Choosing an internship that suits your strengths & values 

Adapted & inspired from this blog post, first published February 2022 

Scrabble pieces

Learn how to identify your strengths and values and find an internship that complements them. 

What is a strength? 

A strength is something that we are naturally good at and enjoy doing. Most of us are either unaware of our strengths or see them as something ordinary rather than exceptional. Strengths go beyond performance and reveal our energy too. 

What is a value? 

A value is something that you believe is important in the way you live and work. Values are different for each person. These can be defined as a person’s ideas or beliefs, and can encompass your lifestyle, work view, work environment, and personal ideas.   

Knowing our strengths and values helps us to be more focused about the tasks that we do well and enjoy, benefiting not just ourselves, but the people, teams and organizations we work with. 

When we use these at work, we are more confident, more likely to achieve our goals, and more effective at growing and developing ourselves.  

Once you determine your values and identify your strengths, you can start integrating them into your internship search: 

  • Determine your career goals and interests: Maybe you have a specific internship position in mind, look for an internship within that role’s industry. If you don’t have a specific role or career path in mind, think about your interests and the type of work you enjoy. Internships can allow you to test a variety of fields to determine which one fits you best. Once you have your goals and interests outlined, you can then focus. 
  • Define your requirements: This is where knowing your values can really come into play. Create a list of your requirements (and their ranking of importance to you) to find an internship that meets your needs. Factors to consider are location, pay, hours required, the programs’ goals and expectations, the type of responsibilities you’ll perform, whether you find the work interesting, and growth potential. Don’t forget to check out the organization’s values and mission! 
  • Skill and Strength spot: Knowing your strengths and your skills (things you’ve learned through other experiences) makes it easier to identify them in internship descriptions. Skills can often be found in the requirements section of a posting. Also called qualifications or experience, this is where you’ll find what kind of background the employer is seeking. Having a list of skills that you want to build upon will also help determine your internship options. Strengths spotting can take a little more practice – thinking of examples when you’ve used your strengths in the past can help you then recognize them in future duties and responsibilities. 
  • Develop a list of key words: Understanding and articulating your strengths and values also allows you to curate a list of key words to integrate into your internship search. For example, if one of your strengths is being a catalyst (getting projects off the ground and motivating others), using words like “project”, “launch”, or “manage” in conjunction with an interest key word (like “healthcare”) can help access interesting internship opportunities you may have missed in the past.  

KNOW THIS: you do not have to meet every single job requirement or be able to do every duty right off the bat. Don’t get hung up on meeting every task perfectly because that is unrealistic. An internship is an opportunity for you to learn and explore.  

Next steps: 

  1. Take an assessment. You can take a free Strengths Profile assessment today to identify your own strengths.  By knowing what your motivations are, you will be able to consciously choose an internship that aligns with your strengths. 
  1. Meet with an advisor. Get started by setting up an appointment with our “Still Exploring” advisor. You can discuss your assessment results, your values and interests, and how to kick off your internship search from an exploration mindset. 

By Katie Fell
Katie Fell Assistant Director, Harvard College Still Deciding, Exploring, & Self-Assessment