Internship Goals

An internship can give you valuable work experience, help you network while you’re still in school and allow you to learn more about your field before you officially enter the workforce. Consider it a glimpse into your future.

According to The Balance Careers, job applicants who list at least one internship on their resumes are more likely to get hired. But an internship isn’t just a resume booster. It’s a chance for you to immerse yourself in the working world.

To make the most of this valuable learning experience, you should set some goals. Simply showing up every day isn’t going to help you gain the most from your internship.

An internship puts the experience in your hands. You have the chance to develop your own objectives and track your progress along the way. If you prioritize this process, you’ll probably find that your internship experience is meaningful and beneficial.

In this article, we’ll go over some goals to set before, during and after your internship so that you use your time efficiently and have the best possible experience.

Why Should You Set Internship Goals?

Some companies have comprehensive internship programs. They’ll show you the ropes, get you started and give you plenty of opportunities for learning. Others aren’t as organized. You could end up sitting behind a cubicle and filing papers all day if you don’t take responsibility for your own experience.

That’s one reason that it’s important to set internship goals. In many cases, the company that you work for will set goals with you.

They want to see you succeed. When you work efficiently and contribute to the company, you help reduce the workload and improve productivity for the company. If you need to be micromanaged or can’t keep track of your time and obligations, you could be a burden for the organization.

During your internship, you need to be of service to the company that hired you. Therefore, you must be aligned with the goals of the organization.

However, you probably have your own goals. Perhaps there are certain technical innovations that you want to learn about. Maybe you want a behind-the-scenes look at how the executives spend their days. Taking some time to consider your own goals will ensure that you leave the internship with more knowledge and skills than you entered with.

Goal: Decide What You Want to Learn

This is an ideal goal to consider before you accept an internship. Knowing what you want to learn can help you decide which position is the best one for you.

Some questions to ask yourself when deciding on an internship include:

  • Am I looking for general industry knowledge?
  • Do I want to develop a particular skill set?
  • Would I get more out of working for a large or small company?
  • Does the company offer a list of learning objectives for interns?

Although you may want to make an impact on your company, your internship goals should be largely centered on learning. This is your chance to gain wisdom and knowledge. You get to see what happens in the working world.

You should be keen to help out and carry out your responsibilities. You do have to deliver some value to the company. However, your priority should be to refine the experience so that it delivers the most benefits for you. If you’re motivated to learn, engaging with others and taking consistent action, you’ll do your best while learning as much as you can.

To set goals surrounding learning, ask yourself why you took this internship. Understanding your motivation for accepting the position will give you an idea about what you want to learn.

You should also familiarize yourself with the company’s goals. If you want to learn how to use a particular piece of software that the organization doesn’t utilize, the internship may not be the best learning opportunity for you.

Goal: Gain Professional Connections

Many experts say that professional networks are vital to your career success. When colleagues know you and celebrate your work ethic, they’ll be more likely to recommend you to their peers. Expanding your professional network can help you get a job, secure clients or promote your company down the road.

Some of the benefits of networking include:

  • Being recommended for jobs
  • Learning about job opportunities
  • Boosting your professional reputation
  • Getting new perspectives
  • Advancing your career
  • Staying abreast of industry developments
  • Getting career advice
  • Building your confidence

Therefore, one of your internship goals should be to build your professional connections. This will likely happen naturally. However, you can also nurture the growth of certain relationships so that they can remain in place long after you’ve left the internship.

If this is your first internship, you may be overwhelmed by the idea of growing a professional network. You might feel insecure about your role in the organization. Perhaps you aren’t sure that you will bring value to a relationship with people who have more experience than you.

Here are some ways to break down your networking goals so that they’re realistic and doable during your internship.

1. Meet the Other Interns

If you’re not the only intern in your company, make sure that you introduce yourself to the others. Getting to know the people who are at the same place as you professionally can ease you into the working world.

You’ll be able to get advice from people who know exactly what you’re going through. You’ll also get to pow-wow about what the other interns are learning and doing. You might gain insights about potential opportunities that you weren’t aware of.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll create a group of peers who can support you long after you’ve left the internship. When it’s time to apply for a job, you can reach out to these people to learn more about opportunities in your field. If you plan to move after graduation, it can help to know people from various places.

2. Conduct Informational Interviews

You’ll likely gain a great deal of knowledge just by interning at a particular company. But what if you’re interested in learning more about a department that you’re not connected with? In that case, you might want to consider holding informational interviews to find out more about a certain industry or position.

For example, let’s say that you’re a communications major. You get an internship at a bustling TV station for the summer.

There are a number of responsibilities that you could have. You might help write and send press releases or write copy for promotional spots. But you really want to learn more about the editing process. You might want to sit down with the head of the editing department for an informational interview.

These types of interviews help you in two ways. They let you learn about a topic in which you’re interested. However, they also give you a chance to impress people who could help you boost your career in the future.

Before you conduct an informational interview, make sure that you do your homework. Learn a little bit about the profession so that you can ask educated questions. Research the company. Find out if the person you’re interviewing has recently been in the news.

