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.