8 Key Skills to Pick Up at Your Summer Internship

A summer internship is a great piece of resume candy that can even lead to a full-time job down the line. Regardless of where it takes you, though, your internship can teach you valuable skills you can use well into the future.

You’ll get the most out of your summer internship if you keep specific goals in mind, so try to pick up these eight key skills while you’re living that intern life. If you want to make sure your emails, memos, and other written work is clean and error-free, why not give it a quick spelling and grammar check?

1. Active listening

As an intern, you’ll be in a new environment with a lot of new information and procedures to learn. Learning how to listen actively at meetings and one-on-one discussions will help you learn the ropes with speed. You might be tempted to jump into the conversation to show your chops, but challenge yourself to listen carefully first.

Show the person you’re talking to that you’re processing their words by shaking your head, smiling, and using other facial cues, and using words that signify that you’re listening. Your supervisor and coworkers will be looking for feedback that you’re catching on, so you can also rephrase what they tell you and ask questions about anything you’re not sure about.

2. Professional written and spoken communication

The art of a professional email or a polite conversation will get you far in the business world. You’ll probably have to write many emails to colleagues and chat with coworkers frequently throughout the day. Use your internship as a place to learn and refine needed professional communication skills, particularly with people of different ages and seniority levels.

3. Business professional dressing

You’ll likely have to dress professionally for your summer internship, which can be an abrupt shift from the shorts, tees, and sundresses that might make your usual summer wardrobe. Dressing up will prepare you for most “real jobs,” so it’s a good idea to invest in some skirts, slacks and dress shirts or blouses, as well as a well-fitting suit.

Designer discount stores are a great place to get yourself outfitted without blowing your stipend, and a lot of your favorite casual clothing chains also sell office basics. And don’t forget comfortable dress shoes!

4. Adaptability and versatility

Being versatile is a great skill to have as an intern or employee. During your summer internship, you’ll be working in a fast-paced environment where your daily tasks and priorities can change rapidly. Embrace the challenges instead of fearing them, and you’ll find you’re better prepared for the modern job market.  

5. Time management

You’ve probably already mastered the art of time management for school, but time management in the workplace is different. Your internship will teach you how to deal with time constraints when your tasks don’t involve filling out worksheets, studying for tests, or writing academic papers. You may be given multiple projects at once, forcing you to prioritize by importance. Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor if you’re not sure where to start.

6. Problem-solving

You’ll likely face many interesting challenges during your time as a summer intern. There may be situations that you’re not 100% prepared for, and that’s okay. Remember that you’re there to learn and grow!

A quick way to sharpen your problem-solving skills is to say yes to more requests. Your internship manager may ask you to do something that’s outside your comfort zone, but don’t give up! If they feel comfortable asking you to do it, they know that you can tackle the situation, even if it takes time.

7. Teamwork and independence

Teamwork and independence are two sides of the same coin. As an intern, you’ll need to understand how to do both. There will be projects that require you to work closely with other team members, and others you’ll be given to tackle on your own. Group work in the “real world” might involve more emails, phone calls, meetings and project management than you’re used to. Having a clear understanding of each person’s role in the project (including your own) will help prevent misunderstandings down the line.

8. Resilience

Last but not least, your internship will teach you resilience. Hopefully your summer internship will be a fulfilling and exciting experience with a great team of people. But it’s likely that you’ll encounter pushback from at least one coworker. But no one can stop you from crushing it as an intern! Learning to accept feedback, both positive and negative, and incorporate it into your work going forward.  

Now go forth and amaze!

Keep your academic skills sharp by brushing up on how to do parenthetical citations, how to write an annotated bibliography, and how to cite sources.