5 Lessons From My Internship Years

The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.

Earlier this week, I saw a number of retailers recognizing their summer interns for “National Intern Day.” Now, social media loves to proclaim any day something special and something to post about. But in seeing those posts, I started to reflect on the four internships I had during my college years.

I’m entering (lucky) year number 13 with Farm Journal Media.  But there are 5 lessons I learned during those internships that stick with me today.

  1. Be Accountable. As a starting reporter, the first thing you can work toward is a byline. Simply put, that means your name goes on everything you do. And there’s no better standard to hold yourself to than to proudly put your name on everything you produce.
  2. Walk Away With Something. Be active—don’t allow yourself to be passive. At the end of your internship (or any project for that matter), you should walk away with something tangible. It may be a new skill, it may be a collection of news articles, but it should always be something you can show someone.
  3. Manage Up. If you’re bored at work, that is on you. I instituted a protocol at an internship that every day I dropped in my manager’s office and let them know what I was working on that day, and I also asked if there was anything else that I could be working on. I didn’t wait for my manager to come find me.
    For another internship, I was a remote employee, and I only saw my manager twice in person over the course of almost two years. And it was still a great opportunity because we both committed to stay connected.
  4. Be Professional. This could also be interpreted as dress appropriately. 
    In reporting on agriculture, you’ll be called to report from a corn field, a C-suite office, or like in one case during an internship of mine, Capitol Hill. I was asked to serve as the photographer at a congressional hearing where the association I was interning for had their president testify.
    The most valuable advice a co-worker gave me the day before was, she said, “wear pants.” That was because to get the picture they needed for the newsletter, I needed to inconspicuously crawl in the well between the House members and professionals giving their statements.  
  5. Make The World a Smaller Place. I actually apply this mantra to my professional and personal life. I say that I love when the world is small and you find a connection to someone because you know (or are related) to someone in common.
    For one of my internships, I was the company’s first intern. I still see my former “bosses” at industry events, and they say they are proud I was their first intern. And I’m happy that we are still able to connect and have our paths cross.