We asked our former interns about their CLM Internship experiences.
Here's what they shared!
How did your experience as a CLM intern help you achieve your career goals?
Although I'm still exploring my career goals, my internship played a pivotal role in broadening my interests as an aspiring conservationist. I have a lot more experience doing wildlife and soil surveys, which are now of interest as professional careers.
In terms of career goals, I learned this is what I would look for in a job: one with a sense of purpose, one aimed towards biological conservation, and a place that understands the importance of good community data. The internship showed me what I could become in time, and what steps I should pursue to get there.
It has stabilized the fact that I would like to go to graduate school to further my education in plant conservation and restoration. When I first started in the CLM internship (in 2016), I knew I wanted a career in botany, but did not know how to hone down my interest. With a few years of CLM experience under my belt, I am more confident in myself that I would like to continue in conservation biology or land restoration, and I am not sure I would have known that before this internship.
I learned what I liked/didn't like about working for a federal agency. I gained insight into the intricacies and challenges of land management, and developed a clearer idea of how I could pursue a career/find a niche in federal land management.
This internship certainly showed me the many aspects and routes you can take to have a career in botany. I was able to meet and/or work with people in a variety botany careers from BLM Botanist positions, USFS Seasonal Crew and botanists, The Nature Conservancy, Cooperative Weed Management Areas, watershed groups and ecological consulting organizations.
The internship opened my eyes to the different routes I can take in my career.
I feel so much more clear around what my career goals are. The opportunity to go to the training I went to was incredibly impactful and enriching to what I want to be working towards.
This internship has given me a great introduction and new found passion in conservation and plant ecology and has elucidated what I would want to study in grad school. For that I am whole-heartedly grateful.
Yes it gave me clear insight into how the BLM works as an agency as well as the roles within. It also provided a bigger picture of how non profits, private industries, and local government agencies are all interconnected to the federal agencies.
I lived my dream for 6 months. It definitely helped me figure out my true career path and that I may need to go to graduate school to be competitive in the positions I am interested in.
I never really thought to look into forestry with the federal government before. Even though I don't for sure yet know what my long term career goals are, I am definitely more aware of my options and my own capabilities.
The experiences I gained (GIS, botanical skills, remote field work; resource planning and conservation work) made me very competitive for other jobs. Every job I applied to, the employer was impressed by my diversity of experience in the CLM program. I had 10 solid new skills coming out I could list on my resume.
The CLM internships were invaluable to my professional development. I am so glad I was able to gain exposure to natural resources fields through CLM. I see even more clearly now how difficult it is to break into highly sought-after government technician positions. I bypassed much of the specialty education and experience required for those positions by having CLM internships on my resume.
I gained valuable skills to put on my resume that led to my current employment with the USGS, including evidence of basic skills such as my ability to work a flexible schedule when conducting field work and tolerate difficult field conditions with a positive attitude.
Getting field experience is always a good thing. Being a CLM intern helped me decide what direction I'd like to go in my career. People find my internship very interesting, which I think has helped me in job interviews.
The connections I made during my CLM internship directly led me to the job I have now
Gave me hands on experience and training in vegetation and wildlife monitoring, GIS, working on a field crew, data management, and working for a federal agency. More specifically, I had no wildlife monitoring experience before this position (just veg monitoring, botany, etc.). I had probably 5 days out of my entire internship that were devoted to wildlife monitoring but it was enough to catapult me into my next position which was leading a team of sea turtle surveyors on a wildlife refuge. The encouragement of my colleagues and mentor in gaining these new experiences were invaluable in my next employment opportunities. It was important to me that I was able to eventually cross over to wildlife oriented career opportunities to gain a better understanding of natural resource conservation and the internship helped me gain the skills I needed to make that transition.
The experience in land management was crucial since I was unsure if I wanted to pursue a career in land management or ecological research. This gave me the experience necessary to make a decision. Even though I chose research, the experience with land management was even more helpful since I want my research to have land management implicatications.
What made a positive impact on your personal and professional development?
The variety of work training in rare plant monitoring, assessment inventory and monitoring, and educational outreach, have allowed me to explore a variety of ecology career paths within government and nonprofit agencies. In addition to this plethora of cross training, I have developed my network within the Ecological Restoration Society by attending and participating in two conferences over the course of my internship. These experiences alone have provided tremendous growth in my career yet they only begin to describe the constant exploration of ecology careers that I have had the luxury of experiencing.
The mentors were the biggest impact with gaining experiences at a federal agency being a close second. I was very fortunate to be placed with the mentors I did, their patience to help me understand certain aspects of work life and their willingness to share their vast knowledge with me were invaluable. Gaining a better understanding of how the Bureau of Land Management works in the western US was invaluable as well, being given the chance to work with multiple public stakeholders and communicate with fellow agencies in the work being conducted on the ground was positive all around.
The connections I made from the other interns, my mentor, and other people in the office really made a positive impact on me personally and professionally. They helped me learn a lot about myself and how I operate in a professional space. Lastly, the wonderful state of Wyoming definitely had a positive impact on me. I had spent a lot of time there before the internship, but to be immersed in it was something else.
All of the people I met, both interns, mentors, and co-workers, are inspiring people. We have similar interests: keeping nature pretty natural... And despite a love for getting muddy or dusty, are able to pull ourselves indoors for office work. I guess you could call it a passion to do the right thing, or the best things we can, that pushed me to focus more, and study more.
I learned how to work with a large team of diverse individuals to solve difficult and, at times, unforeseen challenges. We were given a lot of freedom with our day to day operations, which allowed us to come to our own decisions, and I felt like I gained a lot of confidence in my decision making ability -- and problem solving ability!
