Getting Ahead

Internships help CAFNR students acquire jobs

The senior year of college can bring a mix of emotions: excitement, fear and deep feelings of nostalgia. But there is one thing most students in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources will not have to worry about their senior year — getting a job.

Several CAFNR seniors have already received and accepted job offers from companies with which they previously interned.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 56.5 percent of interns receive full-time jobs from their internship employers. Respondents who hired interns/co-op students from their own programs retained 88.9 percent of these hires after one year. And, for those hires with no internship/co-op experience at all, slightly less than 80 percent were retained.

Drew Ratterman, Market Sell Workforce leader at Dow AgroSciences, said the numbers vary from year to year, but typically more than two-thirds of senior interns at Dow receive offers, and 85-90 percent are accepted.

“Our interns learn to handle multiple priorities: Projects, marketing, research, having to do random tasks and work with a team,” Ratterman said. “You can be good at what you do, but you have to be able to work well with a team too. Any quality internship is a role in which you learn firsthand if the environment is one you can thrive in. The intern and the company are test driving each other in hopes that the internship will result in a career.”

Career Service Director Stephanie Chipman helps a CAFNR student revise their resume in preparation for the Career Fair held last monthCareer Service Director Stephanie Chipman helps a CAFNR student revise their resume in preparation for the Career Fair held last month

“You may not start out exactly where you want to end up, but what better way to test the culture and fit of the company than an internship,” said Stephanie Chipman, CAFNR Career Services Director. “You can research a company all you want, but having an internship lets you really get a feel for the company. The agricultural field has been pretty competitive, and many CAFNR students were offered jobs at the end of their summer internships before their senior year. Many big companies use internships as three-month interview processes.“

Another element MU offers is a large, engaged alumni base. Just knowing someone who knows someone will not automatically get you a job, but can help you get your foot in the door and get expert advice on the job search.

“Mizzou offers incredible opportunities for students to be highly competitive,” Chipman said. “The academic preparation is excellent, whether it is from the research, top-notch professors, opportunities to join clubs and organizations to lead, or from getting a job with the College. Students are not just sitting around, but are building skills that can be applied to real-life experiences. The alumni support is also excellent. They want to see students succeed.”

“I had always heard that college was the prime time to ‘test-drive’ different career paths,” senior Shelby Davis said. “For me, I was torn between teaching agriculture and joining the industry.  I found that interning was the best way to gain valuable experience, make connections within the agriculture industry, and answer the million-dollar question, ‘What do I want to do after graduation?’”

Davis knew where she wanted to be after finishing two internships.

“Having an internship with Syngenta gave me peace of mind when I accepted my role in early September,” Davis said. “I fit with the company culture and understand what the position entails.  Also, I have spent two summers developing a solid network of professionals that I can call on for advice and assistance as my career progresses.”

Senior Kody Raines recently accepted a job offer from Lansing Trade Group in Overland Park, Kan., as a commodities merchandiser. Like Davis, he explored different companies through internships. Unlike Davis, Raines knew exactly what career path he wanted to take, and was exploring a company that was a good fit for him.

“I interned at another company in commodities merchandising the summer after my sophomore year,” Raines said. “I liked it, and it confirmed what I wanted to do after graduation. The next summer, I interned for Lansing and loved not only what I was doing, but also the culture. It is what allowed me to fit in. Lansing gave me the chance to explore and live and really get to know the culture and people. It would have been much more difficult to accept the job offer if I hadn’t worked there.”

“It is hard to describe it, but I do think we have seen that MU students possess a combo of technical and agribusiness skills as well as professionalism,” Ratterman said. “Some universities from metropolitan cities have students who are very polished and articulate, but if you take them out to a production site and ask for help improving yield, they would fall short. Other universities have students with great agronomics skills, but lack professionalism because they don’t have exposure to the many great assets CAFNR students have. MU students have the best of both, and that is exactly what we are looking for at Dow.”

Visit CAFNR Career Services to learn more about internships.