Working Your Internship or AEMA Mentorship Like a “Real” Job

As published on the MRC Blog July 28, 2022

Finding a mentor to support you is essential on your path to a new career, but like any relationship, it takes work to get the most out of it. MRC and the American Exploration & Mining Association (AEMA) Society work to identify talented individuals, match them with mentors, provide cross-disciplinary skills and establish professional standards. Whether you’re a mentee or a traditional intern, these are my favorite tips to ensure your new work relationship is worthwhile.

Set the Ground Rules
Find out what’s expected of you. What does success look like in your boss’ eyes? If the expectations aren’t specifically pointed out, ask. And while having that conversation, discuss with your boss or AEMA Society Mentor what you want to learn. Knowing you’d like to strengthen your skills in a specific activity can help them direct your energy in a fruitful way for both of you. Ensure the goals you set for yourself are realistic, in any case. A nine-month internship or yearlong Society mentorship isn’t going to make you an expert, but it can give you a solid foundation to build.

Be Inquisitive
I once had a mentee worried he was asking too many questions. I contend there’s no such thing. Asking questions shows you’re interested. If you’re a young intern or mentee, your supervisor understands you’re there to learn the business skills and the unwritten workplace employment, industry, and interpersonal skills. If you’re in the year-long Society mentorship that meets periodically, the AEMA will help ensure your time is spent meaningfully.

 Himesh Patel is a metallurgist by training and an AEMA Society mentee. He says that while he’s a mentee for the Finance topic, the program includes 16 topics, including closure/reclamation, engineering, finance, legal, management/operations and more.

 He says, “We are halfway through the program, and I love my experience so far. I have learned a lot from my mentor and the AEMA presentations. We had numerous in-depth discussions on the financial fundamentals and the current market situation.” 

Come armed with questions and remember that there are truly no stupid questions! Most people love sharing their knowledge and wouldn’t have taken on the duty of mentor/supervisor if they didn’t want to answer.

Okay, so you’ve set your relationship/work expectations, asked many questions, and have a decent foundation. What now? Use what we call the HAPP method: Be HelpfulAuthenticProactive, and Professional. Think about how you can add value to the organization or relationship. There are no one-way streets; these interconnections are usually you learning more than teaching, but you can certainly try to add value or problem solve. You’ve got a built-in safety net in this experience, so try new things. Take full advantage!

Hi, my name is…
While in the throes of this exciting time, meet as many people as possible and soak up as much as possible. Walk around the mine site, plant, or office hallways. Bring coffee or a snack to share to help break the ice. These internships are meant to expose you to as much as possible. Just because you’re assigned to the production scheduling team doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be exposed to Vulcan or AutoCAD systems. Being a mentee or intern means you’re supposed to be exposed to a well-rounded view of the industry.

Write it down
I was once advised never to walk into a meeting without a pad of paper and pen or pencil. Always be prepared to take notes and write it down when learning something new (in an internship, a LOT of it will be new). In a good working internship or relationship, your brain will become very full quickly. Taking notes helps your brain solidify information and allows you to re-read to remember it all. Note-taking may not come naturally to you, but it shows you’re interested in and value what you’re learning.

Never say goodbye because means going away, and going away means forgetting
Yes, I shamelessly stole that line from Peter Pan, but it illustrates my last tip. When your AEMA Society mentor/mentee relationship has ended or your internship is over, send a note thanking your mentor/boss/company for the experience. It doesn’t have to be long but provide an example of something you learned or enjoyed. Then, maintain the connections you made. 

 Sophie Dessart was an AEMA Society mentee and said, “One of my favorite parts of the AEMA Society is connecting with other mentees. I organized a virtual networking happy hour for us all. It was fun to hang out with folks at similar points in their careers and trade stories and just enjoy being around people who understand the unique industry.”

Stay in touch via LinkedIn, at conferences, or just an email out of the blue. Maintaining and growing these relationships is time well spent and can be profitable in the future.

Dessart also said she’s excited for the future of the mining industry. “An underlying theme to all our discussions in the Society is this: How do we advance responsible, safe and inclusive modern mining? We will graduate from the Society program better equipped to promote this mission, and I cannot be more excited to see all the amazing accomplishments my fellow mentee will make in pursuit of this goal.”