The Value of Internships
It takes a special kind of person to walk through a field in the mid-summer heat of the Central Valley. To those in agriculture, it’s just another Wednesday. Therefore, it is important for the next generation of agriculturalists to know what a career in California’s top industry entails.
Internships, specifically in agriculture, offer an excellent way to gain valuable experience in a future career. Shannon Douglass, Director of Outreach at CalAgJobs, often stresses the importance of internships to college agriculture students around the state.
“It shows that you’ve learned something from college, but also that you’re trainable, show up for work, and can punch a time clock,” said Douglass.
To recruiters and employers in agriculture, candidates with internship experience on their resume demonstrate that they are well-rounded. Douglass articulated that internships in agriculture offer both traditional and non-traditional work experience. One day an intern may be formally dressed at their desk in the office, and the next they may be dressed in jeans and boots doing farm visits.
Breanna Lee, the Western Region Recruiter for Crop Production Services, reiterated that internships and/or work experience is the main component that is serviceable on someone’s resume when she is recruiting. She emphasized that internships show that someone is “a go-getter and not scared of hard work.”
Internships can do more than add to the experience section of a resume. It is particularly important for prospective agriculturalists to know what sector of agriculture fits their skills and goals best, by participating in a variety of internships. This is an idea that Mary Willis, the Coordinator of Internships and Professional Experience for Fresno State Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, calls the “Test Drive Career Hypothesis.”
The “Test Drive Career Hypothesis” means to assess through experience if a career or field in agriculture is a good fit for the intern as a person. Lee suggested that students take on a different internship every year, so that they may find what interests them, and eliminate what doesn’t. She articulated that agriculture is always evolving, therefore, there may be an opportunity in a part of the industry that a candidate may not know about. These opportunities could be a “hidden gem” for the intern to discover.
If an intern does find this “hidden gem” opportunity, or at least enjoyed and succeeded at the internship, it is a great way to get an “in” at a company or field he/she worked in. Something that Douglass often witnesses, is a company will use internships as a recruiting tool. Successful internships can lead to a permanent position and long standing career in a company.
If during the internship, the intern realizes that this company or sector of agriculture does not peak their interest, they can make this realization before dedicating the entirety of their education and career goals to it. These experiences are also likely to teach the intern more about the industry and diversify their skill set.
One of the most noteworthy reasons that Douglass, Willis, and Lee expressed that internships are valuable, is networking. Each woman stressed the importance of making professional connections in the agriculture industry.
Networking is the most important way for any individual to obtain desirable skill sets, qualities, internships, and jobs, according to Lee.
“Making sure your name is known with industry members will get you a long way,” said Lee.
Douglass suggested that interns should nurture the contacts they make during an internship, and continue to do so even after the internship is over. Interns can connect with contacts via LinkedIn to keep up-to-date with past internship employers and communicate about where they are in their career. These networks not only lead to a possibility of a future career within the company, but also with other companies.
“It is a small world in agriculture so having those good experiences and contacts really helps,” said Douglass.