The STEM field has a reputation for being tough to navigate and overwhelming for young students. Oftentimes, interest in STEM drops off as children grow up. Mentors are a great way to provide the encouragement needed for sustained interest, along with internship tips. Besides benefits to increasing the diversity of STEM and youth engagement, a mentor can help students throughout their career.
Interning in the STEM field is a great way to both find and benefit from a mentor. Here are some ways a mentor can give you internship tips that will also help you in the workforce.
Navigating the Start of Your Career
Your career begins with your first internship. This is the launching point where you figure out what direction you want to go in and how to get there from here. Expert help is crucial in navigating this intersection.
A mentor has already been right where you are and learned from their mistakes. Because of your inexperience, you are in danger of repeating the past mistakes that they have already made. Don’t slip down this rabbit hole. Mentors will be able to guide you from their experience and point you in the right direction—away from mistakes.
Always look at every opportunity like it could be the one that leads you to your dream job. Even though your career is just starting, it could be the beginning of a great path.
How to Handle a Tough Boss
A tough boss can help or hinder your growth. Whether your mentor is a coworker or works at another organization, it’s likely they have worked with a difficult boss at some point in their career. Because of this, having a mentor can help ensure that you grow and don’t regress.
For example, a difficult boss may give you more work or be very precise on how he wants the work completed. While you may be frustrated with this, a mentor will be able to guide you on how to impress and not flop. A mentor may be able to proofread your work or help you with lab etiquette.
If your mentor works under the same boss as you, they’ll have learned how this particular supervisor likes things done. They’ll be able to give you some internship tips for things to avoid and what to do. This way you’ll be one step ahead of your peers in your first professional workplace.
Learning comes from working through obstacles. If your boss is too easy, you won’t grow as much in your first career step. While a challenging supervisor can make your life hard, you’ll come out on the other side of your internship closer to where you want to be in your professional career.
It might surprise you, but the reality is that interns will not be promoted to CEO overnight. Your mentor has worked in their organization for longer and will be on a higher rung of the ladder than you, the lowly intern. Take advantage of the opportunities this affords you as their mentee.
For example, your mentor may have access to a more restricted lab than the one you’ll be working in. Ask them to give you a tour or show you what type of work they’re doing. This will be really useful in deciding what direction you’d like to go in after this internship.
Besides career direction, your mentor’s status will open networking doors as well. When you take a tour or attend events with your mentor, introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Your mentor will be able to guide you to people who will be able to help you along your career path or who are particularly influential.
Never underestimate the power of networking. Coworkers or supervisors that you speak with may be able to offer you a job opportunity or reference one day. Because of this, who you meet may be just as important as what you do.
Advice for Your Next Step
Keep in touch with your mentor after you leave your internship. Your next internship or job is the next step on your career path. Despite leaving your mentor at your previous step, they still have valuable advice they can offer.
For example, when you receive your first job offer, you won’t have a good base of reference for how it compares to similar positions in the area. Don’t hesitate to contact your mentor. They may be able to look it over with you and tell you how it compares with their own experiences.
As mentioned in networking, a job offer could come from anywhere. Don’t discount your relationship with your mentor. Because of this, they know you well and could forward you job offers that you’ll really be interested in.
When searching for your next internship, take the time to review opportunities that you are unsure of. If you have the time, interview for them. The more interviews you do, the better you’ll be for when it really matters. Besides that, it could turn into a great opportunity.
So, a mentor sounds great, but how do you find one?
Finding a mentor is all about networking and being bold. Occasionally a relationship with a mentor will blossom naturally at one of your internships. However, that won’t always be the case. In situations where a relationship doesn’t blossom organically, be bold.
Talk with everyone around your office and see who you connect with best. The more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find someone who can really mentor you. If you’re too shy about making these connections, you may never find the perfect mentor.
Take on as many internships as possible. Remember, don’t underestimate the power of networking. Because of this, look at every internship as a networking opportunity. On average you could meet as many as 20 or 30 people in your department depending on the size of your company. This gives you 20 or 30 more opportunities to network and find a mentor.
Make sure you and your mentor share the same vision and goals. You would hate to believe that you found a great mentor, only to find out that their ambition is to climb the corporate ladder while you really want to make just enough for that white picket fence in the country. A mentor with similar goals as yourself will be able to guide you appropriately.
Let Frederick CREST help you. We specialize in STEM internships and externships and can find you the perfect opportunity. Our mission to provide a STEM-focused research and education-hub in Frederick is to your advantage.
We keep a roster of employment or internship opportunities in fields from toxicology to software developers to agriculture. Apply for the next step in your career path today. You may even find the perfect mentor along the way.