Having a mentor is an invaluable asset in helping you achieve your professional goals. For those of you fresh out of college or grad school, we’ve culled tips from stellar protégées on how to shine:
BE A COLLABORATOR
Artist Handirubvi Indigo Wakatama, 22, has been shown in such coveted venues as ArtJamz, a public art studio and lounge in Washington, D.C. A recent grad of Corcoran College of Art + Design, Wakatama followed the advice of her fellow student turned mentor, Mazin Abdelhameid, and pushed past her comfort level to deliver authentic work that reflected her cultural perspective as a Zimbabwe native. Here’s how you can turn creative collaborations into mentoring opportunities:
Be open to guidance. Abdelhameid, 24, the creative director of The Citizen DC collective, a group of up-and-coming artists and designers working in all mediums, noticed Wakatama working on a collage while she was still in school. The collage presented Zimbabwean men who had played a meaningful role in her life. Abdelhameid realized that Wakatama had a unique narrative and he urged her to explore it more deeply. He also taught her how to promote herself and helped her find a venue to show her art.
Choose givers, not takers. Wakatama says of her collaboration with Abdelhameid, “True mentoring will build you up and teach you how to fly.”
Shaniece Cole, a 23-year-old assistant in the development and production department at Disney/ABC Media Group in Los Angeles, followed her passion for film, music and television by pursuing a wide range of internships and freelance work and never saying no to a task from her managers, no matter how small. Start by creating a lasting impression with senior executives:
Establish the relationship. During her junior year in college, Cole interned in BET’s PR department for ten months. After the internship ended, the 2013 Temple University graduate kept in touch. “Shaniece was smart and had great energy and a bubbly personality,” says her mentor, Zabrina Horton, senior manager for corporate communications at BET Networks in Los Angeles, who recommended Cole for several high-visibility projects. “If people like you, they will take you under their wing,” notes Cole.
Hustle and flow. “I made sure I took an internship in every area of broadcast and media so I could be well-rounded,” says Cole. “I’ve worked in radio, talent agencies, television networks, news stations, studios and blogs.” Last May, days after graduating from Temple, Cole packed her bags and moved to California to work at Disney.
Kayla Conti, 22, a global communications and public affairs associate at Google in Mountain View, California, jump-started her career by taking on roles that allowed her to stand out and by developing an account-ability partner—her sister Kirstin, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Amsterdam. She offers tips on how to learn from those closest to you:
Find people you trust. After a quick pity party about work issues, like Kayla’s being the youngest one in the room, the sisters start strategizing. “We share lessons learned and help each other navigate pitfalls,” says Kirstin.
Have a global mind-set. Kayla, a 2013 Spelman grad, studied in five different countries in high school and college. “Going abroad showed me there is opportunity everywhere in the world,” she says.