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Mentors Anytime! Anywhere!
     Thanks to our telecommunication links, we can talk with anyone in the world inexpensively and frequently. This makes it possible for virtual mentors. Interns can introduce themselves to anyone on the web – asking them to be their just-in-time mentor. Obviously, this is about "how" you create a relationship rather than the nature of the expertise they may bring to you. Any of the roles described above can occur on-line. The unusual aspect of this kind of mentor-protégé relationship is that the intern may never actually meet the mentor face-to-face. Nevertheless, with their permission, interns can avail themselves of their wisdom and coaching when most needed. Obviously, they need to build the relationship and be on the lookout for ways to support these mentors – alerting them to articles, books, projects, and other areas that address the mentor's needs.

     As the business world becomes increasingly fast-paced and complex, the need for multiple mentors intensifies. The more interns can learn from the experts around them, the faster they will learn and advance professionally. Urge interns to be on the lookout for people who can play a variety of mentoring roles. They can ask for help. Suggest they build their own Board of Directors. Never take mentors for granted. Mentoring is a two-way street with mentors and protégés each having responsibilities. Urge interns to go out of their way for them and express their gratitude. Some of these relationships will be short-lived while others may last for years.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph.D., is President of MasteryWorks, Inc. in McLean, VA. She has been a consultant, entrepreneur, and educator for over 30 years, Caela has worked with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to get them on their mastery path. Caela’s practice and company builds strong links between changing trends in industries, changing strategies of organizations and the talents and aspirations of individuals. People who work with her company discover their passion, their mastery path, and bring renewed contribution and high performance to their organizations.

Caela is known internationally for her expertise in developing talent management products and services. Her solutions are user-friendly systems that serve the needs of both organizations and individuals. She is frequently quoted in the media regarding her thoughts and advice on changing careers and work patterns in the nation. Hundreds of organizations have implemented talent management solutions from MasteryWorks, Inc. — consulting, workshops, assessment instruments and web-based talent management portals.
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Foster Multiple Mentors for Interns
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.
     Research on why people have become masterful in a niche – professions, trades, sports, science and the arts – highlights the importance of mentors. Talk to any great software engineer, financial analyst, project manager, sales professional, biochemist, environmental scientist, journalist, athlete or artist and they will tell you that their mentor(s) made the difference. We’ve all heard the quote, “great scientists stand on the shoulders of those who preceded them.” Mentor/protégé relationships were the earliest forms of learning and professional development. Today they are even more important.
photo of a young woman smiling

Why Multiple Mentors?
     One mentor is no longer sufficient for 30-40 year careers. One mentor is not even sufficient for succeeding in a two-three month internship. Historically, we could succeed with one or two mentors in a lifetime. But with today's increasingly rapid pace of change, complexity, and accelerated learning, professionals need multiple mentors to stay competitive in their work lives.

     Today mentors may be our juniors, our seniors, colleagues, peers, or even people we have never met personally. The mentor-for-life relationship is a gift. However, many other kinds of mentors — wise advisors who know much more about an area than we do — abound. So, take a look at the list below. What mentors do you include in your internship programs? What mentors might you provide that would give your interns a distinct advantage in their professional development?

     Our research suggests that there are at least eight different kinds of mentors needed for career success. Different ones are critical at different stages of professional development. Some mentors might play more than one role.

The eight types of mentors:

  • Profession/Trade Mentors
  • Industry Mentors
  • Organization Culture Mentors
  • Customer Mentors
  • Work Process Mentors
  • Technology Mentors
  • Work/Life Integration Mentors
  • Career Development Mentors
     Mentoring has become a critical facet of many of today’s most successful internship programs. Internships are becoming a serious feeder for young talent with hiring rates as high as 53%, according to the National Association of College Employers. Different kinds of mentors are provided in successful internship programs.

Build a Board of Directors

Finding a mentor is up to the individual. However, your internship program can foster certain types of mentors. And, you can educate all interns on the various types of mentors they’ll need throughout their career. (MentorSmart™ Assessment – See

     You can use the diagram below to assess the kinds of mentors your Internship Program currently provides and ways to enrich it. You can also use this as an educational tool to help interns build their own Board of Directors informally during the program. The descriptions and questions below can provide a guide for any employee in seeking their own mentors.
Board of Directors Diagram
© 2007 MasteryWorks, Inc.
Board of Directors Diagram
Profession or Trade Mentor
     “Scriptwriting interns brainstorm with writers for a current TV show, pitching ideas and giving feedback on the script through the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences intern program.”

     Professions and trades continue to change and evolve. Finding someone more experienced from whom to learn is important throughout our careers. Working with such is one of the major “takeaways” for interns. This person can help you stay current on the important changes in your profession as well as react to your ideas about the practices and competencies most important to master. Since professions and trades endure, this is one of the most important mentoring areas to provide in Internship Programs.

Questions interns can ask:
  • What basic practices must be mastered to reach an expert level in this profession?
  • What are the best assignments for learning these?
  • Who are key players and leaders in the field?
  • What new technologies will impact this profession in the future?
  • What books, journals, websites will help me keep up in the field?

     Only mentors in the specific profession or trade can play this coaching role. Some interns may be fortunate to have their manager as an expert in their profession or trade. But often today, managers are not. Suggest that interns talk with their managers to discover people inside and outside the organization who might provide this mentoring expertise.

Industry Mentor
     “Working with some of the foremost leaders in biotechnology was the highlight of my internship”, says one Genentech intern.

Most industries are changing rapidly. Those changes quickly impact the whole landscape of an organization and the jobs required. Look at iTunes, iPods, DVDs and webcasts. New players come into the playing field – large companies and young “up starts.” Global competitors appear. New products or services are required to meet the needs of customers. Understanding the trends, competitors, challenges and needed breakthroughs in an industry positions an intern to be a major contributor.

