How To Help Your Student Employees Create And Achieve Attainable Goals

By Emily Plummer on October 4, 2015

In today’s career-centered society, the university system creates a new class of graduates ready to enter the job market each year. Each individual is prepared for their imminent career, crafted by their university years with coursework, internships, and job experience. This is what students are working to become.

Graduation marks students’ entrance into the job market. (Image via Emily Plummer)

And to become these well-rounded graduates and appeal to future employers, students must get experience now, while in school. This why student employment is so important, especially in terms of employment in a student’s chosen field.

However, the idea of building towards graduation and getting hired often leads students to think of employment during their university years as simply resume-building. This can take away from the opportunities these jobs offer students. After all, student employment is about allowing the student to gain experience that will be useful to them later on.

One way to ensure that students will get the most out of their time as an employee with you is to have a conversation with them about their goals. Whether or not the student even knows what their goals for the position are yet, talking about their expectations will help them to articulate their aspirations.

In order for an employment experience to be beneficial, it is necessary to have a clear idea of what one wants to get out of it at the beginning. This could be as small as finding out whether or not the student is actually interested in your industry. For example, if a student is studying political science and is not sure what career path they want to take after college, getting a job at a newspaper would allow them to test out journalism careers.

And while this is a well-grounded idea, it is difficult for students to truly get a sense of the field through the jobs students often do, involving basic and routine tasks. To alleviate this, try to remind your student employees often of the way in which the work they do for you is impacting your company or organization as a whole. If they are filling in data tables, explain where that data comes from and how the study of it is important. While you speak with the student about his or her expectations and hopes for the job, try to explain the function of their work in terms of these goals.

Another useful step in helping students to create attainable goals for their time with you is to create a timeline for checking in with the progress of their goals. For however long they plan to work with you, break down the things they want to accomplish into smaller steps that you both can track throughout their employment.

It is then also important to check in with the student regularly to discuss the outcomes of these smaller steps– if they are being accomplished, how this is affecting the student’s original goals, and if there are any new goals that arise out of their work.

Image via

These check-ins should be a time for the student to reflect on their work so far and the goals they had in the beginning, and to see if there is anything they need to adjust. This is because goals need to be flexible. You can do all the planning and preparation in the world to create a set list of hopes for a job, but until you actually start, you do not know how you will react to the kinds of work you are given, which parts of it you will like or dislike, and what new ideas will be revealed to you in the process. All of these things affect goals, and all are essential parts of staying on track to have a meaningful accomplishment out of student employment.

Not only should goals be flexible, but they should also be motivating to the student. They should make the student strive for more out of their employment and always put forth their best work in order to get the most back out of it.

Goals are incredibly valuable for student employment, where students go to get trained, gain experience, and better examine the fields they are interested in. Determining and articulating their aspirations for careers in general and then, more specifically, for the duration of their employment with you, will allow them to get the most value from their work.

Having conversations with your student employees about their goals, breaking the larger goals down into smaller advancements, and checking in regularly to discuss the progression of these steps, will help students to not only create, but achieve their goals for their student employment.

And in the long run, there will be more intelligent, thoughtful, and experienced graduates entering the workforce due to the valuable undergraduate opportunities they were given to explore their goals in professional settings.

By Emily Plummer

Uloop Writer
UC Berkeley
Hey, I'm Emily Plummer, a second year student at UC Berkeley, double majoring in Peace and Conflict Studies and History. Reading, writing, and travel give me life, and I'm excited to share my stories with you.

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