You’ll have to forgive me for adding another one to the pile, but the point of how invaluable internships are cannot go missed. I was in Washington, D.C. for ten weeks this summer with the National Corn Growers Association, and the first three weeks were a major adjustment. I didn’t express that sentiment in my first two blog posts—I’ve always been outgoing, curious, and adaptable; overall, these feelings were a first.
Despite the unease of acclimating myself to D.C., the culture, transportation, verbiage, and even the swampy weather, I knew with confidence that this internship was something I wanted, and needed. Following dreams of being an artist and a fashion designer (circa 2001), working in public policy in the agriculture industry has long been an interest of mine. I interned with a risk management firm last summer, and can’t say enough good things about my experience with the firm and the producers we worked for—I received invaluable mentorship that summer and learned more about risk, hedging tools, and relationships than the classroom could ever teach me. However, I still had a yearning for policy work. I knew that if I didn’t get policy experience under my belt I would be holding myself back, and letting myself down. Lucky for me, I had another summer left before graduation (December 2017) to pursue policy. Some may find my sentiment exaggerated, and sure, I could jump into a full-time position in public policy when I graduate and figure it out then, but an internship first provides a few advantages.
Internships are a low risk, high reward environment. You are able to immerse yourself into a company, their culture, and daily operations, without a long-term commitment. Eight to twelve weeks, that’s your only obligation. While that is a simplified notion and there are many more pieces to an internship, such as proving that you are an asset to a team, you can use it as a time to explore if the company and the field is right for you. If not, no harm, no foul. You can follow through on your commitment and leave on strong terms, whereas if you jumped into a job straight out of college that wasn’t the right fit, leaving may be a little more awkward, and you may be faced with thoughts of unease and uncertainty, between fight or flight.
Secondly, you are getting paid to learn. For most new positions, it takes time to operate in autonomy with confidence. In my experience from the two internships I have held during undergrad, I didn’t feel like things truly “clicked” until my last 2-3 weeks. The majority of the summer is an exciting, fun, and yet huge, learning curve. You have to ask a few more questions, tasks take you a little bit longer to navigate, and you’re still sorting out what exactly your role is. Most companies recognize the return from having interns, that’s why they continue to recruit, and then support them through the learning curve each summer. However, I want to reiterate this point to parents that are hesitant to support their son or daughter through an internship and students who don’t really have interning as a priority, and any business owner that has entertained the idea of developing an internship program: The personal and professional growth that can be achieved by interning is invaluable and irreplaceable.
Third, internships are an opportunity to see how you handle adversity. This adversity can come in a variety of forms. Perhaps it is a series of challenges that come with moving 1,400 miles away from home. Perhaps it is the challenge of micromanagement, or on the flipside, navigating autonomy. Maybe you have to recognize your own abilities and ask for more responsibility. Are your daily tasks not lining up with the job description? Or, maybe you are trying to succeed but the company’s structure and communication habits are restricting that. Some of these points are my own, others come from the experiences that peers have had. Bottom line, these are challenging waters to navigate, and I know that I will be able to hit the ground running much faster, in my first full-time position, than if I had never interned during my undergrad years.
Interning has helped me reflect on my interests, identify what I value in a company, and also to develop expectations for myself and what I am able to contribute to a cause. Culture, engagement, and autonomy are priorities of mine when considering future employers. From one internship to the next, I was able to reflect and identify what I think I did really well, but also set new standards for myself and identify how I thought I could perform better Round 2 (this summer with NCGA).
I by no means have it all figured out, and don’t think that I ever will, but I assure you that because of internships, I am more excited than nervous, or unsure, to graduate in December. So, thank you Nebraska corn farmers, Nebraska Corn Board, and National Corn Growers Association, for supporting internships and taking the time and resources to invest in me this summer. Your support helped me to intern, and knowing I had the support of family, friends, and advisors, I was able to take advantage of a summer of growth.