“How will this internship prepare you for your future career goals?”

by Nick Reitan

I want to take this opportunity to break down the most common question used in interviews for internships: How will this internship prepare you for your future career goals?


If you’re like the majority of students, you may not know exactly what lies ahead. The hardest question you’ll face is, how do I get from Point A to Point B? You haven’t had enough career experience to successfully navigate the roadblocks you’re eventually going to face. If it’s any consolation, I don’t always feel as prepared as I should when jumping into a new situation. Shocker, I know. I’ve been lucky to have mentors and co-workers that have shared some excellent tips from their own careers. I think it’s time I share some additional insight on the secrets to getting to Point B.



  • Know that not every single goal is attainable.


It’s an unfortunate truth, you won’t succeed at everything. This is the hardest realization that I still struggle with. It was easy in school, you could check off every list item without too much effort. You could set goals and reach them all with time to spare. It was the perfect environment to stay within your comfort zone. The truth is, the professional world is not nearly as perfect. Find opportunity in your failures, it’s cliche but true. You’ll start to narrow down your set of strengths, and focus on the tasks you struggle with. The quicker you jump back on track from a disruption, the quicker you’ll evolve and grow your experiences. There’s no linear roadmap to reach your goals, but knowing alternative ways of navigating hardship with prove more successful.


  1. If you feel like you’re not on the right path, it’s normal.

College students are in the most unique point in a career path. You have nothing holding you back from shaping your future. Like I said, you may not know where you’re going, but you’re always moving forward at this point. It’s okay to feel like this aren’t turning out the way you planned. Changing majors or focuses is a fairly common practice. Know when to cut your ties and change things up, it’s easier to do it now. Your internship will be the greatest test. If you enjoy it, great! If you don’t, it may be time to reconsider your focus.


  1. You’ll learn to manage expectations.

I’ve always loved the phrase to “have your cake and eat it too” because of the optimism. As much as I would love to have that proverbial cake, eating it too isn’t always an option. It’s tough to learn that you’re not going to be able to work on the newest, flashiest, or most cutting-edge assignments. The problem with jumping into something you dream about doing, you don’t always appreciate the work it takes to get there. Taking on small assignments and building up to the bigger projects highlights the importance of the work you’re building upon. As you prove yourself more valuable, you’ll be able to take on the more valuable projects. Besides, smaller projects mean more opportunities for success, studies show that smaller wins are important. Keep plugging away, big things are in the future if you do!


When asked this question in an interview, chances are you’d like to say something along the lines of “I’ll get real world experience” or some variation. But think, “real world experience” is just a quick and easy way of saying “I think I’ll wing it”. Instead, focus on specific ways you’ll grow and develop. Showing exactly how you hope to grow and improve gives you a maturity that’s noticeable in the interview.