Questions interns can ask:
  • What are the major trends in the industry?
  • How will those trends impact this organization?
  • Who are the major competitors to research and study?
  • What organizations are considered "best in class" and why?
  • What are some of the breakthroughs that need to be made?
  • What breakdowns are limiting the industry?
  • What journals or books are “must reads”?
  • What associations should they join?

     Professional development requirements, new areas for learning and new competencies are shaped by the industry needs. Help interns find an industry mentor that can be trusted to keep them current.

Organization Mentor
     Hallmark Cards, Inc. pairs each of their interns with a peer mentor, so there will be someone close to the intern's own age who can help with those "unwritten" rules and general questions that are hard to ask a boss.

     Whether you're new or have long tenure in an organization, it continues to change. Mergers, new leaders, scandals, increased competition and technology continue to reshape the culture and values of organizations. Theses changes shift the organization culture as well as the “unwritten rules.” Too often, people are busy doing a good job and are too stressed to see what’s happing around them. An organization mentor can point out changes and trends before it’s too late to adapt.

Questions interns can ask or research include:
  • What is the mission and strategies of the organization?
  • How does this unit contribute to the mission and strategy of the organization?
  • What counts for success in this organization? What are the norms – the "dos" and "don'ts" of the organization?
  • What are the pressing business needs facing this organization?
  • What are the values and style of the leaders and implications for performance?
  • How will changes in the organization, such as mergers and acqu isitions, competitors, or new leaders impact your busi­ness unit and job?

     Help interns find mentors to talk with about these issues. Provide mentors who can clue interns into the subtle but important nuances of organization politics.

Customer Mentor
     Interns are being asked to work directly with customers these days – both external and internal. The better interns understand customers, the stronger your organization. And, the needs and faces of customers change with shifting market conditions and product offerings. We’ve asked hundreds of employees how their work impacts their customers. Many didn’t know. They were just doing their jobs. Help interns get educated on the various needs of customers and the subtle differences in their expectations.

Questions interns can ask:
  • What is the history of specific customers?
  • How have services or products distinguished your organization or business unit?
  • Who are the key players?
  • What are their expectations and needs?
  • What have been the greatest successes or failures with the customer or key individuals?
  • What are the best ways to get regular feedback?

     Help interns find someone with this customer history and you'll be surprised at their increased comfort and competence.

Work Process Mentor
     In every organization, there are people who know how to get things done quickly. They cut through the red tape and bureaucracy. They know who to call. They can “work around” any process. They know how to save time and money by knowing exactly how the system really works. They can be found in many places. They may be the best project managers, administrative assistants, or seasoned people in finance, purchasing, or the mailroom, etc.

Questions interns can ask:
  • What are the "ins and outs" of project management as well as day-to-day expediting?
  • How do you use the budgeting process, purchasing process, expense claims, etc.?
  • What are the critical factors in making a presentation – software, engagement, length, etc.?
  • What have you done to speed up the proposal making pro­cess?

     Learning these short cuts will make a big difference in an intern’s life and work. They’ll be able to speed up core processes and use their time more efficiently. You’ll have a productive intern.

Technology Mentor
     IBM provides project managers as team mates and mentors for software engineering students, explaining the facets of the business and technology.

     None of us work or live without being surrounded by changing technology. And, no matter how good our systems are, there are breakdowns. New technologies continue to evolve. Interns are expected to master these tools quickly and use them effectively. Staying current with changing technology has become an employment requirement – whether spoken or not

Questions interns can ask:
  • What are the most important technology tools to master in the internship?
  • What new technology systems do you see being implemented in the future?
  • Who are the best people to call for technical breakdowns?
  • Would he/she be willing to help you if you get into a technology breakdown?

     This person can be inside your organization or outside, younger or older. This mentor might be an internal IT support person, a college student, or colleague. What's important is that they are dedicated to your continual learning and easy to reach when you need them.

Work/Life Mentor
     Personal happiness and a sense of harmony thrive when work and life support each other. Much of today’s stress is caused by the pressure of work – need for speed, shift work, demanding clients or colleagues or intense travel schedules. If the intern is a Millenial, GenXer, or Boomer, they want a life. They’re not waiting to retire to have time for family, hobbies, special interests or relaxation. Help them find wise advisors who have been able to walk the fine line between work and life.

Questions interns can ask:
  • How do you negotiate life needs with work priorities?
  • What are the policies and practices that support work/life balance?
  • How do you negotiate work situations that “fit” with your interests and social relationships?
  • What are the organization values legitimizing the desire to have a full and happy life, outside of work?
  • How do you speak with your manager to create new opportunities rather than conflicts of interest?

     Urge interns to learn from the people who have done this successfully. They will feel more motivated to create a future in your organization.

Career Development Mentor

    This is the role we most frequently think of when we think of a mentor. This person spots you, takes you under his/her wing, gives you coaching and advice, both personally and professionally. This is a relationship "made in heaven" – a gift. This relationship can last for years or a lifetime. Interns will be able to talk through just about anything that comes up with this mentor. Any of the above relationships "could" develop into this long-term relationship. Urge interns to develop powerful relationships with multiple people. If they’re fortunate, they may have a mentor for life.

Questions interns can ask:
  • What do you see as my major strengths?
  • What do you see as my liabilities?
  • What kinds of work would best suit my strengths?
  • What experiences would allow me to test my strengths?
  • Where do you think I might bring the most value to an organization in the future?
  • What other courses of study would most enhance my skills?

Mentors Anytime! Anywhere!...

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