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Entry by Jennifer Weinmann – Student Employment Consultant for the IUPUI Office of Student Employment

Many times, students are focused on finding a part-time job or internship to “get experience”.  However, once they’ve landed that position, they are not sure what to do to start gaining the skills they will need for their future career.   Sure, the job itself will help them gain skills, but an active approach to learning transferable skills will add an even greater benefit in the long run.  Here are my tips to gaining skills in an internship that will transfer to the professional work environment:

1. Learn what skills are needed for your future career field
Knowing the skills that will be valued in your career field will help you focus your energy on gaining the most valuable transferrable skills. I highly recommend visiting O*Net:  http://online.onetcenter.org/.  Simply enter an occupation in the search box, select a job title from the list of search results and boom…you’re provided with an outline of the job, the skills, knowledge, and abilities required for your future career. 

2. Assess the skills you have vs. the skills you need to acquire
Once you have identified the skills needed it’s time to see what skills you already have and what you still need to learn.  I would suggest categorizing your skill sets into some key areas:
  Communication Skills
  Analytical Skills
  Work Ethics
  Cultural Awareness
  Flexibility/Adaptability
A great site for identifying your skill set would once again be O*Net: http://www.onetonline.org/skills/.  The site provides a comprehensive listing of skills based on different areas (basic, technical, social, etc.)  You can read through each skill and determine if it’s something you feel you have mastered or should focus on learning.

3. Create an approach to gain new skills
This can be the trickiest part.  Now that you know what you need to learn, how do you go about gaining new skills?  The best way would be to talk with your supervisor.  For many internship programs, supervisors know an internship is expected to be a learning experience.  You are showing your enthusiasm for the position by approaching them with a goal for skills you would like to learn during your internship.  Most supervisors will be excited by your enthusiasm and will be happy to provide you with opportunities to acquire the skills you have identified.  Making your goals known will help your supervisor determine tasks and responsibilities that will enhance your skills.

It’s always important to remember that while a part-time job or internship can be a great way to gain work experience, there are many additional benefits that will help you when you graduate.  Gaining skills that will apply to your future career will make you an excellent candidate for future positions.  So remember to research the skills needed for your field and find an internship that will work for you and help you gain these skills!

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