Attracting and Retaining Talent

Mentoring interns: Helping future top talent grow

Get the most out of your intern program by providing a best-practice mentoring program to ensure your new employees get the most out of their experience.

Matthew Reeves

Published on 

October 11, 2022

Updated on 

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For many students, internships are their first experience in a workplace setting. It is a unique challenge as well as an opportunity. Interns can feel overwhelmed with the experience, however – which is why intern mentoring programs can be useful for organizations that want to get the best out of their interns.

Mentorships are proven to help interns succeed in the future, both in their studies and employment. The added support can help them adapt faster to the workplace culture. There’s also the possibility that it will open the door for learning and networking opportunities they may not otherwise have had.

For companies and organizations, internships can also be a cost saver. Many interns are prime candidates for future employment; an internship can help an organization get to know the capabilities and skills of potential hires, helping to reduce the cost associated with attracting talent. By hiring an intern for a full-time position, you will get a worker that is already very familiar with your company culture. They can hit the ground running!

What does it mean to mentor interns?

Most companies expect their employees and managers to help with the training and development of interns. Many mentors feel like they are left to figure it out on their own, though, which can be a daunting task – especially for those who have never mentored someone before.

That’s why it’s crucial to develop formal intern mentoring programs designed to help interns transition into the workplace and learn new skills, as well as give mentors the tools they need to succeed with mentoring (mentor training is a separate topic we’ve covered in the article, Mentor training programs: Setting mentors up for success).

What are the benefits of mentoring interns?

For college students, internships are one of the key ways to find employment after they graduate. It allows them to get their foot in the door of their desired industry, learn new skills, and network with professionals.

While it may seem like extra work with no tangible benefits, intern mentoring programs can be very rewarding for the intern, the mentor, and the organization. For example, many of your interns will be Gen Z. Reports reveal that the Gen Z generation values growth opportunities and mentoring programs are a clear way to fulfill this need.

Let’s look at some of the other benefits of mentoring interns:

Form strong relationships with future employees

Many organizations use internships as a way to screen and assess future employees. One study reveals that about 60 percent of the time, an internship will end up in employment for an intern.

There is a strong possibility that the intern you are mentoring could be your future employee. 

By taking the time to help them grow and develop their skills under a mentoring program, you can get to know the interns better, see how they would fit into your company culture, and develop a good working relationship with them.

Build a reputation among colleges for training interns

According to a study, students who have completed internships are more likely to have higher grades and better odds of finding work. As a result, companies that are known for providing quality internships and mentoring programs will have an easier time attracting top talent.

By offering intern mentoring programs, you can build a reputation as an organization that is committed to providing interns with valuable training and development opportunities. These programs will make your company more attractive to students when they are looking for an internship.

Encourage knowledge transfer among different generations

About 13 percent of students who have intern experience are more likely to find a full-time job after they graduate than those who do not have any work experience.

More and more students are looking for internships as a way to start their careers in their desired industry. There’s undoubtedly a growing need for organizations to transfer knowledge from more experienced employees to interns.

Mentoring programs provide an opportunity for this knowledge transfer to take place, as it allows mentors to share their knowledge and experiences with interns to help them learn more about what to expect in the workplace and how to be successful in their roles.

Train managers on leadership skills

When you think about it, mentoring is a form of leadership development. It allows managers to sharpen their leadership skills by working with interns to help them develop their skills and knowledge.

In fact, among the 62 percent of financial executives who served as mentors, 38% of them consider improving their leadership skills as the greatest benefit of being a mentor.

Organizations that run intern mentoring programs can see a return on their investment through the development of their leaders. Managers who are able to successfully mentor interns will be better equipped to manage and train employees in the future, which can have a positive impact on employee retention and engagement levels.

Build a culture of growth

In our State of Coaching and Mentoring report, 60 percent of HR professionals consider mentoring as an essential part of workplace development, and 62 percent of them expect to see more of it in the next decade.

When you invest in the development of your employees, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. Creating formal mentoring programs provides employees with opportunities to grow and develop their skills and reach their full potential in a collaborative space.

