Event-Focused Internships

Internships are a key ingredient for college students in developing their professional skills, gaining real-life work experience, and ultimately, figuring out what they want to do! Something that sets the ag + western industry apart from other industries is the amount of internship opportunities there are that are based around events. Whether those events are livestock shows, fairs, rodeos, or conventions, there is a great opportunity for both interns and employers to gain value from an event-based internship. 

In this blog post, you will hear from industry professionals who oversee and manage different event-based internships hopefully encouraging you to think about creating an internship for your next event!

EVENT-BASED INTERNSHIP BENEFITS

Meg Stopps currently serves as the lead on developing strategic marketing and communication plans that help promote the programming, research, and learning opportunities provided to Kansans through K-State Research and Extension. Her expertise with event-based internship programs was honed during her time at the Arizona National Livestock Show where she oversaw their media internship program for three years. 

Meg believes there are several benefits an internship can provide organizations, “some more obvious than others.” In her experience,the biggest benefit to offering a media internship during a livestock show is the “fresh, unique perspective it brings to show coverage each year. In many cases, the interns hired to cover the show through social media and photography are the future of the agricultural communications and marketing community.” She also went on to say that “if the same people covered the show year after year, I think the organization would miss out on the fun, fresh approach interns bring to the scene.”

HOW TO ENSURE INTERNS FIND VALUE IN A SHORT-TERM INTERNSHIP

Gone are the days of interns doing the jobs no one else wants to do. Today, interns are treated as valued team members, even if the internship lasts a short period of time. Gary Hawkes, the Vice President of Marketing and Sponsorships for the National High School Rodeo Association lets his interns know that they will receive a “wealth of knowledge if they are willing to show up and work.” 

The NHSRA has two events where they host interns every year and “during the prep-time is when we truly get to know the interns and what they want to learn the most. Then we take that opportunity to put them into that role a few times throughout the week, so they can see how to apply it in a career setting.” They also make sure to not lock the interns into one role, allowing them to “widen their horizons and give them more knowledge of how all the pieces connect.” Each of the interns will get to see “how the western industry functions knowing how everything is attached from sponsors to signage to entries all the way down to staging the awards ceremony.”

Meg also agrees that prep time is important in ensuring that interns find value in these internships. Since the interns at Arizona National Livestock Show spend a lot of time on their own during the program, “the pre-work is crucial to making sure interns get the most out of their experience. Once interns are briefed, and understand their assignments and objectives for the week, the remainder of the experience is mostly on their own. We give them the freedom to be creative and manage their media assignments, which provides them with valuable event coverage experience. Because work is largely their own, they are able to cultivate work samples that can be used in future internship and job applications.”

SKILLS & LESSONS EVENT-BASED INTERNSHIPS PROVIDE

Tyler Schuster is the Manager of Leadership and Development for the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and in this role, she oversees 20-25 interns during their annual convention. Even with this internship being short, Tyler and TSCRA provide these interns with impactful lessons, skills, and experiences they can use to forge their future. 

Something every professional encounters within their career are things not always going to plan and Tyler explains that their interns “learn how to work in a fast-paced environment. You can plan all you want but things always come up. Interns learn how to adapt in a changing environment and what is needed in the workplace.” These interns also encounter thousands of TSCRA members and their families, TSCRA staff, and other interns during the weekend, so they are “learning how to work with a variety of groups of people. Between other interns, staff, contracts, attendees, vendors, and more, students get to communicate with a diverse group.”

LAYING OUT AN EVENT-SPECIFIC INTERNSHIP

No matter if your event is small or large, having an organized internship program is key to ensuring interns, and you as the employer, get value from the experience. Once the interview process is complete and interns have been chosen, all three professionals mentioned meeting with interns via Zoom or phone call, to go over the schedule, expectations, and logistics for the program. This is a good way to clear up any miscommunication that could have happened between the application and interview process! 

Once it is time for the events, Meg, Gary, and Tyler agreed that it is important for interns to be able to get a lay of the land, so bringing them in a day or two before the event starts is helpful.. This is also a great time to go more in-depth on the schedule, showing them when and where they need to be. Having a few days to be able to do this will help you set the interns up for success and mitigate issues during the event. 

Meg added “Even though it’s a lot of work, we still try to squeeze in some fun. I think that’s an important component of a high-stakes internship – make sure you’re also mindful to schedule in fun. During a week at Arizona Nationals, that looks like scheduling dinner as a team one to two nights during the event.”

THE IMPACT INTERNSHIPS HAVE ON THE FUTURE OF AG + WESTERN

Meg Stopps

“Internships have a huge impact on developing talent for the agriculture industry. Throughout my undergraduate experience at K-State and graduate experience at Oklahoma State, I held several internships. These opportunities helped me hone my interests before entering into a career. Receiving a degree is one thing, but also having internship experiences to accompany that degree makes candidates much more competitive and much more experienced during the job hunt.” 

Gary Hawkes

“I think internships in any industry are huge. I truly believe if I didn’t complete my internship at AQHA I would be lost in some dead-end job. As always though I have heard ag + western industry internships set the bar high. With talking to multiple friends and colleagues – in other industries – the western world expects our interns to work hard and work alongside us. We don’t look at them as a lesser who is there to get our coffee and do stuff we don’t want to do. This may just be me, but I will give the interns what they give me. If they are hungry for knowledge, then I’m going to push them and let them learn all that they can. It also helps with connections and networking. A lot of our interns have gone on to do great things and we even have one working in the office today!” 

Tyler Schuster 

“I think internships are crucial to students figuring out their life and career goals. As someone who started their career at TSCRA as an intern, I can say that our internship program gives students hands-on experience and allows them to connect with the best in our industry.  The TSCRA convention internship is a short time commitment that allows students to see a side of the agriculture industry not many have been exposed to. I believe we are impacting the agriculture and western industries by allowing students to see that they can work in these industries and not be in production agriculture. TSCRA is proud to invest in the next generation and our internship program is one way we work with college students. 

Internships allow students to better understand our industries. Even if they do not end up working in agriculture or the western industries, they are ambassadors for us. It is important to have people in other career fields who support and promote the work we do. Internships allow companies to find talent and for students to gain experience and exposure to a variety of things.” 

These professionals have a proven track record of success with their internship programs. They are coveted among students and provide incredible opportunities. “Fast and furious” was a recurring theme amongst conversations with Meg, Gary and Tyler. Events are just that! No matter if they are a month, a week, or a weekend, there are a lot of moving parts, but that allows an amazing chance for young people in ag + western to get a taste of what their future could be! Instead of thinking about all the work it creates to have an event-focused internship, think about the incredible experiences you are going to provide and the way you are helping shape these young professionals – in turn shaping the future of ag + western.

If you are ready to welcome interns for your event, list the opportunity on Of The West! You can get started finding them here.

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