Find a Great Mentor …By Being a Great Mentee

In my interviews with young professionals for my upcoming book, “In the Driver’s Seat”, I’ve heard people say that mentoring is more important to them than getting paid.

To illustrate, Jamie Farrell wrote a blog post suggesting that Gen Y’s will gladly take a pay cut in exchange for great mentoring, because they value the long-term career building opportunity over the short-term gain of more pay. This point gets to the heart of what this generation really wants: great experience, great tutelage and the opportunity to have a “sponsor”—someone who can open key doors and really help build their career.

As an intern, whether you’re getting paid or not, you might want to take the advice of older Gen Y’s like Jamie and seek out a mentor as early as you can. Mentors can help you get more out of your internship and increase your exposure to your areas of interest, not to mention provide long-term career advancement.

Here are some thoughts on finding someone to mentor you (Hint: the trick is to be a great mentee.)

Be Willing, Be Able, Be Humble


The reason you’ve been hired as an intern is because the organization needs help. Your boss may be overworked and harried, and will want to rely on somebody—anybody—who can help relieve some of the pressure.

Pitch in and do anything you can to support your boss. As Jodi Glickman recommends in her excellent blog post, show a strong work ethic and a desire to make your boss’s life easier.

Your boss is your most likely prospective mentor, if you do a good job and are a good fit for the role you’ve been asked to fill. So take advantage of the fact that he or she is the person who will be most likely to know your work and take an interest in you.

Be A Problem Solver


Regardless of your level of experience and exposure to your field of interest, you probably have some good ideas on how to help your organization. We’ve spoken in this column previously about “reverse mentoring”, ie. younger Gen Y’s teaching older generations tasks that may not come as naturally – such as anything related to technology. As a native technologist, you may have new ideas to solve old problems—and may get yourself some positive attention from prospective mentors in the process.

Be A Networker


Even if networking isn’t your strongest skill, it behooves you to reach out and meet as many people as you can. Assume that people are busy, so be respectful of time constraints. But do try to connect with Gen Y’s a bit older than you who have started their careers. They will be the best window into whether the field could be the right choice for you, and if they like you they might offer to mentor you.

Make time to have lunch or coffee with somebody different, at least three times a week. Take advantage of your position as a member of the team to create opportunities for informational interviews. The more people who get to know you and your capabilities, the more resources you will bring to your job search and career.

By following this advice, and by being an ideal mentee, you’re much more likely to find a great mentor for your career development.

About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor who works with mid-career executives and young adults to help them identify their unique value in the marketplace and explore alternative careers. Allison is the author of an upcoming book In the Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigation Skills for Young Adults, to help young adults from late high school through college develop strengths and interests and match them to internships, coursework and, ultimately, the right job.

Cheston blogs frequently on career issues for young adults at her own blog, In the Driver’s Seat as well as at Forbes. She also blogs for mid-career professionals at The Examiner.

This entry was posted in Mentorship and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.