The 4 Skills Employers Want to See in their Interns

The 4 Skills Employers Want to See in their Interns

When I’m helping my undergraduate and graduate students land an internship, I always emphasize identifying your best transferrable skills. Those skills could come from the academic world, from a previous employer or a different line of work.

The place to start if you’re lacking specific technical experience – as many are when they try to change careers –  is with your soft skills. And that’s for good reason: According to a recent survey co-conducted by Northeastern University, most business leaders say it is more important for graduates to be well-rounded and possess broader capabilities such as problem solving and communication skills.

So which are the most important transferrable skills to emphasize in your resume and during your interviews? Here is what I consider the top five:

1. Communication Skills

Communication can mean anything from your body language in meetings to your social media presence outside of the office. Whether you’re writing an email or making a presentation in a meeting, you need to be aware of all the messages you’re sending — and receiving. While good communication means, in part, that you can express yourself well, you also need to be receptive to messages and understand the emotion behind the information you’re receiving from other people.

Employers know that excellent communication skills don’t just happen overnight. It takes practice to perfect your listening, verbal and non-verbal skills, and once developed, it’s a valuable skill worth highlighting.

2. Interpersonal Skills

Along with good communication, employers like to see refined interpersonal skills. How do you relate to others? How will you not only fit into the existing team, but become a valuable member? How do you present yourself over email, over the phone, and in-person? While you want to be yourself, make sure you don’t make others uncomfortable raising hot topics in heated discussions.

In short, show your potential internship that you’re more than a bunch of words on a resume. You’ve got the skills that take a potentially good intern on paper and turn it into a great one in person.

3. Global Experience

If you are multilingual or bicultural, if you’ve lived or studied abroad – those are all assets that employers like to see. As projects and products move internationally or inter-culturally, employers value people who already have experience in different environments and cultures, and are able to apply the lessons they have already learned.

4. Time Management

Time is an important, but finite, resource, and employers are well aware of this. If you’re a super star at time management, you should emphasize this on your resume and in your interviews. Show that you understand how to prioritize and delegate work, that you meet deadlines and that you are comfortable working under a healthy amount of pressure. Demonstrate that you can handle a large workload and multi-task projects — but not your own focus.


About Ellen Stoddard

Ellen Stoddard is the director of Cooperative Education at Northeastern University College of Professional Studies. Her role in program design and oversight includes opportunities to prepare international students and adults for co-ops and internships. Previously, she worked with a variety of study abroad and teach abroad organizations in the United States and internationally. She has always been involved with programs that offer guided learning and reflection outside the classroom to enhance structured education.

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