On the value of internships and related experiences
November 1, 2023
Nearly 15 internships, multiple freelance writing and related opportunities, and one fellowship project.
Without context, that might seem like a lot, and you may think I'm broke. There's some truth to that statement, but with 365 days in a year, there's ample time to invest in opportunities to learn and grow. Some opportunities were weeklong, and some didn't pay as much – most were compensated through an hourly rate, scholarships, or travel reimbursements – but they were valuable in many ways.
Opened the door to my overall goal
After changing colleges and majors, following my first semester at UW-River Falls, I decided to major in agricultural marketing communications. It wasn't until my summer internship that I realized I wanted to expand my writing skills, which eventually led to me double majoring in journalism.
The summer between freshman and sophomore year, I interned with UWRF and WRFW, the on-campus radio station, alumna Pam Jahnke and the team at the Mid-West Farm Report in southern Wisconsin. This experience made me realize how much I loved telling the stories of people involved in agriculture and asking questions.
This experience ultimately clarified my goal of somehow and somewhere being involved in agriculture and storytelling.
Learned perspectives within the industry
The skills I learned in various jobs, from teamwork to communication, are transferable and can be applied to any long-term career. In fact, while many employers value experiences and degrees, they also appreciate candidates who are willing to learn and have a growth mindset.
I fully embraced this approach. To become a great communicator, I collaborated with various organizations and companies serving the industry. Some of these organizations included local radio stations, agricultural-radio networks, trade magazines, organization communication departments, events, and more.
Gaining these diverse perspectives and insights from a range of people has made me think more critically and, hopefully, become better at my future job.
The beauty of internships is that they are generally a few months long, and in some cases, they can be extended. In the field of communications, you may also have the opportunity to work as a freelancer or contractor on a project basis.
This summer, I lived in Idaho for an internship. Not only did I gain valuable experience in magazines, editing, and the industry, but I also learned more about myself while living away from home. I discovered how much I loved paddleboarding, exploring new places, and, most importantly, I gained a better understanding of who I am beyond being a Wisconsinite.
There is tremendous value in internships and related experiences that allow us to learn, grow, and make mistakes. People and organizations are eager to invest in young individuals like us to make a difference and provide a fresh perspective. Whether you hold the title of intern, fellow, or freelancer, you too can learn and grow. Many companies and organizations are already hiring for next summer, and our campus Career Services is a great resource to help you in your search. Utilizing platforms like LinkedIn and Handshake, in addition to following up on opportunities from career fairs, has been where I found the most success. Happy searching!
A storyteller of agriculture, Michelle Stangler is a senior studying journalism and agricultural marketing communications at UW-River Falls. Creator of a communications and podcast Positivity in Ag, she loves helping to share the stories of an industry that provides us food, fuel and fiber. You can reach Stangler at email@example.com.
Michelle Stangler is a student at UW-River Falls.