Hack Your Bootcamp II: The More Mentors, The Merrier

A woman accepts a friend request from a man
Illustration by Freepik Storyset

This is the second in a 5-part series called “Hack your Bootcamp”, ideas to make the most of the UX/UI Bootcamp experience. If you haven’t already read the first piece, check it out here.

We all know the pain of an artificially created relationship, and unfortunately, bootcamp mentoring relationships can feel like just that — hit-or-miss, awkwardly formal, mandatory meetings. Let’s dive into what’s going on there, and how you can make it better.

HACK NUMBER 2: MAKE MENTORSHIP WORK FOR YOU

Informal Mentorship Is More Effective

The major obstacle that plagues bootcamps is one that plagues any formal mentorship program: informal mentorships just work better.

In a 2000 study of 1,162 employees across the nation, Ragins, Cotton, and Miller found that

“Informal mentors provided higher amounts of several types of career development functions, including coaching, providing challenging assignments, or increasing protégés exposure and visibility.”

Couple this with the fact that many bootcamps randomize mentorship pairing, rather than utilizing either Self-Matching, Admin Matching, or Hybrid Matching models, and you’ve just increased the odds significantly that your mentoring matches flat out won’t work well for a majority of bootcamp students.

Two people high-five each other
Two people high-five each other
Illustration by Freepik Storyset

Most People Prefer Reciprocal Mentorship

Add to the obstacles above yet another challenge here-that the mentorships in bootcamps will be, by nature, a hierarchical relationship.

According to the Harvard Business Review,

“Mentoring programs typically rely on single mentor-mentee matches, pairings that by nature are quite formal and hierarchical, when all the evidence shows that many employees — especially women — prefer mentorships with a more reciprocal and mutual character.”

Mentoring programs for bootcamps often recruit mentors with a “share your wisdom with the next generation of designers”-esque tagline, and this reinforces the idea of a one-sided relationship.

If you’re lucky enough to be paired with a mentor who is primarily interested in a reciprocal relationship, then congratulations! But often, bootcamp mentorship relationships are set with another tone entirely, which make them less effective.

Two researchers piece together the puzzle of someone’s mind
Two researchers piece together the puzzle of someone’s mind
Illustration by Freepik Storyset

Ok, So Now What?

So what do you do when you inevitably fall into the majority of bootcamp students who find that their mentor relationship isn’t meeting expectations?

  1. Reach for the Stars

Turns out, mentees perform better when they have robust networks of mentors, or mentoring constellations, anyway. This one mentor doesn’t have to be your only source of knowledge. Work to discover what they’re really good at, and seek out other mentors who can fill in the gaps and become parts of your mentoring constellation.

How can you add to your mentoring constellation? Here’s a few ideas:

2. Be Purposeful About Your Meetings

If you’re not getting what you need out of your mentor, go back to the drawing board with them and describe what it is that you were expecting out of the relationship. Come prepared with what you want to talk about every time. Yes, Every. Single Time. Check out this article for some more specific advice here.

3. If It’s Broke, Fix It

In the end, if your mentor isn’t a good fit, just ask for a new one. It’s ok. Sometimes the style just isn’t right-my first pre-assigned mentor’s style was a great fit for someone really interested in learning design theory. While I’m definitely interested in design theory, I needed someone whose style was more straight-forward and focused on practical application. I asked for a switch, and my new mentor fits me perfectly.

It’s All Up To You

If you walk away with anything from this, walk into your bootcamp experience knowing that it may take some doing to make a bootcamp mentor really work for you. This is one of those “lead a horse to water” moments in your life-in the end, you are the best authority on what kind of person, people, or mentoring style will work best for you.

So before you establish your mentor(s), think deeply about what you need, and then ask for it. Think of it as designing-identify what your problem is, and then you can build the best solution for yourself.

A woman helps a man climb the social ladder
A woman helps a man climb the social ladder
Illustration by Freepik Storyset

If you liked what you read, stay tuned for Hack Your Bootcamp III next week, where I cover how to grow your network…because a network of exclusively other newbie designers is not enough.

UX/UI Designer | Masters of Arts Management | Former TFA Teacher | Shameless Dog Mom | Living Meme | emilychervony.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store