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Husband: “My summer interns start tomorrow.”

Me: “What’s your plan for mentoring them?”

Husband: “I don’t have time to mentor them. That’s why they’re getting paid.”

Herein lies a classic problem with today’s internships: They aren’t really internships at all! They are merely summer jobs.

As a country, we’ve strayed from the educational and mentorship aspects of internships. This is a bad thing — for everyone.

So much effort is being devoted to the paid (or rather, unpaid) aspect of internships that the reason students need internships seems to have been forgotten.

Summer jobs are great, don’t get me wrong, but if there’s no one at your “internship” dedicated to mentoring you and making sure you learn, you’ll walk away with money but likely nothing else (i.e., accomplishment stories for your cover letter and resume).

Want a good way to give your internship a letter grade? My friend and colleague Mark Babbitt, CEO of YouTern, has come up with something pretty awesome over on their blog. Here’s a preview:


Key to many successful internships is developing a mentor relationship, perhaps even a reverse or bi-directional mentorship, with an influencer or dynamic personality who takes an active interest in our careers.

A = My mentor has already made a huge impact on me; I can’t wait to show up for work
B = We’re just getting to know each other, but my mentor is an influencer – high potential!
C = I would call her a “supervisor” more than a mentor, but I am still proving myself
D = This guy is going through the motions, but seems decent – I’m hopeful
F = My sloth-like boss didn’t know I was coming – and has the charisma of a wart (help me!)

So, is your internship really an internship, or is it a summer job? What are your thoughts on the differences between the two?

While I always appreciate comments below, I encourage you to join the discussion on my new book‘s Facebook fan page, as well.


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