How to build an intern mentorship program

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of an intern mentoring program, let’s unpack how you can start building your own.

Decide on the goal

Before planning any aspects of the program, you need to clearly understand what your goals and objectives are. Some common goals of intern mentoring programs include:

  • Providing training and development opportunities for interns
  • Helping interns adjust to the workplace culture
  • Giving interns exposure to different aspects of the company
  • Building relationships with future employees
  • Creating a pipeline of talent for the company

Make a plan to pair interns

The pairing process is one of the most crucial steps in creating a successful intern mentoring program. It’s important to consider the size of your organization and other factors, such as goals, skills, interests, experiences, and preferences, when making your mentor-mentee pairings.

Here at Together, our pairing algorithm makes it easier and faster to weigh all these factors to create the best mentor-intern pairs for your organization.

Train mentors and clarify expectations

To foster a meaningful mentoring relationship from the beginning, mentors should be properly trained and aware of their role and responsibilities in supporting their mentees. It’s helpful to have a system in place like mentoring software where mentors and interns can communicate, exchange ideas, and give feedback about the program.

Wendy Axelrod, author of 10 Steps to Successful Mentoring spoke with our CEO, Matthew Reeves about what separates successful mentoring programs from those that flop. She shared that cultivating strong mentors was a crucial step in taking a good mentoring program to a great one:

For more tips and resources on becoming a great mentor, download Together’s Mentor Handbook for free.

Provide mentoring resources along with training materials

Making sure your mentors have access to quality resources is another key element of a successful program. These resources might include industry news, helpful articles, eBooks, white papers, and templates to help mentors kick-start their mentoring journey.

Conduct an orientation for interns

Once you’ve assembled your team of mentors and have gathered all the necessary resources, it’s time to conduct an orientation for your interns. It is a great opportunity to give them an overview of the company, introduce them to the program and their mentors, and set expectations for the program.

Check-in and solicit feedback from interns and mentors

How do you know if your mentoring program is successful? Checking in with both the interns and mentors regularly, whether through surveys on one-on-one meetings, is essential to gauge the progress and effectiveness of the program.

Asking for feedback from mentors and mentees will help you identify any areas that need improvement and get suggestions on how to make the program even better.

There is much more we could unpack on building a mentoring program. If you’re grappling with where to get started, we outline every step in this comprehensive guide.

Back to intern mentoring; let’s outline some tips for mentoring interns.

Tips for mentoring interns

For mentors to be successful in their role, they need to adapt their style and approach to each individual intern. No two students are the same, so it’s crucial to tailor the mentoring experience to the needs of the individual.

Connect early with your intern

Whether you meet them in person or virtually, try to connect with your intern as soon as possible by being present and engaged. Put them at ease and make them feel more comfortable working with you.

Check-in with your intern regularly

An intern is often overwhelmed with the new environment, rules, and expectations. It's essential to check in with your intern every couple of days to see how they're doing and offer support when needed.

Demonstrate empathy and understanding

Let your intern know you understand what they are going through. You can even share your own experiences and provide advice when needed. Showing empathy will help them feel supported and appreciated.

Extend support when needed

Like most workplace mentorships, intern mentors should also act as an extra resource, which means being aware of what your intern is working on, offer some ideas on how to complete their assignment, or suggest training opportunities to help them meet their professional goals.

Connect them with others

A mentoring program is not only about the mentor-intern relationship. It's also about connecting your intern with other professionals in the organization to help them network and learn more about the industry.

Ready to start your intern mentorship program?

Whether you're looking to build relationships with future employees, attract top talent, or provide quality training and development opportunities to your interns, intern mentoring programs can be beneficial for organizations, mentors, and students.

If you're planning to start a mentorship program for interns, building it with a platform like Together can give you the structure and support needed to develop and manage a meaningful program.

With our all-in-one mentorship software, you can easily match mentors with interns, create custom mentorship programs, track the progress of each individual, and measure the success of the program.

Make a lasting impact on your interns’ careers with Together’s mentorship platform.

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