Some questions to ask during an informational interview include:

  • What is a typical day at work like?
  • What are your regular tasks?
  • What other obligations come up?
  • What potential for growth is there in your industry?
  • What do you like and dislike about your career?
  • What degree do employers most prefer to enter into your field?
  • Is there additional training that’s necessary or helpful for the job?
  • What do you wish you had known before entering this field?

When you have completed the interview, make sure that you follow up with a thank-you note, even if it’s via email.

3. Be Friendly

Even if you don’t officially interview someone at your internship, a smile goes a long way. Bring your energy, enthusiasm and optimism to work. Be open-minded and willing to help others.

If you’re given a task to do that’s not in your area of interest or expertise, don’t be discouraged. Look at it as a learning opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most people love to talk about themselves. Therefore, you can get a lot of information out of them just by being sociable.

Some ideas of questions to ask the employees at your internship include:

  • How long have you worked here?
  • What did you major in?
  • Where did you go to college?
  • What’s a good suggestion for a place to grab lunch?
  • Ask about photos of family members on their desk

4. Set Networking Goals

We’ve already been discussing professional networking. Why did we wait until we reached #4 on this list to set networking goals? Sometimes you need to get the lay of the land before you can make your goals specific.

When you began your internship, you knew that you wanted to get to know more people in the company or industry. Once you’ve been working for a few weeks, you’ll have a better idea of who those people are.

Once you do, you can make a list. Keep track of the people you meet, their department and any special information about them. Make another list of the people who you would like to get to know.

By the end of your internship, you’ll be able to realistically evaluate whether you met your goal. You can also use this as a contact list once the internship is over.

Goal: Add Skills to Your Resume

Your resume should not just showcase your job experience; it must give employers an idea of your skills. If you set your goals correctly, you should learn plenty of skills at an internship. You can add many of these to your resume.

In order to be as efficient as possible in achieving this goal, you should understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are competencies that are often learned through a specific type of class or training program. Soft skills are personality traits that you have probably been developing your whole life. They’re usually related to interpersonal relationships or the way that you handle yourself at work.

Some examples of hard skills include:

  • Knowing how to use a certain machine
  • Software proficiency
  • Computer programming
  • Web design
  • Accounting
  • Languages
  • Translation
  • Transcription
  • Analysis
  • Banking
  • Bookkeeping
  • Carpentry

Some examples of soft skills include:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Creative thinking
  • Time management
  • Positivity
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Conflict resolution
  • Teamwork

Although hard skills may be more obvious and easy to add to a resume, they’re not the most valuable. Employers look for strong hard and soft skills when they’re making hiring decisions.

The difference is that you may have to be more creative when describing your soft skills than your hard skills. In some cases, there may be overlap. For example, you may take a leadership training course that improves this soft skill.

Here are some steps for setting goals surrounding hard and soft skills:

1. List the Technical Skills That You Want to Learn

The specifics of this goal will change depending on your industry. Perhaps you want to learn more about spreadsheet functions or website code.

As you research and apply for internships, make a list of the skills that you want to learn or develop. If you’re not sure, look at the internship description for clues as to what skills they’d like you to have already or what they’d be willing to help you improve on.

You can also search job listings in your field. Those usually indicate the experience that you need, including hard and soft skills. Because you’ll eventually be applying for a job in a particular field, you can use those descriptions to help you decide what you’ll need to learn.

You can also work with a career counselor at your college or university. They’ll be able to help you set goals for building technical skills.

2. Find Out What Background Knowledge You Need

Many companies require you to have a certain amount of background knowledge about your industry. This may not be necessary for an internship, but it will be when you apply for a job after graduation. An internship is a great place to learn and ask questions.

Like technical skills, the background knowledge that you need is often suggested in job descriptions. For example, let’s say that you want to work at a venture capital firm. You’ll need to understand financial markets, corporate economics and trends in certain industries.

You can make your list by reading through venture capitalist job descriptions and writing down the knowledge areas that you would like to improve on. This can help you set goals for your internship as well as the classes and trainings that you take in school.

3. Hone Your Interpersonal Skills

Some of the skills that really showcase who you are can’t be listed on a resume. However, you can set goals to develop these during an internship.

In fact, if you list the soft skills that you want to work on before you start the internship, you can make sure that you work on them during your time there. Having these written out is helpful. When you’ve completed a project or taken on a role that allows you to perfect these skills, make notes of what you’ve learned. You can use these notes later in job interviews.

Some of the most valued soft skills include:

  • Adaptability – The working world is fraught with uncertainty and change. If you are able to handle various scopes of work, interactions with different types of people and a dynamic working environment, you can take on just about anything.
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking – In life and on the job, problems are going to come up all the time. As an intern, you’ll be required to think independently and make solid judgments. One of the best ways to practice this skill is to view challenges as opportunities.
  • Collaboration – No matter how much solitude you have while you work, you’ll be representing a larger corporation. Therefore, you will always be involved with a certain amount of teamwork during your internship. To hone this skill, ask if you can collaborate on projects, and use criticism to notice where you can improve.
  • Communication – A good employee is a good listener as well as an articulate speaker. During your internship, actively listening can help you learn as much as you can. Even if you’re shy, practice speaking up when you have ideas. If you’ve worked on your networking goals, you will find a tribe that will support you as you enhance your communication skills.
  • Self-Motivation – Demonstrate that you don’t have to be micromanaged. If you have a lot of downtime during your internship, come up with ways to fill it. Run them by your supervisor or mentor first. However, don’t just ask how you can help. Show that you’re interested in working in certain areas or learning about a particular department.

