The mentor-mentee intern relationship

by Sydney Olszewski and Brianna Durante

Organizations worldwide offer internships for students. The mentor-mentee relationship is crucial to any internship experience. As your team prepares to bring an intern on, ensure you’re equipped to offer them a meaningful semester. Read on to hear from a former Charles Aris intern and her mentor. 

Be supportive

Mentor: Whether this is your intern’s first experience in an internship, or they’ve completed one before, the support you give them should be the same. This is someone who is coming into your organization and joining your team with one goal in mind: to learn! From day one on, they should feel supported by you … and that doesn’t just apply to day-to-day tasks. Is your intern feeling overwhelmed by what’s on their plate? Work through their to-do list with them and see if a solution can be found. Is your intern having recurring issues with their laptop? Help connect them with someone in your organization that can help remedy it. Is your intern feeling nervous about an upcoming presentation with your leadership team? Prepare and practice with them!


Intern: As an intern, you want to feel like you can rely on your mentor. When you’re starting out in a new organization, you’ll likely have many questions, and it helps to have someone you can turn to on day one. A mentor who reaches out and touches base with an intern on a regular basis helps to make the intern feel supported. Also, being willing to listen to ideas presented by an intern and provide useful feedback is another effective way to foster support in the relationship.

Be collaborative

Mentor: Collaboration should be at the forefront of your intern’s experience. Internships should not be about shadowing, getting coffee and making copies. This is a learning experience, and collaboration is one of the most important skills a young professional should have. When you have meetings as a team, ensure your intern knows you want to hear from them! Whether it’s questions, bringing up a new idea or even politely challenging an idea from another team member, your intern should feel comfortable and confident speaking up!

Intern: The ability to collaborate successfully is an important quality in any professional, but especially in a mentor. Working as a team can be beneficial for both the intern and the mentor. There is always knowledge to be gained from others, so tackling a project together can be a good way to learn something new or acquire a new perspective. In collaborations, it’s important that the mentor doesn’t dominate the project. Allow the intern space to shine on their own, but also let them know you’re there if they need any assistance.

Challenge your intern

Mentor: A good internship experience is challenging … in a good way! If your intern is spending their time only completing tasks they’ve done before, you’re doing them a disservice. Give them tasks they don’t yet have experience in, encourage them to speak up in meetings, ensure they have exposure to individuals outside your team. All these items will benefit them greatly, but only if you’re there helping them through it!

Intern: The purpose of internships is to grow professionally, and to gain valuable skills for the future. As interns, we want to be challenged because it’s often in these situations that we learn the most. Wanting to give an intern some of the simpler tasks is understandable, but as they progress in their internship and demonstrate their skills, the mentor should loop them in on slightly more complex tasks. Tasks that are more challenging will require the intern to practice their problem-solving skills, and potentially learn a new skill or two in the process. In completing such tasks, interns are also likely to gain confidence in themselves and their abilities.



See your intern as a valuable part of the team

Mentor: The best organizations see their interns as an asset. An internship program is a two-way street. Your organization benefits from the addition of promising individuals to the team. Learn from them! Encourage them to bring ideas to the table, to innovate. On the other hand, you also have a job to do. An internship is more than a job. It’s a true learning experience. At the beginning of the semester, sit down with your intern and have an open discussion. What do they want to gain this semester? How do they best learn? What do they want to bring to the table? Tailor the experience to the individual intern, it’s not a one size fits all approach!

Intern: While some mentors might not view interns as part of the team, it’s important to ensure this isn’t the case. Although interns are only part of the organization for a short time, it’s important to make them feel welcome. Making sure interns feel included helps them be more productive, and to feel more comfortable reaching out with questions and ideas. Feeling like part of the team can also show interns what the company culture is really like to help them determine their career goals moving forward.

Be responsive

Mentor: When a full-time member doesn’t respond to your chat, call, text or email, it’s frustrating! The same applies for you and your intern. If they have a question and can’t get in touch with you, that can negatively impact their experience. Especially if it’s a recurring issue. Ensure your intern is aware of the best way to contact you. This is easier with an in-person experience but takes more up-front communication and planning if the internship is being conducted remotely. Treat your response to them like you would want them to respond to you. The worst thing you can do for an intern is leave them feeling like they’re on an island.

Intern: Interns look to their mentors to guide them through the internship experience. There are often many questions, especially in the beginning, to help clarify expectations and continuously learn. Therefore, there is an expectation that a mentor would be there to respond to those questions in a timely manner. If questions often go unanswered, the intern may begin to feel like they can’t rely on the mentor. Additionally, in a remote working environment, staying in contact with interns is even more vital. Since they can’t physically approach their mentor with questions, they need to know that they’re for them virtually.

Establish a connection

Mentor: The common theme? You want this to be an enjoyable experience for your intern! Get to know them. Set up recurring check-ins to discuss their progress, offer feedback, talk about their future career goals and simply chat! Spending five to 10 minutes learning about their family, what they like to do in their free time or how they’re going to spend their weekend can go a long way. Establishing meaningful connections will benefit you both in the future, whether they stay at your organization or not.

Intern: While establishing a working relationship is extremely important, it’s often beneficial to occasionally extend that relationship beyond work discussions. One of the best ways to make a new intern feel comfortable and valued in their new role is by expressing interest in their life. Instead of only focusing on what projects they would like to work, ask them about their career goals, or even something as simple as how their weekend was. This kind of genuine interest can help to establish trust and comfort, which will in turn foster a strong working relationship. Additionally, be sure to encourage interns to attend organization or team-wide bonding activities. These types of events allow interns to better integrate into a company’s culture and feel more involved.

To learn more about the Charles Aris internship program, visit charlesaris.com/intern-at-charles-aris.