One of my clients has a few of their summer interns starting this week.
If they’re like most of the interns I’ve ever met, they’re eager to start learning about the business world because they feel a bit like Napoleon Dynamite. While in his case he’s concerned that no girl is ever going to date him, they are concerned that no one will hire them for the same reason:
Napoleon Dynamite: Well, nobody’s going to go out with *me*!
Pedro: Have you asked anybody yet?
Napoleon Dynamite: No, but who would? I don’t even have any good skills.
Pedro: What do you mean?
Napoleon Dynamite: You know, like nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills… Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.
OK, maybe the interns aren’t worried about THOSE skills, but a recent survey by the Econsultancy folks asked about the skills necessary to succeed as a modern marketer. You can read a summary of the report here. I found it encouraging because in addition to the specific technical skills the job requires, many top marketers are now emphasizing the “soft” skills I’ve always advocated as being the most important set of requirements in any job.
When respondents to our survey were given a pre-selected list and asked to rate which softer skills were most significant, those that scored most highly as being ‘very important’ included the ability to embrace change, to spot opportunities and adapt strategies quickly, and also being passionate, curious and hungry to learn.
In other words, the “skills” you can’t teach. It’s not about a high IQ (although that’s not necessarily a bad thing) but about an ability to learn. Scratch that. It’s about a candidate having a passion to learn – the ability to be a self-motivated learner. The key softer skill mentioned most by interviewees was articulation and persuasion but I don’t think you can be either of those two things unless you can ingest and digest the raw information you need to make cogent, coherent arguments.
I’m looking forward to working with the interns and to teaching them some of the technical skills they’ll need as they begin their business lives. Hopefully their parents and teachers have already done the hard part by nurturing their natural curiosity about the world and getting them to be open to new ideas and information.
Do you have interns working with you this summer? What skills have they brought? What are you bringing?