top of page

The Three Skills You Need to Succeed in Your First Role

Finding a job or internship is just the first step toward career success. These three skills will help you along the rest of your journey.

By Team chea

These days, most colleges and universities have established some sort of program to help their students succeed in the professional world. They host recruiting fairs, post job openings, and create career centers where professional career counselors can review résumés and help students practice for interviews. But all of those efforts focus on just one (relatively small) aspect of professional success: the job search.

Don’t get us wrong. Information about how to find and secure a job or internship is incredibly valuable. In fact, that’s exactly the kind of information that most students and early career professionals ask for. In our own survey at a large public university, undergraduate and graduate students were twice as likely to want job search help compared to help with networking and career pathing, and over four times more likely to want job search advice compared to help with career skills like talking themselves up or asking for an opportunity.

That’s a big problem, though. The reality is, finding a job is only the first step on a very long road to success, and landing that dream job or internship won’t be nearly as meaningful if you find yourself struggling from day one.

But don’t worry. We interviewed HR professionals and pored over research publications to get an understanding of what interns and early career professionals actually need to succeed on the job. Three big ideas jumped out:

1 A great attitude

2. A willingness to ask for help

3. Networking skills

These three qualities may not seem as valuable as technical skills and know-how, but they’re actually far more important in the long run. Without the first, you might not even get a job offer to begin with—no one wants to work with people who are rude, arrogant, or ungracious. Fortunately, you are in complete control of your attitude and can make the choice to show up every day enthusiastic and ready to learn.

Asking for help is a more difficult skill to master. Many students, especially the most high-achieving ones, have a hard time adapting to the demands of the workplace. We all have moments where we just don’t know what to do, or where we don’t know how to do something. But these students are often fiercely independent and have never needed to ask for help with their schoolwork. As a result, they don’t want to bring their struggle forward in the workplace and admit to what they often perceive to be a moment of failure.

That is exactly the wrong approach. Companies don’t expect interns and young professionals to do perfectly on every project, but they do expect them to deal with those moments professionally and ask for help when they need it. Our research showed that companies appreciate interns who communicate well about both their progress and their lack of progress. This makes complete sense. What manager wants the headache of a project turned in late or done poorly simply because someone couldn’t be transparent? Networking is tricky: it’s often brought up as a sort of silver bullet for whatever career issues people are facing, but it’s also very intimidating for most people.

It doesn’t have to be, though. Networking during an internship simply means building relationships with other people in the workplace, whether that’s your direct team or other teams and individuals that you interact with. And building relationships during an internship is actually really easy—people expect interns to ask them questions, so no one will mind if you ask them about how they got to where they are today and how you might go about creating your own personalized success road map.


bottom of page