Interns: Work with a Mentor… Not for a Boss

MentorThe blogosphere constantly swirls with internship-related debates: Virtual vs. in-office. Internships serving as the new entry-level job. And, of course, paid vs. unpaid.

Counsel in these areas is difficult at best. However, there is one piece of advice we give everyone – regardless of career choice, financial situation, or any other criteria:

As an intern, you MUST choose a mentor-based internship.

The last thing you want in an internship is a dictatorial supervisor who believes interns are born to fetch coffee, make copies, and serve as go-fer – they way he was treated as an intern 30 years ago. Of course, those internships still exist – especially in major corporations that haven’t adjusted their bureaucratic intern programs in a couple decades.

But… you have a choice; a decision. And that decision starts with a simple question to the recruiter:

“Is this internship a mentor-based position?”

If the answer starts with “Um…” consider offering this explanation:

  • A mentor-based internship is a career step where the intern and the mentor work collaboratively in a learning, productive environment
  • With a mentor, an intern is challenged to take on tasks, work independently – and contribute while they learn
  • The intern learns a great deal in a mentor-based internship about not only the industry/career they’ve chosen, but also about accountability, personal responsibility and working in a small-team environment
  • The mentor in these internships takes a personal interest in the success of the intern both during the internship, and possibly throughout the career of the intern

If further explanation is necessary, tell the recruiter, “I am highly interested in a mentor-based internship, as I strongly believe that it represents a more productive work-learn environment, for me and the company.”

And you would be right.

When choosing your next – of first – internship, we encourage you to strongly consider focusing on those that clearly offer the opportunity to work with someone who will take into consideration your goals and aspirations; consider the challenges you face; will serve as an expert you can call on even after your internship ends – and who genuinely cares about your success.

In other words, we encourage you to work with a mentor – not for a boss.






Mark_AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Switch and Shift, and Under30CEO.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors,” HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and CareerBliss’ “Top 10 Gen Y Career Experts.” Mark is currently working on two new books: “A World Gone Social: How Business Must Adapt to Survive (AMACOM, June 2014) with Ted Coine and “The Ultimate Guide to Internships (And Making Your College Years Matter Again)” (Allworth, September 2014). Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!


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