Internships are an essential part of the talent development pipeline for many companies. They provide opportunities to develop skills, experience, and professional connections to help early talent launch their careers. As remote work becomes more common, remote internships are becoming an increasingly popular option for companies hiring remote talent.
Mentorship opportunities are essential in remote internships because they provide interns with the opportunity to learn from experienced mentors who can help them navigate their careers. This article will discuss how incorporating stronger mentorships in your internship program can not only benefit the intern but also maintain a connection with alumni participants who are potential future full-time hires.
Challenges of remote internships
Remote internships can be challenging because interns don't have the in-person support they would if they were working on-site with a supervisor or co-worker who could answer immediate questions and provide additional resources. Internships that don't involve strong mentoring can also leave interns to:
- Feel disconnected from their supervisors and lose a sense of connectedness with the company.
- Feel unclear on what success looks like or how to achieve it.
- Lose motivation, do poorly in the internship, and have a lower chance of being hired full-time.
- Become insecure about their future prospects and enable them to walk away from an opportunity altogether instead of exploring or expanding their career paths.
What are mentorships, and why are they so important?
Mentoring is a two-way exchange where an experienced person offers help and direction to someone with less expertise, knowledge, or talent.
Mentorships provide opportunities that allow new graduates to launch their careers with skills, experience, and connections learned through talent development programs like internships.
It is a crucial component of internships because it provides interns with guidance from experienced professionals in your organization who have been through the process before. These mentors offer valuable advice on how interns can navigate challenges during an internship, as well as insights into what you, as an employer, should be looking for when hiring full-time employees after graduation.
How strong mentorships help improve internships
Mentorship opportunities provide interns with access to leadership mentoring skills (such as these 10 power skills for the future of work) and make them feel more included in the company's talent pipeline.
Many organizations find they are attracting better talent through this strategy instead of talent finding them, making it easier for companies to maintain connections with alumni interns who could potentially be future full-time hires—a major talent pipeline benefit!
Mentorship also provides remote interns with a sense of community. Mentors and remote interns share similar experiences working from home, so it can be easy for them to relate to one another. This creates a closeness that would not usually exist if the remote intern was just part of an office full of employees where they were more likely to feel isolated.
The remote intern will be able to share experiences with their mentor, including challenges they face in reaching their goals or fulfilling the expectations of managers and stakeholders. They may also ask for guidance on overcoming these obstacles so that they can have a successful experience working remotely. This will give remote interns valuable insight into what it takes to work remotely successfully, which can be useful if they want to continue working in a remote capacity after the internship is over.
Steps to improve your internship programs by incorporating stronger mentorships
- Create a formal mentorship program.
- Start by identifying mentors in your talent pool, which can be alumni participants or current employees at the company.
- Then set up an official meeting schedule that works for both parties and makes it easy to share information.
- Make sure you also ask if there's someone specific the mentor would like to connect their intern/mentee with so you have more than just one mentor involved in the process!
- Appoint the right leaders
Make sure that your talent development professionals are the ones leading the program. They will better understand what it takes to be successful in an organization and can teach interns these skills themselves.
- Incorporate talent development best practices into your program
This will enable the talent developer and intern teams to maximize the potential of their learning opportunities, including creating individualized talent maps that pinpoint skills gaps for better understanding how mentorship can help improve them.
- Regular meetings
Schedule weekly or monthly one-on-one meetings between mentors and mentees to get to know one another better and discuss talent gaps they are trying to fill. Make sure the meetings cover what both parties would like out of their relationship. Establish best practices for communication and when you will have these regular check-ins using Symba’s Remote Internship Handbook.
- Use data to monitor progress and track success
Use data analytics software to track how well mentors connect with their intern teams through virtual standup meetings at least twice per week; if there is any sign of struggling communication between mentor and mentee, find out why immediately! Consider having not only one paired team but also pairing each mentor with another mentor for company-wide guidance.
- Ensure sustainability
Continue building talent pipelines by creating an intern alumni program that allows interns who have completed your internship programs in previous years to continue working remotely with you on future projects. This will help build stronger talent pools and maintain relationships with potential full-time hires down the line!
Mentoring is a great way to offer support while also helping interns feel more confident in taking on new challenges while doing their jobs well. By incorporating this type of strong mentor relationship into your internship programs, you will see not only an increase in retention rates but employees who are ready with all they need when it comes time for full employment within your organization.
Mentorship also allows you to build talent pipelines for future hires, so if an intern decides they aren't interested in working with your organization after their internship is over, you still have the potential of bringing them on as full-time employees later!
About the Author
Andrew Barry is the founder of Curious Lion, a training design firm reimagining the way companies like PagerDuty, Pinterest, and KPMG transform their people.