How to Find a Mentor in Your Internship

By Lorena Roberts on March 21, 2017

If you’re like many other college students and are planning on getting yourself an internship, you’ll want to make sure you find a mentor — a person who can not only teach you the ropes but also vouch for you later on in your career. If you’re planning on an internship at some point in your college career, follow these seven tips on how to find the perfect mentor.

It’s important to note that some internships actually place you with a mentor. This article is meant to guide individuals who are in an internship that does not directly pair them with a mentor. 

1. Pick someone with experience; someone you trust

When you walk into a company, it’s easy to see who has experience and who started the day before. Choose a mentor who has some time and experience under their belt. They’ll be able to give better advice, hook you up with better connections, and recommend better options for future planning.

Pick someone who has a reputation in the field in which you’re interested. Being able to “name drop” someone who was your mentor will serve you well throughout your career. Take this into consideration when choosing a mentor. Their reputation becomes how people will judge you in the future: choose wisely.

2. Pick someone you “click” with

You’re not going to want to spend time with someone you don’t enjoy being around. So don’t pick a mentor that you don’t get along with or want to be around for a long period of time. What would be the point of that? (Chances are, if you don’t want to be around them, they don’t want to be around you.)

Your mentor doesn’t have to be your best friend. In fact, I would venture to say they don’t want to be your best friend. But don’t pick a mentor you’re going to wake up every morning regretting going to hang out with. You and your mentor will get more out of the experience if you enjoy and appreciate each other.

3. Be up front about your goals … and understanding about theirs

Having a powerful CEO as a mentor might be your first choice. But remember, their goal as a CEO is probably not to sit around and “dream big” with you. My guess is, they have a company to run. On the other hand, someone who isn’t as high up on the chain may have all kinds of time on their hands, but not quite the experience as the CEO. Weigh this carefully — what’s more important to you?

Additionally, be as giving to your mentor as they are to you. You have something to bring to the table also, don’t you? (Well, let’s hope so.) A mentor is going to enjoy you more if you can teach them just as much as they teach you (but this isn’t a pass to be an annoying little know-it-all brat — watch yourself).

4. Do your research

Google. LinkedIn. Use your resources to learn everything you can about any potential mentors before you make a decision. 

Knowing what certain people in the workplace have accomplished will help you shape the goals you want for your internship and match yourself with the person who most closely aligns with those goals.

5. Be courteous; remember your email manners

As always, being courteous and respectful will always win you bonus points, no matter what. Remember that even reading your email will take five minutes away from their day — so at least say “thank you” in your conclusion.

Setting up meetings should be when they are free, located where they are. 

6. Get advice from others

Do you know someone who could recommend a mentor? Having a recommendation may increase your chances of getting that person as a mentor. Wouldn’t you be more apt to take on a youngin if it was recommended to you by someone you trusted?

Also, remember that with a recommendation comes great responsibility. You’re then in a position to disappoint both your mentor and the person who recommended you if you don’t live up to the expectation they’ve built for you. Don’t lose two important people in your life — who could potentially launch your career — because you’re lazy or apathetic.

7. Invest just as much time into your mentor as they’re investing in you

Taking on a mentee doesn’t mean they got a raise. Taking you under their wing may not directly benefit them — but it’s certainly of benefit to you. Remember this. Invest time into them, as they are investing in you. And remember, they did this out of the goodness of their heart. So don’t show up to meetings unprepared, don’t “call in sick” because you’re hungover … show them that you want this. Show them you’re appreciative of their assistance. They’re starting your career on the right foot. Bless ‘em.

Lorena graduated from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville last December with a BA in Honors Psychology. After some serious soul-searching, she's decided to pursue a Master's in teaching in order to teach middle school math! In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her Whippet mix, Gio, at the dog park and binge watching Netflix with endless cups of Hot Cocoa.

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