What are some tips for setting internship goals?

September 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

Now that you know the importance of setting employer goals (see previous post), it’s a perfect time to talk tips. As an employer or internship supervisor, the most important goal-setting tip is to keep in mind what constitutes an effective goal.

Essentially, an effective goal should…

•    Be specific. While general goals may sound grand (i.e. “significantly improve employee productivity”), they are difficult to accomplish: First of all, it’s hard to come up with specific steps to reach general goals. And secondly, it’s almost impossible to know when you’ve reached them. (This brings us to the second aspect.)

Non-specific goal: Increase social media presence
Specific goal: Set up a social media presence on two platforms (like Facebook and Twitter) and make a minimum of one daily update to each

•    Be measurable. In order to know if a goal was accomplished, there must be some means for measuring it. So when setting goals, be sure to ask yourself, How exactly will we know when our objective has been achieved?

Non-measurable goal: Fix staffing problem
Measurable goal: Increase two-year employee retention rate by 25%

•    Be realistic. Setting unrealistic goals undermines employee and program morale. On one hand, internship program participants and supervisors should feel like they’re accomplishing something. On the other, setting attainable goals evidences progress to those who allocate funds.

Unrealistic goal: Build public perception of (startup) company as leader in field
Realistic goal: Generate two credibility building online mentions and two print mentions

•    Be of value to intern and organization. It takes skill to balance what students need from an internship program with what the employer wants to achieve. But the way to accomplish equilibrium is simply to assess the value of each goal from both perspectives: Is there something valuable for the student to learn? Is there something that the company needs accomplished?

The caveat here is that every single goal may not meet the needs of both parties. Some goals are simply more student valuable, or conversely, more for the company. And this is fine. Just make sure to balance an employer-centered goal with a student-centered objective and vice versa.

Valuable to student: Be able to conduct an effective sales call
Valuable to employer: Organize backlogged employee expense receipts
Valuable to both: Research and evaluate potential social media platforms

•    Be few in number. One of the most important elements of effective goals is that they are focused. Because interns can’t accomplish anything if they’re sent in too many different directions. So select only a handful of your most pressing goals. Although there is no set number, 10 at a time is too many. Four or five is much more doable.

•    Be structured. Ensure that goals are structured by incorporating specific steps and a firm deadline. The deadline is particularly important, because without a formal due date, projects often get pushed back indefinitely.

The following format is one appropriate structure:
o    Specific goal:
o    Tasks to accomplish goal (how we will achieve the goal):
o    Evaluation method (how we will determine the goal has been met):
o    Deadline for goal completion (the date when we’ll evaluate):

Get more tips for appropriate intern tasks and work, from internships.com.

Entry filed under: Intern Goals, Manage Interns. Tags: .

I know students are supposed to set internship goals. Should employers be setting goals as well? How can I make sure virtual internships stay on track?

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This blog is dedicated to employers with a focus on how to hire and manage interns effectively. We will have a variety of experts who will share helpful ideas, tips and more. We invite you to comment, ask questions and share your experiences. You are also welcome to submit written contributions to this blog.

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