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The value of an internship

Brenda Miller
Extension Educator
September 12, 2015

Hey college students! As you are starting to get in the routine of being back at, or just beginning, college you are probably not yet thinking of what next summer may have in store for you. It is never too early to start searching for internships. So what is the value of an internship and how will it benefit you when you enter "the real world"?

Internship opportunities

Many different types of agriculture businesses offer internships throughout the year. Whatever your interest is there is an internship waiting for you. Some areas of interest may include: nutrition, reproduction, pharmaceutical, agriculture promotion, crop production, farm management, or finance. Most internship opportunities are during the summer months but some businesses have internships offered year round.

Internships are not limited to just Minnesota, the Midwest, or the United States. If you are interested and have the opportunity to travel abroad there are many options to work on farms or at agribusinesses around the world. Internships allow you to network with industry professionals and build relationships within those entities. Sometimes internships can lead to full time career opportunities!

Internships provide you the opportunity to work for multiple entities before deciding on a career path. Try to do, at minimum, two internships throughout the course of your college career and, if you can, try to work for two different companies. This will provide you insight into two different worlds, bosses, management, work schedules, customer bases, co-workers, location, and the list goes on...

You might find that a field you were initially very interested in is very different than what you thought. For example: Working for a feed company doing dairy nutrition work might turn out to be totally not what you were expecting, good or bad. If it is better than you were expecting then that might solidify your choice of college degree and career path. At the completion of the internship, if you find that the experience just didnít quite fit your style then you can try something different next time.

The beauty of an internship is that it is flexible. You are committed to a few months of learning and hard work but have the chance to explore other areas of the professional world too before you truly decide on a career path. Internships are also a great way to start building up your resume and reference list!

Going back to the farm?

If your plan is to go back to the home farm upon graduation, thatís great! However, your farm will benefit much more if you go out and work for someone else for a few years first. By doing this you will gain experiences that could prove invaluable to your farm. You will see how other businesses are run, different types of bosses and leadership styles, how to be a good employee, teamwork, communication, and the importance of doing a complete and thorough job in a safe and efficient manner.

For example: If you work for an AI company as an AI technician, you will have the opportunity to step on hundreds of farms, talk to the producers, see their cows and operation, and learn what works and doesnít work for each of them and why. You will learn time management skills, the shortest/fastest route to your next farm, and where all of the country back roads lead to. When you learn the skill of artificial insemination and put it to good use, you should be able to do most of your own reproduction work when returning to the farm.

If you choose to work for a feed company as a nutritionist, it might be your job to formulate rations for producers depending on each farmís production goals. You will learn about different forages, mineral combinations, animal age nutritional requirements, etc., and how they all work or donít work together and what the outcomes should be for the herd. You will learn how to calculate how much corn silage a producer needs to put up to last the whole year. All of that knowledge will only benefit you when you return home to farm full time.

Maybe you would like to work on or be a herdsman for a large dairy. There are no words to explain how much you will learn on all aspects of dairy farming: farm management, employee management, herd health, machinery maintenance, etc. All of that knowledge will only benefit you and your future herd.

So students, get busy! Get your resume together, find and fill out applications, go to career fairs and talk to company representatives. When your internship is complete, donít forget to share your experience with fellow students. An internship is an invaluable learning opportunity waiting to be explored! Good luck!

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