January 25, 2019

Internships: Focus on the People Skills

Internship opportunities abound, according to a recent employer survey. However, the skills employers want the most from prospective interns may surprise many job seekers.

Eighty-nine percent of employers across all sectors offer internships or other experiential learning opportunities to college students, according to Michigan State University’s Collegiate Employment Research Institute (CERI). In addition, overall hiring of new graduates increased significantly over 2017–2018, a trend that has continued for the last 8 years and represents the longest sustained increase in CERI’s 47 years of conducting its Recruiting Trends report. According to CERI’s 2017–2018 report brief on internships and co-ops, employers are hiring interns and similar pre-professional positions for students of all disciplines, the most common in the fields of business and engineering. Commonalities emerged on desired skillsets. CERI researchers asked employers what they were looking for in potential candidates, and then to rank those attributes. Three emerged as the most important: enthusiasm, fit to the employer’s culture, and work ethic. The upshot: The abilities to build positive interpersonal relationships and communicate effectively can make or break how an intern fits in at their organization.

That may go against conventional wisdom. Job postings abound with job-specific technical skills, but attributes like the three above often prove hard to articulate. Which may be why when LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner asked an audience last October what skills U.S. workers lack, most replied, “Coding.” “It turns out that’s not the biggest skills gap,” said Weiner, referring to recent LinkedIn data research. “The biggest skills gap in the United States is soft skills. Written communication, oral communication, team building, people leadership, collaboration.”

The EDGE is revamping our curriculum to address this skills gap, and we would value your input! Our brief, five-question survey [link to the survey] should take 5 or fewer minutes to complete, and your insights will directly inform the programs we will offer.

We are also currently booking onboarding programs, and we would be delighted to welcome you and your intern team to The EDGE. To book a program or request more information, click here.

For more than 20 years, we have been offering onboarding programs for new hires, whether interns on a summer program or a new cohort of employees. Most frequently, teams visit our 10-acre team development course located on GMU’s Science and Technology campus. We also can also bring our Challenge Course to you through our mobile EDGE on Wheels program. Email edge@gmu.edu so we can reserve your date!

  • Pamela Krist & David Heath