Are internships worth it?

Written by: Fargo Inc

Photos by Paul Flessland

Alec Selnes Fargo NDSU

Alec Selnes

Hometown:Grand Forks, N.D.

School: NDSU

Year: Junior

Major Finance

Place of Internship: Brandenburg Crew, Keller Williams Roers Realty

Internship Location: Fargo

Internship: Title Finance & Marketing Intern

Length of Internship: May – November 2016

Paid or Unpaid? Paid

Career Goal: Corporate Financial Manager or Strategy Analyst

Q: Why did you apply for the internship?

Alec Selnes: “My employer at the time didn’t want to work with my school schedule for the fall semester, and I got word from a family friend that the Brandenburg Crew was looking for an intern.”

Q: What were your primary responsibilities at the internship?

AS: “I was solely responsible for our team’s social media outreach. I organized a plan for daily marketing research, post-drafting and mass-marketing procedures. Aside from the social media marketing, my internship was primarily project-based. This is where my finance background came in.

“My team leader gave me projects, which included consolidating the team’s financials, revitalizing spreadsheets, conducting real-estate investment analyses, and creating absorption-rate charts based on the CMA (comparative market analysis), among many other things.”

Q: Where did you find the most value in the internship?

AS: “I was entrusted and given independence on many impactful projects. The fact that I could provide an impact using my own ideas and talents was very empowering for me and I’m thankful for it. In addition, I learned a lot about the real-estate market and am pretty sure I might actually know what I am doing when I buy my first home now.”

Q: From the employer’s perspective, what do you feel was most beneficial?

AS: “Considering I was the company’s first intern, I think it helped them recognize where a future intern might be able to fit into their company, in terms of determining expectations and responsibilities. Outside of employment structure, I also helped them increase their social media outreach by approximately 30 percent and provided a different perspective on the way they conduct their operations.”

Abby Braaten Fargo NDSU


Abby Braaten

Hometown: Wyndmere, N.D.

School: NDSU

Year: Senior

Major: Agricultural Economics

Place of Internship: Cargill

Internship Location: Raleigh, N.C.

Internship Title: Commodity Merchant Intern

Length of Internship: 12 weeks (May – August 2016)

Paid or Unpaid? Paid

Career Goal: Commodity trading or risk management

Q: Why did you apply for this particular internship?

Abby Braaten: “I had taken some commodity-trading classes in school and was really intrigued by what it looked like in the professional sphere and not just the academic world. I really loved seeing how I could apply what I’ve learned in school to making money and buying soybeans in the real world. And Cargill appealed to me because they have a really great internship program.

“They not only paid for my housing and my move out (to Raleigh), I also got to fly around to places like Indiana and Minneapolis to visit other parts of the business as well. The company treats interns well. It gave me good real-world experience to see if it was something that I really wanted to go into after college.”

Q: What appeals to you about commodity trading?

AB: “I like how dynamic and changing it is. No two days are the same. There’s a lot of risk involved and a lot of money that can be made or lost, and so I have to always be on my toes and stay aware. The excitement of the job really appeals to me.”

Q: What was a typical day like for you?

AB: “We managed five soybean-crush plants out of an office in the middle of the city in Raleigh. So we would start the day off by completing a position report. We would see how many soybeans we had at each place and how much soybean oil and soybean meal was in our stores. From there, I would make contact with customers so that they could put a face to the Cargill name. I’d ask them about their crops, how planting was going, and how much they planted because that gives us a better idea of how things will look in the fall and how many soybeans we’ll be getting in.

“I also talked to farmers quite a bit, and I would spend one hour each day with a senior merchant. They would train me on what the business does, and I would have daily quizzes. It was a lot of learning, and with each new thing I learned, I got to apply something else to my job and gain a new task.”

Q: Where did you find the most value in the internship?

AB: “The world of corporate agriculture was a little foreign to me. Growing up on a farm, I knew that my dad brought soybeans into the elevator, but that’s basically all that I knew. So it was really valuable to be able to see all of the different roles that people with a similar major to me had, and it gave me ideas of where I could possibly go with my career path.

“There was a wide range of ages in the office where I worked, and so it was neat to see how people had managed their careers, as well as how their skills led them to different roles. Some people moved up very quickly and other people were 55 and still in the same role they started in.”

Q: From the employer’s perspective, what do you think they got out of the internship?

