Time to Plan for Mentoring Internships

With the Spring semester at its midpoint, students are beginning the search for summer internships. This year, possibly more than ever before, it’s important for adults in the labor market to try to open their hearts and companies to offer mentoring internships.

A bit of background. I started offering internships to students in my very first full-time job. The concept was simple: provide students with an opportunity to learn about job/career opportunities, and learn about their own strengths, weaknesses and interests, by integrating them into productive projects within companies. Since then, I’ve worked for public, private, nonprofit and government organizations and served over 650 interns. We referred to them as mentoring internships, because we took extra time to mentor the students so they could make better career choices.  At one point, at a school career fair, we realized that despite the fact that my teams were small, we were serving more students than much larger companies. We even published an ebook to help other companies adopt our mentoring internship model.  (It led to the development of another mentoring program model for companies who wanted to stop the churn of young recruits; one used it successfully for seven years as it engaged new and experienced workers.)

Impact: A recent study by the ASTD (American Society of Training & Development) documents the value of such programs along four key measures:

  • Development: More than 60% of interns and recent college grads list mentoring as a criterion for selecting an employer after graduation; 76% of Fortune’s top 25 companies offer mentoring programs.  
  • Productivity: Managerial productivity increased by 88% when mentoring was involved versus 24% increase with training alone.
  • Retention: 77% of companies report that mentoring was effective in increasing employee retention; 35% of employees who do not receive regular mentoring look for another job within 12 months. 
  • Promotion: 75% percent of executives point to mentoring as playing a key role in their careers.

Why It’s so Important Now. One of the impacts of the pandemic has been a general re-evaluation by students and adults about developing lifestyles and careers. Today’s students face a different world than most older adults. Increasingly, they are living in a digital economy, where physical labor isn’t the key requirement. During their elongated life to 100+, they can engage in lifelong learning to pivot into as many as 10 careers – and provide their services from outside a central office. This enables them to pursue passion and purpose as the commit to mental and physical health, financial security and independence, and meaningful relationships.  Faced with these options, mentoring internships provide an ability for them to learn from the experiences of people who are at the forefront of some of these changes.

It’s clearly more challenging now, since so much of the worker-team is virtual. It is more difficult to onboard and supervise/mentor people who aren’t in the same workspace and have to save the interaction time to scheduled Zoon calls.  But as we get increasing control of our lives through vaccinations, changed office spaces, and new working styles, we will learn how to create hybrid experiences.  Indeed, I resumed taking on interns during the 20-21 academic year to provide experiences for both students who must be 100% virtual (e.g., in Australia) and combined on-site and virtual training for people who are local.

Feel free to reach out to me to answer questions. Reach me at jerrycahn@presentationexcellence.com  

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