All over the world, students in universities are familiar with the word ‘internship’. In the past decade or so, it has become a vital element to accessing a full time job – in fact, 73% of the companies interviewed in a survey by internships.com state that the top reason they hire interns is to scope out full time employees. Only internships can teach a ‘work rookie’ the skills needed to perform well at a job. Let’s take a look at what they are.
1. Soft Skills
Soft skills are possibly the most valuable thing you will cultivate during an internship. They include things such as:
• Interpersonal rapport – building comfortable relationships with your co-workers and bosses
• Teamwork – working amicably in a group to reach a collective goal
• Communication – you will develop a respectful way of speaking to those you interact with
Soft skills will make the actual work you do easier as they help you build a workable environment. People are more likely to help you reach your day-to-day goals if they like you. It’s plain and simple logic.
2. Organization and Leadership
These could be considered as two separate skills, but they often go hand-in-hand. As an intern, the work you do may not be considered ‘valuable’ in the bigger scheme of things. However, if you learn to be assertive and take full charge of the duties you’ve been assigned, it will not go unnoticed. Even if you are asked to plan the company Christmas party or arrange for the food during a meeting – making sure it is done efficiently and completely makes a lasting impression. People will talk about that Christmas party for months!
What is it? Sensitivity while dealing with difficult people or difficult issues. Being diplomatic goes a long way when it comes to problem-solving. Imagine a group that includes you has been given a task. One of your co-workers does not do their part, which sets your project back. How do you deal with them and the impending deadline? As an intern, you will learn and observe tact through:
•Meetings – lots of ideas and possible solutions come up, but some will have to be shot down
•Speaking with a rude customer, co-worker or boss
•Negotiations – making deals, exchanges and decisions with colleagues and partners
Work will never be completely fair winds and calm seas – it’s very likely that you will come across difficult problems and behavioral issues. Internships give you the opportunity to find ways to work around them.
4. Professional Conduct
Professional conduct means knowing which boundaries you can’t cross. A lawyer must never betray a client’s trust, a writer cannot plagiarize, and a police officer shouldn’t accept bribes. Being professional extends to:
•Clothing – dressing appropriately for the job you have
•Communication – not only in speech but also the proper way to write emails/make work-related calls
•Respect – for co-workers, managers and clients
An internship exposes you to examples of both good and bad professional conduct – it’s up to you to decide which you will practice. The importance of it is clear as many career institutes such as YTI build professional behavior skills into their core curriculum.
5. Playing to your Strengths
Last, but definitely not the least, is the skill of playing to your strengths. Internships will reveal where your talents lie (and where they don’t). Knowing the line between the two will make working a full time job easier on both you and your co-workers. For example, you will be able to confidently say, “Yes, I can get this done” or “It might be best if he/she took the reins on this one.” It also gives your boss a clearer idea of what tasks to assign you.
Take a look at what the Harvard Business Review has to say about it: https://hbr.org/2005/01/how-to-play-to-your-strengths
Internships help you develop everything – from communication and problem-solving skills to leadership and tact. They might even teach you something new you didn’t know about yourself! The point is that internships are a huge stepping stone to a successful full time job.