Food Industry Internships

Why are internships so important?

Education is a critical factor when employers are considering hiring new grads for entry level jobs however, after speaking with a number of employers in the food industry relevant work experience is the key to differentiating you from the competition.

In fact, the ‘Planning For Tomorrow’ committee (Guelph University) found that over 70% of employers in food said that their best new hires had completed an internship or coop–they possessed the relevant hands on work experience–enabling them to ‘hit the floor running’.

How Do You Gain Relevant Work Experience?

You’ve guessed it, co-ops and internships!

In addition, feedback from new grads who just got their first job in food confirmed that it was their internships that helped them get hired.  You can hear some examples of this on the My Food Job Rocks! Podcast.  It’s a great opportunity to listen to some people just starting out in their careers.

What you bring to the table–in addition to your formal education–proves to be the vital ingredient that leads to internships and subsequent job offers.  (Okay, enough with the food puns!)

Getting an Internship in Food & Beverage

Even though an internship is not a permanent position the hiring manager will still be looking for the best ‘fit’ and the person who can bring the most value in the time they are there.

Forward thinking hiring managers will be looking for interns who have the potential of becoming future employees. Internships are the perfect opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ for both you and the organization.

Beef up (that one was not even intentional) your resume by elaborating on your experiences.  Here are some insights from the hiring managers perspective;

  • Customer Service – highlight your experience working directly with the general public. Give some examples of dealing with difficult people and situations.  This demonstrates your communication skills and ability to convey your message and arrive at the desired outcome.  There are a variety of personalities in any organization, but especially food manufacturing.  Being able to communicate effectively with people of different ages and job functions is important.
  • Food Handling – highlight your experience in a restaurant or fast-food chain. Provide details of the training you received in food handling and a safe/clean work environment.  It doesn’t matter what company or which department–Marketing/HR/Operations/QA–food safety is the number one priority to any food or beverage organization.
  • Volunteering – all volunteer work is commendable and we all have different compelling reasons for giving our time. That said, if it relates to the food industry (food waste, breakfast programs for example) it highlights your passion and interest in the industry (plus some of the tasks you may be involved in–food handling/preparation–adds to your professional profile).

12 Tips to Rock your Internships:

Lauren Berger, author or the National Campus Best Seller, ALL WORK NO PAY: Finding an Internship, Building your Resume, Making Connections and Gaining Job Experience is a great resource for general advice on the subject of internships.  You can follow Lauren on Twitter.  Here’s our summary to set you up for success:

  1. Show up on time – Punctuality at the start of the day and being on time for meetings is so important.  It’s a measure of respect for other people’s time and your interest level.  Look the part too, dress appropriately for a new job, you can always adjust once you get to know the team and culture better.
  2. Identify your goals – Before you start decide what you want to get out of the experience.  It might be to confirm your interest in a particular job function, and if this is the case, make sure you talk to as many people in that role and absorb as much information as you can. Leave having achieved your goals.
  3. Take on challenges/projects – Don’t be afraid to say yes and figure it out later.  This demonstrates your willingness, enthusiasm and commitment.  This is no time to be a chicken shit (pardon my French) This will test your resourcefulness and ability to ask relevant questions.  The more you ask, the more you learn.
  4. Meet People – Introduce yourself to as many people as you can in different departments to learn what they do and how their role fits within the overall business.  It might be really uncomfortable and unnatural for you but approaching strangers, introducing yourself and making conversation is a great skill that you will use in the future.
  5. Find a mentor – Find someone in the organization who inspires you and who you can learn from. Â Here’s a great post to understand the importance of a mentor to your career.
  6. Feedback – don’t be afraid to ask for and hear constructive criticism.  Nobody is an expert when we start out and we all need to continue to learn in order to grow personally and professionally.  Asking for feedback is a great way to understand our strengths and areas we can improve on.
  7. Network – Build a strong network in your chosen industry.  Connecting with people now and building relationships over time will support your career, now and in the future.
  8. Be open-minded – you may be asked to work on a project that doesn’t initially interest you.  Someone might see something in you that you don’t see in yourself.  Open your mind to something you haven’t considered before.  Remember now’s the time to explore, learn and try new things.
  9. Treat it like a real job – give 100%! It’s only a short term assignment so what do you have to lose?  Never burn bridges as it might come back to bite you in the butt.
  10. Reflect on your internship – think about what you like and what you don’t like.  This is how you start to figure out what career path to follow after you graduate.
  11. Be grateful – showing gratitude to a person who has taken the time to help you is easy and free!  Manners never go out of fashion.  A ‘thank you note’ or email might result in an offer of future support which leads me to the last tip.
  12. Ask for a recommendation – you need all the support and leverage you can get when starting out in your career.  Never miss an opportunity to ask for a recommendation.  Lauren Berger provides great advice on asking for recommendations on this YouTube clip.

Gaining relevant work experience in your chosen industry is so important, getting the most out of your internship is one step closer to starting your career and achieving your professional goals.

If you are an intern (or have completed an internship) in a food or beverage company, we would love to share your story with our #FoodGrads, email me at or leave a comment below.

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