I'm currently a phd candidate, studying plant community ecology in grasslands. I chose to do a CLM internship in between completing my undergraduate work, and starting grad school, and I think that it was a perfect transition for me. While working with my mentor in Utah I got a chance to improve my plant identification skills, learn new techniques for monitoring plant populations, and spend some time thinking and learning about the biology of the great basin. My mentor was an extremely skilled botanist and geologist, and hearing him talk about how the geology of an area shaped the plant communities inspired me think a lot more deeply about the ecology of the region and it left me with a lot of questions about how different processes interact to shape and assemble plant communities. I am now pursuing a career in ecological research so I can try to answer some of those questions.
I was exposed to a fast-paced, productive environment where there was room to show creativity, knowledge, and independence. It was a great opportunity to gain skills with leadership and teamwork.
Too many things to count. Conducting independent work in a new environment built problem solving and leadership skills, while having abundant guidance and resources quickly built up my general knowledge and confidence in my work.
CLM was an amazing experience, I got to meet people from all over the country and explore habitats different than the one I grew up in. It was an adventure and I feel like I grew as a person from participating in this program.
With the many experiential education opportunities, I became a better leader. I gained experience in many important realms including field work, data management, communication, and public speaking.
I worked within a team of interns, which is always a great way to figure out how to work effectively with different kinds of people, how to communicate, and to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are.
The amount of fieldwork and travel with this particular internship was often challenging, but those challenges made me grow as a person and I made some really great friends and connections (with people and plants) along the way.
The internship challenged me to be more flexible and adaptable while meeting goals, which was a very good skill to practice. It has also made me a better communicator.
I was able to meet new people and experience new places. I lived in small towns where people were significantly different than what I grew up with.
I loved living in small-town Wyoming and getting to know the people, plants, animals, and landscapes of a little-known part of the country. After working in Buffalo for eight months I've become passionate about rural land use and conservation issues, community-based conservation, and grassroots sustainability efforts. I hope to live in a town like Buffalo and work for an organization that works to navigate and address public land concerns at a local level, and I would not have developed this interest had I not served as a CLM intern.
I miss the work and the people! I couldn't have asked for a better first job out of college that really set me on the right path moving forward with a career in botany.
What advice do you have for future interns?
Take initiative. Be positive and try everything at least once.
For future interns I would recommend taking a leap of faith if they don't know the area. That's part of the fun. Let go of previous perceptions of what the area may be, and be open minded to how the internship will go, who you will meet, and what the culture will be like. That, and reach out to other folks in the office for projects, help, advice, etc. I think front-loading that in your conversation with your mentor beforehand, to make sure they are willing to help you do that, is equally important. They should be supportive of you creating different experiences and networking with other folks.
Ask questions, look for projects that can help the field office run more efficiently, strive to do everything 110% and don't complain, just do the work you are given and eventually they will realize you can do more and invite you to help with bigger projects. Network, talk with the field office manager, associate field office managers, any all of the section/branch chiefs across all disciplines (Go talk to Oil and Gas Folks or come talk to resources).
Future interns should take advantage of all of the professionals in their offices to network and cross train in whatever fields they can. Trying out careers for even just a day can give you insight into the work flow of those positions and refine your career trajectory to fit your needs.
Don't be discouraged to apply if you don't think you have enough skills yet. The internship is there to help you gain skills. Go in with an open mind, willingness to learn, and positive attitude and you can do anything!
If you remain present in the moment, look forward at the impact you’re going to create, and do everything in your power to separate yourself from any anxiety you may experience, you’ll discover you’re more capable than once believed. Those around you will help you in the process, and will definitely offer a hospitable hand in a time of need.
It can be very overwhelming to relocate to small towns in the West where the culture can be extraordinarily different than your own; stick with it though, and you'll learn and experience more than you'd ever thought possible, meet incredible people, and grown so much as a person.
Be open-minded & seek adventure in everything you do.
Keep an open mind, talk to everyone you can, volunteer at every opportunity.
If there is something that peaks your interest (i.e. work another person/crew is doing), don't hesitate to ask to join them for a day. Don't skip out on training, Chicago or alternative. It is a great opportunity learn new things, meet new people, and make many connections.
Work hard and never say no to any job opportunities. My resume expanded beyond belief and my supervisor recognized that.
Be open to new experiences. You might find out something totally new that you like (or figure out you don't like something which is also important). Actively make your own path by pursuing the things that interest you by telling your mentor what skills and experiences you want to gain. Enjoy field work and adventure while you are young because you will likely be stuck in an office more than you want to as your career develops. Work hard so you get things done and can enjoy yourself when you are not working.
Take advantage of whatever access to people and resources you get while working as an intern. Think of it less as a job and more like a chance to work with an expert and learn as much from them as you can. Don't be afraid to approach your mentor and discuss the kinds of skills you'd like to develop and the experiences you'd like to have before completing your internship.
Don't be nervous and make sure to step outside of your comfort zone. This internship is one of a kind and can expose you to possibilities you may never have considered.
Try to treat difficult situations as opportunities to grow and show your worth. There are lots of chances to take risks and be successful in the federal government. You will stand out if are able to recognize those situations and respond appropriately.
Natural resources tends to be a 'small world' field, so keep in touch with everyone and make lots of new contacts! It's always a good idea to keep the next step in your career in mind, and lots of contacts will help you with that.
Don't turn down an offer because its far away from home. Moving to the other side of the country will change your whole perspective and broaden your view of the world.
Keep pursuing your dreams, no matter what. It may take time to build your resume and get where you want to be, but patience and persistence is a MUST and everyone starts out as a fledgling. You'll get there eventually. Also, do what you love and find meaning so you'll never "work" a day in your life!