In my early years I played a lot of guitar, and I mean A LOT. It quickly grew into an obsession and I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be (at that time I was of course counting on being the best player in the world during the next couple of years), so I gathered all the guitar material that I possibly could. Books, video courses, whatever… you name it, I had it. With that kind of dedication, one would imagine that I got quite good quite quickly, but what really happened was stagnation. I had gathered so much material that I was completely overwhelmed and had no direction in my practice, which in turn meant that I was progressing extremely slowly.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I met my first “real” mentor Søren. Søren was a Jazz Guitarist (like me at the time) and was highly accomplished, so I started taking lessons with him. Very quickly my playing began to improve, and you know why? Direction!
I was given a roadmap to follow, which meant I knew what to practice and where to go. My playing progressed so fast I couldn’t even believe it myself. That cemented the importance of having someone to guide you in your professional field to me… a mentor.
When I started working in game audio, my first and foremost goal was to find some sort of mentor to help me out because I knew how valuable it was (and still is).
Now, a mentor isn’t just there to improve your skills, they are there to improve your life, a sparring partner. Ideally, you’ll find someone who is already at the point where you want to be, which means that they’ve gone through troubles you haven’t even imagined yet. So, if you’ve been sitting in front of the screen for 16 hours editing monkey sounds for the hottest new AAA shooter and it has sparked some relationship issues, personal issues or car issues, a mentor is usually ready to give some advice on how to deal with the situation.
Just remember, a mentor isn’t a psychologist… so don’t throw all your problems at them, keep it professional.
And what about you?
Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Yeah, that’s a nice story and all, but how do I find a mentor?”, and the answer is that for the most part you don’t. Most mentors probably don’t even know that they’re your mentor.
It could be anybody… a teacher whose advice you value, a parent, a relative, anyone that you look up to and want to learn from. If you have such a person in your life, great! Suck in every bit of information that you can and keep learning! If you don’t…
Ask or Pay
Look around everywhere in your community until you find someone that intrigues you. In game audio, good places to look would be discord groups, twitter, instagram, reddit, youtube and so forth.
If you know of someone that you would really love to get mentorship from the easiest thing to do is just ask (social anxiety aside). Now keep in mind, for someone to agree to mentor you for free, you usually have to show that you’re really serious, dedication and easy to work with, so be prepared for that. No one is going to want to help someone out who is desperate, needy and just plain ol’ annoying.
Another option is paying for one. If your economic situation allows it, paying for a mentor is a really good way to start. The mentor is much more likely to deal your neediness and you can still get much of the same information out of them. The downside is that you often won’t get the same comradery and friendship with them.
You’ll be kissing a few frogs…
You’ll likely go through a few mentors before finding someone that really clicks with you, that’s alright! Like with any good relationship you’ll probably kiss a few frogs (that definitely did not turn into princes!!) before finding the right match for your needs.