Finding all the answers: How internships forge your future

Coming to college, I was confident in my choice to pursue engineering. But from there, my future was a gaping black hole. Which discipline of engineering would I study? What industry did I want to work in? Where did I want to work? These were all questions that I didn’t have even the smallest inkling of an answer to. And while there are many great classes and resources on campus to help students find these answers themselves, my answers came from elsewhere: internships.

Emma Alexander at her John Deere internship

Before my first internship with John Deere, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree, or my life for that matter. But, in just 12 short weeks, I fell in love with a company and ignited a passion that’s only increased in intensity since then. Returning to school, I talked about my internship a lot. So, it was not uncommon for someone to ask me why I chose John Deere. I’d always start with the basics: core values, culture, people, benefits, etc. I got to do impactful, challenging work for a company that showed they truly care about their employees. But, there are lots of good companies out there and some fulfill many of those same criteria.

What really sets Deere apart for me is the bigger picture. Imagine this: I improve the experience of an operator, and they make a better part as a result. Then, that part contributes to the overall quality of the equipment we send out the door. From our doors, that machine is going to the fields, where it will improve a farmer’s business and livelihood. And finally, that farmer is working to improve the quality of life of entire communities. So how I could not be so invigorated and excited to go to work every day, when I know that my work and my company positively impact every single person on the planet? Why would I ever want to work anywhere else? I chose John Deere once for my first internship. I chose it again when I returned for a second summer. And now, having officially accepted an offer to return full time, I’ve chosen John Deere for a third and final time.

Participating in an internship or coop is, in my opinion, one of the best experiences you can get while in college. Not only does it put you in a real work environment, but it shows you—8 hours a day, 4 days a week—what your life and your career could look like after graduation.

And while many of us don’t think about it at first, the whole point of college is to prepare you for that future career, right? Through my internship experiences, I was able to go from having no plan and no answers to very enthusiastically knowing exactly what I wanted to do in less than two years.

So, in case this hasn’t been convincing enough, I’m going to put this plainly – go to careers fairs. Get on the Center for Career Opportunities’ website and submit your resume. Apply for research positions, internships, or co-ops. Put yourself out there. Be bold.  Chances are you’ll nab a pretty phenomenal position. And it may just change your life forever.