Setting goals before landing your first internship

by Taylor Rouse

Completing an internship is vital for students and young professionals planning to pursue professional career paths. They give people the opportunity to gain firsthand practice in their fields and can often provide the mentorship needed to improve existing skills.

But a crucial step you should take before landing that first internship is to map out what you want to achieve during the experience. Goal setting is one way to do just that, and it will ensure you get the most out of your work. Here are three key factors you should consider before hitting the submit application button:

Decide what type of work environment you wish to join. Company structure and culture can make or break an internship. Before joining an organization, map out the type of environment you think will be most beneficial for you. If your goal is to work in a business environment and acquire professional skills, it may be best to look for more traditional internships that require upscale dress and time in the office. If you would like to intern at a more flexible workplace, you could look for an internship that is fully virtual or utilizing a hybrid model of in-office and remote work. Finding your comfort zone will strengthen your workflow and make it easier to narrow down future job searches based on your preferred workplace culture.


Find an internship that’s relevant to your experience or academic major. Many young professionals choose internships that give them direct experience in a field pertaining to their major or interests. Some even use internships as a time to explore more specific areas within their overall focus. For example, a communication major may use an internship to strengthen skills they study but haven’t practiced, like public speaking or professional writing. Deciding how you want your focus area to play a role in your internship allows you to improve specific skills and gain experience applying them to tangible work.

Identify skills you want to target and expand on. Aside from working on skills specific to your interests or education, internships also provide an opportunity to strengthen important day-to-day skills like teamwork, time management and communication. Identifying which of these types of skills you would like to grow in can further accelerate your personal and professional abilities. For example, if you’re used to working independently but want to become a better team player, search for an internship that requires group work and emphasizes interpersonal communication. Internships are a fantastic opportunity to practice daily skills that can push you over the finish line further down your career path.