is incredible, inspiring, and practically infinite – no matter what you want to learn, you can be almost certain that the resources to help you learn it are out there. The quick proliferation of free and cheap educational platforms like YouTube, Udemy, Coursera, and hundreds of others has democratized knowledge in a completely new and revolutionary way. At a high level, here’s how we view the current online learning environment:

  • Self-guided learning: The wild west of online education, across YouTube, blogs, message boards, or any other free resource with no barrier to entry or quality control
  • Massively open online courses (MOOCs): free structured classes open to anyone and generally created by academic institutions, on platforms like Coursera and edX
  • Educational marketplaces: free and paid structured classes created by users, on platforms like Udemy and Skillshare
  • Online bootcamps: bootcamps following a structured curriculum over several months priced at $300-$15,000

The main trend here, with the exception of smaller bootcamps, is simple: scalability.

Personalizing Online Education

The scalability of online education brings with it one major problem – the depersonalization of the learning experience. In 1984, two doctoral students at the University of Chicago completed dissertations on the importance of 1-on-1 tutoring in education. Their final paper, the 2 Sigma Problem, shows that students who receive 1-on-1 tutoring perform on average 2 standard deviations higher than students in normal classroom settings. It’s therefore not at all surprising to find that 96% of students enrolled in MOOCs do not complete the course – with no personalization or 1-on-1 feedback on their progress, the simplest frustration or unanswered question can cause students to give up completely.

This is the massive gap in the online education market that we want to help solve with RookieUp. While many services have democratized education, we want to democratize 1-on-1 mentorship. We want everyone to have easy access to qualified experts to answer their questions and provide feedback in personalized 1-on-1 sessions. Most people embark on online learning paths that are far less structured than traditional school, so the need for personalized tutoring isn’t as predictable. We understand that and want to be there, with the right expert, whenever someone needs some help — whether they have questions about technical concepts, want to improve their chances of getting a job in a new industry, need quality critiques of their work, or anything else.

We’re launching RookieUp with a focus on creative skills like graphic design, UX/UI, motion graphics, photography, and illustration, but our ambitions for the platform are far greater. We hope to build RookieUp into a global marketplace of qualified and curated mentors from any field, so that anyone seeking to learn anything can book a session with the perfect expert whenever they need a bit of personalized help, guidance, or feedback.

We’re so excited to embark on this journey and we hope you’ll be a part of it with us. Let’s make online learning personal, the way it should be.

-Team RookieUp