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5 Steps to a Great Internship – Identify Your Goals

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This article is part of the CareerAlley Internship series and focuses on identifying your goals. These are not your “life goals” (although they could be”) but are your goals for your internship.  Defining these will help you understand what you would like to get out of your internship so that you get the most value for your time spent.

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Ideally, your internships should be aligned with your college major and your career goals.  While having “any” internship on your resume is better than no internship, your focus should be those internships that will provide the most value. Set goals that allow you to learn about your likes, dislikes, and perceptions. This is your “audition” for the real world, treat it as an opportunity to get a job offer when you graduate. Define your goals:

Career and Internship Goals

Defining your goals is key to helping define your internship opportunities.

  • Self-Assessment – Take a hard look at yourself and make a list of your strengths and how you might leverage those strengths in your career.
  • Your Major – If you’ve declared a major, then you have a really good idea of what you would like to do as your line of work.
  • Internship Goals – Make a list of what you would like to accomplish during the internship. This will help you select the right opportunity as well as help during the interview process.

“While some internships offer a built-in cohort of fellow interns, most sites host only one intern at a time, which can lead to lonely, boring days at work. Even if your full-time co-workers are warm and personable, talking with people in your exact stage of life is irreplaceable.” –

Industry Goals

Based on your major and career aspirations:

  • Select an industry that will offer internships that are aligned with your college major
  • Use the opportunity to determine if you truly like your preferred industry
  • Select a company within your chosen industry that is a leader and well regarded
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Define Your Goals

From the outset, you should define your overall goals, this is key for your interviews.

  • To gain experience
  • To gain an understanding of the industry and markets
  • To learn about working relationships in an organization
  • To leverage your skills in the “real world”


Take on some real responsibilities and key deliverables.

  • This is your opportunity to show your “temporary” employers what you can do and what you can deliver
  • This is your “audition” for the real world


  • Select an internship that will allow you to enhance the skills you have as well as the opportunity to learn new skills
  • Include specific skill-related goals
  • Focus on your weaknesses  – include goals that will allow you to improve your weaker skills

Feedback During Your Internship

Take the good with the bad. This is your opportunity to learn what others think of you. Request constructive feedback on a regular basis.  Don’t confuse people’s perception of you (which is very important) with your ability to achieve superior results.

Build Your Network

An internship is a perfect opportunity to build your professional network.  Make an effort to make connections with individuals who have the experience and skills to help you in your career

learning About You

Your internship will change your perception of the working world as well as your likes and dislikes. Create goals that will allow you to:

  • Confirm what you like to do (and what you don’t like to do)
  • Experiment with things that are outside of your comfort zone
  • Test your communication skills (written and verbal).

Setting internship goals is key to not only landing a great internship but also helping you get the most of your experience.

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