So you think you can get a job? These are three top skills that make a difference.
Most interns overestimate their work-readiness at the beginning of their internships. How do we know this? Because we collected research from 280 employers and 500 interns that showed us that at the beginning of the internship 30% of employers rated their intern’s work-readiness as good, compared to 41% of interns ranking themselves as such. (The good news is this goes up to 87% and 82% by the end of the internship - but more on that later!)
Where does the original discrepancy stem from?
For one – a mismatch in perception over what interns think and what employers actually expect.
What do employers want?
Our research shows that interns believe that they are hired for their technical skills and work ethic but these are simply the prerequisites of any employee - to know how to do your job and then to do it. And let's be honest, for the majority of interns just starting out their technical skills are unlikely to be polished.
What interns tend to underestimate is just how much importance employers place on soft-skills – in particular enthusiasm, demonstrating a willingness to learn and working well in a team.
“Always hire great soft skills because most people can only code as well as they can communicate”
Employer, 2018 Industry Research Paper.
Even in fields like accounting and IT which are very numbers and process driven, the impact you have on the team and your contribution to team culture could be the difference between you receiving a job offer at the end of your internship or receiving well wishes for your future.
So now the question is – how do you demonstrate enthusiasm, willingness to learn and team-work effectively? To some this may come naturally or seem obvious – but don’t get in your own way by assuming you already know this, there’s a reason why employers have highlighted these skills in particular.
Graph 1: We asked employers to rate their interns across the following areas. This graph demonstrates the top ranked skills (at least 4 or 5 star rating) from highest to lowest.
How to Demonstrate Enthusiasm
Your tone of voice makes a difference
This starts from the minute your recruiter or placement consultant calls you to arrange an interview. Answer the call with lots of energy. Tell the recruiter how excited you are to have this opportunity. Even if you are shy or quiet by nature, you can still learn how to express excitement through your tone of voice. It’s small gesture but it leaves a good first impression.
Ask lots of questions
During the interview and once you’re in the role, demonstrate your enthusiasm by asking lots of questions - about the business, about the projects, about the team. Being inquisitive not just about your specific role but about how it fits into the bigger picture demonstrates that you are thinking ahead and are interested in creating an impact.
Whether it’s a multi-disciplinary project or an opportunity to volunteer on behalf of the company, if you really want to make a good impression – put your hand up and get involved. Sometimes you may feel like you’re too busy to take anything else on, but during your internship you have three months to impress your boss so keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t focus on the short-term pressure, focus on your end goal of getting the job offer and choose to get involved.
How to demonstrate a willingness to learn
Approach every task with a can-do attitude
Some tasks are complex, some are routine, some are time-consuming but all tasks can be rewarding if you approach them with this mindset. Having a can-do attitude means that you welcome new challenges with excitement, rather than with a fear of failure; that you try until you succeed and that you learn from your mistakes. If you get stuck on something, show your manager all the different options you tried and what your thought-process was before asking them for help.
Accept feedback and learn from it
Interns and employers unanimously agree that the key to a successful internship is feedback. When you’re just starting out you will make mistakes – and that’s ok! But the key is to be open to understanding your strengths and weaknesses and to be committed to improving. Don't be afraid to hear that you could be doing something better, this is an opportunity for growth. For example if you submitted a task late, first reflect on WHY that happened, and then write down the steps you will take to ensure it doesn't happen again. This will show your manager your willingness to learn.
Keep a journal where you can record daily learnings
This only needs to take 10 minutes out of your evening but could be one of the most powerful practices you ever commit to. Journaling enables you to reflect on the day’s events, consolidate new learnings and also to acknowledge feelings you weren’t even aware of. Most successful business people practice this daily. Take the time to answer these five questions every day and soon you will begin to notice your own evolution.
- How did I feel today?
- What did I do well today?
- What did I learn today?
- What could I have done better today?
- What are my top three goals for tomorrow?
Working well in a team
One of our colleagues asks the team every day before she packs up: “Is there anything else I can help anyone with?” This simple question demonstrates that she is a committed and supportive team member. Most of the time every one just thanks her for the offer but on the odd occasion when there is a big deadline, her willingness to assist is exactly what is needed – and positions her as a valued team member.
Show an interest in your team-mates
Get to know your team mates by showing an interest in their day and their work. Ask them about their weekend, ask them what they’re working on in their roles, take the time to socialise at lunch or at social functions. Building deeper relationships will create a happier workplace and a stronger team.
Focus on solutions, rather than problems
During your career things won’t always run smoothly. Challenges will arise both in your work and amongst team members. Rather than dwelling on an issue or feeding into a disagreement, choose to rise above it by finding possible solutions. Employers deeply value team members who are solutions-focussed and are able to unite people in challenging times – even if it’s simply with words of encouragement.
So, what now?
Our advice is to start by choosing one tip from each key area and begin applying it in your internship or in the classroom today and notice how it changes the quality of your experience and that of your teammates too.
Do you have any other tips? Share them on our Facebook page!
Do you want to know why companies hire international interns? Click here to download the research paper and get insights from 280 employers and 500 interns.