It’s intern season. Make it meaningful by moving from managing to mentoring.

TEN|10 Group’s summer intern, Avery Lemmons, shares her perspective on what aspiring young professionals are really hoping for in a mentor and internship experience. 

It’s intern season. Make it meaningful by moving from managing to mentoring.

As summer heats up, companies large and small are welcoming new summer interns seeking real-world work experience and exposure to an industry or discipline in which they hope to launch a career. As anyone who has ever managed an intern knows, organizing and supervising meaningful work is, well, a lot of work. That said, when companies and supervisors move from managing interns to mentoring individuals, the benefits to both parties are undeniable.

WHY mentoring matters?

The benefits of the mentor/mentee relationship between manager and intern have been well documented in numerous studies. The HR Research department at SAP, the global enterprise software giant, summarized 30 years of such research here.

Per the summary, mentored employees received more promotions, higher compensation and felt a greater satisfaction in their careers. Further, mentors themselves have a higher level of job satisfaction and organizational commitment, greater career success and perceive increased work-related fulfillment.

HOW do you make it meaningful?

When trying to uncover insights around what interns are really seeking from a mentor, we thought it best to go straight to the source. TEN|10 Group’s intern, Avery Lemmons, shares her perspective and practical advice.

I’ve always had mentors. From my two older sisters to teachers and coaches to women in my church, I’ve benefited from the wisdom of individuals a few steps ahead of me in life. Throughout my undergraduate experience, mentorship in the workplace has been highly encouraged by my parents, professors and peers. I’m excited about how mentorship will make my intern experience with the TEN|10 Group more meaningful – and hopefully benefit my mentors, too.

In short, here’s what interns really want from a mentor:

  • Have a teaching mindset.
  • Share your wisdom.
  • Provide learning opportunities.

Have a teaching mindset.

This is about starting from where your intern is. Begin by defining jargon as you move through conversations to help them adjust to the energy industry. Interns may avoid asking questions out of fear of being viewed as underprepared or in the way. Encourage your intern to ask questions, which are essential to ensure you are both on the same page – especially for tasks your intern hasn’t done before. Here is my view on important characteristics of a teaching mindset:

Be available and approachable. Create an open line of communication with your intern and make sure they know how and when to access you. Engage in frequent, purposeful communication. Have conversations about the work you’re doing, the work they’re doing and the industry in general. If possible, schedule time each week to talk with your intern. This will make the summer more meaningful for both of you. Take the initiative to get to know your intern. Interns may hesitate to reach out for informal time because they don’t want to bother you, but even a simple lunch will mean the world.

Provide feedback. Outline clear expectations for a project upfront and then provide honest, real-time feedback to help your intern learn. Take the work they give you and make quick notes and suggested changes. Make sure your intern sees the final deliverable for projects they had a hand in. This will allow them to connect the dots between their contributions and the end result.

Encourage. Like any good teacher, look for the potential in your mentee and seek to draw it out of them. An essential part of effective feedback, in addition to recommendations for improvement, is praising your intern’s success when they do well on a task. A quick email response saying, “Great job on this!” will encourage your intern and work towards cultivating their potential.

Here’s a secret about your intern: They probably don’t know exactly which career path they want to pursue. As undergraduates, we’re exploring and learning. Exposure is essential to help us discover where we excel, what kind of work we enjoy and which career will be a good fit. Exposing your intern to multiple people doing different jobs within your organization will help them assess which path they want to pursue. Further, your intern will benefit from learning the steps you and others in your company took to attain their desired position.

Share your wisdom.

Be willing to share a glimpse into your unique set of career experiences, connections, and expertise. This is one of the most valuable things you can offer your intern. Listening to a professional discuss his or her area of expertise provides a deeper understanding of the industry and the opportunity to learn from someone many steps ahead on the career path.

Be open to discussing your current projects and how you conduct your daily work. Take the lead on these conversations: describe the most challenging work situation you’ve dealt with and how you handled it. Share stories of your career successes and failures. In the end, your intern will be both inspired and a little wiser.

While meetings and phone calls are essential, sharing your wisdom doesn’t always have to be a sit-down conversation. Copy your intern on email exchanges for the projects they’re staffed on to maximize their exposure to the daily work you do.

Provide learning opportunities.

There are two main components: giving the intern real tasks and providing exposure.

Give real tasks. Interns aspire to gain industry experience by undertaking work projects that provide real-world experience universities cannot emulate. These projects will build your intern’s resume and confidence, develop hard and soft skills untapped in the classroom, and create a sense of pride in the productive work they’re doing. Consider this blog post, for example – I’m an intern working alongside a professional on an actual assignment. The key is to set your intern up for success first. Provide the resources and information they need. Take note of the strengths you found in them during the hiring process and tap into those abilities.

Exposure is one of the main goals of any intern. This involves exposure to real projects, explained above, and to the network of the industry. Interactions purposed to build your intern’s network will prove incredibly useful to them. You can supply valuable connections to people they would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet. Take the time to introduce your intern whenever they are in a room with new people.

You may be thinking, “I don’t have the time to mentor my intern like this!” While this list may seem long, even implementing one or two of these suggestions can help make your intern’s summer more meaningful. I hope you found this inside look from an intern’s perspective helpful and informative.

In summary, move from managing to mentoring your intern by looping them in, giving them real work, encouraging questions, and providing feedback.

Look for our next blog post: “Perspectives on Ransomware and Cybersecurity”.