Lessons from Mentorship: Libby and Edwige

The AIGA Maine Mentorship Program is intended to spark new relationships within Maine’s design community. Starting each February, AIGA Maine pairs emerging designers with seasoned professionals to share their experiences and work towards a set of career goals over the course of three months. Local designers Libby Connolly and Edwige Charlot participated in our 2017 program.

Libby: Hi, I’m Libby: a recent Graphic Design graduate from Maine College of Art. Upon graduating I was lucky enough to begin freelancing for my now part-time job at Perch Design Studio. I wasn’t quite sure where I would be after graduating, but was rather pleased with where I ended up. Perch specialized in Web Development and Interactive Design, something I had no knowledge of at the time so joining their team has been quite a mind-expanding experience.

After being with Perch for some time, and feeling a little more comfortable, I found myself wanting to tackle clients on my own, and potentially start applying for jobs outside of the Greater Portland Area. However, I felt I lacked the confidence to do so. I hadn’t solidified my personal brand and felt a little all over the place.

Edwige: My name is Edwige Charlot, I run a strategy and design consultancy in Portland. I graduated from the Maine College of Art in 2010. Since graduating, I have managed programs for local arts nonprofits, launched educational initiatives and programs and most recently become a mother. I was approached to be a mentor in the program. Participating in youth development programs has been important to me both in my business and creative practice. I felt the need to give back in the same way that others had helped me in the past. Mentors, in and out of school, made a significant impact in my own life. I was happy to join this new cohort.

Libby: Going into this mentorship I didn’t really have any prior expectations. I knew Edwige’s work and was inspired that she had started her own creative consulting business. I felt it was a good match and that her skillset would align with the guidance I needed.

Edwige: I was already familiar with Libby’s work before we met in person. She had been recommended to me as a competent designer. We connected briefly during the first group meeting. She was friendly and patience with me. I had my 6-month baby in tow.

Libby: Upon first meeting I shared my goals, including my travel goals. Which she took as a much larger interval I hadn’t deeply considered yet. I knew it was of importance to me, but hadn’t taken the steps to incorporate that into my future plans.

Edwige: I tried to approach this mentorship from a holistic standpoint. I wanted Libby to consider her career as a mechanism to build a life that she wanted. I have to admit that I came to the table with my own agenda. So much of the time spent in school is focused on your career goals without taking into consideration that what you do for work can shape other parts of your life – like where you live, what time you wake up, when you get to exercise, if you get to spend time with your love ones. I had to learn this on my own after I left school. It’s a lesson I didn’t want Libby to have to learn later.

Libby: We met in person only a handful of times, but the conversations were usually pretty dense with corrective criticism and next steps moving forward, which we both mutually arrived at. Edwige helped me take a step back to figure out what my ideal client looked like and how to attract that type of client whose views aligned with my own. This was a bigger hurdle than anticipated but once I arrived there everything kind of clicked for me.

Edwige: Libby was extremely receptive to my long winded, far reaching monologues. I was grateful to have been paired up with a mentee who had so many things in place already. I felt like she needed to hone in on her client management and the visual brand of her freelance business.

Libby: Edwige gave me the task of making myself a personalized moodboard, something I had never thought to do but ended up really enjoying the process. I learned a lot about myself and how to portray myself to potential clients. From this I strengthened my online presence as well as my social media accounts and found my personal brand falling into place. I applied this brand to materials I would send clients (i.e. a proposal, resume, and sample cover letter for potential employers). As the mentorship came to a close I had surprisingly checked off every goal on my list. I ended up sending said cover letter to a design firm based in Nashville, TN, booking a trip to Paris, France, and just recently sent out my first branded proposal to a client.

I would say to go into this experience with no expectations. Don’t assume the role of being a student either. For us, the startup was a little slow going but once we got momentum things just kind of took off. As with any experience, you get what you put into it. This mentorship was without a doubt beneficial for me. Otherwise I’d probably be in a very similar place. I left feeling more put together and ready to take on larger things. I’m very grateful for having Edwige as a mentor, and now friend. We’ve agreed to stay in contact long after this mentorship.

Edwige: Again, I was not shocked that Libby accomplished her short term goals by the end of our time together. Although, I tried to plant a few seeds regarding travel and larger life goals , it was because Libby was motivated, self-directed and open-minded that she was able achieve that goals she had set for herself. I truly believe this experience was as successful, so rich and impactful because of Libby’s personality, professional, and drive. I was lucky to have had this time with her.

I would encourage both the mentee and mentor to go into this experience open-minded with the intention of getting to know a new colleague. I didn’t see Libby as a mentee but more as a colleague in the design community. She helped me just as much as I thought I was helping her. (She got me out of my house after 6pm on a couple weeknights!) I am excited to see where she goes in the future.

Libby Connolly is a designer at Perch
Edwige Charlot is an advocate, artist and Principal of Creative Approach Co.

Published July 8, 2017