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Setting Goals for your Internship Abroad

Nov 9, 2020 10:13:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

Today we'll cover why and how you should set personal and professional goals as you begin an internship abroad. What matters to you? What do you want to achieve at the end of the experience? Through it all, CAPA will guide you step-by-step and help create a path for success as you focus on your goals. 

P.S. We've included a Q&A with Craig Kench, CAPA’s Vice President of Global Internships, on how you can set your goals, evaluate them, and work with CAPA and your peers to achieve them on your study abroad journey.

You’ve made the decision to go beyond studying abroad and take on an internship while you’re there. A smart move. There are huge benefits in doing so, but those are for another post; if you’ve decided to go ahead and intern abroad, you are probably aware of them already! In this post, we’ll talk about one way to make the most of your internship while you’re there: through goal setting. Because like most things in life, the more effort, thought, and intention you put into your internship, the more you will get out of it.

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Why should I set internship goals?

If you have a goal in mind from the beginning of your internship, a vision of how you will achieve it, and you believe that achieving it will benefit you, it will help you stay focused. You will be setting out objectives with CAPA and your internship site supervisor at the beginning. Having your own personal and professional development goals in mind will be a talking point during your initial meetings and will help you lay out a plan together so you’re on the same page and your expectations are aligned. Goals give you a way to track your progress, offer a means to measure how far you’ve come and see more clearly what you’ve achieved while interning abroad.

How do I decide which goals to set?

Think about what you want out of your internship experience! Why did you decide to intern abroad in the first place? What do you hope the lasting impact of your internship will be? How will you be able to maximize your time there? Make sure you feel inspired by whatever goals you decide to set and know why they matter to you. Be intentional.

Think S.M.A.R.T.

S. - Specific: Know exactly what you want to achieve.
(Example: Learn how to organize and run a marketing focus group.)

M. - Measurable: Know how and when you’ll be satisfied that you’ve achieved your goal.
(Example: Successfully organize and run at least one marketing focus group.)

A. - Attainable: Have a plan for how you will be able to reasonably attain your goal.
(Example: Shadow a supervisor who normally organizes and runs marketing focus groups. Take notes, ask lots of questions and do some online research for extra tips.)

R. - Realistic: Be ambitious, but also aware of your own limits and strengths.
(Example: Learn how to organize and run a marketing focus group within the time constraints of your internship and use group discussions in class to exchange tips with other students so you can still use your free time to explore your host city.)

T. - Time-Bound: Give yourself a hard deadline to meet your goal.
(Example: Learn how to organize and run a marketing focus group by the end of your internship abroad.)

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What are some examples of goals achievable during an internship abroad?

  • Master a specific career-related skill that will enhance your resume, preferably one that will give you a leg up when you are job hunting after college (perhaps, for example, learning how to do keyword research for SEO).
  • Aim to understand a specific aspect of your field that might be a bit fuzzy and easier to comprehend in a hands-on situation (perhaps, for example, a better understanding of corporate economics or learning about how venture capital works).
  • Build your professional network with a goal to connect with a certain number of people in your industry (perhaps, for example, other students, internship colleagues, someone who does the job that you envision yourself doing in the future or even focus on finding a mentor. Shadow colleagues or invite a new person to coffee each week to build connections).
  • Improve specific soft skills (perhaps, for example, coming out of your shell and becoming more comfortable with networking or developing solid interview skills).

What else should I keep in mind when setting internship goals?

Write your goals down somewhere you will see them often and you will be more likely to hold yourself accountable. Share them with a friend or a supervisor and you’ll be even more likely to achieve them.

It’s often useful to define small steps that you can take each week that will lead you to achieving your overall goal within your deadline.

Ask for constructive feedback from your internship colleagues and supervisor along the way. Ask if you can do anything to improve what you’re already doing.

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Q&A with Craig Kench, CAPA’s Vice President of Global Internships

Does CAPA provide students with any guidance or advice related to goal setting for an internship abroad prior to the start of the program?

