If you’re looking to start a career in the design world, one of the first steps that you should take is to find a mentor in this field. Sometimes this can be a challenging task, and since we are advocates of “mentorology” at the Over My Shoulder Foundation, we wanted to share some helpful tips for how to find a mentor:


LinkedIn is a powerful resource for connecting with potential mentors. Source: pursuethepassion

  1. Consider what you hope to gain out of your mentoring relationship. While you may be well-educated, establishing a relationship with a mentor that is experienced in the design field can help you to gain new insight and wisdom that you might not have had otherwise.
  2. If you are already employed by a design firm, check with your HR department to find out if your company offers an internal mentoring program. Be sure to check out the Over My Shoulder Foundation blog to learn more about ways that a company mentoring program can be advantageous to you.
  3. Turn to organizations that you are involved with to find a mentor. You don’t always need your mentor to work within your organization.
  4. Use LinkedIn to perform an “Advanced People Search” to uncover prospective mentors in your industry. You may find someone that graduated from your alma mater or is involved in the same organizations that you are.
  5. Don’t rule out a mentor that may be younger than you. Just because the mentor is younger doesn’t mean that they have less experience than you.

If you’re in a successful mentoring relationship today, what other tips or best practices can you offer for how to find a mentor?

If you enjoy the content provided by Over My Shoulder Foundation, contact us! SHARE your mentoring stories, consider donating to our non-profit, and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook, too!


For those looking for design mentoring programs in Jacksonville, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the Discover Design Mentoring Program, which is targeted to high school students living in the Jacksonville, Florida area. Since 2008, this five month mentoring program has paired high school students with an interest in design with local design professionals in the community.


One aspect of the program is creating materials that encourage others to get involved in their communities. Source: Nick Sherman

Throughout the duration of the program, the students meet with their professional design mentors on weekends to complete design related projects that will better the community. Examples of previous projects that have been completed include posters to encourage voting, billboards that promote tolerance, and an iPad app that highlighted local cultural “hot spots” around Jacksonville for teens to check out.

The effectiveness of this mentoring program has been incredible, encouraging the quieter students to really come out of their shells and find themselves. Much of this can be attributed to the mentoring relationships that the students have built with their design professionals, which has offered them confidence and trust to see the project through.

This program has helped students to connect some of the basic design principles that they have learned in school to a larger social, economic, and cultural environment and find ways to improve upon it. In addition, the mentors participating in this program are often exposed to new ways of thinking about things, and the students help them to be aware of things that they may not have known about otherwise. We look forward to seeing more local design mentoring programs offer the same benefits to mentors and students in the future.

If you enjoy the content shared by the Over My Shoulder Foundation, contact us! SHARE your mentoring stories, consider donating to our non-profit organization, and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook too!



School: By Design gives students a chance to make a difference in their school. Source: nolaclutterbusters

Getting our youth involved in design mentoring programs is one of our goals with our Designing the Next Generation initiative, which is why we often use our blog as an opportunity to share mentoring success stories.

One unique program that we wanted to mention is School: By Design, which pairs under-served high school students up with mentors that are either in college or design professionals. Through this one-of-a-kind program, the students will collaborate with their mentors to redesign their schools, which will in turn expose them to architecture, industrial design, graphic design, environmental graphics, interactive design, illustration, and photography. Ultimately, these disciplines encourage creativity and new ways of thinking about things, which will be useful skills that the students will be able to use throughout their lives.

The overall goal of this six week program is to get the students thinking outside of the box about solutions to problems and challenges that currently exist within their schools and finding ways to address them. Together, the teams will work to develop solutions that not only will improve the quality of learning that students will receive in the classroom, but also in the local community as well.

To conclude the program, students will be able to exhibit their design plans in a public venue to help share their vision with peers, school administrators, and the local community. As mentors, there is so much that we can learn from this experience, and getting our youth involved and excited about the world of design is key to a successful future. To learn more about how you can participate in this program, please complete and submit the registration form to Worldstudio.

To learn more about design mentoring programs, please contact us at the Over My Shoulder Foundation! We also invite you to SHARE your mentoring success stories!



Studying art and design can help young people progress creatively and intellectually. Source: Freedigitalphotos.net

At the Over My Shoulder Foundation, we are passionate about Designing the Next Generation and have made this subject our international conversation about mentoring. Unfortunately, our country’s education system has a limited budget for art and design curriculum and regards such subjects as luxury extracurricular activities. In reality, weight should be placed more heavily on the importance of visual learning as it plays a valuable role in the development of our next generation. Outlined below are several reasons why art and design are critical aspects of education for young people:

  • Decision Making: While it may not seem like it at first glance, art and design can actually strengthen problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Creativity inspires our youth to look at things from different angles as well as discover new ways of doing things. These are critical skills that our youth can benefit from throughout their lifetime.
  • Visual Learning: Our youth are constantly exposed to three-dimensional objects on computers, social media networks, and television, and art and design can help this age group to gain more input and better understand this visual information and how to make choices based on it.
  • Cultural Awareness: Our society is becoming much more of a melting pot, and art and design are critical ways in which different cultures define themselves. For example, some colors are more prominent in one culture than another. Allowing our youth to gain a better understanding of the choices that an artist or designer may have made can allow them to better understand the concept.

To expand on our discussion of the importance of visual learning and how it plays a powerful role in Designing the Next Generation, please contact us at the Over My Shoulder Foundation.


