Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 skills to take away from any job or internship

Written by Deanna Pan for the June 2013 edition of Student Health 101

You applied.  You interviewed.  You’re hired.  Congratulations!

No matter what kind of job or internship you’ve secured, there are many opportunities to hone your skills and develop your interests while there.  This is true even if it’s not directly related to your intended career path!  In a Student Health 101 survey, 97 percent of respondents indicated that they could learn valuable workplace skills in any job or internship, no matter its focus. 

Keep an Open Mind
Stephanie Ford, director of arts and sciences career services at The Ohio State University in Columbus says, “An internship outside your career field has value.  You’ll have experiences that allow you apply what you’re learning in the classroom and more generalized experiences that are going to be valuable, too.”

Diana C., a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, studies architecture.  She took an internship at a retail store specializing in women’s apparel and home décor because joining the visual display team would offer experience. 

“I signed up for [the internship] because I knew it would relate to craftsmanship, which would help me,” says Diana.  For example, she used her fine art skills to fashion a variety of paper-based displays.  “In architecture, you have to build models.  Craftsmanship is really important,” she explains. 

Skill Development
Allison Cohn, a recruiting manager at General Mills, encourages students to focus on universal skills.  “Think about [what] can transfer into the career or company that [you’re] really interested in,” she says. 

Ford agrees.  She says that early work and internship experiences can help you feel that you have the skills potential empoyers are looking for.  “Figure out what job experiences are going to help [you] build those qualifications,” she says. 

New jobs and internships present opportunities to learn technical skills, industry jargon, day-to-day operations business acumen and professional etiquette.  They can also allow you to develop talents you may not have known you have. 

As Dean M., a student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Canada, says, “I’ve learned what I can do with my skill set and that I can do things I didn’t know I could do.”  

Communication Skills
Establishing rapport with supervisors and coworkers is essential in any position. 

“You have to be willing, in a nonaggressive and nonthreatening way, to have a conversation about what it is you are expecting and what your supervisors are expecting,” says Trudy Steinfeld, assistant vice president and executive director at the Wasserman Center for Career Development at New York University in New York City.  “Those conversations happen in a workplace all the time,” she advises. 

Learning to have productive, professional dialogue can be good practice for developing relationships and working on collaborative projects in future positions.  The ability to communicate effectively with supervisors, coworkers, and customers or clients will help you advance in any field.  These skills are also essential when participating in extracurricular activities and group work in classes. 

Read about more skills to take away from any job or internship here, pages 9-12.