Score a Goal with Your Fall Internship


As the fall semester and the month of September begin, so do many students begin fall internships. For those of you interning this fall, have you developed your goals for your internship yet? If not, it’s definitely time to get on that!

Setting goals is incredibly important when participating in an internship. Intentional learning goals are what set an internship experience apart from a just a regular ol’ job. It’s the whole point of having an internship – to learn, to grow as a future professional, and to have experiences that you can showcase to future employers.

Experience Goals

As you go into an internship, there are likely certain experiences that you hope to have during the course of your time there. Maybe you want to experience client interactions as a sales intern. Maybe you want to experience real fieldwork as a biology intern. There are key things to do, see, and engage in as an intern in your particular field. Incorporate a couple of these field-specific experiences into your internship goals.

Skills Goals

Internships provide the opportunity to develop important workplace skills, so at least one skills-based goal would be great to include. If you want to improve your communications skills, develop a goal that gets at this very specifically. For example, you might want to improve your writing skills as a PR intern, and you will work on it by writing press releases. You might seek to develop stronger group facilitation skills as a human services intern, and you will do so by working with a client group at your internship site. When it comes time to discuss your skills on a resume or in a future interview, you should have specific examples from your internship to give as proof that you actually possess those skills.

Project Goals

So what is the difference between experience goals and project goals? For me, it’s a difference between general work tasks or being part of a project and having a project all your own that you complete start to finish. For example, I have seen special events interns who are charged with coordinating a specific event. Basically, it’s their event, their project. Now, it’s not that you don’t have help with a bigger project. You should receive guidance from your supervisor or other connected co-workers. However, it’s your responsibility and something that you can call your own. Not all internships allow for projects, but if you have the opportunity for it, work with your supervisor to identify a project you can focus on throughout your internship.

Don’t forget that as you set your internship goals, you should determine the specific steps you will take to achieve them. Also, determine how you will will measure that achievement – How will you know if you’ve completed each goal? Finally, remember that you are not alone in setting goals for your internship. Have a conversation with your supervisor about the goals you have and work with him or her to decide 1) if those goals are attainable within the scope of the internship and, if they are, 2) what you can begin working on to move you towards those goals.

What is one of your goals for your fall internship?

If you aren’t in an internship this semester, what is one thing you hope to achieve in a future internship?

Photo by olle svensson

Internship Link Roundup for the Week of November 15

You Have More Experience than You Think

I feel like resumes have taken over my life this semester. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. However, I have done more than a few resume reviews during appointments, via email, and at our Resume Dr. events.

Resumes become frequent guests in my internship search appointments with students. In many instances, this is the first draft EVER of the student’s resume, and it’s often a pre-internship resume (Sometimes I’ll meet with a student who has already had an internship and is going back for more). One of the biggest concerns these students have is fear of a lack of experience.

Never fear! You probably have more experience than you think you have.

So where is all of this experience hiding? Consider the following:

  • Community Service: Extensive volunteer experiences often provide you with the exact skills employers are looking for. It wasn’t a paid job? So what! The important factor is what you actually DIDduring the experience. Take UW-Whitewater’s America Reads program, through which students tutor and work one-on-one with area elementary school children either in the classroom or in after-school reading programs. Particularly for individuals going into human services or education, this is indeed important experience.
  • Student Organization Leadership: UW-Whitewater has a wide variety of student organizations, including professional organizations such as the Forensics Team, Social Work Student Organization, and Student Wisconsin Education Association. Students who step up to take leadership roles with these or other student organizations are often doing work. The treasurer monitors a group’s finances, the secretary is the main communications hub, and the president manages the overall operations. There is a lot of real “work” a student in such a role can describe on his/her resume. Additionally, a group like the American Marketing Association (AMA) participates in a national case competition every year. Playing a role on the case competition team should provide a student with experience in research, report writing, and presenting.
  • Student Government: Students who serve as Senators or in Executive Board positions with Whitewater Student Government (WSG) are building experience in governance, legislative processes, and constituent (i.e. student) outreach. For a student considering a career in government and/or politics, this provides directly related experience. I’m hosting a resume writing workshop for History, Political Science, and Public Policy majors next week. If anyone attending hopes to go into one of these career areas AND happens to be involved in WSG, I’ll be encouraging them to place much more emphasis on their work with student government.

