‘Let no one live rent-free in your head’

Meet a Mentor Phase 3, Session 3 at Somerset House

22 June 2017

For the penultimate Meet a Mentor evening we met in the grandeur of Somerset House — a unique cultural building which hosts both live events and exhibitions, with more than 50 multidisciplinary artists in permanent residence.

Our regular one-to-one sessions were cut a little shorter this month to allow time to hear from two fantastic speakers. First up, Kathryn Hull — Managing Director of Teneo Blue Rubicon — delivered a fascinating presentation centring on how Instagram has capitalised on the visual mobile world we all inhabit to cultivate a community of more than 700 million people.

We learnt that it took a mere 5 years for a billion humans to own a smartphone, and 85% of time on these devices is spent using apps. Instagram’s success as a social platform perhaps reflects the motto that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. Except…this feels like an underestimation considering that our brains process an image 60,000 faster than words, and it takes a mere 13 milliseconds to identify one.

By telling their stories in compelling ways, small businesses in particular have used Instagram to flourish. Kathryn’s top tips for using the app to enhance our own burgeoning personal brands included being authentic, consistent and prioritising impact; it’s ultimately better to have 10 thoroughly engaged followers than 100 indifferent ones.

One of the best things about Meet a Mentor is the honesty with which people can talk about their career journeys and conundrums. Instead of high-gloss stories we can talk about the realities of building a creative career, and some of the barriers to success. Visual storyteller Harris Elliott started his presentation with an anecdote about how, not knowing what a portfolio was, he turned up to his Design BTEC with all his work in a black bin liner…

Since then he’s worked with A-list names including Kate Tempest, Pharrell and Kasabian as a multi-disciplinary art director, curator and stylist. We learnt that his career hasn’t been a linear tale of rags to riches — and how that’s ok. The important part is having the vision and determination to carve your own path.

For me, it’s been so valuable to benefit from an objective opinion of all I have to offer an employer; from talking with other mentees, half the battle is selling yourself and proving your worth. I thought Harris’s final piece of advice was especially pertinent to us all. He quoted the British singer Nicolette’s lyrics ‘let no one live rent free in your head’ — a reminder to not undervalue your unique talents and experiences, and as his speech was titled, be brave enough to learn to fly your own flag.