Setting goals for your internship

For an intern, goal setting is a way of ensuring you get what you need out of your internship.

Most of the institutions offering internships will be using goal setting themselves to establish targets for improvement at a senior strategic level. Larger organisations will have goal setting embedded into a formal review structure for staff. Smaller organisations may use less formal management language, but will support staff and the institution as a whole to reach goals, move forward and succeed.

Establishing goals will provide a focus to any reflection you are doing, but should not govern what you reflect on. The goals you set need to be connected to the learning aims you will have identified before you selected your internship (See Can I be an Intern). These will be broad aims, such as wanting to work in an arts organisation, or wanting to understand curatorial decision making, or wanting to understand how arts projects are marketed. Goals need to be specific. For example if you want to learn how curatorial decisions are made your goals could to be to attend a curatorial programme meeting, and to identify and read an internal curatorial vision document alongside any public facing material you can identify.

Although there are many approaches to setting goals, as a guide all approaches can be roughly distilled into the following rules that goals need to be: specific, few in number, written down, and shared with others. This final rule is about how saying your goals ‘out loud’ helps you to hear them for what they are and invites immediate feedback on their scope and viability in your internship. Are they achievable? Are they relevant? It is a good idea to share you goals with your mentor at the start of your internship. You should be assigned a mentor or a lead individual from the team who will organise an induction interview. Hearing about your goals in this initial discussion with you will mean your mentor can coordinate your tasks towards helping you achieve them.

It is a good idea to adopt a flexible approach to using goals because it is important you retain the possibility for discovering what you want to gain skills and experience in. As you are setting goals in advance of the real life experience of an internship your goals may change.  If you don’t meet your goals being flexible will help you to feel confident in the value of being able to learn from failure; and that you experience failure as creative and transformative. If you don’t get to attend a curatorial programme meeting what, on reflection and in dialogue with your co-workers, has this shown you? Perhaps that these decisions are very sensitive; or that the team you work within (e.g. a Visitor Services team) might themselves find it difficult to access these meetings; or that these decisions are made in other ways, other than in meetings (e.g. interpersonal relationships, studio visits).

To select your specific goals, establish for your self what your skills and experience are then identify the gaps. Think about what you would like to know, what experience you are hoping to gain, what you want to test out in terms of assumptions you might have around what is valued in the roles you are interested in. Once you have identified your goals write down what task you think you will need to do to accomplish each one. Consider how you will determine whether your goals have been met and set deadlines for meeting each one that you communicate to your co-workers.

The key thing to remember is to use goals as a tool to lever what you need from an internship (in terms of experience), but not as a measure of your achievement. If you don’t reach your goal and you measure your success by this, you will miss what you have achieved.

The GOAL SETTING FRAMEWORK may be a helpful tool and template to keep track of how you are achieving your goals.

Article by Leanne Turvey

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