Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Finding A Mentor

When I first started working at last summer, I never expected I'd find a mentor. Honestly, the concept sounded corny to me—and why would a busy editor want to spend time with a lowly intern?

It wasn't until the web department started growing that I found editors I could consider my mentors. Don't get me wrong, my supervisor was (and still is!) one of my favorite bosses, but I developed a great working relationship with three of the editors. I think one of the reasons we became closer than I was to my supervisor is because we all started our new positions within four weeks of each other. Since I started as the other interns were ending their internships, I was super intimidated by them—but since the editors were cool with asking me questions, I felt like I wouldn't be bothering them if I asked them for help, too. 

Soon, asking each other questions about how our CMS worked turned into attending the same work events, following each other on Twitter, and talking about our personal lives. They even took me out to lunch every once in a while! Dare I say it, I was making friends with people I admired! I still couldn't believe that editors wanted to take the time out of their day to talk to me. And while I felt comfortable enough to ask them for career advice and guidance, it didn't hurt that when they wanted an important job done, I was the intern they asked for help. Surrounding myself with talented editors made me grow personally and professionally—so much so that I knew I needed to come back to this summer.  If you can find a mentor at your internship, you'll learn way more about the industry than an HR rep can tell you. Here are some tips for finding—and maintaining—a great relationship with an editor: 

1) Know your place. You're not going to be getting drinks with your mentor on a Friday night. They have a life, and so do you. If you feel like an editor is too busy to mentor you, no worries—they're just not the ideal mentor for you. You want someone who will challenge, inspire, and take the time out to help you grow during your internship. But they're not Yoda either, and you're not always going to be able to talk to them. Being realistic about your relationship leaves you open to finding editors on staff who could mentor you. 

2) Be friendly! You never know who your mentor could be, so be friendly to everyone on staff that you meet. Besides, being polite and friendly gives off a great impression. You want to be the intern everyone remembers no matter what! And hey, no shame in asking friendly editors around the office to coffee, either. 

3) Know what you want. Do you want a mentor because you want career advice, guidance on how to approach a story, or just some advice on where to get good takeout in New York? When you know what you want, think about what you can bring to the table. 

4) Mentorships aren't a one way street. When your mentor needs someone to help with a task, they need to know they can rely on you. And since you have such a special relationship with a mentor, you always want to help them out to the best you can. And if you know there's something your know your mentor would love—an article about something they're interested in, a book they'd love to read, contact info for an alumni from your school at another magazine —send it over! Major karma points for everyone involved! 

5) Keep in touch. I cannot stress this enough. One of my mentors didn't always respond to my emails when I was at school, but she's busy, and so am I. It's just important to remind them that you still appreciate their guidance and advice, even when you can't be at the magazine. And most importantly, be grateful—they're investing energy in you, so make sure you write a super special thank you in your last week of your internship and follow-up emails throughout the year. 

I'd love to know—do you have a mentor at your internship? How do you maintain a great working relationship with your editors? Let me know in the comments section! 

Until next time, 
Ed's Web Intern 

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