How to Mentor Your Intern

Internships are becoming increasingly important for college students and entry level employees to build experience. According to a survey of more than 2,000 students, 85 percent said an internship is a valuable experience to enter their careers. Students use internships to develop specific skills and add workplace experience to their resumes. If you’re working with interns within your organization, you can develop this young talent and mentor them for future growth.

How to Mentor Your Intern

Mentorship is different from management, however and this is important to understand. Mentors don’t just give direction, they challenge and inspire their mentees so they can succeed in the future.

Use this guide if you want to be a mentor, not just a boss. Follow these actionable tips to increase the value your interns get from your program so they can give it right back with added skills and increased productivity.

Have a plan for your interns before they start

An intern isn’t just an entry-level employee. Their job is not to pick up the slack on basic tasks. Interns are there to learn about processes, shadow leaders, and complete projects to build their workplace experience. If you intend to take on interns, make sure you have a plan for them.

Mentoring an intern is a balance between managing an employee and teaching a student. You need to set aside time to develop a curriculum with lessons and tasks each week. Your intern might have some day-to-day tasks that relieve your workload. However, they also need to be challenged and to learn something new.

Let your intern complete a project

One way to elevate your internship program with mentorship is to give a project to your interns that they can complete from start to finish. You can present a problem to your intern, ask them to propose solutions, and guide them as they execute the best solution and measure their results. This experience is invaluable! And your interns will be able to talk about what they have accomplished during future job interviews.

For me, the highlight of the internship was the fact that I got the chance to work on a product that would eventually be used by other people. The project was quite challenging, but that has only enhanced the experience.

Andrei, 3 years at 4PSA

This project doesn’t need to be something that takes up your time. Also, it shouldn’t be a vanity project that doesn’t have a real impact on the organization. Consider working with your team a few weeks before the interns starts to generate project ideas. Some of the best projects are ideas that you have meant to get to but haven’t had the time or energy to tackle yet.

Be open to feedback from your intern

Your interns have opinions, whether this is their first workplace experience or they’ve held jobs before. Just because you have become a mentor doesn’t mean you don’t have room to grow. Consider actively soliciting feedback from your interns while keeping the door open for them to talk to you.

In a true mentorship arrangement, interns work closely with their managers and can point out what the latter does well,” says Ahva Sadeghi, co-founder and CEO of Symba.At the same time, they can call attention to areas of their management or communication style that aren’t working out.”

When you seek out feedback from others, you have an opportunity to grow. Even small adjustments to how you communicate or review work can make you a better leader and help you inspire future workers.

Your willingness to accept feedback also means you don’t have to be a perfect manager before you can take on staff members. You are allowed to be a normal human who is growing and learning.

Remember! Your internship program reflects your organization

Your interns will remember this experience and share it with others. They will return to school and talk about everything they learned, the projects they completed and the mentor they had. They will also share any drawbacks of working for your organization.

The internship is our first contact with the real world after finishing school. It’s the moment when every graduate decides whether they chose the right career path. That’s why it is very important for it to be a positive experience. The colleagues, the work environment, the mentors, the tasks, are all part of this experience.”

Florentina, 7 years at 4PSA

Investing in providing a mentor for your interns means investing in your company. Not only will quality leadership make your internship programs more competitive, but it will increase your talent pool as a whole. More people will be attracted to your work environment and will be excited to learn with you.

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