Although many students expect to gain new skills via summer internships, a new survey by The Creative Group shows that much of the value may stem from less tangible aspects of these programs.

Thirty-one per cent of marketing and advertising executives polled said experiencing different work environments is the greatest advantage of participating in internships, aside from pay. Nearly another quarter (24 per cent) cited improving soft skills as the chief benefit.

The national study was developed by The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service providing creative, advertising, marketing and web professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm.

Advertising and marketing executives were asked, “Aside from pay, what do you think is the greatest benefit to students or graduates who participate in an internship program?”

“Internships often involve learning about yourself, including the type of environment that’s best suited to your personality,” said Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group. “Many programs also serve as a crash course in how to get along with various personality types — an ability that can benefit people throughout their careers.”

The Creative Group offers the following tips:

• Don’t be shy: The best programs fill up early, and competition may be especially fierce in this economy. Aggressively pursue attractive internships. Showing some chutzpah, while still acting professionally, can work in your favor.

• Put on the polish: Your cover letter, resumé and portfolio should be professional and without error. Likewise, when interviewing, your dress should be appropriate for the work environment.

• Access the real value: While internships that pay well are attractive, carefully consider a program before committing to it. You might be better off with an internship that pays less, or is unpaid, but is dedicated to creating valuable experiences.

• Show your independence: Many firms are stretched thin right now, so demonstrating an ability to work without a lot of direct supervision can be a plus.

• Exhibit a can-do attitude: Inquire about the firm’s greatest challenges and needs, and then propose how your skills and experience can help.

• Emphasize your social media skills: Many firms seek professionals who can help them implement compelling e-marketing initiatives.

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