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Internships are a must for many professions and highly recommended for most others. Employers and licensing agencies understand that there are many benefits to having future employees undergo an internship. Schools will even add this as a requirement for positions where they know it will be expected.
You could simply embark on your internship without a plan on what you hope to accomplish, but you risk not getting the most out of your time there. It is better to sit down and create some goals you want to achieve while in the internship.
But when is the best time to do this? The best time is before you even start. That way, you give yourself a sense of direction right from the beginning.
When listing your goals, you’ll want to avoid some of the biggest goal-making mistakes. After all, that could be worse than making no goals at all.
So, today we are going to talk about setting internship SMART goals. We suggest this method because it has stood the test of time and has proven to be one of the best ways to see your goals achieved. SMART goals have a number of benefits over other methods. One of these is that they keep you motivated at times when you wonder if all the effort is worth it.
Let's take a look first at what SMART goals are and then we will go into 7 internship SMART goals to get you started.
What Are SMART Goals?
Goals are designed to send a message to yourself and others that you intend to make something happen. They create a roadmap toward what you want to achieve in one area of your life or another. One thing you want to do with any type of goal-setting is choose your wording carefully.
Did you ever have a parent, teacher or boss tell you, “I don't want to hear that you were going to do it, I want to hear that you are doing it!”? That is because saying you will, without doing the action, means it won't get done. Tell your brain right from the start that this goal isn't optional by using action verbs,
SMART goals include five elements. These are all related to the letters that make up the word SMART to make them easier to remember. Using all five elements when you create your goal makes it a sound one that sets you up for success.
The parts are as follows:
Specific – Your goal should include the what, how, when, and why. This makes it easier to keep track of your progress and allows you to determine whether or not you have met that goal.
Measurable – The goal should have a way built into it that will allow you to measure your progress. This can be any way that makes sense to your action, but you need to know when you actually reach the goal.
Achievable – A goal that isn't achievable is merely a wish and you risk setting yourself up for disappointment when you fail. Make sure you are reaching for something that is within your means of achieving.
Relatable – The goal needs to be related to your long-term goals in life. For example, internship goals should be directly related to succeeding in your chosen career path.
Time-bound – Your goal needs to have a specific date on which you want to have completed it. This helps you manage your smaller steps and allows you to see how much progress you have made. It also helps you avoid the procrastination that is often built into the word someday.
Why SMART Goals are Important for Internships
Internships occur early in one's career… the point where you have an idea that you want to follow a particular path. Once you get in the midst of the actual hands-on aspect of a career, you may realize that you aren't as interested. After all, people grow and change. Sometimes, perceptions of how something will be are different than the reality we discover.
Even when you do know for sure, you can't get the full benefit of an experience unless you know what you are seeking. By taking the time to set up SMART goals before you start your internship, you go into the experience with a plan of action.
This helps give direction to your experience and makes sure you come out of it having gained everything you possibly can. By setting and achieving the goals, you have given yourself the greatest chance of success at an experience that literally can change your life.
Now, grab yourself one of these SMART goal templates, and let’s get started!
7 Internship SMART Goals
1. Identify a Variety of Career Paths
“During the first six months of my internship, I will explore all the paths I can take from this starting point. I will do this by first identifying the various paths and then talking with individuals who have chosen that particular path. This will allow me to better focus on the skills I should concentrate on during the remaining time I am in the program.”
S: You make this specific by stating what you will do, when you will do it, and why you are doing it.
M: You make this measurable by keeping a list, maybe in a spreadsheet, of all the different career paths available and who you have interviewed in that area.
A: This is a very attainable goal. You give yourself enough time and you are very likely to find people willing to talk with you.
R: This relates to getting the most out of your internship by allowing you to become very focused and know more exactly what path you want to continue exploring.
T: By stating that you will complete this within the first six months of your internship, you make it time-bound.
2. Learn Industry-Specific Terminology
“Within the first three months of my internship, I will compile a running list of industry-specific terms. Each weekend during the internship, I will practice memorizing the new terms I compiled during the week. By the end of the three months, I will have become familiar with all the necessary terms. I will test my knowledge by having a friend quiz me with flashcards.”
S: You make this specific by mentioning what kind of terms you are concentrating on, how you will keep track of them, when you review them, and how you will know when you have successfully learned the terms.
M: This is completely measurable by keeping track of how many terms you correctly define during the ending test.
A: This is completely attainable. It is easy enough to designate a particular notebook to keep track of these terms.
R: Knowing the terms that are specific to the area you are going to spend your career following is important as all industries have their own particular terms.
T: You make this time-bound by giving yourself three months in which to learn all these terms.
