Learn from an Engineering Mentor

Learning from an audio engineering mentor can be a wonderful and rewarding experience that can literally catapult you to success. However, it is incumbent upon the mentee (student or extern) to hold up their end of the bargain. Here’s a secret mentors won’t tell you. They can size you up within the first five minutes of meeting you. A bad first impression will be an obstacle to getting the most from your mentor.

So how do you make a good first impression? Here are a few tips on how to handle yourself.

  • It’s OK to be nervous when you meet your mentor. It’s not OK to be a suck up.
  • It’s OK to show up a few minutes early for your first meeting with your mentor. It’s not OK to be just on time, and it’s even worse to be late. Worst of all is being a no-show.
  • It’s OK to ask questions, even dumb ones, when you meet your mentor.
  • It’s OK to relate to your mentor as if he were a school teacher. It’s even better if you can relate to him as a co-conspirator helping you reach your dreams.
  • Treat your mentor with respect. He’s paid his dues. As the mentee, your role requires you to do all you can to earn your mentor’s respect.
  • Demonstrate you are prepared for your meeting with a mentor.

Your pre-mentor meeting thought process should be centered on defining what you hope to get out of your mentor experience.

  • What do you want to learn?
  • Where you want to be in one year, three years, five years?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses and how can your mentor best help you improve?
  • How much time will you have with your mentor each week? NOTE: make sure when you ask this question you do so in a way that doesn’t imply that you are looking for the least amount of time with the mentor, but rather how can you maximize your time with the mentor.
  • What is the structure the mentor is willing to provide you? How does he want to mentor you? What is his advice on how you can be the perfect mentee?
  • Provided you prove yourself to be responsible and trustworthy and can demonstrate some talent and ability, is your mentor open to the idea of letting you use his studio for your own music, or for recording sessions of artists you can bring in for recording sessions?
  • If your mentor likes your music, can he help you monetize it?
  • Your mentor is generally going to be older, and likely wiser than you. As such, he can offer you life lessons as well as audio engineering lessons. Think about how you can let him know you are willing, in fact eager, to hear his advice on more than just music.
  • Your mentor already has industry connections. What do you have to demonstrate to him before he will start opening these industry doors?

The main reason a successful audio engineer chooses to take time out of their busy schedule to be a mentor is a concept called “pay it forward.” Many successful people, in all businesses, not just the music industry, realize they didn’t get to where they are all by themselves. Along the way, they got advice, hard knocks life lessons, and opportunities as a result of their interactions with others. They get joy and satisfaction from helping others achieve their dreams. What the mentor does NOT want to do is waste their time.

The blueprint above for a successful first meeting with your mentor-to-be is a starting point only. What you and your mentor-to-be are really looking to get out of this initial meeting is the answer to the question “Can we work together?” Unlike traditional school, the objective when learning from an audio engineering mentor is not about getting good grades or passing written tests, it is about learning a craft well enough to make money from it. It’s more of a partnership relationship than it is teacher student. For this mentor/mentee partnership to work you need to get accepted by the mentor as someone worthy of their time and efforts to mentor you. Additionally, you need to come away from the initial mentor meeting with the conviction that the mentor you just met with is the one you want to learn from. In other words, don’t be so eager to get started that you settle for the mentor even if you don’t connect with them on some level. For a mentor to be effective they need to be able to inspire you. And that is the most important take-away from your initial mentor meeting—did they inspire you?

So, where do you find an engineering mentor? That’s easy. Check out the Recording Connection. They offer a variety of engineering programs for those interested in pursuing a career in audio. These programs are all based on the mentor/extern model of education and they can hook you up with a great mentor that’s in your area so you can meet in person.


Uriel Soto on Finding Recording Connection and Getting Hired at ES Audio

How to Become an Audio Engineer in Months, not Years

Seva Ball on Hiring Externs & his Journey into Audio

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