Skip to content

Shawna Scott - 11/7/2019

Soft skills—that’s what employers everywhere say they want their interns and employees to have. But what are they and how can you develop them?

While “hard skills” refer to technical expertise—like how to use Microsoft Office or repair a car—soft skills refer to your general work ethic and professionalism, such as being responsible, on time, and so on.

Lucky for you, an internship is the perfect place to put your soft skills to the test. Here are some habits to cultivate and some helpful phrases to try out as an intern to help get your soft skills in great shape!

  1. Ask questions. You won’t be expected to know everything right away, so practice doing this especially at the beginning of your internship. And instead of just going, “Huh?” try out some of these:
    • “Can you clarify that?”
    • “Could you give me some more direction on this part of the project?”
    • “Would you expand on that point, please?”
    • “What I’m hearing is ___. Am I understanding that correctly?” 


  1. Be punctual. This should go without saying, but respect others’ time by being on time—or even taking steps to be five minutes early. That’s impressive!


  1. Say hello. Even if you’re not an extrovert, being friendly and easy to work with is something everyone can improve with practice! Learn the names of your coworkers (and fellow interns) as well as a bit about what they do. Greet people by name when you run into them.


  1. Find your Yoda. Mentorship is crucial! This may not be a formal thing where you schedule weekly meetings or anything like that. It might simply be identifying a professional you admire in your workplace who is willing to let you pick their brain on occasion.


  1. Stay humble. Yeah, you might need to make some coffee runs or photocopy a bunch of boring documents. But when you perform even the most trivial task with excellence, your supervisors should take notice.


  1. Take initiative. Practice being a self-starter. When you complete an assignment, tackle the next thing on your list or ask what’s next. If you find yourself with some downtime and see something that needs doing, get on it! If you’re not sure how, ask your supervisor: “Hey, I noticed that ____ needs doing. Would you like me to work on that?”


  1. Ask for feedback. Most of the time, supervisors will offer constructive criticism without prompting. But if you feel like you’re not getting enough feedback, all you have to do is ask! Try out one of these questions:
    • “What can I improve next time?”
    • “Do you see anything here I can do better in the future?”
    • “Did you have any additional feedback for me on this project?”


  1. Offer solutions, not problems. For example, instead of going to your supervisor and saying, “I found XYZ issue with the spreadsheet” and waiting for them to come up with a solution, take a minute to think of a possible fix or two: “I noticed something wasn’t working right on XYZ project. Would ____ or ____ resolve it?” Even if they decide to go with a different solution, you will have demonstrated your dedication to being a problem-solver.

There you have it—eight tips to exercise your soft skills, leave a great impression with your supervisors, and get the most out of your internship. With these skills under your belt, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a highly hirable professional!