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Find a Mentor

Written by Michael Glavin

As an intern, there can be a great deal of pressure to learn new skills, adapt to a workplace environment and impress management.  In this environment, it can be easy for interns to overlook the great opportunity an internship provides to build a professional network and find a mentor that can help in the long-term development of a young career.

Internships are limited in time and scope and often aren’t with companies where the intern will eventually pursue full-time employment – which begs the question: Why should I even bother finding a mentor through my internship?

Even the most successful CEOs have blind spots in their professional life, and many who have experienced that level of success freely admit that they’ve had valuable mentors in their life to help nurture their professional development.   In a town hall reported by Business Insider, the author describes how Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg sought out former Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a mentor:

“Early on in our history when things weren’t really going well — we had hit a tough patch and a lot of people wanted to buy Facebook — I went and I met with Steve Jobs, and he said that to reconnect with what I believed was the mission of the company, I should go visit this temple in India that he had gone to early in the evolution of Apple, when he was thinking about what he wanted his vision of the future to be”

The bottom line is that there’s value in surrounding yourself with experienced and successful professionals from whom you can learn lessons.  Why shouldn’t you get a head start during an internship?

Your future mentor might not be an industry luminary like Steve Jobs, but in every organization there are opportunities to build relationships that lead to long-term career success.  According to a recent article in CNBC, a successful social entrepreneur outlined five distinct mentoring roles that young professionals should look out for,

  • First is the “wise veteran” who is willing to give a young person the benefit of his or her experience and knowledge,
  • Next is the “eager teacher” who is willing to pass on specific skills to newcomers,
  • The “generous peer” helps colleagues and friends learn skills and network with his or her business contacts,
  • The “life coach” advises others on personal goals and career opportunities,
  • Finally, the “good listener” is simply there to bounce ideas and explore solutions for a challenging problem.

For the same reasons an internship environment might not seem like an obvious place to find a mentor, it can also be difficult for an intern to find willing individuals and build a relationship before the internship ends.  As with many things in our professional careers, the most important ways to overcome this obstacle is to make it a priority, be intentional and develop a plan from the beginning.

FastCompany has a great set of criteria to follow when seeing a mentor in your professional environment and building out that plan, the most illuminating of these comes from an online retail executive and current mentor.

“In so many facets of my career, mentorship and the idea of empowering each other has been a huge factor in my success.”

As much value as there is in having a great mentor, successful professionals know it’s never a one-way street.  Who knows, you could be the mentorship project an executive has been looking for.

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