Monday, March 7, 2011

Young People Preparing for a Career in Agriculture

Submitted by Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, Council for Agricultural Science & Technology

Yep, that would be me, along with the other 29,299 students expected to graduate this year from a U.S. College of Agriculture. Sitting here thinking about the future, I notice a small paper hanging next to my desk at work. It bears the USDA emblem and 5 simple words, “Never Let Your Dreams Falter.” I look at it and think back to what it took to get me here today.

It was mid-December, and the end of my first semester at Iowa State University. Just a few days prior I had responded to a posting on the college job board, and so here I was, walking to my interview. Google Maps told me it was just a measly seven-minute drive, a walkable distance I thought, especially for someone unfamiliar with the CyRide bus system. After covering two hills, five blocks, and nearly the entire ISU campus, I began to think I was set-up. It took me nearly an hour to cover that 3.1 miles in the dead of winter, but I made it, and got the job. On that first day at CAST (Council for Agricultural Science & Technology), I hung up a small symbol that reminds me still today to focus on the road ahead, and never let my dreams falter.

My advice for students is to stay informed. You can’t “talk the talk” or “walk the walk” if you’re out of the loop. I encourage students to embrace social media and utilize their Facebook and/or Twitter to follow industry-wide news, and gain a voice by engaging in these thought-provoking discussions. As agriculturalists, it is critical that we are able to see both sides of an issue and distinguish fact from fiction. Knowing where to find credible information is key. Take the opportunity to join a professional organization, network with industry leaders and find unique internships. These sorts of experiences will help catapult you to the career you’ve always dreamed of.