Intern Life

Freshmen Focus: Leverage Functional Skills to Find Internships

Many students – not just freshmen – get distracted by looking for internships in their “academic major”.  As a freshman, I would caution you from this. Majors are broad discipline areas and while coursework will teach you specific knowledge, focus your first internship search on building functional skills.

Your first internship should increase “employability” for your next opportunity and demonstrate you can work in a professional setting. That next internship may be in a company or department very related to your choice of major.

You already possess a number of functional skills that can be leveraged!

Examples of Functional skills include:

  • analytical thinking
  • research, information gathering and organization
  • organizational skills
  • computer skills
  • problem solving
  • monitoring
  • planning
  • communication – written, verbal, presentation
  • active listening
  • negotiation
  • judgement and decision making

rulerThe ONet is a great tool to learn about occupational areas and explore what skills are associated with occupations that interest you.

Rhett, an Isenberg Marketing major, did not focus on his major when looking for an internship. He was flexible about his options – and found ways to build relationships with individuals at the company in his area of interest – while increasing his functional skill sets.

“My advice would be to focus less on your major or ultimately what you want to do.  In my case, I got a paid internship at an Insurance company doing operations and financial work and I am a Marketing and Psychology Major who is looking to get into consumer behavior research.  I realized that if I was flexible with what I was doing, I would have more options and get the professional experience that companies love seeing.  Beyond that, once I was in the position, I was able to work with marketing managers on projects with free time at the company.  Beyond that, don’t underestimate the power of your network and who you know.  I got in at the company I was at because I had family that worked there and HR liked them. “ Rhett, MKTG

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Kim Figueroa

Kimberly Figueroa is the Director of Internships at the Isenberg School of Management at UMASS – Amherst. When she isn’t advising students, coming up with new ideas for cool classes and career events, or engaging employers, you’ll find her performing as a flutist, cooking up a new recipe or learning a new latin dance step. You can follow Kimberly through her Twitter or LinkedIn.