Craig Kench: Students have an outstanding level of pre-departure advice and guidance from CAPA staff. It is a core objective to enable and empower all students to maximize their study abroad experiences. During the pre-departure phase, students will embark on a journey of self-reflection towards self-projection and will set internship goals for themselves. Students can liaise with staff and access multiple helpful pre-departure resources through several forums. This includes but is not limited to; one-to-one virtual conference calls, online chat systems, phone calls, webinars, digital templates of cover letters, resumes and more. Whether it is transferrable skills that a student wants to develop or insight into industry areas that a student wants to work in, the CAPA team is available to provide guidance and create a platform for a truly meaningful internship experience abroad.

Do students discuss goal setting relating to internships throughout the semester?

CK: From the first week of the program, goal setting is very much at the forefront of the students’ experiences. During CAPA’s Internship Arrival Orientation, internship and academic teams will engage with students to discuss the purpose and advantages of strategic goal setting before students start their respective placements. In addition, students will begin to map out the ways in which they can shape their experiences through the creation of an Internship Learning Agreement. This document will assist in developing a pathway in which CAPA, the student, and the respective internship site supervisor will agree upon specific overarching goals and explore operational tasks and responsibilities that will allow these goals to be realized. These objectives will be referred to and discussed during the interactive internship workshop class that runs concurrently alongside the internship placement. Through weekly group discussions led by coaching professionals, students will be able to share their experiences and hear about the experiences of others, monitor and track their own progress, and realign goals and objectives accordingly.

How does CAPA help students evaluate their progress toward personal and professional goals during and after their internship abroad?

CK: Assessment and evaluation of performance is a core strand of the study abroad experience with CAPA. Through the mentoring offered as part of the Global Internship Course, students are encouraged and required to evaluate their own individual progress towards their personal and professional development goals. Workshop coaches also assess and provide feedback through multiple forums. This includes evaluation of academic work, reflective journals, presentations, and mock interviews to name a few. In addition, students are encouraged to seek ongoing feedback from their internship site supervisors to identify areas of success, as well as areas for future development. CAPA has also established structured program milestones to gather core information on performance and to ascertain levels of student progress. These include but are not limited to: student arrival evaluations, phone call check-ins with site supervisors, mid-point evaluations with both students and site supervisors, end evaluations with both students and site supervisors, and post-program check-ins with students.

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Is there anything that makes CAPA stand out from other study abroad internship providers when it comes to goal setting?

CK: One hopes that the standard across the board now is that study abroad organizations take a holistic view of goal setting and incorporate this important aspect into all phases of a student’s journey; that the concept is entrenched in all of the organization’s departments; that goal setting is an imperative component embedded within pre-departure, arrival, in-country and post program services.

CAPA has devoted a great deal of time and resources to ensure we have first class services ingrained in each phase of our programs—services that are consistent, yet adaptable and flexible to our students’ diverse range of academic backgrounds and varied career aspirations. We recognize these differences and aid each student to set their own individual goals and create a pathway for them to bring these to fruition. CAPA staff create these pathways by operating within a matrix management system, where there is a collective responsibility for all staff to educate, enable and empower students to identify and shape learning outcomes. Across all teams—internships, academics, and program & student services—staff are trained to play their part in helping students realize their goals.

CAPA also understands that goals will be reset and realigned at times. Many times, the goalposts will be moved, new additional insight is provided that impacts individual or collective goals or an individual’s interests and desires can be shaped in one direction or another. It is here that I feel CAPA stands out from other study abroad organizations.

Through our Globally Networked Learning (GNL) technology, students have the opportunity to engage with their peers in our other CAPA global city locations. Through synchronous and asynchronous activities that are rooted into our internship and academic curriculum and delivered through interactive workshop sessions, students share experiences, compare and contrast environments, and reflect upon professional practices in multiple global locations. This structure assists students in forming, analyzing and reforming goals and outcomes. The ability to hear from, discuss with, and challenge concepts across a truly global student cohort allows for each student’s experience to be impacted by numerous workplace cultures, professional practices, and respective traditions. Here we see students truly going beyond the limitations of geographical positioning and truly reaping the rewards of committing time and intentional effort towards goals setting.

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Topics: Internships Abroad