Finding a mentor is absolutely key to success whether you want to get better at programming, art, game design, or anything else under the sun. Why mentorship? Simple. You get valuable advice from experts or specialists in your chosen niche. Ideally, they will have failed more times than you have even tried, so their expertise and knowledge is more practical than someone who hasn’t actually gone out and engaged in a lot of trial and error. They know the game and they have a track record of being successful. A mentor should be able to provide insight both from where you are in your life and where you want to go. While it seems exciting, a mentor shouldn’t be some celebrity or esoteric guru. They need to know the core strengths and weaknesses of the niche that you want to get into. Remember that people want to help, but you need to help yourself first.
Define which niche within the games industry that intrigues you the most. What experience and skillset can you already bring to the table? How can you be proactive and learning the ins and outs of this area of expertise on your own? If you answer these three questions, then finding a mentor should be easy. As long as people see you trying to take the bull by the horns, then they will be impressed and it will make their job a whole lot easier. Most mentors will be able to relate to you because they were once in your position. Getting to know your mentor and their history will not only give you motivation for achieving your goals, but it will also help you define pitfalls that you want to avoid. A mentorship is like any other relationship — it is based on the idea of mutual respect, reciprocity and consistency. If you’re only reaching out to your mentor when you need advice and not just for a quick catch-up from time to time they may be reticent to stick their neck out for you.
Keep in mind though that you shouldn’t just limit yourself to just one mentor. While you may have your eye on the perfect person to help coach you, they might not have enough time to teach you the ropes. Having a handful of people on call for this role will ensure that you aren’t placed on hold whenever you need some advice or quick tips. Plus, you never know how someone might be able to help you, so getting different prerogatives will most likely bode well for you.
Important Takeaways: Finding someone who completely knows what they’re doing (and is willing to share their knowledge with you) is just as important if not more important than just being around like-minded people. This person will change as your life goes on, and will help keep you on track. Make sure that this person is someone who is actually willing to give advice, as not all sources of inspiration will necessarily be someone that is going to reach out to you and give their advice. If you know exactly what you want to do, what you are capable of, and how far you’re willing to learn on your own, finding a mentor shouldn’t be a problem. Most of these mentors can relate to you because of shared interests.
As a result, you should always learn about their history because of the benefits it brings, including motivation and finding potential traps you could fall into. Try to not only reach out to this mentor when you need advice; treat this relationship like any other relationship and just genuinely community with them from time to time. Remember, a so-called “mentor” whose only purpose is to give advice might start dreading your calls. Having a mentor is invaluable. They can provide different perspectives on issues and help make the iterative process of improvement much faster than if you were to go it alone.