Look at your college activities a little differently to find experiences and skills that you can more strongly market to a potential internship site. While tucking the above experiences into a “Co-Curricular Activities” section on a resume makes sense in some cases (for example, you’re just a regular member of the organization, it was a one-time community service activity, or an organization is purely for fun), other circumstances allow you to highlight important work that you’ve done in a seemingly innocuous part of your college life.

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Photo by sansfaim

Internship Perfection: Real or Myth?

Perfection – that illusive state to which so many people aspire. Too bad it doesn’t really exist. I struggle daily with this idea. Obviously, I’m not perfect – I’m human. I’ve made some bad mistakes, even one that almost got me fired from a student job. Unfortunately, because I tend towards perfectionism, I’m painfully aware of the mistakes I’ve made.

This feeling of personal failure is why being a perfection-focused intern can be disastrous. Is making a mistake at your internship the end of the world? Probably not. Can you learn valuable career and life lessons from the mistakes you make during your internship? You bet!

First things first: Are you a perfectionist or do you have perfectionistic tendencies? Do you believe the following:

  • Mistakes must not be made.
  • The highest standards must always be met.
  • Failure to reach your goals equals a shortcoming in you as a person.
  • If others see your flaws, they will judge you negatively.
  • Wants and desires are secondary to goal achievement.
  • The world is black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, with no gray areas.

If this describes you “perfectly” or if at least a couple of points ring true, here are some tips to help you, the potential perfectionist intern, deal with your vice:

  • Set healthy goals for the internship. Goal-setting is something that every intern should do, but the process is especially important for perfectionists. It might be tempting to set goals based on what others expect of you or to focus only on end results. Instead, try to setting goals in a healthy manner:
    • Focus on what you want to achieve
    • Set a goal that takes you one step beyond previous accomplishments.
    • Choose some process goals – goals that focus on improving the processes you must go through during a task or project to perform a skill successfully.
  • Put perfection in perspective. Ask yourself – What is the worst thing that could happen if I don’t do this task perfectly? The answer is probably not as bad as you fear.
  • Focus your failures. When you “fail” at something, don’t make it a global fail. Instead, see the mistake as specific to the given situation (ex. I didn’t earn an A on this exam. I’ll focus on my weak areas in order to do better on the final). Learn from the mistake. And if you are criticized, realize that it’s often not criticism but feedback. It’s constructive advice to help you learn, not a rejection.

I know that I’m not perfect and that I never will be. And I’ve made my fair share of mistakes.

You are not perfect and you never will be. Cut yourself some slack, make the best choices that you’re able to make, and learn from life’s slip-ups.

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Internship Week 2010: Day 3

Ellen and I are really enjoying the Internship Outposts. It’s a nice opportunity to get outside the walls of the office and meet UW-Whitewater students elsewhere across campus.

So what exactly is the Internship Outpost? In short, it’s a traveling info table. Since it’s staffed by me and Ellen, though, it’s also a drop-by station for quick internship questions. Here is some of the information you can find at the Outpost:

In addition to handouts with this information, we have our awesome new  UW-W Student Internships pens! Plus, each student who stops by the Outpost can enter into our prize drawing for a copy of “The Internship Files: How to Get, Keep, and Make the Most of Your Internship” along with a $10 UW-W Bookstore gift card. Finally, as I said before, visiting us at the Outpost gives you a chance to ask some of your personal internship search questions.

The final Outpost for Internship Week 2010 is today (Thursday, March 4). We’re hanging out in Upham Hall. Visit us there if you can. If we don’t see you, hopefully we’ll catch you at one in the future!