We all know how easy it can be to become completely immersed in your work; however, that does not always lead to a fulfilled lifestyle. The most successful people tend to find a way to balance both their work and home life, although it is no easy task. As a mentor, this is one of the most important lessons that you can teach to your mentee. If you’re not sure how to relay this message, we wanted to share some useful tips for maintaining work-life balance:


The most successful people know how to balance their time. Source: Freedigitalphotos.net

  • Incorporate downtime into your schedule. This means building in time to hang out with friends and family, which is one of the best ways to recharge. By making a habit of proactively doing this, you will find that you still have time to work hard and play hard.
  • Outsource your errands. A trip to the grocery store and mowing your lawn can take up precious time, which you probably don’t have a lot of. Find ways to eliminate these daily chores when possible, such as ordering your groceries on the Internet and paying someone to cut your lawn.
  • Make time for exercise. Exercise is a great stress reliever and is a proven way to increase your energy levels and allow for better concentration. Starting your morning with a run or trip to the gym before your family wakes up can allow you to fit in a workout without taking time away from family or work.

If you enjoy the content provided by Over My Shoulder Foundation, contact us! SHARE your mentoring stories, consider donating to our non-profit, and don’t forget to follow Over My Shoulder Foundation on Facebook, too!




MuralWorks in the School teaches kids to express themselves through art. Source: victoriabernal

One of the more unique ways that a community has been able to engage youth and use teamwork as an opportunity to teach positive work ethic is through Minneapolis’s Mentoring Peace Through Art program. The mission of this program is to use art and neighborhood improvement projects as a way to serve the social needs of at-risk youth of diverse communities by putting them in real life situations of working together. As a result, the participants of the program will feel a sense of self-worth. Mentoring Peace Through Art offers two programs: MuralWorks in the Streets and MuralWorks in the Schools.

Through the MuralWorks in the Streets program, unpleasant gang graffiti is painted over with vibrant colors to make peaceful, positive images. The majority of the teens participating in the program have very limited experience with painting, so not only are they coming together to improve their community, but they’re learning together too. During the summer of 2012, the program engaged 80 teens in the community to paint 11 murals throughout Minneapolis.

Similar to the MuralWorks in the Streets program, MuralWorks in the School also uses art as an opportunity to teach teamwork to at-risk youth. The main difference is that MuralWorks in the School works with elementary school aged students in the classroom. Throughout the fall of 2012, this program worked with 90 third-graders at Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School to turn them into “education workers” and get them excited about art.

We are advocates of mentorship at the Over My Shoulder Foundation as we understand the positive outcomes that can result from these types of relationships. Please contact us to learn more about our organization and how to find a mentorship program in your community.

Sometimes some of our greatest mentors come from the teachers that we meet throughout our lives. Even if you are a teacher yourself, sometimes turning to a more tenured teacher that has been recognized as a leader in your school can help to convert you from a good teacher to a great teacher. With the start of a new school year, we thought it would be appropriate to share some useful mentoring tips for teachers:


Foster a support system and everybody can improve. Source: Freedigitalphotos.net

For new teachers:

  • If something is challenging you, don’t be afraid to ask questions or advice from other teachers. Everyone was new and inexperienced at some point and will be able to relate where you are coming from.
  • Keep a list or informal journal for teaching strategies and activities that did or did not work throughout the day. Periodically review this with your mentor to discuss ways for improvement.
  • Ask to watch your mentor in the classroom. Take note of how he or she is with curriculum, instruction, and interaction with students.

For mentors of new teachers:

  • Take the time to listen to questions and concerns from new teachers.
  • Determine what your new teacher’s greatest strengths are and find a way to highlight and enhance these strengths.
  • Ask a new teacher to shadow you for a day.

For administrators of new teachers:

  • Carefully select experienced teachers to serve as mentors for new teachers.
  • Offer the necessary resources and support to encourage the success of the mentoring relationship.
  • Meet with the mentor and new teacher regularly to get updates on how the relationship is progressing.

For more mentoring tips for teachers, be sure to check out our recent post about a successful mentoring relationship in the classroom or contact us at the Over My Shoulder Foundation.



Patti Austin and Designer Dawn Carroll

As I continue to learn more about the cutting edge designers, builders, and architects out there, I am amazed by what I find. My partner and co-founder Dawn Carroll just introduced me to the bio of super star architect Zaha Hadid. Oh how I would love to be mentored by her!

She was most recently recognized at the international level for her incredible design of the Olympic Aquatic Centre, which houses two swimming pools and 22,500 seats. Other notable designs include the Bridge Pavilion in Spain, the Bergisel Ski Jump in Austria, and the Vitra Fire Station in Germany. She has also begun planning for an 11-story condo building on NYC’s High Line. Her successful career in architecture has earned her the Pritzker Prize and the label of one of CNN’s ‘Leading Women’ among many other accolades.

Surprisingly, there are very few leading women architects in the industry, which makes me wonder why this is the case. The RIBA Future Trends Survey indicated a 7 percent decline in the number of female architects over the past two years.

According to Zaha, she thinks that it is because many women struggle with the work/life balance and often feel overwhelmed trying to be the best at everything: career woman, homemaker, mother, and wife. By trying to juggle all of the tasks related to their personal lives, they may feel as though they don’t have the focus or drive to become successful architects.


Mentor Architect Alex Zaras of Zaras & Neudorfer Architects- Mentee Patti A and Mentor builder Bryan Beaver of Thoughtforms Corporation

To help create more successful women architects in the future, Zaha is a believer in women in mentoring relationships. In fact, while she used to not like being labeled a ‘woman architect’, she now knows that her role as a leader in the industry can be inspirational for other aspiring women architects and help to reassure them that it can be done.

I, along with my mentor in design, Dawn Carroll, have started the Over My Shoulder Foundation in an effort to start an international conversation on mentoring through our Designing the Next Generation series. Please contact us to learn more about women in mentoring and the powerful effect it can have.