In the rural world, summertime evokes familiar scents of haymow and sounds of running diesel engines. But if you’re an ag college major, this summer may find you in a very different atmosphere — doing an internship off the farm. Whether you’re feeling a bit reminiscent of the county fairs and morning chores you’re missing at home or deciding where to spend your remaining college summers, fear not! Interning is one of the most worthwhile self-investments you can make.
If you already chose an internship, the reason is obvious: You need more than an education, you also need experience. This is especially true in the agricultural sector, where employers care about what you know, but also what you’ve done. The more diversified your resume, the more you have to show off to future employers. If you’re already confident about what you want to do after school, you can tailor your interning to fill specific needs for a particular company or position. Securing an internship with your dream employer is better yet; previous interns almost always take priority in a company’s pool of applicants.
An asset sometimes overlooked by young professionals is the chance to network. Networking is a pretty big deal when it comes to building or growing a career. Even when it comes to companies at the national level, there’s a recurring theme across our agricultural industries: They’re pretty small, they value community. Chances are you’ll run into the same people more than once in your career. Knowing who’s who in your field can help you make good impressions and find the right mentors. These invaluable relationships can open doors you didn’t even know existed.
And don’t forget, you’ll have fun! Internships provide a rare opportunity to explore a lot more than just a career. If you’re away from home, play tourist and check out the local sights. Get to know your coworkers and fellow interns, create new goals, and challenge yourself each workday. You owe it to yourself to relish the entire experience, not just the professional aspects.
Be honest with yourself, even if you’re champing at the bit to step away from the static life of your hometown, you’ll sacrifice a few things. It could be the stock shows, truck pulls with your buddies, or yes, even your family – there are things you’ll miss. When you’re several states away, you could find yourself quite lonely at times. While this can be intimidating, it’s hopefully a short-term loss for a long-term gain.
There’s always the chance you’ll get stuck doing work you hate with people you can’t stand, as with any real-world job. Unlike those jobs, an internship has less at stake. Usually lasting anywhere from six weeks to several months, chances are you can tough out a mismatched position long enough to put it on your resume or satisfy school requirements.
If you’re in the market for your first internship, it’s never too early to start looking. The sea of possibilities may be deeper than you realize. Don’t let it overwhelm you, instead explore the many opportunities available! Remember, a first internship has only two basic requirements. It’s in a field of interest and it’s something you haven’t done before. For example, avoid getting an internship on the farm you worked at since high school. Get away from the overly familiar and put yourself in a new environment where you’ll have new responsibilities. This could be the next county over or the opposite coast, depending on you.
Don’t be shy about taking multiple internships, even if a previous one was lackluster. You’ll never walk away from one as the exact person you came in as. If nothing else, every internship is guaranteed to teach you at least one thing. You’ll learn if it’s a future you really want or if you need to find something better.
Here are some resources to help find the right internship for you:
Jaclyn Krymowski is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University with a major in animal industries and minor in agriculture communications. She is an enthusiastic “agvocate,” professional freelance writer, and blogs at the-herdbook.com.