Established in 2006, the Vision and Call internship program is built on the belief that life’s longer lessons, the ideas that shape commitment and souls, are often best learned through an apprenticeship experience and worked out through a community of mentors and peers. Each internship experience is expected to incorporate six essentials elements. In a special blog post series, current Vision and Call organizational leaders share their insight into the value and importance of these essential elements.
Today’s guest post is by Melissa Gehrig, Executive Director, Vision House. Melissa speaks to us about Essential 2- The Involvement of Experienced Leadership in Mentoring.
“a trusted friend or guide”
Defining a career is like hiking a winding path through a dense forest. It is completely possible for an individual with little experience to make their way up the mountain by themselves, but it will be exceptionally difficult. It is likely the individual may get lost or get hurt. It is quite possible they may take a fork in the path only to find themselves stuck at a dead end with no clear sense of how to get back on track to the peak.
However, if that same hiker takes to the path with a guide, they are much more prepared for the challenges that will lay ahead. The hiker still has to be the one to take each step, cross every river, crawl around every boulder. But with an experienced guide helping coach them along and choose their approach, the path becomes an exciting challenge rather than an impossible task.
In career development, mentorship is key in helping guide emerging talent to new heights because true mentors help others by sharing real-life experiences, wisdom and leadership that they have learned by doing. This is also why we believe it is vital that interns have access and the opportunity to build relationships with senior and executive leaders in an organization.
We often see interns report directly to a mid-level manager. This can have some value if the manager is most intimately involved in the specific work flow the intern will be working on. There can also be a natural bonding opportunity as these managers tend to be younger and can relate to a new staff member who is fresh out of school. However, it is important that this manager not serve as the only mentor to the intern in the organization.
Working with senior leads provides a unique opportunity to learn from those who have the broadest view and the deepest level of experience in the field. Executive Directors, Presidents, Vide Presidents, Managing Directors and C-Suite leaders can provide up and coming professionals with valuable perspective on work as well as insight into the broad vision it takes to drive a successful organization.
This is why the Vision and Call program places such a significant emphasis on involving experienced leaders in the mentorship process.
Making an investment in the individual. Mentors are not simply job trainers, demonstrating to an employee how to complete a specific task that will be repeated on a regular basis. Mentors support and uplift interns by breathing life into their work. They invest in the individual and speak into their career and their development as a human being.
A map to success. Experienced leaders help give emerging professionals a blueprint for how to achieve certain levels of professional success Research shows that students and recent grads are more likely to aspire to certain levels of growth and service when they can see others already serving in that role. Working with an experienced leader as a mentor can help a recent grad better understand how it is possible to go from intern to Executive Director and what steps are involved in between.
Contextualizing contributions. Depending on the role and the size of an organization, the work of one individual may or may not have an obvious impact on those they seek to serve. For example, stuffing 500 envelopes or answering phones may feel like busy work, but it all serves a purpose in the broader mission of an organization. Experienced leaders are able to help provide this context to new team members, showing the broader mechanics of the organization and how certain tasks feed into other efforts.
I feel so strongly about this that though I am the ED of our organization, I am also acting as the Advisor our Vision and Call Intern program. Emerging professionals represent the future of an organization and a sector. Nowhere is that more true than in the nonprofit and faith communities. While it is important for these areas to continue to evolve and grow with the times, having experienced leaders available to help guide new talent through the primary challenges of their career can be an invaluable investment in the future.