Getting Started With a UX Mentor

Last year at this time, an internship in UX seemed completely out of my reach. I wanted to pursue user experience design, but with no experience and coming from a school with little connections in UX design, it was going to be a tough start.

Thankfully, I got connected with Samantha Berg (‘09), a mobile UX designer in the Bay Area, who had graduated just a few years before. After a couple email exchanges, she quickly became my UX mentor, coaching me via email about how to present myself in a portfolio, how to interview, how to network my way into an opportunity, and sharing how she got to where she was now. These exchanges with her were invaluable to me as I pursued the first step in my design career. With Sam’s guidance, I ended up having several offers to choose from and spent one of the best summers of my life in California with my dream job as a UX design intern.

Cornell UX Design’s First Official Mentorship Program
Now I hope to bring back what I learned to the designers in this club. We are starting our first official mentor ship program, where we match UX industry professionals with an aspiring student designer. I’m happy to announce that Samantha Berg is back to mentor again, along with Tricia Comstock Bellatoni, James Gartrell, Karlyn Neel, Patrick Neeman, Andrea “Ajay” Revels, Anthony Viviano, and Alla Zollers.

Tips for Mentees:
Ask anything
Your mentor is has presumably been there and done that, so ask them anything you want. Ask them about their first job, the highs and lows of their career, what their lifestyle is like after work. If there’s anything you’re curious about, just ask

Be open to criticism
This is your chance to get an honest critique from somebody that’s volunteering their time to make you a better designer. Be a good listener and be willing to make changes in response to feedback.

Communicate often
Check in frequently with your mentor, when you’re applying to jobs, before and after interviews, when you get your offers, anything. Keep them in the loop with where you are at every step of the way, and don’t forget to respond quickly (less than 24 hours) when they email you.

Follow up and thank your mentor
Let your mentor know the outcome of their help and suggestions. When you move forward with your job search and career, always thank them and keep in touch about your successes.

Tips for Mentors:
Be real and authentic
Tell them how it is. You have experience that your mentee will be able to learn from so be honest about everything, the good and the bad.

Provide constructive feedback and critiques
Your mentees are about to be evaluated and critiqued by companies they’re applying to, so give them feedback to improve and iterate. Check out your mentee’s portfolio, social media sites, and web presence (anything you would do if you were considering hiring them), and let them know how they can improve. Give constructive criticism while simultaneously giving them confidence.

Share your network
If you know somebody that could give great insight into something your mentee wants to know, go ahead and connect them. Sharing your network will be invaluable to them as they start out.

Communicate often
Be very responsive and always email back within 24 hours. Check in your mentee if you haven’t heard back in a while. It’s easy to sometimes get behind in emails, but set aside some time to ensure that you’re maintaining communication

Suggested Topics/Activities:

  • Day in the life (discuss a day in the life of the mentor)
  • Portfolio critique
  • Mock UX interview
  • Attend a conference or meetup together

LaiYee Lori
Co-Founder and President of CUxD | UX Designer, Entrepreneur, & Exhibition Artist
Portfolio | Twitter | LinkedIn

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