Intern Mentoring Programs

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.


April 29, 2019

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

Mentorships have also been shown to be a major reason that interns succeed in the future, both in their studies and employment. It can help them adapt faster to the workplace culture. In addition, there is 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. This helps 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. Thus, they can hit the ground running.

Benefits of Internships for College Students

For college students, internships are one of the key ways to find employment when they are finished studying. One study has shown that those students who have completed internships are more likely to have higher grades and better odds at finding work.

In fact, many graduates find that they need to have some practical work experience to get a foot in the door in almost any industry. Students who intern are 13 percent more likely to find a full-time job after they graduate than those who do not have intern experience.  

About 60 percent of the time an internship will end up in employment for an intern. However, the National Association of Colleges and Employers research showed a significant difference between paid and unpaid internships. Those interns who are paid during their time with the organization are more likely to be put to work on worthwhile projects. While those who take unpaid internships are more often used to complete basic, administrative tasks. One of the key lessons for organizations is to make the most of their interns.

Intern Training Plan

Many companies welcome interns to work with them over the summer months. This provides the intern with invaluable business and industry experience. It also gives the organization some extra manpower to improve productivity.

Yet, to make the most of your intern, you will need to prepare a training program. There are several basic areas that should be covered in the program planning process, which includes:

1.Make a plan. Design a custom-made strategy about where you will deploy your interns. Be sure that they are aware of the plan. When you are deciding where to place an intern in your organization, consider employees or teams that can use a little extra assistance. It is helpful if an intern is introduced into a situation where they can shadow someone.

2.Get prepared. As well as providing them with a plan of what to expect during their time with your organization, have your interns do some prep work prior to starting. This may mean they need to research specific topics so that they can best assist the team they will be assigned to.

3.Formalize your training program. If your company hires interns on a regular basis, you may want to create a formal intern training program. This can be a series of videos with relevant information for all interns. It can also be files or an e-manual that is specific to a task the intern will be working on.  It can be useful if the intern is given the training to go through at their own pace.

4.Host an orientation. A brief orientation session can help your intern adjust to their time with you. It can also be a time for them to connect with their mentors or other interns that will be working within your organization. The major benefit to an orientation session is to set the tone for the intern mentorship and to ensure that everyone has the same expectations.

Mentoring an Intern

Along with having a supervisor in your organization, interns can benefit from connecting with a mentor. These two individuals will be crucial to your intern’s success during their time with your company.

It is ideal if the mentor is not the direct supervisor of the intern. This helps them make separate connections with co-workers, which can serve them in different ways.

When it comes to mentoring an intern, there are several ways to help make the experience a positive one. They include connecting with the intern and being empathetic and available.

It is important to connect early with your intern. Be there for them on the first day and show them around. Try and let them know some of the office rules, spoken and unspoken, to help them fit in. You can be as basic as where the bathrooms are, what time lunch and other breaks are and any upcoming office activities or holidays. These may seem mundane, but for someone who is new to your office, knowing these small details can make the transition smoother.

Don’t disappear but check in with your intern regularly. An intern is often overwhelmed with the new environment, rules and expectations. They may not think to find you, or they may even be too shy to let you know they need help. Stop by their desk every couple of days to see if they have any questions or if they are doing okay.

Demonstrate empathy and understanding. Think back to your internship days or even your first few days at your current company. We all get nervous when we enter a new job or organization. Let your intern know that you can relate to the complex feelings they may be having. This helps establish a connection between the two of you.

Like most workplace mentorships, those who mentor interns should also act as an extra resource. This means being aware of what your intern is working on and offer some ideas on how to complete their assignment. You can also suggest training opportunities to help them meet the professional goals they have shared with you.  

Connect them with others. Remember that you also represent a significant networking opportunity for your intern. Check and see if you are able to bring them along to events or meetings you attend. It will help them get to know more about the company and also open some doors for their future. If there are other interns working at your company, consider introducing them. This peer support will prove invaluable as long as they are with your organization.

Intern Mentoring Program

Workplace mentorship programs for interns are an important part of their time with your organization. Similar to setting up a workplace mentorship for employees, you will need to define the outcomes you want to achieve with the program. Obtaining your intern’s input is an important part of establishing the program’s objectives. What is it that your intern hopes to gain from the mentorship? How do they see the opportunity with your organization fitting into their career expectations? The answer to these questions can help you customize the intern mentoring program.

Matching an intern with a mentor is key to the program’s success. Your intern mentor manager should be aware of the skills and interests of the intern to find a good mentor match. Mentoring software can make this important task easier. With Together, the program manager is able to set their own parameters for the matching process. Our software is also capable of tracking and reporting throughout the mentoring process.

An intern mentee should be asked to define their goals both within your company and in their overall career. Guide them in setting down a couple of SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. This can help guide the intern mentor when providing feedback or connecting the intern with opportunities or resources.

Allow the intern to offer feedback. Learning what the intern felt work and those things that didn’t during their intern mentorship experience is important. The information can be used to adjust any problems with the workplace intern mentorship. It can help make future intern mentorships successful.

Be open to learning. While most mentorships are seen as an opportunity for the mentee to learn, they can also be a learning experience for the mentor. Interns are often full of energy and new ideas. If given a chance they can inject new life into a project or organization. Intern mentees can also show mentors different ways of doing things or looking at situations and problems.

Mentoring and Managing a College Student

Young interns may need some guidance when it comes to adapting to the workplace and to a formal mentorship. In fact, this may be their first mentoring opportunity. Providing them with some guidance as to what to expect and what is expected of them can be helpful. This includes:

1.Set guidelines. Let the student know how they should behave as a mentee. It is also important that you clearly outline what they have to gain from the mentorship.

2.Define goals. The intern should be given an opportunity to define some goals they hope to achieve through the workplace mentoring opportunity.

3. Set a schedule.  Regular meetings and get-togethers should be scheduled in advanced and the intern given plenty of notice.

4.Make a good match. If your intern has not previously contacted you to arrange a mentor match, consider having your workplace mentoring program manager create a match. For those interns who have initiated the intern separate from a school, don’t be afraid to ask if they have a workplace mentoring program.

5.Invite questions. Because the workplace environment might be intimidating for college students, let them know that you welcome any questions they may have.

College students are often juggling many responsibilities alongside their internship. They may be working part-time to pay for their school costs. Some interns may be taking classes to complete their studies. While others have family responsibilities.

Interns will be adjusting to a new environment and schedule. Thus, allowing them a little flexibility in their work schedule can not only help them integrate to your company better, but it can also help the process run smoother.

If your organization is open to flexible work options, it can also open doors for your intern to continue working for you either part-time or in a remote capacity after the official internship has ended. This gives your company the added benefit of extra resources when you need it. In addition, research has shown that many millennials prefer flex-work options. Organizations will need to start offering flex-work options to continue attracting top talent.

Hiring an intern has even been shown to reduce turnover. Research has found that companies that hired interns were 39 percent more likely to still have that individual employed at the five-year mark.

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