Does your company have a Generation Z intern who is trying to explore their career options? While internships are a great way to gain valuable work experience in a short period of time, those starting off in a new field may still feel like they do not have enough resources when exploring career options.
I have definitely felt these struggles as a current Generation Z intern and recent college graduate. I am at a stage in my career where I am focused on exploring all of my career ambitions and embracing a growth mindset as I do so. However, I have needed support along the way. I’ve turned to incredible people who are more developed in their careers for guidance and it has made a world of difference. If you are a mentor to Generation Z interns, here are 5 questions to consider as you support them at the beginning of their careers.
1. “How is your work experience the best thing that has ever happened to you?”
The goal of this question is to have your mentee focus on what skills they have developed. What projects or accomplishments have you achieved in your current role? If you are directly supervising an intern, you can help them by discussing the skills they have developed while working for you. Keep in mind that your interns may struggle with imposter syndrome, so having affirmation from a mentor or supervisor will help them feel more comfortable describing their accomplishments. Helping your mentee learn how to identify their skills and accomplishments will help them strongly market themselves in their career exploration journey.
2. “What career exploration, research fields, and job roles intrigue you?”
Encourage your interns to be curious! Some may know the type of job they want but may want more information on what the job entails. This is an opportunity for you to use your expertise and years of work experience to educate your interns on the different opportunities available.
Generation Z could also need broader help on just exploring different fields and jobs that interest them if they do not have a concrete job in mind. There are a few different approaches you can have them take when researching and looking for jobs.
The broadest approach is to research by field. Your intern may currently work in a clerical role but finds the prospect of working in marketing interesting. Have them do a general search of what jobs are typical in that field. If a mentee is struggling to find a starting point with their job search, encourage them to search for jobs that align with their passions and interests. If you encourage curiosity and creativity, your intern may be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities available!
Another approach to career exploration is to ask your intern what type of work environment you want to be in. This was instrumental for me. Do they enjoy working in a role where you are traveling to different locations throughout the day? Do they prefer working with their hands? What level of interaction do they want with others as they go throughout the workday? As I earned my degree, I learned that I get more fulfillment from collaborative environments vs. working by myself. If your intern has no clue where to start, this will rule out what jobs are an absolute no-go as they proceed with their search.
3. “How can you market your skills for a specific role or field?”
This is where you and your intern are going to circle back to step one. Take their transferrable skills and accomplishments and connect them to the field or role they strive to be in. As I mentioned earlier, it is common for young professionals to struggle with imposter syndrome (guilty!). This is the perfect time for you to hype up your intern and force them to brag about themself! It will be uncomfortable for those overly humble workers, but it will be so necessary in building their confidence.
Have your interns write out a two-column list. One side will have the skills they use in their internship. The other side will have the skills needed for their dream role. They should look for overlap between the two lists. Now they can confidently market themselves in cover letters and applications!
4. “How can we utilize our networks?”
I view this as a two-pronged process. The first prong is to make sure your intern has reached out to people in their network. If they are not currently on LinkedIn, encourage them to do so! LinkedIn makes it easy to keep track of professional connections throughout your career.
The second prong is for you as an employer to utilize your network. Connect your interns to trusted people in your network. Consider people whose expertise or leadership approach is different from yours. This way your mentee is getting a different perspective, but still from someone you trust in a professional setting. Your network can provide additional support to your intern and even help them land a job in the future!
5. “What assumptions do you have about your credentials, and how will you verify them?”
While it is great to encourage a go-getter mindset, you want to make sure you are setting your intern up for success. Educate your intern on how their current credentials align with their goals. This is another opportunity for you to incorporate your personal experience into the process.
A mentor recently told me that while there is always great value in furthering your education, there’s also nothing wrong with seeing how much you can maximize your career with the degree or credentials you already have. Reflect on the professional training and education you have pursued. What was worth it in your eyes, and what was not nearly as beneficial as you thought? Your perspective will be highly valuable to your interns, especially if they are considering furthering their education.
While young professionals may not have the most work experience, they can bring a unique perspective to their work environment. By supporting them through their career exploration journey, you are helping them establish their career while simultaneously guaranteeing that you are an employer people want to work for. It’s a win-win.