AB: “I think my internship was kind of a 12-week test-drive of the job. I wasn’t committed to anything after that so it was kind of a mutual test run.

“From the beginning of the semester, I knew I would be evaluated weekly throughout my time there, and then at the end, they’d make a decision on whether they wanted to hire me full-time or not. So while it was an investment for them, financially, it probably is a much better return on their investment. If I’m bad at the end of my 12 weeks…”

Samantha Stark Fargo MSUM


Samantha Stark

Hometown: Wyndmere, N.D.

School: MSUM

Year: Senior

Major: Multimedia Journalism

Place of Internship: Spotlight Media

Internship: Location Fargo

Internship Title: Web Intern

Length of Internship: April – December 2016

Paid or Unpaid? Paid

Career Goal: Freelance Multimedia Journalist

Q: Why’d you apply for the internship?

Samantha Stark: “I’ve interned and freelanced for multiple newspapers and I’ve worked as an editor for MSUM’s student newspaper for five years.

“I realized I didn’t want to do another newspaper internship, being that the work environment at a newspaper is vastly different from that of a magazine. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I would pretend to be an editor of a magazine that I created out of continuous-form paper and cut-outs of my sister’s old Peoples and Cosmopolitans.

“I’ve always idolized the magazine-publication world and I knew I would need experience working at a magazine if I were to work for one after graduation. When I saw the opening for the web intern position at Spotlight and heard they sometimes promote interns to full-time positions, I couldn’t pass it up. Even if I wasn’t offered a full-time position after the internship, I knew the experience would broaden my résumé and hopefully help me land a position at a different publication.”

Q: What did you do on a daily basis?

SS: “More than anything, my internship has been a learning experience. As I mentioned, I’ve had other internships at newspapers that have strengthened my writing, design or interview skills, but none that have introduced to me an entirely different area of interest. I never realized I would actually enjoy working with websites and web content.

“When I was hired on as a web intern, my duties were to be a content writer. I had very basic web skills. As the year passed and the original web editor left her position, though, I assumed more and more of the web editor’s responsibilities and was required to learn more about web strategy and design than was originally expected. I work on Spotlight Media’s websites, mostly Fargo Monthly, Design & Living and the Spotlight Media home page. I do basic website maintenance, monitor visitor behavior by reviewing website statistics, upload magazine articles online, write original content, research the newest ways to strategize web posts to attract readers and so much more.

“I’m not limited to my job title, though. I’ve been able to do a variety of tasks throughout Spotlight. I’ve had the opportunity to help out others and learn far more than my job description. I’ve had articles published in Fargo Monthly magazine, taken photos for Bison Illustrated and have even worked with the sales team to design sponsored content. I try to help out others as much as possible because I enjoy doing a variety of tasks throughout my workday.”

Q: Where did you find the most value in the internship?

SS: “I valued having the opportunity to see the inner workings of a publishing company. From an initial idea all the way to distribution, I got to experience the step-by-step process of publishing a magazine firsthand.

“I got to network and collaborate with people I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet if it weren’t for my internship. I was able to work one-on-one with the editor of Fargo Monthly, someone who has far more experience and understanding of the magazine world than I. From that collaboration, I got a sneak peek into the obligations of being an editor, a job position I have always been a little interested in experiencing at some time in the future.”

Q: What do you think the employer got out of it?

SS: “From my understanding, help is always needed in the editorial room. Spotlight’s editorial team isn’t made up of a lot of people, which puts a lot of responsibility on the editors. Being able to take some of the minor duties, such as uploading the magazine articles to the websites, gives the editors extra time for more important tasks.

“The editorial team is always looking for story ideas. We had meetings where everyone threw out ideas and interns’ input is highly encouraged. I never felt I couldn’t speak up and, on multiple occasions, I was personally asked for my opinion.

“Another benefit was that they didn’t have to rehire and train a new web editor. Since the web editor before me left early on in my internship, they decided to train me for the position for the next year instead of rehiring an entirely new employee. It gave them the chance to really shape me into the exact web editor they wanted. Spotlight recently launched new websites so the original job description of the web editor position had to be restructured. I was able to give them insight into what I would want and have the skills to do. Now, after graduation, I’ll have a smooth transition into my first big-kid job.”

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Brady Drake is the editor of Fargo INC!