Interns. Many of us have managed them, worked with them, or been them ourselves. There are good and bad interns, but the difference between the two can come down to mentorship. Often, an intern will be assigned repetitive work that no one wants to do – filing, data entry, note-taking, and similar tasks. That’s no way to get a good intern. The old adage is true: you get what you give. As leaders, we must view the new team member as an intern while viewing ourselves as mentors. Sure, it takes time and effort, but the investment yields returns for the mentor and mentee.
Mentorship in the workplace is a powerful tool of mutual benefit. My experience as a mentor has been an opportunity to improve my performance and efficiency, be challenged to engage in self-reflection, and make a satisfying contribution to the lives of the next wave of the workforce.
While managing interns, I have found it tempting to delegate basic and tedious tasks. These tasks need to be done and only require a little training. After all, taking the time to train beyond such tasks creates a lot of work for me and puts me behind on my core responsibilities. There is merit in this approach, but it will not get the most from the intern. Realigning your mindset is essential. One must consider mentorship a core responsibility worth investing in, not merely an additional duty. In my experience, this has always produced a net gain in efficiency and productivity. Interns are eager and hardworking – putting in time with them and growing their responsibilities will be met with more eagerness and motivation. The return on investment of a motivated and developing team will always be greater than that of a bored and stagnant team.
Mentoring can also provide an impetus for self-reflection. How often do you re-evaluate your day-to-day processes? I have always found that sounds like a great idea, but it usually gets pushed to the back burner. Teaching these processes presents an opportunity to examine and reflect on your experiences – a powerful exercise in growth and development. Serving as an educator may help you identify areas where you need to improve your own skills or behaviours.
As a mentor, you provide guidance, support, and advice to someone entering the workforce. You can derive a real sense of pride and accomplishment from giving something you may not have received earlier in your career. For example, you may have needed help navigating the workplace culture or developing practical communication skills. Through mentorship, you can impart the lessons you’ve learned and help your mentee avoid the same pitfalls. Seeing your mentee develop and grow can be enriching, knowing you played a part in their success.
Mentorship also provides an opportunity to put yourself in the shoes of a young person entering the workforce. By doing so, you can gain new perspectives on the challenges those starting their careers face. It can be eye-opening, especially if you’ve been in your current role for many years. It can also help you develop a greater appreciation for the unique struggles that young professionals face, such as imposter syndrome or navigating office politics.
In addition to these personal benefits, mentorship can also have positive impacts on the workplace as a whole. It can foster community and collaboration and help develop a learning and growth culture. It can also create a pipeline of talented, skilled employees equipped to take on leadership roles in the future.
In conclusion, mentorship in the workplace is a rewarding experience for mentors that creates an ongoing positive feedback loop for the team and company. Mentorship has allowed me to improve my performance and efficiency, engage in self-reflection, and make a satisfying contribution to the lives of the next wave of the workforce.