To stand the best chance at securing an internship or job at a think tank there are a few skills that will always stand you in good stead
Written skills – write write write, if there is one main thing you can do to help secure a role at a think tank it is develop excellent written skills. Practise by writing for your university newspaper, a blog or anything that takes your eye. A lot of internships now set a written assessment as part of the recruitment so you will not even get an interview if you cannot impress them with your written contribution
Communication skills – a fundamental part of any career in think tanks is the ability to convey what are often large and complicated areas into a concise persuasive argument. This can be verbally, in a report or through the use of infographics and data. Think clearly about why you want to work for a think tank and if you have a particular policy area of interest have a cogent explanation for why you want to research it or what draws you to it in the first place
Data analysis – this is becoming an evermore important area for think tanks in their research roles. Typically think tanks don’t require the same level of stats ability as a more academic role but being able to spot and tell a story from data is an incredibly helpful skill. Don’t worry if you aren’t very experienced in this area though, a lot of organisations will provide training
The right attitude – think tanks want people who will help out, who are passionate about what they do and in many of the smaller organisations the ability to rub along happily in a small team is a skill that will go a long way
Resilience – it is a very competitive field and you will be up against other very bright, engaged individuals so if at first you don’t succeed persevere. You may not land your dream position on the first attempt and you may need to apply to another role but in an organisation you are passionate about. Getting your foot in the door through an internship is the biggest help to starting your think tank career. It is easier to move around a think tank once you are in there then it is to apply from the outside. So keep trying
And good luck!