Hiring an intern can be exciting as a manager. You'll be a mentor for a first-time employee and she will look up to you throughout the work period. Creating a good set of goals for your intern will help make you a more effective boss and will benefit both the company and the intern. Developing goals for your intern will keep her on track and provide a way to measure performance at the end of the internship. You should start the process and provide guidance, but it it's best to have the intern actually write the internship goals.
Writing internship goals is similar to writing goals for a full-time employee, but there are a few differences. An internship is a temporary job for a fixed period of time. Interns also won't have much work experience, so a lot of their time will be spent getting acclimated to the work environment. Keep this in mind as you start to develop the goals for your intern.
Meet with your intern to discuss the job format and expectations. Come up with three to five goals and explain them in detail. One recommendation is to let the intern write the goals herself. This not only saves you time but gives the intern experience with a new work-oriented task. Hopefully, she'll also take more ownership of the goals having written them herself.
Use the goal structure laid out in the early 1980s in which goals should be SMART, which is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. This structure is recommended by a number of university internship programs, including the University of Kansas.
Goals need to be specific. The goals should have clear definition and should describe a specific task or outcome. Writing generalities into goals is not helpful because it can be confusing for the intern to interpret. A non-specific goal is also difficult to evaluate and determine the extent to which the intern completed the task.
Goals must be measurable. At the end of an internship you should evaluate the performance of the intern based on how well she completed the goals. A clear and measurable goal should be simple to gauge how well it was completed.
Remember that internships are just a temporary work placement. This is important to keep in mind because an intern's goal should be attainable within the work period she is employed. A goal for a full-time employee is going to be more in-depth and long-term. Don't forget this when coming up with your intern's goals. The goals shouldn't be superficial, but they do need to be reasonable and achievable within a short period of time.
Be sure that an intern's goals are relevant to her job. Although it's common for interns to get assignments that nobody else wants, it's important to limit the amount of busywork assigned. Even if the projects aren't prestigious, they should still have relevance to the position and the job description that was provided. It doesn't do the intern or the company any good to have her work on projects that are unrelated or don't have value.
All goals should be timely. In other words, you need to be clear about the timing expectations and deadlines. Each goal should have a due date within the intern's work period. Check regularly on your intern's progress, so there won't be any surprises at the end of the internship period. Be certain that you and the intern understand and agree to the timing requirements of the goals.
If you've developed the goals with your intern, you're halfway there. Don't let the goal writing be a one-time task.
The goals need to be reviewed at the end of the work period and you should evaluate the intern's performance based on these. If you want the best outcome, review the goals several times during the internship. This way, you can make sure the intern understands the goals and is making progress.
Continuous dialogue also allows the intern to ask questions. This helps create a sense of openness and prevents her from feeling intimidated about asking questions.
Auston Matta is an experienced engineer who has worked in the packaging industry since 2003. He holds a bachelor's degree in bio-engineering and a master's degree in engineering management. Auston has also contributed to "Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News."