Posts tagged ‘mentor’
One of the most gratifying jobs I’ve had over the course of my career was my time working at the career center at the University of Texas at El Paso. Being responsible for the University’s cooperative education and internship programs and helping college students gain their first professional experiences provided me with a lot of personal satisfaction. During the almost five years of working in that setting, I had the pleasure of seeing many of these same students return to campus as company representatives to recruit the next generation of UTEP graduates. Along the way, I was able to make lifelong friendships with many of these students, first as interns and later as professionals. One friend in particular is Mario, who is now a successful leader at an aviation company.
Sixteen years ago, Mario’s first major in college was marketing. In fact, his first internship experience as a sophomore was working in the marketing department for a large insurance company. When Mario returned, I realized his internship experience had not met his expectations. The root of Mario’s unhappiness wasn’t due to the work he did, but more so due to the work he didn’t do. Mario realized his passion wasn’t in marketing but in information systems. Luckily for Mario, his supervisor during the internship was also technically inclined so he introduced Mario to areas in the organization where he could begin to learn about his newly discovered passion. Needless to say, Mario switched his major to information systems, went on to complete another two internships in his new major, and today is still very passionate about his work.
One appealing aspect of an internship program is its ability to serve as a bridge between the world of theory and practicality. However, the bridge that connects both worlds also needs to have a support structure. Within an internship program, “the glue” that holds together this support is an intern’s supervisor. And while a supervisor’s role is to offer an intern guidance and direction in a work environment, another role should be one of an advisor. Mario often points to that one supervisor, from 16 years ago, as having made a significant impact on his career. From a Hispanic perspective, being an advisor or consejero is an important element of the supervisor/intern relationship. Hispanics are a determined people and are culturally wired to complete one task before starting another. Hence, changing his major after two years of college was not something that came naturally to Mario. Whether Mario’s supervisor at the time knew it or not, his timely advice made the difference between a successful professional and someone that might still be searching for his passion.
By internships.com writer
It makes sense that interns, with little office experience, have yet to figure out their own work limitations or the best way to ask for assistance. But this is what an internship is for—experience, learning new skills, finding independence in the work setting, and understanding when to ask for help.
Once, I had an intern submit Excel spreadsheets with a ton of mistakes. My first reaction (luckily, I hid this first reaction with a smile) was annoyance; I had counted on using the data prepared by the intern in the report I was working on. I knew I had two choices in this situation: I could reply to the intern with the ubiquitous “good job” and remember not to give him any more Excel projects, or I could take the time to figure out why the work wasn’t what I had expected. I didn’t think it was laziness. This particular intern did not seem the type to slack off. I had a sneaking suspicion he just didn’t know how to use Excel, and had been too nervous to speak up when I handed him the task.
I knew this was the time for a teaching moment. I reviewed Excel with the intern and showed him simple ways he could take his work to the next level. Sure enough, no one had bothered to teach him simple Excel functions. I made sure to emphasize that in his original document, he had all the numbers I needed, but the organization and level of functionality required for me to utilize his work was not present. We talked about simple formatting tricks, and I explained more advanced functions that might be useful later. By making it clear to him I was going to do a lot more with his spreadsheet than just print it and look at the numbers, I hoped to give him a better sense of the importance of his work. I also hoped that through this experience, he would see me as someone he could approach with work questions, rather than fumbling around trying to learn new skills without assistance.
In all, this training took about one hour. While I had other projects I needed to work on during that time, I knew the Excel training was a gift that would keep on giving – for both my company and the intern. The student’s subsequent work was improved and I was able to use his spreadsheets in my own work. In the end, the company got more productivity, and the student learned Excel skills that he will utilize and build on well into his career.