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Internship Goals That Will Shape Your Next Top Talent

March 26, 2020
Ben Siegel

When hiring a team of interns, it’s not just about how new talent (and their fresh ideas) can benefit your company. It’s about how your internship program can help shape the next generation in the workforce.

By setting specific and attainable internship goals, you can create a symbiotic relationship that’s mutually beneficial for you and your interns. According to a Workforce Readiness Survey conducted by McGraw Hill, only 35% of students believe college effectively prepared them for a job. What’s worse, only 51% of students learned how to create a resume, and more than half (58%) didn’t know how to network. While those numbers might be disheartening, your company has the opportunity to offer these students what their universities didn’t — real-world experience. By helping them hone new skills (be it technology, networking, or written and oral communication), you can make a lasting impact that sets these students up for success.

So, what learning objectives can you create for your interns? What time frames should be given? And what specific actions are appropriate for an intern before they’ve even hit college graduation? Below, we’re offering a few examples of internship goals — spanning soft and hard skills — that you can set for your newest team members.

Teach Them Skills They Didn’t Learn in School

Internship goals: Mentor helping a student at a computer desk

While college courses can create an exceptional foundation for problem-solving, strategic thinking, and communication skills, sometimes technical skills are left until post-graduation. Many entry-level workers can become frustrated when they arrive at their first job, unfamiliar with the tools used in their department.Set a goal for your interns and encourage their professional development by teaching them how to use various tools. For example:

  • Sales: If you hire a sales intern, task them with loading new prospects into the Salesforce website. Or, have them research new apps to download within the Salesforce AppExchange.
  • Communications: If there's a journalism or English major on your team, you're probably reaping the benefits of new content ideas. Simultaneously, teach them specific skills not found in their written communication classes, such as learning how to schedule, upload, and publish new posts in Wordpress.
  • Marketing: For your marketing interns, coach them on using various email automation and social media scheduling tools. Whether your team uses Marketo, Mailchimp, ConverKit, or other software, be sure your interns know how to use it.

Sharpen Their Communication Skills

As every seasoned employee knows, there comes a point in your career when you need to articulate an argument. Whether you're pushing to create a new department, get the green light on a budget, or take a stance in direct opposition to your superior, you have to know how to speak — and speak well.To be successful in work and life, your interns will need to know how to present their case. At least once during the course of their internship, purposely create an environment where each intern practices these soft skills, presenting items such as:

  • Research: If your internship program centers on a great deal of research, have your interns present their findings orally, rather than typing up a report.
  • Business development: Your sales and marketing department likely provide regular business development updates to the executive team. Toward the end of their internship experience, allow the interns to take the reins, presenting to the rest of the company.
  • New tools: Whether it's the customer service team looking for a new project management system or your marketing team looking for a fresh way to schedule social media posts, companies are continually searching for newer, better tools. Allow the intern team to research the latest solutions, then present (or demo) them to coworkers.

Set Goals Around Networking

Group of diverse people holding plates of food while networking at an event

Communication proves to be a major hurdle in the workplace, with 69% of managers saying they feel uncomfortable communicating with employees. As the company leader, ensure you're crafting a company culture where all employees — from interns to full-time employees — feel comfortable approaching one another and creating relationships that extend outside the workplace.As the saying goes, getting ahead in the workplace isn't about what you know — it's who you know. Within the next few years of their lives, these college students will take their academic learning and apply it in the real world (and possibly at your company). Guiding interns to network can prove more challenging than teaching them a hard skill. Interns are task-oriented — they’re used to receiving homework assignments and completing them, or jotting down the date of an exam and studying for it. Here are a couple of ideas to improve their networking skills:

  • Encourage cross-department communication: Set an internship goal for each individual to have a coffee meeting with a manager outside their department.
  • Strengthen your company culture: Create an internship opportunity where the team of interns plans a team-building activity, happy hour, or social outing for their department.

Encourage Interns to Set Their Own Goals

At some point during their career path, interns will be asked the question, "How do you measure success?" Teach them how to evaluate and answer that question for themselves. It's not about setting them up for future job offers, or teaching them how to nail an interview. It's about teaching them to strategically set various milestones — then tackling them.Goal setting is a vital part of career and personal development, but you, as the boss, can't be the only person weighing in. Strategize with your interns to assess what's important to them, what they're passionate about, and what they hope to accomplish.If your interns struggle setting their own goals, here are a few internship goals to get their wheels turning:

  • Oral communication skills: Have them set a goal to speak at a staff meeting twice during the internship.
  • Customer service: Challenge your interns to sit in on client meetings, so they know how to handle disgruntled clients or customers.
  • Written communication: Encourage interns to publish a piece of content to add to their portfolio, whether it’s an e-book, blog post, or social media strategy.

Transform Team Members Into Mentors

When setting goals for your interns, never forget that a company is a complex team working as a single unit. Therefore, the goals of one team member — even entry-level staff and interns — help shape the trajectory of your entire company.In many cases, hiring a new cohort of interns allows more seasoned team members to get their first managerial opportunity. As such, junior- to mid-level employees have a chance to hone in on how they deliver (and receive) constructive feedback, delegate various tasks, and manage new projects with deadlines. This is essential not only for the career development of your employees, but for the future of your company.

Setting Internship Goals Helps to Shape the Next Generation

Setting goals for your team of interns doesn’t just benefit your junior employees — it benefits your entire company.According to the 2019 Internship & Co-op Survey Report, over 56% of interns are converted into full-time employees (up 10% from the year before). In other words, by putting energy into your interns now, you’re setting your company up for success when those interns become entry-level employees.Teaching interns to set reasonable goals for technical and soft skills can dramatically improve their career development. Curious to see how we can help? Get in touch with us via the form above!

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