Mentoring Guide

What is a mentor?

A mentor is a GDC CGD certified member who is a practising professional. Mentors come from all areas of the profession including communication/graphic design, interactive design, environmental design, branding, publishing, education, advertising, research and marketing. Mentors work in Canada and abroad. As a mentor, you:

  • Are passionate about your work
  • Believe in the importance and value of mentorship
  • Share success and relevant knowledge from a professional perspective
  • Take on a leadership role by providing direction
  • Provide invaluable insight, connections and resources
  • Contribute to a lasting and meaningful experience
  • Support, empower and identify opportunities
  • Actively listen and respond, and encourage discussion
  • Promote industry standards and ethical practice
  • Are able to commit to a three-month mentorship

What is a mentee?

A mentee is a GDC member who is a current student or recent graduate (within 4 years) of a design program. Current students apply to the mentorship program through the National Scholarship Awards. Recent graduates can apply to the mentorship program at the end of the school year. As a mentee, you:

  • Gain professional knowledge 
  • Learn how to grow your career
  • Make connections and develop your network
  • Share ideas and career aspirations
  • Get feedback on your portfolio 
  • Ask questions 
  • Are able to commit to a three-month mentorship

Pairing Mentors with Mentees

Participants in the GDC mentorship program must complete a survey and identify areas of interest, preferences and commitment. Surveys for mentors and mentees are disseminated annually. Note: Not all applicants will be paired with a mentor.

  1. Mentors are given the opportunity to review mentee applications and choose their mentee, or be assigned a mentee based upon their preferences. The GDC National Education Committee will facilitate mentee assignments and work with mentors to find the best match.
  2. Once the mentees are chosen, the GDC will provide a profile of the mentee to the mentor, and the mentor may contact the mentee within one week of receiving the contact information.
  3. GDC will contact the chosen mentees and provide mentor contact information with instructions.


The first meeting: Be prepared!

Mentor Introduction

  • Outline your professional experience
  • Your career path and highlights
  • Education
  • Discuss why you chose to be a mentor

Mentee Introduction

  • Provide your mentor with a résumé
  • Education
  • Outline your career aspirations
  • Talk about your favourite projects
  • Discuss what you hope to gain from the mentorship

Establishing Expectations

  • Discuss contact times and frequency (3-month timeframe)
  • Agree upon method of contact (skype, email, telephone, in-person) and anticipated response time to emails and/or phone calls (same day, within 3 days, a week…)
  • Establish the level of preparation expected for each meeting
  • Set boundaries and ground rules
  • Discuss confidentiality


Ways mentors can support mentees:

1. Help emerging designers realize their potential

  • Identify strengths (portfolio, résumé, presentation)
  • Provide advice on creating a professional persona
  • Share tips on employment, work and advancing a career
  • Inspire confidence and motivate

2. Develop professional skills and industry knowledge

  • Build on strengths
  • Share experiences and insight
  • Expand perceptions (framing, presenting, and abilities)
  • Advising

3. Introduce opportunities for continued professional development.

  • • Share resources 
  • • Instill lifelong learning (recommendations for workshops, training, internships, further post secondary education)

4. Instill the value of community

  • Collaboration
  • Networking 
  • Engage a sponsor (advocate for and promote your mentee)
  • Connecting with peers (GDC, design events and conferences)
  • Business relationships (clients and professional organizations)

5. Promote professional standards of practice and ethics

  • Working with clients (expectations — proposals, contracts, invoicing)
  • Value proposition
  • Explain importance of following GDC Code of Ethics (e.g. standards of practice regarding spec and pro bono work)


Ways mentees can support mentors:

  • Do your research. Find out about your mentor.
  • Be prepared for meetings
  • Be professional
  • Be flexible
  • Be respectful
  • Be on time! Answer emails promptly.

Suggested topics for discussion:

  • Portfolio 
  • Career aspiration
  • Career challenges
  • Time management
  • What do you wish you learned in school?
  • What skills are most important to you today?
  • What skills are most important to a designer starting out?
  • Self promotion strategies
  • Business practices, estimating and billing
  • Balancing career and life
  • Financing
  • How do you set up a studio?
  • How do you get work?