How to Succeed in Your First Job
How to Set Great Internship or Job Goals
Goals are critical to succeeding at your internship or entry-level job for several reasons.
- They help you focus on what matters and avoid spending time on fruitless endeavors.
- They enable you to track your progress and ensure you’re having the impact you want to have.
- They help you align expectations with your manager and stay on the same page.
- They allow you to document and demonstrate your effort and impact at the company, which can help you get a raise, promotion, or recommendation.
What Makes a Good Internship or Entry-Level Goal?
First, all goals should be several things:
- In your direct control.
There’s no point in holding yourself accountable for things you can’t control. For example, if you’re in a social media marketing role, you should create a goal around growing the number of engaged followers by 50% instead of a goal to increase the revenue you get from each social media follower.
Avoid vague goals like “Grow our brand awareness.”. You’ll never know when you achieve vague goals. The easiest way to make goals measurable is to ensure there are numbers attached to them.
Your goals should push you. They shouldn’t be easily accomplished. Goals don’t exist to make you feel accomplished. They exist to help you accomplish great things.
In addition, internship goals should have a specific focus on learning. That learning focus can be on you learning whether you want to pursue a career similar to the internship, learning a specific skill, or learning to succeed in a particular professional environment.
Good entry-level job goals aren’t so different in that there should be an emphasis on learning. However, learning cannot be the only goal as your impact is critical to your ability to maintain your career.
How to Choose Your Goals
Setting the best, achievable goals for your internship or entry-level job largely depends on knowing what you want, what you’re capable of, what your role will enable you to reasonably do, and what the company is trying to do. When setting your goals, it’s important to ask yourself a few key questions.
First, ask yourself why you accepted this internship or job. This should help you figure out what you should try and learn from it. Understanding your own personal motivation for taking the job should help you set a good personal learning goal.
Second, consider what the company is trying to do. Your goals should benefit you and the company. If your goals don’t align with the company’s goals, then your efforts likely won’t have any impact on the company’s success and you won’t be able to demonstrate your value to the company.
Third, ask yourself what type of impact you’d like to have on the company. What would you be most proud of achieving?
Fourth, examine the responsibilities of the role you have at the company and determine what your role will enable you to achieve. If you’re a sales intern, you probably won’t be super successful at helping the company achieve their engineering-related goals.
Setting the Scope of Your Goals
If you’re a summer intern, you probably shouldn’t have a yearly goal. Instead, you should set a goal for your summer internship.
Entry-level employees should start by trying to set 5 year goals. If you have absolutely no idea where you’d like to be in 5 years and what you’d like to be doing, that’s totally fine; start with 1 year goals instead. From those 1 year goals work backwards into quarterly and monthly goals. Some companies set quarterly goals and some set monthly goals. The scope of your goals should match with your company’s scope.
Internship Goal Examples
Grow Twitter followers by 25% by the end of summer.
Demo 5 new accounts each week.
Write 10 new articles each month.
Learn Ruby on Rails and deploy 1 new feature by the end of summer.
Have coffee with 1 full-time employee each week.
Entry-Level Job Goal Examples
Create 2 new icons and add them to the icon font each month.
Reduce expenses each quarter by 5%.
Retain 80% of part-time volunteers each quarter.
Shadow a different person in their role at the company each month.
Tracking Your Progress
Once you have your goals set, you’ll need to be diligent about tracking your progress. A good rule of thumb is to check in on your status one time dimension below the scope of your goals. For example, you should check on your progress towards any yearly goals every quarter. You should check on any quarterly goals every month. You should check on any monthly goals every week.
Keep track of your progress somewhere digital (a spreadsheet or Google doc are good options). It’s not only important to know whether or not you’re making good progress, but at what rate you’re making progress. This can help you tie the progress to specific actions you took.
Assessing Your Impact
The final, and perhaps the most critical part, of effectively using goals in your internship or entry-level job is to ensure that you take time to reflect on the goals you set. You may have achieved them, or you may not have. Regardless, you should take time to think about:
- Did this goal actually measure the impact that you had? Was it a good goal?
- Why did you or did you not meet your goal?
- Was this goal effective in motivating you?
- Should you use this goal again?
Now that you know why goals are a critical part of any internship or entry-level job and how to set good ones, go use your new knowledge! Your manager will be impressed. We promise.
Questions and Answers
see all FAQ
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Go with a close friend or a coworker who can help you start conversations. Be sure to go with someone that's understanding and will help you branch out.
Can I negotiate my salary for an internship?
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Should I work before going to business school?
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