In the next few weeks school children of all ages, including college students, will be leaving the classroom for summer vacation. Many of the older students will seek part-time jobs. What better time of year than summer to share your time and expertise with these students?
Mentoring can take on many different forms. For example, when students work for you during the summer you can assume the role of mentor in addition to that of supervisor. While purists would argue that a supervisor cannot be a mentor, I know from experience this not to be the case. A supervisor can take on many roles depending on the way he or she engages employees.
Young people in their first jobs have much to learn. Not only are they acquiring skills and knowledge of a particular industry and the job they are assigned, they are ripe to learn soft skills, too. Soft skill development provides countless mentoring opportunities.
One student I worked with was especially open to learning how to work with clients we served. He asked a lot of questions as he shadowed staff. I explained to him why we dealt with issues in a certain way. We talked about the long-term consequences of each and every conversation. We talked about results and repercussions of every action taken.
Over time, he began to ask about “how he came off” to others. He was concerned about his appearance, demeanor, and even his speaking ability as it related to the work environment.
We had meaningful conversations about work ethic and what makes someone a sought-after employee. Throughout the summer, this student/employee became more and more adept in working with others and in serving our clients. At the end of the summer when he was leaving to return to school, he was grateful for the opportunity to work with me and my staff. And we had become quite attached to this up and coming professional. We followed his career – he came back often to visit – and to ask our opinion on various steps he was considering for his future. We had developed a sincere mentorship relationship.
As the hiring manager I found the conversations invigorating. I began reminiscing about men and women who had mentored me along the way. I thought about ways they helped guide me; and I used that knowledge to develop my own ability as a mentor to the student/employee. I was reminded of a time when my job did not come as easy – when I had much to learn. I remembered being eager to mimic professionals whom I viewed as successful. All these memories triggered in me the passion for helping another achieve his career goals. It was at that point I became aware of what I truly had to offer – a wealth of life and professional experiences, expertise, knowledge, and skills. But mostly, I could offer enthusiasm and support for the budding professional.
A mentoring relationship is almost always beneficial to both the mentor and the mentee. Mentoring a student employee is a bonus!
I encourage you to provide for your student employees, more than just instruction on doing the job for which they were hired. Help them begin to develop life-long skills – and in the process you may find that you benefit more than your student employee.