Dominating Your Internship – “How A Summer Internship Changed My Life”

Dear Readers: In lieu of reading this post, you can view the embedded video (bottom of post).

Welcome, and thanks for joining me here. In this post, I’m going to give you some context around why I wrote the STRAIGHT TALK GUIDE titled, DOMINATING YOUR INTERNSHIP, by sharing a personal story about How a Summer Internship Changed My Life.


Early in 1976, I applied and was accepted into Iowa State’s Engineering College. Since I liked to fix and build things, engineering seemed like a good path for me.

My Early Years

In my first semester, I declared mechanical engineering as my major. As it turned out, I was one of the lucky ones who chose a college degree path and stayed on it until graduation.CollegeStudying

My first few years of college were not easy, at all!

Poor high school study habits, coupled with farming at home for a year after high school, put me in a tough spot when it came to classroom and test performance.

Fortunately, I finally eased into a routine that allowed me to become a relatively successful student (academically), but I realized about 2 1/2 years in that there was a piece missing.

I had learned from the Career Services center, and heard from a few engineering friends, about something called an internship.

The Missing Piece: An Internship or Co-op 

After investigating and learning more about internships, and the companies that offered them, I knew an internship was something I wanted to pursue.

In fact, I had learned from Career Services about a program they called cooperative education, which meant you would have multiple work sessions with a single employer.

A co-op position was what I decided I really wanted, so I signed up on the campus interview schedule with two companies, Caterpillar and John Deere. I had heard excellent things about both companies and they fit my interest in doing hands-on work with mechanical equipment.

The Interviews

The Caterpillar interview came first, and it didn’t go very well.CatLogo

In fact, I was very disappointed with myself for not being as prepared as I should have been.

In addition, I made the mistake of going off on a tangent during the interview. That’s a story for another day and another STRAIGHT TALK GUIDE, but suffice it to say that I used my poor performance with Caterpillar as a kick in the butt to get ready for the interview with John Deere.

Preparation for John DeereIMG_9417

As part of my preparation for the John Deere interview, I visited with a human resources manager at the company where my dad worked as an engineer. My goal was to get some specific advice about interviewing.

A key thing the HR Manager shared was to make sure I was prepared to talk about “hands-on projects” that I had worked on and problems I had solved.

Since I hadn’t done any hands-on projects yet as an engineer, I applied his suggestion to the past work I had done on the farm.OffToCollegeCropped

Without too much trouble, I wrote up two to three examples of past problems I had solved by designing and building things in our farm shop.

I also gathered a few photos I had taken of the completed projects.

For example, at right is a motorcycle carrier I built and integrated into the back bumper of my pickup truck.

The Pay-OffEngineWorks

Fortunately, my extra preparation paid off in the interview with John Deere. Afterwards, they came back with an offer for a summer internship at their diesel engine manufacturing plant in Iowa.

Although I had really wanted an offer for a co-op position, I accepted their internship offer and ended up having an excellent three months there in the summer of 1979.

Woo Hoo! A Co-op Job

As the summer session was coming to a close, the student coordinator in HR came to me with another job offer, but this time it was for a co-op position.ISUGrad

As you can imagine, I was thrilled and immediately accepted the co-op offer. I ended up working a total of four more 3-month long sessions over the following three years.

Then prior to graduation in 1982, I accepted John Deere’s offer to become a full-time engineer at their diesel engine plant.

My start there in June of 1982 was the beginning of what became a very satisfying 25-year career with John Deere.

I’m A Lucky Guy For SureEngineer

I consider myself to be a very lucky guy.

As I’m writing this, I still have to pinch myself as a reminder that this is all true. That a somewhat shy kid from rural Iowa would end up spending most of his working life with one of the world’s leading and most respected equipment manufacturers.

And just think, it all started with a single summer internship!

Internships Are A Must

Can you see now why I’m so high on internships?

This is also why I’m so excited that you’re here reading this post, and hopefully are reading the GUIDE too. It tells me that you’re interested in making some amazing things happen during your upcoming internship.

So kudos to you for earning an internship offer, and accepting it.

Now let’s go to work together in the remaining GUIDE chapters to make your internship a remarkable experience for you, for the company, and for everyone you come in contact with during your intern session.

 If desired, you can view this entire post in the video below:

Question: What type of  experience do you have as a STEM intern?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Note: This post is a chapter from my 57-page, FREE how-to STRAIGHT TALK GUIDE titled, DOMINATING YOUR INTERNSHIP. On this page, you can learn more about the GUIDE, watch a short summary video and request a FREE downloadable copy.



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