Internships can be a great way to build your skillset and gain industry knowledge – if you take full advantage of the opportunity.
Intent is such an important factor in learning – people progress that much faster when they have a direction in mind. That’s where SMART(R) goals come into play. Short for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely and Reflect, these types of objectives are perfect for summer internships because they’re designed to be achieved within a specific timeframe. When it comes to brainstorming the right goal, you need to really think about your abilities and what you can reasonably accomplish. But, at the same time, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself – you will get much more out of your internship experience if you push your boundaries.
Want to know more about forming an effective SMART(R) goal for your upcoming internship? Here’s what you need to think about!
Specify your goal and where to start
How many times have you told yourself that ‘you’ll do it later’ and then never get to it? That’s why a SMART(R) goal is a specific goal. Knowing exactly what you want to accomplish will help you determine your starting point much more easily.
For example, ‘I want to develop transferrable skills’ is a good goal, but where do you even begin? There are so many options to choose from! A SMART(R) goal to set would be ‘I want to improve my writing abilities.’ Now that you can pinpoint your focus, you can determine your game plan. Maybe you can start by reading some articles on how to best produce content for your company’s specific audience, or how to write for different platforms.
Moreover, having a specific goal is incredibly important because you want to be able to begin making progress from day one of your internship. Remember, if you put it off for later, the four months will be over before you know it.
Measure your progress
No matter what goal you decide on, if it’s not measurable, it’s not SMART. An effective objective is one where you can easily tell when you’re getting closer to the finish line. For instance, if your goal is to increase your company’s social media presence, you can track the metrics each week to see how much your performance is improving.
However, sometimes you may find that you’re not making progress as fast as you thought – that’s okay! Consider sharing your goal with your manager or coworkers and see if they have any valuable advice. As senior employees, they have more expertise on developing skills in the workplace so use that to your advantage.
Attainable with your resources
While you don’t want to underestimate yourself, you don’t want to overestimate yourself either. A SMART(R) goal should be reasonable and within reach. That said, this doesn’t mean you should choose an easy goal – just one where you have all the resources you need to make it happen.
For example, something like ‘I want to be a top professional in the company’ is not an attainable goal without the degrees and certifications full-time employees have. A SMART(R) goal would be ‘I want to start building my network,’ especially since you’re in the perfect position to form connections with senior professionals.
Keep in mind that this is not meant to discourage you from setting high goals for yourself – in fact, we encourage you to shoot for the stars! It just means to look at this one summer goal as a stepping stone to getting to your final destination.
Relevant to your professional development
It’s no secret that motivation is the key to sticking to your goal. The best advice we can give you is to choose one that’s truly important to you – something you see value in pursuing without anyone reminding you to work on it. A great way to feel motivated is by finding a goal that’s relevant to your professional development.
For instance, if you want to become a Graphic Designer someday, and you’re interning at a tech start-up company, consider making your SMART(R) goal ‘I’m going to create a design portfolio with at least fifteen pieces of my work from this placement.’ Because you know it can help you achieve your dream job one day, you’ll naturally feel driven to work towards it.
Time sensitive to your internship
Unfortunately, procrastination is a bad habit for many people. When something doesn’t have to be done immediately, we tend to push it to the back of our minds. However, you can fight against procrastination by setting deadlines for yourself. One of the reasons why SMART(R) goals suit internships so perfectly is because you already have a time limit: the end of your work term.
With this in mind, you always want to set goals that are time bound. For example, ‘I want to improve my communication skills’ is not as urgent as ‘I want to be a better public speaker in two months.’ Whenever you’re setting a SMART(R) goal, you want to ask yourself this question: when am I going to achieve this?
Reflect on your success
Make the most of your summer internship by taking the time to do some self-reflection. You want to evaluate your experience because, in the long run, what matters are the benefits you walk away with. Ask yourself these types of questions: first and foremost, were you successful in accomplishing your goal? Did you set the bar too high? Did you reach your goal too quickly? Was your goal even applicable in your industry or workplace?
As you’re going through this thought process, think about whether or not you would try this goal again during your next internship, with the knowledge you have now. Are there any changes you would make? Would you come up with a new goal altogether? It’s all about trial and error when it comes to SMART(R) goals. Identifying what you did right and where you went wrong will help you get an even better internship experience next summer.
Follow these steps, and you’re sure to form an effective summer goal that’s perfectly tailored for you. If you’re more strategic in your approach to your internship, you will find yourself walking away with a lot more benefits. Plus, this is a great opportunity to work on something you’ve been meaning to but haven’t gotten around to yet. Remember, be SMART(R) in your goal setting!