November 28, 2020

5 Pro Tips for Ag Interns, Job Hunters

Are internships the new entry-level job in the workplace? Time magazine described internships that way in a recent article published during National Intern Day (the last Thursday in July).

It’s more important than ever for internships to be a win-win for both students and employers like MaxYield Cooperative. Mike Gaul, director of career services for the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at Iowa State University, shares 5 tips to help students find the right internship:

  1. Take your years of experience into consideration. “Freshmen, just get your foot in the door and gain some experience to build upon for future internships,” Gaul said. “Realize that as a freshman you likely won’t be hired for upper-level internships with some of the heavy hitters in the industry.” These employers, however, do value the experience students gain as a freshman and sophomores when they complete internships at other companies. Expectations change the farther students advance in their education. “Juniors, this should be your dream internship, a capstone experience that offers a great chance to return to campus in the fall with a full-time offer in hand,” Gaul said.
  2. Beware of the 5 big mistakes an intern can make. Some simple things are often overlooked by students who don’t realize how important a successful internship can be to their career, including:
    • Lack of open-mindedness. Too many students are not willing to venture out of their comfort zone for summer internships – especially from a geographical perspective. “I need to live at home,” or “I’m paying rent in Ames” are common scenarios. Being geographically restricted, however, eliminates 99 percent of all employment opportunities. “More important, it limits your chance to get out of your personal comfort zone and grow as a person,” Gaul said. “Being open to new experiences will pay huge dividends when you interview for full-time jobs in the future.”
    • Too focused on money. A job is never just about the money. “I understand and respect the focus on money in this era of rising tuition and debt load, but money should not be a deciding factor,” Gaul said. “It’s the good work experience and opportunity to add value to one’s resume that offer the most valuable benefits.”
    • Tunnel vision. Sometimes students set their heart on interning at a well-known company, but overlook other internships that could also suit their career goals just as well—or even better. “I caution students against getting caught up in a ‘name’ and passing up a valuable, comprehensive experience at another company,” Gaul said.
    • Going back to the same internship year after year. “I can understand this, but unless you’re embarking upon work that’s totally different from your previous summer’s internship, look at other companies,” Gaul said. “When in your life are you going to have the opportunity to ‘sample’ three different summer experiences (companies) and walk away with no strings attached after three months?”
    • Having one or more summer voids on your resume. This is especially true if it’s your last summer before you graduate from college. “Nobody wants to be asked the question, ‘Why didn’t you have an internship last summer?’” Gaul said. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Gaul suspects many employers will understand if a student didn’t have a summer 2020 internship.
  3. Ask key questions as you discuss internships with various employers. “Tell me about your company’s track record of converting interns to full-time hires” should rise to the top of the list of must-ask questions, especially for juniors. “This sends a very positive message to the employer, especially in an era when companies are using internships as a feeder system for full-time employment,” Gaul said. It’s also worthwhile to say, “Tell me about the structure of your internship.” Students need to know whether they’ll be exposed to a variety of tasks, or stuck in mundane daily activities, Gaul said. Other great questions include inquiring about company culture, mentorship potential and a potential capstone project. “Students relish the opportunity to take personal ownership in a capstone project,” Gaul said.
  4. Never take a job for the sake of taking a taking a job. This applies to internships as well as full-time jobs. “Do your research on the company, talk to current employees and even talk to competitors to learn as much as possible about the true nature of the internships you’re considering,” Gaul said.
  5. Look beyond the work. View internships not only as a way to make money or gain experience, but to become a more well-rounded person. Take advantage of opportunities to grow your network. Focus on personal accountability. Be the first person to show up in the office each morning, Gaul said. “Also, look at the big picture about how your work fits into the company’s mission. Show that you don’t need much hand-holding and are willing to take the initiative to help the company thrive. People will notice.”

For more information on MaxYield’s internship program check out www.maxyieldcooperative.com/internships. Applications for 2021 internships are live NOW!

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