Why I Mentor Students: An Entrepreneur’s Perspective
Last month I wrote a blog on Josh Dunn’s advice on becoming a successful entrepreneur. Josh is the president of Premier Media Group, and he started his business from the ground up to something that has flourished and grown in the South Puget Sound area and the Eastside of Seattle. This month I’m sharing Josh’s advice to interns and what he told me about why he mentors students.
I got the sense talking with Josh that he wants to give to others what was given to him. When Josh was creating his own career pathway, he sought out avenues to learn the essentials to help him be successful. He joined the Chamber of Commerce to learn about business, he worked in a restaurant to learn people skills, and worked at sales jobs to learn what he calls the “craft and art of communication.” Through these experiences, he learned what he wanted and what he didn’t want, and he gathered what he needed to work on his vision for his future. He closely observed his mentors and the people around him, and treated even the most seemingly menial jobs as golden opportunities to learn. Now he is in a position to provide those learning opportunities to others. Josh told me, “At the end of the day I live here, I am a part of this community, and I always keep in mind those who are in need and those who I can help get to the next level.” Josh is strongly involved in community give-back with various organizations, and his dedication to that work is one of the ways he examples his life ethic to the students who intern at Premier Media Group. They see him planting seeds for positive change, and he hopes to water the same seeds within them. Josh says, “Sometimes we can impact their lives in ways parents and teachers haven’t had the chance to. What if we water one of the seeds for an intern to make a real contribution that effects positive change for a lot of people? The community is the fabric of who we are, and my hope is to help students understand that they are an important part of how that fabric is woven together.”
Josh loves to challenge people to think differently. He seeks to open students’ minds and encourage them to look at things with a fresh perspective. The advice he kept repeating throughout our conversation was that interns should be bold – not shy. Communication starts with simply greeting people and talking with them. Show you are interested in them and what they do for the organization. Always ask for more opportunities. Don’t be a know-it-all, but do offer solutions to problems. The key here is to be able to demonstrate that the solution came from critical thinking – you thought about it carefully and looked at it from all sides before arriving at your suggested solution. Be willing to listen to constructive critique, and to be responsive in working with others on a refined solution.
Being bold and solving a problem is how you can separate yourself from the pack. These days, having a degree doesn’t set you part, so you need something more than that. Josh advice that students should be problem solvers, people who can find solutions, is certainly not unique to what he looks for in a intern. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read recently that say one of the top things employers are looking for are people who can solve problems. And you know what? I just returned from a national conference of educators who work in various experiential educational fields, and a running theme in the workshops was that internships are the current gateway to employment because they teach critical thinking and problem solving skills. Josh’s advice is right on target with what the employment market is seeking.
Josh says employers understand that you are not going to get it right every time. You are there to learn and grow. But be willing to take the risk to try to make a real contribution. If you are shy, or socially awkward, Josh encourages you to give people a shot and trust them to be supportive. He points out that you can’t train character and work ethic, and if you have those things you have great potential. Trust someone to help you achieve that potential.
I came away from my conversation with Josh inspired by the abundance of optimistic energy he exudes. He is more than upbeat; it shows in his face and way he carries himself that he loves life and he loves what he does. One of the nuggets Josh shared with me is to surround yourself with people you want to be like. I would add to that that you should find someone with an outlook like Josh’s who will be a natural encourager and mentor to help you get to where you want to be. Someone who can help you to discover and believe in your abilities, but at the same time can advise you with the hard-learned practical knowledge of how to achieve your goals.