There are countless ways to connect and build relationships but few relationships can have the kind of impact on your creative career as that of a mentor.
We always learn from trial and error and from our mistakes but if you can seek advice from someone who has already been there and made such mistakes, it can shave years off the journey of the mentee and be a fulfilling experience for mentor.
Reaching out to total strangers for support can certainly be worthwhile, but you’ll usually find more success by leveraging your existing network. I love LinkedIn for this. It is awesome. One of the best things about LinkedIn is shows you all of your current network's contacts and their contacts in a searchable database. This sort of industry access has never been this available and there are a lot of creatives now using the platform.
This post outlines a great method for building such relationships quickly using LinkedIn.
Step 1: Register for LinkedIn
If you haven’t already, register for an account and import your email contacts to discover who in your existing network is already using LinkedIn.
Step 2: Search
Do a keyword search in the search bar for your chosen creative field. For example, ‘ Film Director’ in Melbourne.
Step 3: Find the right people
LinkedIn will display profiles who have the term ‘Film Director’ in their profile and it’ll order the profiles you have the most contacts in common with first.
Many creatives will link to their work on their LinkedIn profile. Sort through this list for the people that are already creating the sort of work that you aspire to.
Try to find people that are several steps ahead of you, but aren’t so far ahead of you that they’re impossible to reach. As you progress in your skills and network, it gets easier to reach people of increasing social and creative status, but you need to appreciate your current level and start from there.
Step 4: Make your list and contact
Make a list of at least 10 - 20 people who have external contact details on their profile. You can connect with people via LinkedIn directly, but external contact such as email is usually more effective.
Now not everyone is going to reply, people are very busy, it’s simply a numbers game. However, I’ve prepared an email format to help with this.
I see we’ve got several shared contacts in the film space (insert your discipline) in Melbourne on LinkedIn.
I’ve been producing content for TV & online for sometime (explain your backstory briefly) and I’ve recently started developing my skills in directing.
I came across your work, and I’m really impressed with what you do (acknowledge why you like their work, you could relate to something specific they have done).
I’m sure you’re super busy, but could I buy you a quick coffee in Melbourne over your way? (Make a simple request to Skype call or meet in person)
I’d love to just ask you some questions about how you direct, and how you’ve developed your career to this point?
I’d really appreciate this and I’d hope to pay this forward to someone one day.
Do this with at least 10 people, and hopefully 2-3 or so will get back to you.
Step 4: Connect
When you catch up in person or over a call, keep listening out for how you could provide value to them. Perhaps you could refer a potential client or share something they’ve made with your community, get interested in nurturing the relationship.
You don’t want to just straight up ask someone to be your mentor, it sounds like a lot of work and responsibility and they’re likely to feel uncomfortable with that. Like dating, you don’t ask a girl to be your girlfriend on the first date, It’s a relationship you build over time.
But what you can do, is make sure you tell them what you’re working on and ask them if you could send them something in about a month for their quick feedback.
This is GOLD as it’s a great pivot point into developing an ongoing relationship beyond your first catch up. You’re also accountable to someone for the next draft of your work, which will force you to put out your work to that deadline with the intention of sharing it with someone who can give you informed feedback.
Image Credit: Used Under CC License
Nicola Barnett Shaking Hands