The purpose of attending college for most students is simply to achieve a career goal that wouldn’t be possible without a degree. Some schools do much better than others at training and preparing students to take the subsequent steps after graduation. Regardless of where you went to college (or even if you didn’t), know that you are definitely not alone if you feel overwhelmed and underprepared for the “real world.” Finding the right job for you requires preparation, time, and proper resource utilization. Most of us know that you can find almost anything these days by searching online, but looking for something as important as your first job (or internship) may require more than just a search bar. Below are some tips from personal experience to help lead you in the right direction.
Internships are worth much more than college credit
The tips below can also be applied to finding internships, but internships themselves can be one of the best ways to get your foot in the door of a good company. In fact, some companies hire almost exclusively from their intern pool. Internships also provide a perspective of the company from the inside before accepting a full-time position. For these reasons, I recommend that current students pursue as many internships as possible throughout their college careers. There’s no better way to determine what you will (or of equal importance, won’t) enjoy doing long-term. The only downfall is that internships require planning well in advance of graduation. But fear not, recent graduates — there are many more ways to improve your odds in the job hunt.
Personal connection is invaluable
When seeking employment, it is often necessary to cast a wider net than just the internet. Talking to family, friends, professors, and professionals in agriculture is one of the best ways to learn about opportunities and get your name out there. The more people who know you’re looking for a job the better, because you may be the first person who comes to mind when they hear of an open position. Field days, training events, career fairs, etc. are also excellent places to speak with people in your desired field. If you’re the type of person who has difficulty approaching strangers and introducing yourself, try practicing on someone you already know and are comfortable with. Carrying extra resumes can help introduce you to potential employers as well, reducing your need for initial self-promoting.
Use the web wisely
Face-to-face networking has proved most effective for my friends and I, but by no means would I recommend ignoring the power of the web in your job search as well. Most job-seekers are likely aware of popular sites like monster.com, but other avenues may be more exclusive or tailored to you. For example, my alma mater has a network accessible only to current students and graduates in which employers can post open positions. This can be especially useful if your goal is to stay relatively local after graduation, since smaller and/or local companies may prefer graduates from your university over others. Websites such as LinkedIn can even lead recruiters to you if your profile adequately reflects your accomplishments and career aspirations. The internet is also a fantastic place to research potential employers, formulate questions for interviews, and find addresses to send thank you cards after interviewing.
Capitalize on organizations
Ever feel like the societies, clubs, or fraternities you belong to have been more cost than reward? Finding a job may be the point when the scales tip in your favor. These groups can tie in with the other categories described above if your organizations have websites, social media, etc. A simple post (don’t forget to attach or link to your information) may reach hundreds or thousands of alumni and current group members who could help you land a job. One tip from personal experience is that if your school doesn’t have an organization that fits your wants or needs (e.g. an agronomy club, graduate student society, etc.), start one! It’s a great resume booster, faculty usually show support, and odds are it will benefit you down the road.
Don’t despair! Important decisions take time
The tips in this article are far from all-inclusive, but rather meant as suggestions to hopefully reduce the stress of starting your career and point you in the right direction. More information will follow in subsequent articles, but I strongly recommend seeking help from those you trust and have experience in the career you are pursuing.
Please also understand that, for most people, finding the perfect career is a long and winding road. It can be easy to get discouraged or frustrated while searching for a job. It is also important to realize that your dream job may require additional time or effort — some may require graduate school, starting your own business, or getting experience elsewhere first. I feel that the best plan of action is to develop a specific, long-term career goal. This is hardest part for some people, and it is perfectly normal for this goal to evolve, or even change completely. However, only after you have a clear goal can you begin researching and taking the necessary steps towards achieving what it is that you want.
Spartan-state native Michael Swoish is a Michigan State alum who’s currently pursuing his Ph.D. in soil science at Virginia Tech. Michael has taught classes on precision agriculture and has traveled the country to get as much dirt time as possible.