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Knowing How To Find and Use The Right Mentors Makes Michigan Ross Students The Best Interns


By Allison Kurlak, BBA ‘17

This is the sixth in a series of posts authored by Michigan Ross Career Services Peer Coaches. Peer Coaches are undergraduate students working with Career Services to help their fellow students prepare for interviews and on-the-job success. To see the full series, click here.

Depending on the structure of your internship program, the company may assign you a Mentor or “Buddy” to help you navigate through the new role and be the most effective -- This will be a key resource for you during the summer and correctly utilizing this relationship will get you far.

During my summer internship at J.P. Morgan Asset Management as an Investment Management Marketing Analyst, I was assigned a mentor with whom I got along great, I also developed another mentor-mentee relationship organically throughout the summer. Both experiences provided a lot of insight into how these relationships can be useful, and I want to share some of those with you.

Key Takeaways:
  1. A mentor is an important resource because he or she has experience at the company and can provide valuable insight.  
  2. Your mentor can help you understand company protocol and connect you to other individuals in his or her network.
  3. Understand at the beginning what types of questions you can ask your mentor.
  4. Express gratitude.

A mentor is someone you can go to for advice and guidance throughout your internship experience. Mentors have past experience at the company; hence, they know the “ins and outs.” The help he or she can provide is endless: from explaining how to best approach certain individuals in the office to teaching you how to use the printer. Do not be afraid to seek out your mentor with questions.

My assigned mentor was a recent University of Michigan graduate and on a different team than I, which was beneficial because she could provide an outside perspective if I had questions or concerns with my assigned team.

What to Ask a Mentor

My mentor first reached out to me within the first week of my internship. The first time we met she urged me to continue to reach out to her throughout the internship with any questions or concerns - nothing was off limits.

Because she reached out and said this to me, I felt comfortable going to her with any questions I had. This may not be the case for all mentor-mentee relationships, so it is important to understand what you can discuss with your mentor when you first meet him or her. If your mentor does not address this topic, you should seek to clarify limitations and/or expectations early in the relationship.

My mentor helped me with a range of questions and also provided general support. Typical questions I would go to her with included:

  1. Who are the key influencers on the internship program with whom I should network?
  2. How should I prioritize projects/assignments?
  3. How to approach certain tasks/assignments she had done in the past.
  4. Best ways to organize my email inbox.

Stay Positive and Express Gratitude

Mentors are a valuable resource, but you cannot usually force these types of relationships. If you end up not feeling comfortable with your assigned mentor, don’t give up! Find areas for which your mentor could be a valuable resource, and concentrate on those areas. Naturally, throughout your internship you will become closer with some individuals over others.

Regardless of how close you become with a mentor, do not talk negatively about co-workers.

Your mentor could mention this to a co-worker or upper level manager and hurt your reputation. Overall, mentors are not to be feared; they want to help and guide you through your internship. As mentors help you, do not forget to express gratitude and show appreciation for his or her help.

Allison Kurlak is a graduating senior in the Michigan Ross BBA Program and serves as a Career Peer Coach with Ross Career Services. After graduation, Allison will begin work in New York City at J.P. Morgan Asset & Wealth Management as an Asset Management Marketing Analyst.

Read more from this series