My whole life I had it all figured out as to what I wanted to be when I grew up: a veterinarian. I could make animal noises before I could say words, I found myself touching and interacting with any animal that caught my eye, and gross bodily functions and weird anatomy talk never phased me. I applied and was accepted to NC State to study Animal Science with the intent of one day getting my white coat and curing all of the world’s animals of their ailments. I was unsure if this was the path for me when I began classes, but stuck with it because it was what I had convinced myself of my entire life. Short story even shorter, I changed my major the second semester of my freshman year to a field that I had very little knowledge of. While my Animal Science background was still applicable, it was a whole new ballgame for me. While my classes gave me practical information and knowledge, they would not have been enough for me to go out and confidently obtain and perform effectively in a career. Hypothetical situations in assignments and writing for a grade do nothing for me. I like to know that the work that I am doing is for a benefit greater than my own good. For this, among other reasons, I sought out internships.
I was fortunate to have two (paid!) internship opportunities during my undergraduate studies and continuing into my graduate studies: with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Services and with the Institute for Emerging Issues. Each experience has been unique in the opportunities they afforded me and both have taught me a lot about myself as a professional and the workforce that I will be entering after graduate school. Both internships have allowed me to apply the knowledge that I have obtained through classes and life experiences in a practical and hands on way. While my classes lined up with my broad interests, my internships have been a way to narrow them down and find my niche in the workforce. I have learned more about myself, personal interests, and my strengths and weaknesses as a solo worker and a team player. You really do not realize how much you have learned in your classes until you get the chance to apply them to a real life scenario. During my first internship, I got the opportunity to write an article for one of the people that I was working with and I realized that it was the first time that I had written a piece of its kind for the purpose of something other than to receive a grade.
The workforce and adult world can be terrifying to think about, but because of the experiences that I have had in my internships, I feel much more confident in my abilities as a professional working member of society. One very important benefit from my internships is having the opportunity to increase my network and connections which is extremely important in the workforce. Networking leads to a tremendous amount of opportunities and provides an invaluable set of expertise to pull from as well as utilize when getting out in the workforce to use as references and potential employers.
The biggest takeaway that I have from internships is figuring out what my work interests are — and what they are not. I know that my skill set and interests lie in some areas and not others, which I think is very important for the workforce. It was much better for me to learn this sooner while I was still in school than later when I am out applying for jobs that I would end up not enjoying. If you think you might be interested in a specific career or field, the best way to know is to get your feet wet and get that practical experience which can be done through an internship. You will learn more about yourself, your interests, and find your niche in the big, sometimes scary, adult world.
Agricultural and Extension Education M.S. 2019
Agricultural and Extension Education B.S. 2017
NC State University
Institute for Emerging Issues Rural Faith Community Development Intern
Ellen Beasley serves as an Intern at Institute for Emerging Issues at NC State University.