Sometimes setting goals– even smart goals— is not enough to get you over that career hump. In times like these you need something more. You need something that comes from within yourself—something like self-efficacy.
Psychology majors know this concept well. Self-efficacy is defined as the strength of a person’s belief in their ability to reach goals (Bandura, 1977). For example, let’s say that your goal was to run the mile in under seven minutes. Your belief in your running ability is your self-efficacy with regards to running. As you can see, this can impact your perception on how much effort it will take to achieve your goal of running under seven minutes. If you perceive that you have the physical ability to run under seven minutes, you may see that goal as achievable. On the other hand, if you perceive that no amount of effort can make you a better runner, you may not see that goal as achievable.
The question is: How does this impact you as an intern?
The concept of job self-efficacy can shed some light as to how self-efficacy impacts you as an intern. Job self-efficacy is defined as an employee’s belief in their ability to complete tasks and achieve goals at work (Franco, 2015). Now, imagine that you just landed your first position as an intern. You have some knowledge that you gained from school, but you have little or no experience in your duties as an intern. Depending on how you feel about your abilities, you may feel as though you are in a predicament.
You ask yourself: How am I going to do well at something that I know nothing about?
The good news is that part of the solution is in trusting yourself. Think about it. If you were hired to work as an intern, then your employer may have seen something in you of value.
In order to start trusting yourself and building your abilities to excel at your internship, you have to start with what you have. Buildings cannot be built without materials and a solid foundation. You have that solid foundation and the key is in discovering it. In order to discover it, take the time to make a list of positive work attributes that other people have told you. You can even ask previous professors or classmates about your strengths. Examples of strengths are:
- You are good at forming connections.
- You are result-oriented.
- You are detailed-oriented.
- You are a fast learner.
- You are great at presenting to groups of people.
Whatever your list looks like, use it to build your confidence and apply those strengths to your job. For example, when I started my career as a business consultant and coach, I only had experience in conducting psychotherapy from my work as a marriage and family therapist. I saw videos and practiced in class, but I had no real world experience. The only way to gain that experience was to perform the actual work. In order to do this I used my strengths as a fast learner and good listener to gain confidence in my abilities. I also used my past experience as a therapist to help give me a competitive edge.
Using your skills, knowledge, abilities, and past experience can help you build your job self-efficacy— no matter how unrelated they may seem to your current internship. You can accomplish your goals by nurturing your strengths and not dwelling on your setbacks.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change. Psychological Review 84 (2): 191–215. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.84.2.191.
Franco, G. E. (2015). Productivity Standards, Marriage and Family Therapist Job Satisfaction, and Turnover Intent. Dissertations and Doctoral Studies.