Does it sound like it’s too soon? Perhaps at one time, that was true.
However, in today’s job market, it’s never too early to get started — employers begin recruiting interns seven months before the position’s term begins, according to NACE’s 2015 Internship and Co-op Survey.
But, what exactly are these employers looking for in an intern? And if you’re hunting for your first internship, how can you show you have the required skills without any previous experience?
Here’s a look at the five skills most highly-regarded by employers (as defined by NACE’s survey), and how you can demonstrate them to score the internship of your dreams:
The Ability To Work in a Team
As an intern, you’ll be working alongside department employees supporting their roles. Sometimes that means addressing invitations and placing orders; other times it means helping manage the booth at an event. In any case, employers want to know you are responsive and can adapt to changes quickly as you support ongoing projects.
During your interview, show you’re a team player by sharing stories about how you helped your group work cohesively on a project in school, how you filled in for someone who didn’t do his or her part, or how you helped a group member work through an obstacle. The key word here is “support.” Showcase yourself as supportive and you’ll land the internship.
The Ability To Obtain and Process Information
Though this skill sounds like a given, not everyone is adept at showing it. Employers want smart, teachable interns. Show you can contribute to the team right away and pick up things quickly.
Research the company before the interview and ask questions about the things you find that interest you, such as company values, processes, and recent news. Create a conversation, and demonstrate critical thinking skills by asking questions.
Organizational and Planning Skills
Organizational and planning skills are easier to address than you think. Have you participated in a school organization for which you’ve helped plan something? Have you helped a family member or friend organize an event? If not, find an organization and start helping out.
Take pictures and document your work so you have something tangible to show employers. Then during your interview, talk about your involvement in the organization and the success of the recent event you helped plan and execute.
Verbal Communication Skills
The interview is your chance to let your verbal communication skills shine. Practice responses todifficult interview questions, and become a pro at articulating your passions and desires.
Practice being concise in your answers, too. Watch out for tangents and giving irrelevant information. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and you’ll be ready to wow the employer and land the internship.
Decision-Making and Problem Solving Skills
Employers want an intern who can troubleshoot problems and come up with effective solutions quickly. In school, you solve problems and make decisions every day, whether it’s prioritizing your assignments or deciding how you’ll approach a project. You’ve probably encountered conflict you’ve had to manage in a group setting, as well.
Talk about these experiences and explain your decision-making process. Tell the employer the questions you ask yourself to help you solve problems. Whenever possible, emphasize how you were a part of the solution. Don’t just complain about the problem.
Even with little to no professional experience, you can still demonstrate you have the skills needed to land the internship you want. If you still feel you’re lacking experience in any of these areas, brainstorm ways to obtain experience now, so you’re ready for interviews in a couple of months.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friend Heather Huhman!
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.