Before setting out to do your internship, you’ll be asked to set goals that answer the question: “what do you want to get out of your internship experience?”
There is a range of ways to answer this question. You might think the key goal would be to gain skills or even assess whether you’d really like the practical day-to-day of your job.
But there’s one big secret thing that can make internships the most important time in your studies:
You are making industry contacts!
These contacts will be invaluable when it comes time to look for a job in the industry.
So, that’s the core goal I recommend you focus on.
But let’s look at a few more internship objectives.
Select a few from the below list, then use the SMART Goals Template I’ve provided at the end of this article to fill-out your objectives into well-written and well-defined SMART goals.
Internship Goals Examples
1. Make Industry Contacts: I will make 5 industry contacts who I will aim to work closely with, gain advice from, and obtain their contact details to remain in touch for when I’m looking for jobs after my degree.
2. Find a Mentor: I will use my internship to gain mentorship from people with industry experience so they can guide me in the right direction. Progress will be qualitatively measurable through my mentee notebook that I’ll use to write down insights I’ve received from my mentors.
See Also: Mentorship Goals Examples
3. Develop Self-Confidence: I will use the internship to develop self-confidence in doing relevant tasks in the workplace, speaking up in meetings, and working relatively independently. By the end, I will be able to specifically name 5 workplace experiences that helped me gain confidence.
4. Improve Communication Skills: I will take the opportunity to refine my verbal and written communication skills. For example, presenting project updates in meetings will target verbal skills, while email correspondence will enhance my written abilities.
5. Gain Expertise in a Specific Tool: With an intention to master a particular software or tool, I will undertake related tasks and aim to perform them without assistance by the end of my internship (like becoming proficient in Microsoft Excel).
6. Enhance Teamwork: I will engage in collaboration with my peers and aim to contribute significantly to at least three group projects during my internship.
7. Build a Professional Portfolio: My goal is to collate practical examples of my work during the internship (such as reports, plans, or presentations).
8. Broaden Understanding of the Industry: I will interact with various professionals in different departments to gain insights on operations and the organizational structure.
9. Improve Time Management Skills: By staying organized and ensuring I meet deadlines consistently (for instance, completing weekly assignments on time), I will better my time management skills.
10. Experiment with New Approaches: I aim to innovate and implement new strategies on three of my assigned projects as a testament to creativity and problem-solving skills.
11. Strengthen Conflict Resolution Skills: In any team conflict that may arise, I intend to take a leadership role and work towards a mutually beneficial resolution.
12. Develop Adaptability: From working on diverse projects to adjusting to various working styles, my goal is to become adept at managing change.
13. Refine Organizational Skills: By maintaining a clear and updated work schedule consistently, I aim to reinforce my organizational abilities.
14. Understand Company Culture: I will spend time observing the workspace to gain an idea of the company’s values, the way it operates, and its environment.
15. Master a Particular Technique: Depending on the work environment, I aim to master a specific technique or method inherent to the profession.
16. Gain Leadership Experience: I hope to assume responsibility for a small project or component of a larger project to gain leadership experience.
See Also: A List of Leadership Goals
17. Grow Network: I plan to attend networking events to expand my professional contacts within the company and industry.
18. Evaluate Career Interests: With this hands-on experience, I intend to assess my job preferences and decide whether this industry suits my longer-term career goals.
19. Cultivate Professionalism: From observing and mimicking professional behavior to learning the dos and don’ts, my goal is to grow my professional demeanor.
20. Enhance Presentation Skills: Each chance of presenting an idea or project, whether in person or virtually, will serve to improve my presentation skills.
21. Attain Project Management Experience: I aim to involve myself in day-to-day operations or projects that play a crucial role in organizational success.
22. Hone Selling Skills (for sales related roles): My focus will be on gaining practical experience in sales, such as acquiring new customers or pitching a product.
23. Gain Problem-Solving Skills: I will target sharpening my ability to tackle unforeseen or complex problems in various projects.
24. Empower Decision-Making Skills: I plan to refine my decision-making skills by making active choices in project planning and execution.
25. Learn to Handle Workplace Pressure: By putting myself in high-stakes situations, such as tight deadlines or critical projects, I’ll grow accustomed to handling workplace stress.
26. Enhance Research Skills: I’ll immerse myself in work that requires research to improve my sourcing, analyzing, and reporting skills.
27. Foster Positive Relationships: My goal is to maintain harmonious relationships, assuring both professional growth and a constructive work environment.
28. Refine Negotiation Skills (for business focused roles): I aim to enhance my negotiation skills by taking an active part in deals, consultations, and discussions.
29. Gain Comfort in Asking for Help: I will work on seeking guidance when needed and see it as an opportunity to learn rather than a weakness.
30. Contribute to Business Growth: Where applicable, my goal is to contribute to the organization’s growth by streamlining processes or identifying areas for improvement.
31. Improve Reporting Skills: I aim to get good at producing comprehensive reports that encapsulate the essence of projects, data analysis, and business progression.
32. Develop Patience: By working on time-consuming projects that require a high degree of meticulousness, I intend to cultivate patience and resilience.
33. Build a Positive Online Presence: I will work towards establishing myself as a reliable resource within my field by engaging with industry communities online.
34. Develop Emotional Intelligence: I aim to improve my emotional intelligence through encouraging empathy and effective communication during collaborative projects.
35. Expand Skill Set in Specific Software: I aim to extend my knowledge of company-specific software, consequently boosting my tech-savvy skills pertinent to my role.
36. Gain Financial Acumen (for finance-related roles): I will be involved in financial projects or tasks to improve my understanding of financial management and analysis.
37. Learn to Prioritize Tasks: By organizing my work according to their urgency and importance, I aim to develop an effective prioritization method.
38. Cultivate a Growth Mindset: I plan to work on adopting a perspective that values learning and continuous improvement, treating challenges as opportunities to grow.
39. Learn to Give and Receive Feedback Constructively: I aim to become proficient at delivering and accepting professional criticism to enhance overall productivity and personal growth.
40. Enhance Critical Thinking Skills: I will strive to improve my critical thinking by taking on tasks that necessitate deep analysis, like evaluating strategic approaches.
41. Improve Statistical Analysis Skills: For roles that require quantitative analysis, I aim to refine my proficiency in statistical techniques (like data modeling or predictive analysis).
42. Develop a Customer-Centric Mindset: If working closely with end-users or customers, my goal is to understand their needs to better deliver quality service or products.
43. Cultivate a Sense of Responsibility: By taking charge of my tasks and their outcomes, I intend to develop accountability which is a key professional trait.
44. Develop Detailed Business Writing: I will work on enhancing my ability to convey information in writing in a clear, concise, and professional manner.
45. Understand and Apply Company Policies: A particular objective is to familiarize myself with company protocols and standards, ensuring my actions align with them.
46. Gain Skills in Event Planning: When the company hosts events or meetings, I’ll volunteer to help plan and coordinate, thus enhancing my practical event management skills.
47. Learn to Balance Creativity and Efficiency: My aim is to support innovative ideas while keeping efficacy in mind, essentially learning to maintain a balance between creativity and productivity.
48. Cultivate a Work-Life Balance: By managing my work hours and dedicating time to personal growth and relaxation, I hope to develop a healthy work-life balance.
49. Learn from Failure: I plan to treat every setback as a learning opportunity and develop resilience, which is crucial in any professional setting.
50. Achieve a Certain Level of Proficiency: Depending on the workspace, my aim is to reach a level of competence in a specific role or task by the end of the internship. For instance, if I am interning at a software company, I may set a goal to become proficient in a particular programming language.
For More, See: The Ultimate List of Educational Goals
Make your Goals SMART!
Once you have selected a few goals from the above list, it’s worth turning them into SMART Goals (Doran, 1981). This will help you to ensure the goals are well thought out and clear, and will ultimately increase your likelihood of achieving the goals (Milne, Orbell & Sheeran, 2002).
The S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym stands for:
- Specific: Ensure the goal is specific. This means you should write the goal down in a way that is clear to understand, has as many details as possible, and lack any ambiguity.
- Measurable: Ensure you can measure your goals. Write down what success will look like, and if possible, use objective measurement tools such as tests or grades from outside observers.
- Achievable: Ensure you’ve selected a goal that can be achieved within the timeframe of the internship – set realistic expectations, but also make them challenging. Not too easy, not too hard – like Goldilocks!
- Relevant: Your goals need to be relevant to your broader career or educational objectives. This is all about making sure you don’t put your internship to waste.
- Time-Based: For your internship, this is easy. Internships are usually short-term, and hopefully when selecting achievable goals, you selected short-term goals for an internship. You’ll probably want to have completed this objective by the time the internship wraps up.
To help you to build out your SMART internship goals, I’ve created this template for you. Open it up, save a copy for yourself so you can edit it, or print a copy and write out your goals by hand:
Davis, W. D., Mero, N., & Goodman, J. M. (2007). The interactive effects of goal orientation and accountability on task performance. Human Performance, 20(1), 1-21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/08959280709336926
Daw, N. D. (2015). Of goals and habits. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(45), 13749-13750. doi: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1518488112
Doran, G. T. (1981). There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives. Journal of Management Studies, 70-75.
Ehrlich, C., & Milston, S. (2021). Happiness through goal setting: A practical guide to reflect on and change the reasons why you pursue your most important goals in life. London: Routledge.
Latham G.P., Locke E.A. (2018) Goal Setting Theory. In The SAGE Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. London: SAGE.
Milne, S., Orbell, S., and Sheeran, P. (2002). Combining Motivational and Volitional Interventions to Promote Exercise Participation: Protection Motivation Theory and Implementation Intentions, British Journal of Health Psychology, 7(2): 163–184. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1348/135910702169420
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]