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Why Interns Need a Mentor, Not a Boss

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Everyone noticed the wise, old wizards with the lush, white beards in the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. They’re hard to miss. They spend the whole series dispensing knowledge to the young heroes as they embark on their missions. 

We are all similar heroes in our journeys, especially in our professional ones. Like Harry and Frodo, we need mentors to guide us on the right path. 

It is important for bosses and managers to mentor interns as much as possible.  Contrary to what most internships entailed in the past, today it is important to mentor interns on their learning objectives. Interns are not cogs in a machine where they get hired to do work and then let go when the work is done. managers who  bark orders to interns and employees, expecting them to fulfill their obligations without question and feedback is no longer tolerated (and never should have been). This type of supervisor-employee relationships simply doesn’t work. 

In my own experience, I have often dealt with people in managerial positions who were the opposite of mentors. I worked hard and diligently, but I would often get ‘punished’ in difficult and painful ways. To make matters worse, those ‘punishments’ often included mocking, destructive, and discouraging criticism. Those people ultimately alienated me from the organization as a whole. I look at my own internship now and feel so lucky to have mentors who care about me and my work. The mentorship has created for me a positive environment where I can grow not just in my professional journey, but my personal one. I have felt suppressed, unappreciated, and downright bullied from the “bosses” I’ve had. These are companies that I would never work for and would never recommend. 

So what do we want in a mentorship/internship program? How exactly do we define mentors? 

According to CEO Hangout, a mentor is a person who focuses on the growth and development of their mentee. Whereas, a manager or boss is someone who cares about productivity and pay checks. Mentorship can provide a deeper connection than the supervisory relationship described above and it becomes important to examine what makes a good mentor. 

A good mentor in a manager often looks after the growth of their interns. They take interns’ learning objectives into account. According to LinkedIn, mentors possess the four qualities:

“A solid base of business and real-world experiences; willingness to listen before passing judgment; ability to suggest/ propose options without imposing a solution; and receptiveness to truly empathizing with the challenges faced by mentee.”

Raul Trillo, MD, MBA

Of course, finding good mentors is hard. According to LinkedIn, many managers simply don’t receive mentor training. However, being a mentor to your interns and employees can make you a better manager and help interns be all that they can be. 

From my own experience as a mentee in my current internship, mentorship has helped me understand that the professional and personal journeys are very much interconnected. 

P.S. If you want to learn how to build your own internship/mentorship program for your small, medium, or large organization, just click Build Your World Class Internship program