Many students or young professionals take an internship, so they can gain mentorship experience—someone guiding them through their work and giving feedback can be invaluable. It’s important for companies to nurture their interns. Internship mentoring is an integral part of the development process. It not only provides a more hands-on approach to helping interns improve their job skills and understanding of how to behave in the workplace but also makes them feel more appreciated by an employer, demonstrating an organization’s investment in their professional growth. That can boost workers’ motivation and, in turn, the quality of their work. Not only will having a mentor with these qualities benefit the intern, but it’ll also give the mentor an opportunity to be a leader in your workplace.
Yet, mentoring an intern can only succeed if it is conducted skillfully. It requires a willingness of organizations to give interns responsibility and provide feedback. Consider these guidelines to help you effectively manage your internship program and provide successful mentorship.
As the mentor, introduce yourself to your intern on day one. Even if they have had a tour of the building, it doesn’t hurt to show them around again, especially where you sit so they can find you. Ask the intern questions to get to know them as you walk around.
This initial meeting is also a great time to cover things like acceptable office attire, upcoming holidays when the office might be closed, and any office social activities — important factors of the internship program that the program director may not have touched on.
Don’t just meet your intern once, say you’re here if they need anything, and then disappear. It’s unlikely they will seek you out unless something is terribly wrong. It’s better to check in with them every few days to see if she has questions. It’s also important to be involved in their work, at some level, and know what they are working on. If you don’t know what your intern has on their plate, you can’t help them or suggest resources that may be available. Keeping up with their assignments allows you to gauge their workload and get insights into how they are doing, as any successful mentor should.
Clarify your business mission and values
Displaying and clarifying how your mission and values apply to your business motivates workers to stay focused on your business goals and the best ways to interact with customers. As a mentor, you can help interns improve their skills with all the resulting benefits for their careers while also having a positive effect on an organization in the short and long term.
Nationwide provides a great example: “acting with honesty, integrity, and respect,” is a common principle promoted by businesses today. If this value applies to your business, ask interns how they felt when a customer service representative treated them respectfully and how it affected their thinking about a brand. You can also encourage interns to share how your customer service is being perceived by their peers or family members. Their insights might expose your business to a hidden service issue or, better yet, generate a new, positive online review.”
Lead Conversation and Questions
An intern may be too shy or nervous to come right out and say they have a problem, such as they are having trouble meeting a deadline, or that they don't understand a project they were tasked with. Ask leading questions like, “How’s your workload?” or “Were you able to find the information you needed to complete that report?” This gives them an opening to express how they are really feeling.
Also be sure to encourage questions. Really drive the point home with an anecdotal example if you can. Start with something like, “I remember when I first started here, I couldn’t get the printer unjammed and spent an hour trying to fix it. I wish I’d asked for help.” This reassures them that there are no stupid questions and they can trust your support throughout the intern program.
Help Them Network
A huge advantage of an internship is the ability to network with people who can help impact or influence an intern’s career. As a mentor, it would be a great jester to help them with their networking skills. Are you on a committee at work? You could take your intern to that meeting so they can see how it runs. Are you taking a client to lunch? Take your intern too. Expose them to as many opportunities as you can. Encourage them to interact with colleagues in the hallway too. It also helps to set up brief meetings for your intern with colleagues across functions in the organization so they can meet new people, learn what they do, and understand how you all work together.