In the summer of 2012, I had just graduated with my MBA and was looking for my first big-girl job. I sent in my résumé to every job posting that I found online that fit my criteria. After a few months, I realized my efforts were futile. I had little marketing experience to penetrate the job market. I needed a place that would give me a fresh start and some hands-on training.
I was aware that internships are the new interview for a full-time job. I knew this applied to perhaps a larger company. In a small non-profit, I wasn’t as sure about the degree of this truth. Nonetheless, I knew the experience would be valuable no matter the size of the organization.
“I thought that building up my portfolio…was as good as it gets. Turns out, it gets better.”
When I started at Indiana INTERNnet in April 2013, I appreciated the opportunity to learn about and transition into the marketing world in a positive and welcoming environment. The people made it easy to go to work every day; the assignments kept me interested all day. It was a good deal. At this point, I thought that building up my portfolio by completing projects and managing social media accounts was as good as it gets. Turns out, it gets better.
With the end of my internship only a month and a half away, I launched myself into the job search in full force. I knew that I had to narrow down what positions I was looking for: marketing specialist and social media manager. I cleaned up my personal social media accounts and updated my LinkedIn profile. Then, I took a look at the marketing agencies in my area. At this point, I was stuck. I knew where I wanted to go, but I did not have the vessel to transport me there.
“I am a recent graduate who needed experience in a new field and a door to connections…”
Sitting across from my mentor, Janet, to go over my weekly tasks, she brought up the subject of my job search, unaided. A broad smile spread across my face as I absorbed her willingness to support me in this next step. In that moment, I knew that my search this time around would be fruitful because now I had both the experience and the support of my network. I had found the No. 1 perk of an internship – though there are certainly more: mentorship while gaining experience. (See what I did here.)
For my situation, I was a recent graduate who needed experience in a new field and a door to connections in Indianapolis. Janet played an excellent role in, not only providing challenging projects, but also inviting me to engage in activities and events as well as introducing me to colleagues. This created a reciprocal benefit where I (hopefully) get a job, and my employer acts as a facilitator in the process.
“To learn in a supportive environment – this is the top perk of an internship.”
As an undergrad, my experience with mentors was a little different. Since I was not looking for a full-time job at the end of the internship, my mentor would meet with me to discuss how my internship was going, any questions I had about the industry and my short- and long-term goals. As you can see, a mentor does more than manage the intern’s day-to-day tasks. The mentor is truly a coach throughout this period of experiential learning, marrying my studies and aspirations with a much-needed dose of reality and support.
Today, I am thankful for the mentors that have guided me on my winding career path, and I look forward to the experiences and people I have yet to encounter. To learn in a supportive environment – this is the top perk of an internship.
How has your mentor impacted your internship and/or career path? Leave me a comment – I’d love to hear all about it!
To read more about mentorship, consult our free Employer’s Guide: “Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow.”