By Mia Casey
We recently attended the massive AAGE (Australian Association of Graduate Employers) Conference and had a chat to a few employers about what they look for in an intern – and seriously, you might be surprised by what they said.
There’s an overarching idea amongst many students that employers are only after interns who are at the absolute top of their game in terms of technical skills, uni grades, and professional experience. And while all of these factors are absolutely fantastic, what we found was that employers are largely looking for students with a passion for the industry, a willingness to learn, and well developed transferable skills. In fact, of the 30 organisations we spoke to, only 2 mentioned anything about technical skills, and even then they also mentioned their desired transferable skills in the same sentence.
So which skills did employers mention the most, and how can you work on developing these skills during your time at uni?
1. Willingness to learn
A third of those we spoke to cited a desire for interns who were willing to learn, ask questions, and have a positive attitude towards the internship experience. The key phrases they used to describe the qualities of their ideal intern included: ‘can-do attitude’, ‘asks questions’, ‘willingness to learn’, ‘fast learner’, and ‘don’t look at their phone all the time’.
This is entirely a matter of attitude, and something that you can easily work on yourself. Remember that when you’re approaching an employer, they want to see that you’re there to learn and are really excited to get something out of the whole experience. Ask questions, be enthusiastic, and be open to learning new skills or ideas that may differ from ones you’ve held previously. Each organisation has its own procedures and way of doing things, so try to show that you’re open and excited for being part of it!
Resilience is your ability to bounce back from difficult, stressful, or disappointing situations. Basically, if you can face a tricky situation head on and come out the other side ready to jump right in to the next task without being weighed down or disheartened, then you’re pretty resilient! Just under a third of participants listed resilience as a key trait they look for in their interns.
Part of being an intern often means facing difficult challenges, being taken out of your comfort zone, or making mistakes as you try new things – these situations may not arise often, but when they do it’s good to be resilient. It’s the ability to have a positive mindset in the face of adversity, so next time you experience disappointment in your work life, try to focus on the positive things you’ve got going on, and what exciting new opportunities you’ll be able to undertake next!
3. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence was another commonly cited skill that employers value in their interns. This is your ability to recognise and understand your own emotions, and the emotions of others. Good leaders and well-liked colleagues often have good emotional intelligence as it allows them to understand how and why people act in certain ways.
Building your emotional intelligence starts with you taking the time to recognise how you’re feeling, and how your emotions fuel your responses and subsequent reactions. This is usually most obvious in more tense or stressful situations, so take a step back, feel where you’re at, and think about how you can healthily feel your emotions without it effecting your professionalism. The next step involves trying to put yourself in another person’s shoes – think about how they’re feeling in certain situations, and how that emotion presents itself in how they act. Once you get into the habit of factoring in how emotion motivates both yours and others actions, your emotional intelligence will start to build.
4. Communication Skills
Being a good communicator means being able to structure how you present information in logical, easy to understand ways. This includes when you’re speaking to someone verbally and written communication. A lot of employers listed communication skills as one of their top intern traits!
Luckily, being at uni means that you’re often asked to write and present information in clear and concise ways, so you’ll already be working on your communication skills just by studying. If you really want to up your game though, have a chat with some of your tutors and see if they can give you more detailed feedback on an assignment or presentation – they may be able to help you pinpoint where you’re struggling, so you can work on improving.
For many employers, creativity meant out of the box thinking, bringing fresh ideas to the table, or proactive problem solving. Rather than the traditional idea of creativity as being a mainly artistic skill, creativity in modern workplaces involves the ability to think about a problem in new, innovative ways.
There are a ton of ways you can increase your creativity – check out this blog post for 5 easy ways to build your creativity skills!
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash