I know students are supposed to set internship goals. Should employers be setting goals as well?
As you say, students should be setting goals… some of which will overlap with yours. But as an employer, you also have your own unique needs and objectives. Yes, you should be focused on student learning. But you also have projects and tasks to be completed, especially if you are paying interns.
There are a number of reasons for employers to set specific goals:
- Maintain focus. Setting formal goals ensures you don’t get distracted by daily duties and fail to keep your focus on the big picture.
- Provide a context for clerical tasks. Goals offer a framework for showing interns the importance of seemingly trivial tasks. For example, tracking competitor blog mentions takes on more relevance when the student understands how it helps them meet a specific goal (like learning about important industry players).
- Evaluate potential employees. You’re likely using your internship program as a pipeline for finding future employees. But without concrete goals, it’s difficult to determine whether—and how well—an intern has met your objectives.
- Write detailed recommendations. If an intern works hard, their reward will be a recommendation letter. Similar to the above, specific goals will provide a barometer for measuring intern performance and assessing (then conveying) strengths.
- Gain greater buy-in. For newly implemented intern programs, setting formal goals helps prove program ROI to senior staff members and decision makers. If your program has been running for some time, concrete proof will facilitate continued funding.
- Make program improvements. A successful internship program always strives to surpass itself. Setting formal goals ensures that your program doesn’t stagnate, by revealing your weak spots, so you can improve upon them.
- Finally, remember that employer goals should be shared with students and, like intern goals, worked toward together.