Ag Career Day not just for seniors; offers networking, internships

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Ag Career Day, hosted Oct. 11 at the Bryce Jordan Center by the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State, was successful in helping students to polish their career skills, network and find internships with companies as early as their freshman year, according to organizers in the college's Office for Undergraduate Education.

This year's Ag Career Day attracted more than 130 company recruiters promoting job and internship opportunities in landscaping, environmental science, animal science, wildlife and natural resource management, food science and other fields. The goal of the event is for students to meet potential employers and find out what opportunities are available in their fields, even before they are ready to start their job searches.

"What we try to do for our students is to help them develop those skills and connections early on," said Richard Rateau, director of the college's Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services. "That way, when they're ready to start applying for jobs, they're reconnecting with people and companies they've met before, rather than just sending out stacks of resumes."

Rateau noted that not only does this approach make it more likely that students will get hired, but it's a much more comfortable experience for them. "The employers feel good about it, too, because they've had a chance to screen these applicants and get an idea of their qualifications," he said.

The Center for Experiential Learning and Career Services provides several workshops focused on professional skills such as resume and interview preparation, salary negotiation, and online presence and networking, as well as walk-in consultation services. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the center's resources and attend networking programs like Ag Career Day as early as their freshman year.

"Younger students may not realize that there are part-time jobs and internships in their fields available to them," said Rateau. "These are great ways to engage with companies you might want a career with and also find out whether the work is enjoyable for you."

The recruiters who attended Ag Career Day agreed. "I'm recruiting here at Penn State because I annually hire summer interns and students who do field research with me," explained Dean Collamer, a field sales agronomist from Growmark FS. "We are hiring for some full-time jobs, but that's not our primary emphasis today."

Eric Rotz, a human resources generalist with Turkey Hill Dairy, added, "What we do, as part of Career Day, is we actually have first-round interviews. Almost everybody we have taken over the last eight years for internships, we've gotten from Ag Career Day."

 
Ag Career Day 2016 - Lehigh Valley Zoo

McKenzie Shuler, a College of Agricultural Sciences alumna who secured her job as a zookeeper at the Lehigh Valley Zoo through Penn State's Ag Career Day, represented the zoo at the 2016 event.

Image: Penn State
 

Students who acquire internships from Ag Career Day find that these opportunities are extremely valuable, not just to gain experience or flesh out a resume, but because these internships often blossom into rewarding careers. Many of the company representatives at this year's Ag Career Day were returning Penn State graduates who had met their employers through the event.

Kylie Kiess, a sales coordinator for T.A. Seeds, graduated from the College of Agricultural Sciences in 2013 with a degree in agricultural science and a minor in agribusiness management.

"I think as a student, Ag Career Day is valuable, to start coming when you're a freshman to gain an understanding of the process of being a professional and introducing yourself to companies," she said. "And then as you get older and as you get closer to graduation, it's helpful to make those key connections — whether you're getting that job or not — and to get your name out there and understand different businesses," she said.

McKenzie Shuler, a zookeeper at the Lehigh Valley Zoo, met her current employer at the event. "I started out as an intern as a junior and then landed a full-time job at the zoo," said Shuler, who majored in animal science with a business focus. "I think Ag Career Day opens a lot of opportunities for Penn State students to explore different career paths."

Careers with companies in agricultural industries aren't limited to students in the College of Agricultural Sciences. While several jobs require a background in the agricultural sciences or natural resource management, there are also opportunities in finance, education, human resources, sales and more.

Ag Career Day 2016 - AgChoice Farm Credit

Sam Kulp (left), who graduated from Penn State in 2015 with a degree in economics and a minor in agribusiness management, staffed the Ag Choice Farm Credit booth at Penn State's Ag Career Day on Oct. 11.

Image: Penn State

Sam Kulp, who graduated from Penn State in 2015 with a degree in economics and a minor in agribusiness management, now works as a loan officer for Ag Choice Farm Credit.

"Even though I graduated through the College of Liberal Arts, I was able to find both an internship and a career through the College of Agricultural Sciences," he said. "Ag Career Day was extremely beneficial. I met with a number of different companies and was able to line up a number of interviews, which ended up turning into an internship that I had the summer after my junior year of college, and then full-time employment after I graduated. This was my ultimate career goal, to land exactly where I am right now."

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Last Updated October 21, 2016