3. Perfect My Interpersonal Skills
“My internship is the perfect time for me to improve my interpersonal skills, especially communication skills like listening and speaking clearly, without shutting down when I need to speak to higher authorities. In order to achieve these skills, I will make it a habit to repeat key points of conversations back to the speaker in different words to make sure I correctly understand what is being said. I will also make a point of asking at least one question a day for the first three months without worrying about sounding dumb. During the second three-month period, I will focus on expressing my ideas freely.”
S: This is specific in that you focus on two particular interpersonal skills and explain exactly how you plan on improving them. You also state why and during what period you plan on focusing on each skill.
M: This is measurable by evaluating the times each day you did the particular thing you stated and by how much more comfortable you feel about communicating over time.
A: This is definitely attainable. You don't overwhelm yourself by focusing on too many things at one time.
R: Being a good listener is essential in every area of life. Being able to speak up to ask questions and voice opinions will help move you forward in your career.
T: You break this goal up into two individual time periods of three months, making it completely time-bound.
4. Build a Network
“My internship is the perfect place to grow my professional network. With this in mind, I will set up bi-weekly lunches with fellow interns and others that I work with throughout the duration of my internship. I will spend those lunches getting to know my guests on a more personal level. My goal is to add at least 30 ongoing contacts to my list by the end of two years.”
S: You make it specific by stating what you want to do, how you plan on doing it, and what the end goal is.
M: You can easily keep track of how many lunches you participate in. The number of second lunches or meetings with individuals can help you determine whether or not you did connect well. This will help you determine whether or not you reached your ultimate goal of 30 new contacts.
A: This is attainable as long as you keep up the momentum and don't lose resolve.
R: In any field, it is important to have a network in place. By focusing on individuals of each stage of their career, you strengthen your position within that network.
T: You make this time-bound by stating the lunches will happen bi-weekly for the duration of your internship.
5. Set Priorities and Manage Time
“I need to become more efficient at managing my time, which also means setting priorities. Starting with the beginning of the upcoming month, I will keep a planner on which I color-code activities based on school, my internship, social obligations, and personal time. The planner I choose will be required to have space for prioritizing items on a weekly basis. By the end of the first two months, this will give me a greater sense of control over my time.”
S: This is specific. You mention what you will do, when you will do it, and how you will be using the information. You also mention why you are doing this.
M: You can easily measure whether or not you actually follow through with creating a planner and making a priority list.
A: This is very attainable. You only need to make it a point to incorporate the scheduling time into your normal routine.
R: Time management is something that is necessary for a well-balanced life, especially if you are pursuing a very skill-intensive career. Setting priorities is also something you will use throughout life.
T: You make this time-bound by stating you will start at the beginning of the upcoming month and will review priorities on a weekly basis.
6. Develop Leadership Ability
“I will show my ability to take initiative and lead by volunteering to lead the first project that comes up during the second three months of my internship. This allows me enough time to get a feel for my position and strengths. While leading the project, I will hone my skills in coming up with the overall plan for completion, delegating responsibilities to team members, and setting completion goals for the project.”
S: You state why you are doing this and what you are doing. You also state when and what all will be involved. This makes the goal specific.
M: You can easily determine if you actually step up and volunteer and the success of the project will measure your success at showing your skill.
A: This is attainable, although it will require the approval of your supervisor.
R: This relates to your ultimate goal of a successful internship by showing you have the ability to take control of your actions and benefit the place you are working at.
T: By stating you will do this during the second three months of your internship and following the project through to completion, you make this a time-bound goal.
7. Journal the Experience
“In order to keep a record of all I learn throughout my internship, I am creating a journal that I will start on my first day and continue making daily entries throughout the entire length of my time in the program. Each day, I will write the highlights of the day, including all I learned. On a monthly basis, I will review the previous month and make notes on things that went well, things that need improvement, and reflect on what I have gained from the experience.”
S: You specify what you are doing, why you are doing it, how often, and when you will review progress. This is very specific.
M: It is easy to measure if you make a daily entry and note the dates of your weekly reviews.
A: This is easy enough to do. You only need to set aside a specific time each night to develop the habit of making your entries
R: By understanding what you have learned and what you need to work harder on, you can see the growth you are making to have a successful internship.
T: You have made this time-bound in that you plan on having the journal in place before your first day and you will write each night and review every week.
Final Thoughts on Internship SMART Goals
By putting in the effort to create SMART goals and implementing them during your internship, you will be giving yourself a good start on achieving what you set out to accomplish. You may decide this isn't the career for you, but it is better to find that out now. Conversely, you may find it’s your perfect match!
Should that be the case, and you want to pursue that line of work, you will be ahead of those who go into the situation blindly and without a plan. SMART goals are the best preparation you can utilize to make the most of your experience.
You can read a more in-depth explanation of how to set SMART goals here to help you get started. It’s got everything you need!
And if you want more SMART goal ideas and examples, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 17 Educational Goals Examples & Ideas for Students
- 15 SMART Goal Examples for College Students
- 5 SMART Goals Examples for Organizational Skills
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.