Goal: Conquer Your Fears

As an intern, it’s easy to feel unrecognized, awkward or inexperienced. Don’t let these insecurities prevent you from throwing yourself into the work, though. This is the perfect chance to practice getting comfortable with discomfort. Make it a goal to overcome some fears during your internship.

Keeping a list of your fears is handy for creating meaningful, measurable goals. Some common fears that interns have are:

  • Meeting new people
  • Doubting your abilities
  • Doing something foolish
  • Talking one-on-one with your supervisor
  • Making mistakes

One of the easiest ways to face these fears is to be aware of them. The simple act of writing them down brings your attention to them.

If you ignore these fears, you’ll be more likely to distance yourself from situations that involve them. Here are some examples of how to combat these fears using strategic goals.

  • If you’re afraid of meeting new people, set a goal to talk to one new coworker every day.
  • If you’re insecure about your abilities or experience, set a goal to take on one task that highlights your biggest strengths and one that allows you to improve your greatest weakness.
  • If you’re worried about making a fool of yourself, set a goal to laugh about yourself and move on when you’re feeling insecure.
  • If you’re nervous when you talk one-on-one with your supervisor, ask if you can have a regular meeting to review the day or week.
  • If you’re concerned about making mistakes, set a goal to write down the lesson that you learn from each error.

Tips for Getting the Most From Your Internship

Setting and tracking your goals is one of the best ways to make the most of your internship experience. However, you should perform a few more steps to ensure that your goals are realistic and achievable.

1. Talk to Your Supervisor

Before you take on the internship, make sure that the responsibilities match your learning objectives. It’s a good idea to share those goals with your supervisor to ensure that you’re on the same page. Learning what the organization’s goals for you are can help you develop your own objectives.

You should also ask if you can have regular meetings with your supervisor. If you set this up at the beginning, you’ll have clear expectations and won’t feel awkward about asking for help in reaching your goals.

2. Observe the Organizational Culture

Part of being a team player is adapting to the company culture. You can learn about the way that the company operates from its training manuals and written employee procedures documents. However, the best way to notice how the company operates is to have open eyes and an open mind.

You don’t need to blend in, but you should fit in. Pay attention to the way that people dress and behave in the office. Notice whether employees eat lunch together or do their own thing. Adapting to the company culture is important.

3. Be Proactive

Be confident and proactive, especially when it comes to meeting people. Most employees probably won’t know you personally. However, they can probably pick up on the fact that you’re a summer intern.

Instead of averting your eyes when you meet other people in the office, be self-assured and greet them. You may want to come up with a straightforward elevator speech to introduce yourself.

For example, you might say, “Hi, I’m Josie. I just finished my junior year at Vanderbilt, and I’m interning in the marketing department for the summer.” Anyone you meet can be a potential networking opportunity. Therefore, you don’t want to leave any stones unturned.

4. Give Your Full Effort

An intern should work hard. Show up with enthusiasm and be engaged in the projects that your employer gives you.

You’re in a subtle competition. When the internship is over, you may enter a job candidate pool with the other interns. If you’ve slacked off, you will be less likely to receive a job offer than some of the others. You’re also competing against job applicants who haven’t interned at that company.

No one wants to promote a lazy worker. Even if you’ve rocked your goal to network with as many people as possible, you won’t get far if you haven’t put in your best effort. Those colleagues may not want to put in a good word for you, or worse—they could tell their peers about your lackluster performance.

If you’re overwhelmed by the workload, that’s probably a good sign. It means that your supervisor thinks that you can handle it. Don’t prove them wrong.

We’d like to make an important note concerning cell phone usage. Even if you can use your phone to do your work, you might want to stay off of it. It’s hard to tell what you’re doing if you’re staring at your phone screen, and you could give off the wrong impression. Of course, if you need your phone to get certain tasks done, clear it with your supervisor first.

5. Set Careful Boundaries

Interns can get saddled with anything from running coffee errands to managing a company’s Twitter account. You may want to speak up for yourself if you feel like you’re bombarded with obligations that were not in the internship description. At the same time, you don’t want to seem inflexible.

If you feel like you’re not getting the best opportunities during your internship, ask for more responsibility. You might still have to take care of the tasks that you’ve already been assigned to, like grabbing caramel macchiatos for the team, but you will show that you’re a team player and not afraid to ask for what you want.

You may even find that you initiate collaboration where it wasn’t present before. Bringing your skills into a new environment is a great way to get a sense of your strengths in the working world.

Don’t let an internship get the best of you. Make it suit your needs by taking these tips to heart and writing down your goals. Once they’re on paper, you can tweak and track them so that you have a stellar internship experience.

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