One sentiment frequently expressed by recruiters and hiring managers is that, in order to be an appealing job or internship candidate, applicants must demonstrate that they have applicable skills that will allow them to immediately contribute to a company. In the recently released State of the American Internship, which “examines trends in the job market for interns,” Burning Glass reported that interns are expected to begin their tenures having already acquired certain skill sets. In short, interns are expected to contribute and these positions are no longer designed for learning on the job.

However, not all skills are created equal – while some skills are very industry-specific, others are more universal. Of these more versatile skills, some are “baseline skills,” which are basic foundational skills that are oftentimes seen as pre-requisites across industries; and others are “crossover skills,” which are specific skills that are highly desired by multiple specific industries. Below, we highlight some of the most desirable crossover and baseline skills, and offer ways that students & grads can augment their skill sets now in these areas.

Baseline Skills

  1. Communication & Writing Skills - ranked as the #1 Baseline Skill by Burning Glass
  • Put your phone away
  • Take public speaking classes
  • Take a writing course in or out of college
  • Volunteer with organizations that require verbal & written communication
  • Practice writing professional e-mails
  • Take a theatre or improv class – get involved in extracurriculars that prioritize communication
  1. Organizational Skillsranked as the #2 Baseline Skill by Burning Glass
  • Work with an organizational coach
  • Keep a disciplined calendar
  • Invest in/become proficient with organizational tools such as Evernote, Trello, and/or Google Docs
  • Create folders within your e-mail inbox for efficient compartmentalization
  • Work on projects requiring organization that you can describe to interviewers
  1. Microsoft Office SuiteMicrosoft Excel and Word + Office are ranked respectively as the #5 & 6 Baseline Skills by Burning Glass
  • Take online courses via or a similar subscription service
  • Take in-person Microsoft Office or Excel courses
  • Earn your Microsoft Office Specialist certification

Crossover Skills

  1. Project ManagementConsidered a top desired skill across 10 internship industries via Burning Glass
  • Volunteer for organizations, work your way up to a leadership role
  • Develop personal projects to oversee and drive
  • Get involved in clubs and organizations, work your way into leadership roles
  • Put yourself in instructor and collaborative roles in your academic and extra-curricular life
  1. Marketing and Social MediaConsidered top desired skills across 5 internship industries via Burning Glass
  • Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in your daily life – proficiency in these platforms is a pre-requisite for industries that target Marketing & Social Media skills
  • Volunteer to handle marketing and social media duties for clubs & organizations you are involved in
  • Use Social Media to build & cultivate your online brand
  • Be sure to keep clean and well-maintained profiles; prove that you can use social media responsibly and professionally
  • Post often, and consistently engage with thought leaders and members of interesting fields – Twitter is especially valuable for this function
  • Familiarize yourself with auxiliary apps – learn to use Tweetdeck and Hootsuite for scheduling posts and managing multiple accounts
  1. Adobe SuiteConsidered a top desired skill across 4 internship industries via Burning Glass
  • Invest in Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom; work on designing and editing in your own time
  • Take online courses via or a similar subscription service
  • Watch tutorial videos on Youtube
  • Take in-person Adobe Suite courses
  • Become an Adobe Certified Expert

One aspect of developing any skill that cannot be overlooked is that it requires an investment of time. No valuable skill sets are developed overnight, and indeed you will continue to expand on your mastery of these areas throughout your professional life. With spring break fast approaching (or for some, already arrived), students should make a plan to develop and augment specific skills that will make them more valuable internship candidates. By developing these universal skills early, you will put yourself in a better position to be hired, work and contribute as an intern or entry-level employee. This will make you a stronger, more flexible and appealing job candidate across industries, which only serves to augment your resume and provide you with options as you develop as a professional.