What are the skills that truly make you unique?

The number one mistake we see students make during their internship is focusing too much on their technical skills, and neglecting their soft skills.

In this world, technical skills don’t empower you to make a real impact. Soft skills do.

Soft skills allow you to lead and organise groups of people, and achieve things that are way bigger than your individual self.

By soft skills, I mean:

  • Authenticity and charisma that quickly lets anyone trust you.
  • Influential communication skills to draw anyone to your side.
  • Productivity and work ethic to get 2,3 or even 10x more done than expected.

I’m not saying technical skills aren’t important.

But these soft skills are what differentiates the 1% and 0.01%.

Don’t take my word for it. Picture all the remarkable people you know around you. You will quickly notice these qualities are what separates them from the rest.


So, how can you develop your soft skills in your internship?

1. Identify your area for growth

To be successful in any goal, the goal has to be specific. Ask yourself: “What are the top 3 specific soft skills I want to get better in?”

A good way to objectively map this is to ask for feedback from friends and colleagues you trust the most.

To do this effectively, I recommend reading the article: “My Feedback Experiment: What Happens When You Send 20+ People an Email Asking them to be Brutally Honest?” It has an examplar email you can send yourself!

2. Put yourself in the battle field

The only way to get better at soft skills is to be in lots of different situations that require that skill.

  • If you want to “read the room” better, put yourself in sales or customer support roles.
  • If you want to improve your presentation skills, run workshops for your own team or pitch an idea to your boss.
  • If you want to improve your work ethic, bite 20% more than you can chew and reverse engineer a schedule and stick to it.

3. Learning never ends

You won’t be good at these skills from the start. Even when you build these skills, you won’t retain them for long.

Warren Buffet famously got a teaching role after finishing a public speaking course because he didn’t want to lose his hard-earned public speaking skills.

Skills are like muscles, you have to continuously exercise them to maintain your strength.

In your next internship, try focusing on developing your soft skills. You might be pleasantly surprised in the change you’ll experience.

I know I certainly did.

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Blake Im

Blake is a co-founder of Next Chapter and current data science and decisions co-op scholar. Outside of Next Chapter, he's an investment intern at OIF, with previous track records at companies like J.P. Morgan and Westpac.