This one goes out to all my college cowgirls! I remember the struggle of wanting to live my life on horseback and as close to the nearest rodeo performance as possible when I had to hole up studying instead. If you’re passionate about the rodeo industry, I have good news for you – you can totally make a career of it without having to make the NFR. But fair warning, it’s a lot of work and a ton more fun than any other internship you’ll find at the career fair.
For those of you who don’t already know, I interned in rodeo production through all four years of college at Iowa State University. I had the opportunity to work at the Junior High, High School, College and Professional levels of rodeo and experience a huge variety of situations. I wrote a blog post about this last year, but after going back to talk to ISU students about the rodeo industry, I wanted to give some new tips on what to expect. Let’s do it!
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
Let’s be real here – I’ve never heard of a rodeo organization setting up a booth at the school career fair. Heck, if we’re being really honest, there’s barely any actual “rodeo internships” available. The fact is, you’ll most likely have to make your own opportunities. If you don’t have much experience, start small. Volunteer to work for your local jackpot producer or stock contractor. My first experience was doing a work study under Marty Barnes of Barnes PRCA Rodeo Company. I literally parked my rig on his ranch for a week and just followed them around learning about their business and how they ran things. Sometimes you just have to make a call with an idea until someone says yes. Don’t be afraid to do that!
If you’re lucky enough to find a ready-to-work rodeo internship, it’s common for it to be an unpaid position. This isn’t uncommon for internships in general, but just be prepared to make your own arrangements. When I flew to Wyoming to work as a media intern at the CNFR, I covered my own flight and food. My hotel was comped, but everything else was on me. Just know, especially if you have to travel, you’ll want to plan a budget and save up cash for your trip there.
NOT EVERYONE KNOWS THE INDUSTRY.
One of the biggest shocks I had time and time again during my internships was how many people with no western background worked the rodeo. I used to get upset, since I, of course, wanted their job and was actually passionate about the industry. But – the truth is, they’re amazing at what they do. They don’t have to win buckles to prove their worth to our sport in marketing, graphic design, management, etc. Be ready to humble yourself and realize that it takes all kinds to put on the show that we love so much. I explained events, penalties and scoring systems a million times to my co-workers, but I ended up appreciating it more because of it.
FLEXIBILITY IS KEY.
You may have an idea of what you’re passionate about but don’t fence yourself into that box. I was SO bummed when I found out the marketing position I applied for at Rodeo Austin was filled before I got a chance. When they offered me an operations position instead, I wasn’t particularly excited, but I ended up seeing an ENTIRE new side to what goes into production. The more well-rounded you are, the more valuable you are to the industry. Don’t take seemingly unexciting opportunities for granted, just prepare yourself to learn.
USE BUSINESS TOOLS.
I’ve mentioned this tip so many times, but I just can’t stress it enough. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to have your stuff together. Keep an updated resume, have business cards made, take a headshot for your LinkedIn profile and have a list of references ready. It sounds extra when you look around at your colleagues who just slammed a resume together last night for their job interview, but it makes all the difference. Especially if you’re starting early in college or even high school – be as professional as possible. I made a business kit when I was eighteen and brought it to every western event I attended – it truly helped me into opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
If you’re looking for a rodeo industry job or internship, I hope these tips help you. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or Instagram and I’ll do my best to answer!