August 1, 2012


By James Keating, U.S. Grains Council Intern

As I finish out the last few weeks of my internship with the U.S. Grains Council I am uncertain about the impact it will have on my professional life in the long run. In the short-term, I know my friends, peers, and various professionals connected to the grains industry will constantly throw questions at me in order to probe my experience. To be honest, I am not sure what my responses will be but typical when I try to explain things regarding a specific experience my “go-to” play is to bombard asking parties with metaphors.

Entering undergrad I quickly realized that high school had done little to prepare me for college life. That isn’t a knock against my high school or the high schools complex in general; it is just a simple fact. Sure my teachers discussed what college work will be like, what professors expect and so on, but the reality is you just simply can’t acquire experience through second-hand discussion. High schools now incorporate distance learning and other types of courses that students can take for college credit, these courses have the aim of allowing students to gain direct “college” experience, but even that impact is minimal at best. No amount of distant learning classes can possibly prepare students for all the complexities of social and professional life at the university level, you just have to jump into the deep-end and paddle for life until you figure out how to swim, and the sad reality is that a major portion of the population drowns trying or never even jumps in. My point is, maybe high school gave me the skills to do the doggy paddle, but I certainly didn’t enter undergrad doing the butterfly Michael Phelps style. I would use the same metaphor to explain the transition from undergrad into the professional work force.

Sure my college coursework forced me to acquire the skills to know how to research, think critically and to talk for days about various political issues like human rights, politics in Latin American, international relations, etc… but there was no “U.S. Grains Council” course I could have enrolled in to gain experience, I had to just jump in and do my best in an unfamiliar environment. It is like playing minor league baseball for a few years and now all of sudden I have to try to play every day in the big leagues. My point being that the potential is there, but it is raw talent and the unfortunate consequence is that weaknesses will be exposed and you are bound to fail along the way no matter how much hype there is. Of course I wish I could say I hit everything out of the ballpark, and perhaps my naivety let me think that was a possibility.

Sure I made a few great plays, but I certainly had some errors that have highlighted holes in my game, and to be honest, that is without a doubt the most rewarding part about an internship. I will return to the University of Nebraska-Kearney for my final semester with a really great understanding of what areas I have to improve on if I want to be a mainstay in the “big leagues”.

P.S. Being my last blog post as USGC/NCB intern, I have to take a moment and express gratitude towards the people who have made this rewarding experience possible. First of all, the Nebraska Corn Board’s commitment to young people is outstanding. They have sent interns over the years to various cooperators who have nothing but great things to say about their Nebraska interns. The NCB takes extremely good care of their aspiring young professionals. In conjunction, the U.S. Grains Council allowed me to join their ranks out of good faith and I will always have nothing but good things to say about all of my colleagues and I will think fondly about many of them for the rest of my life. USGC both praised me in good times but has allowed me to see areas that I need to improve before I am ready for the real world and that is the greatest part about this experience. I wish I could say I hit a home run for them every time, but just letting me be a part of their team was big leap forward for me and my career aspirations.
The U.S. Grains Council is hosting James Keating of Ogallala, Neb., as their first summer intern supported by a partnership between the Nebraska Corn Board and USGC. James is a senior in political science at the University of Nebraska – Kearney. He will be working with policy, assisting with international trade teams and helping to develop promotions and international relations.

1 comment:

  1. James - Great post. Life is full of great plays and errors, for veterans and rookies alike. The good ones in all phases of their career learn and grow from both.