In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell set out to discover what makes people successful. He concluded that a key factor in being successful is opportunity – those who are given extraordinary opportunities and have the presence of mind to seize on them outperform those around them.
I can say, the past two summers I have been blessed with two extraordinary opportunities. Last summer, the PR team at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau took a chance on me as a college freshman. It’s that experience that gave me the confidence and experience to apply for this position, and I owe a debt of gratitude to Jen, Katie and everyone who was involved in selecting me the 2012 NSR Marketing & Communications intern.
Over the course of the summer, I have learned and grown a lot. Below are just a few lessons I’ll take back with me to Madison as I start my junior year at the University of Wisconsin this fall.
Be flexible. Attending and working two national shows this summer served as a great reminder of the value of a little patience and flexibility. In the process of orchestrating such large events, bumps in the road are inevitable. At both World Pork Expo and NSR Summer Spectacular, I realized the importance of being proactive, working together and solving problems. As the old adage goes, you never know when life might throw you a curveball. You have to be able to adjust and push ahead.
Don’t be afraid to ask. We all need help once in a while. I’m incredibly indebted to the staff at NSR and all of the sources who provided information for my writing assignments. One of the most important things I learned this summer was the importance of picking up the phone and asking for what you need. More often than not, people are willing to help.
The expert was once the beginner. During the course of the summer, I was fortunate to work with a great group of talented communicators. I frequently spent time poring over my drafts, designs and other works to find numerous corrections and improvements. As an intern or employee, it’s so important to take the feedback you receive and grow from it. Everyone needs a trusted editor. I know those experiences have made me a better communicator, and have helped me to realize that everyone starts somewhere. There is no substitute for experience.
Consume media. In the communications business, if you aren’t aware of what others are doing, you’re probably not doing your job right. Today, media is evolving and changing at an incredible pace. If you don’t take the time to stop and see what new opportunities exist, you will be left behind.
Don’t force it. This is one that everyone in the M&C division can relate to. Just as every judge searches for the right term to describe the animal they are evaluating, we strive to find the right word, phrase or design. A lot of times, to tap your inner creativity, you can’t force it. You have to be patient enough to find what truly fits.
It’s hard to make progress by being the contending bidder. This one comes from senior fieldman Ralph Doak, who reminded a crowd at World Pork Expo that the way one young breeder driving his boar into the sale ring earned champion honors was by bringing some quality genetics home from a few conferences in years gone by and working hard to make them better. The underlying lesson in this speech is one that hit home with me as a reminder that, in whatever line of work, we have to be willing to take a risk to move forward. In the context of an internship, that might mean taking on responsibilities you’re a little bit uncomfortable with or stepping out of the box on a project – you never know what kind of results you’ll get.
You aren’t your audience. A few weeks back, I had the incredible opportunity to join Jen and Katie in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the 2012 Agricultural Media Summit. Along the way, this was one sentiment I truly took to heart. As a writer, it’s so easy to get caught up in what we learn from an interview or story that is interesting to us. That’s why it’s so important to remember who you’re truly working for – your audience. What does it mean to them? What do they want to know? One veteran journalist suggested taping a photo to your desk or monitor to remind yourself to write for them.
Tell the story. Today, there are a seemingly unlimited number of platforms for media professionals to get their brand involved. But some things haven’t changed that much. Whether communicating the “old school” way or using social media, people still crave stories and people they can relate to. No matter how the tools for communicating change, it still hinges on finding great people with great stories to tell. And it’s a great feeling when you do it right.
Have fun with your work. I give the Marketing & Communications team a lot of credit for not only tackling an impressive summer workload, but also for having fun with it along the way. It adds so much color and life to the office and makes every day a little more interesting.
Don’t ever forget to thank the people around you. Without a dedicated membership, none of us at NSR would be here. In the daily grind of producing a magazine or prepping for a show, I’ve learned the importance of putting people first. The people you meet are often the most valuable aspect of an internship. Taking advantage of that is so critical.