Building Professionalism Through Internships
Your aim in your internship is to acquire and/or improve career-ready and life skills through practical experiences designed to maximize your opportunities for gaining effective employment or your “dream job.”
The Top Ten Most In-Demand Soft Skills:
Source: Soft Skills Are Increasingly Crucial to Getting Your Dream Job, August 30, 2016, Guy Berger, Ph.D. Economist at LinkedIn
The Eight Defined Career-Readiness Skills:
Source: Eight Skills Defined in NACE’s Program
Maximizing Skills Through Internships (skills are highlighted in bold)
- Dress in business attire. No “casual” clothing unless specified by the site supervisor. Displaying a positive self-image can increase self-awareness, which can lead to higher visibility. Self-awareness is a transferrable, soft skill.
- Exhibit a friendly personality/disposition. Two expressions that will take you far in your career and life: A friendly “Please...” and a kind “Thank you...”
- Be punctual, responsible and accountable. Always let the site supervisor or office staff know how to contact you or your whereabouts while at the office and/or on assignment, especially in the event of an emergency. This valuable interpersonal communication demonstrates a strong professional work ethic.
- Know the office policies and procedures regarding work-related behavior. Knowledge of roles and responsibilities, adaptability and flexibility are good career management skills. Plan not to use cell phones, social media or other non-work-related behaviors while at the office unless prior approval has been given. Be nimble and ready to pivot to the next assignment as necessary.
- Attend meetings and events. This places you in informal and formal information loops, and builds your oral communication and social skills.
- Take initiative and don’t be afraid to talk with people. This will enhance your oral communication, social and creativity skills. This is your opportunity to engage with elected officials, agency heads, site supervisors, staff and others. Please be considerate if they are busy but take every opportunity to network and make connections.
- Demonstrate motivation and ask for assignments. This demonstrates leadership and a strong professional work ethic. It can also lead to valuable teamwork/collaboration on assignments that will enhance your oral/written communication and information technology application skills. Don’t wait to be told what to do, seek it out. Critical thinking and problem solving are always top desirable job-ready skills.
- Be teachable and learn all you can. Learn to ask questions and do background reading/research to become informed. This utilizes your critical thinking and analytical skills. Talk with people in different departments or offices as well as citizens/clients to hear their stories. There could be a (creative) lesson in it for you.
- Don’t complain about “busy” work. Remember “the expert in anything was once a beginner.” You can always learn something from even the most mundane task or assignment. It can be an effective way to enhance your organization skills. Use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your effectiveness and efficiency as in professional-in-training.
- Capitalize on your status as a student. Because everyone wants to help a student learn, you will be viewed as less threatening, which may afford you more access and opportunities to engage with officials, agency heads, and other leaders than regular staff. This is important for career management and building your professional networks.
- Network with “diverse people.” Listen to, lean in, and learn from people from diverse backgrounds. Diversity is an intrinsic good, productive and positive strength for any organization. This will increase your level of comfortability and global/intercultural fluency by interacting with different cultures and learning new languages.
- Seek (a) well-respected, connected professional(s) to model. Learn to emulate positive success strategies and traits for your own career management. When possible, build a long-term relationship where said professional(s) can serve as a mentor, coach or sponsor in your career advancement.
- Don’t burn any bridges. Social networks often intersect. You will never know who knows who, who is speaking positively on your behalf, nor when you will see or need someone later in your career. Internships often lead to full-time employment or viable employment opportunities. Leave a positive impression wherever you go!