Four Features Of Mentoring Internships

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We hear a lot about internships today but – Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) – not all internships are equal.  To get the most out make sure you have a Mentoring Internship which includes these features.

Youth unemployment and underemployment is at twice the rate of adults. The job market is going through massive changes in terms of part- and full-time employment opportunities and industry changes in how they relate to customers (e.g., retail vs. e-commerce). Further, today there are positions (e.g., technology) which didn’t exist 20 years ago which create new opportunities.

Today’s students are more mature than ever before and many only in high school already are looking for internships.  Historically, some companies offer graduate and (some) college students internships as a way to powerfully recruit talented employees who’ve proven they also fit into the culture. For high school and college students who are looking for career- and workplace-experiences, companies selecting them do so because they know they can help the students learn, get certain projects accomplished productively, and know they are contributing to the community. (See “10 Reasons to Offer a Mentoring Internship Programâ€.) However, it’s up to you, the student, to choose an internship that includes, at the least, these four features of mentoring Internships. Remember, the issue isn’t the prestige of the company, but the quality of the mentoring experience that counts!

  1. Job Description – should indicate that you will get the experience you want. While you’re not the boss, just the “low-person†on the totem pole, you should be directly involved with the activities to which you want exposure. For instance, if you’re doing research, you’re able to learn about research tools, best practices for conducting research and documenting it, and able to see how it will be used at the end. If you’re involved with customer-service, you are assisting members of the team who provide the service so you can see the process itself, including getting feedback on how the quality, quantity and style of delivery mattered.  Working with the team – and not being isolated from everyone during the bulk of your work is key – because you learn not only directly from by doing, but also indirectly by listening to the team discuss what they do, how and why (i.e., “osmosisâ€). The goal might be to take some responsibility for some outcomes, develop new technical and people skills, and develop confidence and self-esteem by accomplishing something important.
  2. Supervisor – is committed to being a mentor and not just a boss. He/she benefits from having you increase productivity and from knowing you’re learning about career options, teamwork, communication, and about the culture of workplaces. The ideal supervisor is someone who likes teaching younger people as part of their everyday activities. (Maybe a parent or other person who loves helping kids!) When appropriate, you can be asked to join your Supervisor at meetings; what better way to see him/her as a role model?! Mentoring takes place at all times of the work-time, not just at a few designated one-on-one times.
  3. Company – is a host that appreciates your efforts and gives you the opportunity to learn about the company itself and how it related to customers, investors and the community. It also gives you a chance to discover other jobs/careers being pursued elsewhere. If you’re part of an organized program, the Internship Director might schedule time at the beginning to introduce the company and offer to schedule brief introductory meetings with people in other departments so you can see the “whole†picture of the company (e.g., discuss how the health care research is being used by the medical practitioners!).
  4. Career/Education Integration – is the ultimate benefit of a great mentoring internship. As you learn about career options, you probably will get ideas on additional courses and internships might help you hone your skills and focus on career options. Integrate the discussions and insights from work with school advisors who can suggest new courses.