Academic journal article IUP Journal of Soft Skills

Soft Skills as a Predictor of Perceived Internship Effectiveness and Permanent Placement Opportunity

Academic journal article IUP Journal of Soft Skills

Soft Skills as a Predictor of Perceived Internship Effectiveness and Permanent Placement Opportunity

Article excerpt


Academic internship is an integral part of any management education program. Academic internship is defined as an opportunity to integrate work-related experience into graduate education by participating in scheduled and supervised work (Gault et al., 2010). Littke (2004) defines internships as "real work integrated into the everyday world of the school" (p. 24). The temporary assignment of a project at the work site is a window to the real world of work (Bazzoni, 2000) and can be considered as an important opportunity to hone the technical as well as the soft skills required for goal attainment and organizational success. These Summer Internship Projects (SIP), popularly known as SIP in the Indian management education context, can be considered as a knowledge transfer platform (Narayan et al., 2010). The SIPs that can span from 8 to 14 weeks can assist the students during their actual stint at work (Sagen et al., 2000).

The role of soft skills in the success of a new age manager cannot be underestimated. Caudrin (1999) has shown that while hiring management graduates, organizations look for three most desirable skills: communication skills, interpersonal skills and initiative-taking ability. Thus, soft skills are as important as domain knowledge and conceptual understanding and are given equal importance by corporates today. The current study focuses on the importance of soft skills during the internship and its impact on the overall impression created by the intern on the industry mentor.

Literature Review

A number of earlier studies have indicated the importance of soft skills for success in both national and international assignments (Beamish and Calof, 1989). Glenn (2008) propounded that hiring new entrants with effective soft skills is imperative for business profitability. Traditionally internships have been considered as learning opportunities or platforms for skills enhancement for management students. However, current realities are far from this belief. Recent research has highlighted that there is a mismatch between the expectations of companies and students (Birch et al., 2010; Gault et al., 2000; 2010; and Hurst and Good, 2010) while engaging in the internship relation. Students expect to get trained in both technical and soft skills during their stint with the company. However, companies expect students to be well-prepared while approaching the internship so as to incur lower training and supervision costs (Hurst and Good, 2010). As suggested by Harvey and Knight (1996), "employers want graduates who are adaptable, flexible, can communicate well and can relate to a wide range of people".

Soft Skills Can Really Be Hard

Spencer and Spencer (1993) have categorized skill sets possessed by managers as soft and hard. Soft skills are applied skills or 21st century skills (Gewertz, 2007). Past research has shown that soft skills contribute to the success of the manager over and above the technical skills (Bush, 2012). In today's cut-throat competition and right sizing, mere technical skills are not sufficient (James and James, 2004). There is a huge demand and need to hone the soft skills of the managers (Nealy, 2005). Klaus (2010) has shown that 75% of the long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% is dependent on technical know-how. Managers with good interpersonal skills and self-management capabilities are seen to be more successful and more productive for the employer than those only with technical skills.

Soft skills are a combination of interpersonal and personality traits (James and James, 2004) that enhance an individual's interactions with people, job performance and career prospects (Parsons, 2008). Soft skills can be defined as, "attitudes and behaviors displayed in interactions among individuals that affect the outcomes of various interpersonal encounters" (Muir, 2004). Soft skills, unlike hard skills, are interpersonal and broadly applicable (Parsons, 2008). …

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