Making the Match
by Cynthia Hoffman
It’s about exploring different opportunities. It’s about networking. It’s about finding the perfect fit. The Agri-Industry Career Fair allows students to search for internships and full-time positions that match their interests and their educational backgrounds. “You can attend a lot of other schools in the state and never have these quality-level employers walk on your campus and look for you,” says Jackie McClaskey, assistant dean for the College of Agriculture.
Finding the Fit
Horticulture student Robyn Downey was one of the students who found an internship at the career fair. Downey says she didn’t plan to attend the career fair because she had already completed the required internship for her degree, but Greg Davis, associate professor in horticulture, convinced her to go. “I wasn’t even actively searching for an internship, but got really lucky and found a company I liked,” she says. “I wanted to learn about water management and sustainability. The internship with Heads Up Landscape Contractors is a great opportunity for me to do that.” The landscape company, based in Albuquerque, N.M., hired four K-State horticulture students to be summer interns. Downey, Paula Chain, Matt Long and Matt Sorenson will gain experience in maintenance, sales, irrigation installation, troubleshooting, installing designs and other areas. Usually the company hires two interns, but this year they decided to hire more.
Human Resources Manager Grace Tackman says she was impressed with the K-State students. “We look for students with a good work ethic and integrity. That is what we are hoping to find in the students from the K-State ag program, ” Tackman says. “I found four really good students that I liked from K-State. Part of the reason we decided to enlarge the internship group is because we found so many students that we liked in Kansas.” Kyle Koehler, another horticulture student, also found an internship that matched his interests. Koehler says he became interested in Gardners’ Guild, a landscape company based in San Francisco, when they spoke to his landscape construction class. Koehler then attended the career fair to meet the spokesperson again and learn about its job opportunities. He says it’s easy to find a fit when you follow your passion. “Basically I wanted to know where they would put me,” Koehler says. “I told them my goal was to get a landscape architecture designation. The landscape architect needed an Making the Match Students and employers search for the perfect fit at the Agri-Industry Career Fair by Cynthia Hoffman We look for students with a good work ethic and integrity. That is what we are hoping to find in the students from the K-State ag program. — Grace Tackman, Human Resources Manager at Heads Up Landscape Contractors “ ” Katie Jones, animal sciences and industry student, right, talks with Tara Johnson, a MachineryLink representative. Photo by Jamie Sm idt College Closeup Kansas State Agriculturist Fall 2008 27 apprentice, so it sounded like a good fit for both of us.”
Trying it on for Size
While some students attend specifically to find a job, others want to explore the career opportunities available within the industry. Nicole Rezac had recently changed her major to agronomy and says she attended the 2008 Agri-Industry Career Fair because she wanted to learn more about positions available to someone with that major. “I’m a person who stresses a lot less if I know where I’m going to go. I like to have an idea of what I’m going to do and not just randomly take classes. This has helped me get some ideas of possible career options.” Although Rezac was only a sophomore, she says attending the fair was beneficial because now she knows what type of internships to look for next year and what businesses are out there. Students should attend career fairs regardless of their year in school, says Laura Boroughs, K-State alumna and Syngenta Crop Protection and Chemical Sales Representative.
“I think it’s important students attend all the career fairs they can,” she says. “The more times students get their name and face out there through employers, the more they are going to recognize them.” Boroughs met a Syngenta representative at the All University Career Fair in fall 2006 and then again at the Agri- Industry Career Fair in January 2007. “After I graduated in December 2006, I came back and attended the agriculture career fair,” Boroughs says. “The first connection with them in the fall didn’t result in a career opportunity, but it ended up being a good fit later on.” Part of her responsibility as a Syngenta sales representative is attending K-State career fairs and recruiting students similarly to the way she was recruited. Boroughs says students shouldn’t be discouraged even if a conversation at a career fair doesn’t lead to a job offer. “If you are not the right fit for a company, still continue to use that company as a resource because they have many contacts within the industry,” she says.
Facilitating the Fair
The Agri-Industry Career Fair helps students find positions that fit their passion, McClaskey says. It was created in January 2007 to meet the needs of some employers who are too small to attend the All University Career Fair and others who want to hire in the spring semester, she says. “We try to get the word out among member organizations or commodity organizations that may have members looking to hire just one person every now and then,” McClaskey says. “In addition to that, we try to focus on some of the horticulture and landscape companies that are only looking for one major.” Eighty four different companies attended the January 2008 fair according to Sharon Thielen, College of Agriculture academic programs coordinator. “I think the Agri-Industry Career Fair has been very successful.
The number of companies increased by 15 to 20 percent between year one and year two, and that happened in a time when everyone is talking about a recession,” McClaskey says. Thielen says the number of student attendees also increased from 374 students attending the fair the first year to 393 students attending the second year. “The numbers indicate success, but some of the employers have continued to communicate with me after the career fair, which is another sign of success,” Thielen says. Employers have asked Thielen to send out job announcements to different College of Agriculture departments. Thielen says all students should participate in the Agri-Industry Career Fair because it’s a good networking opportunity. “I have a lot of students that debate whether or not they should go,” she says. “The one thing I always tell them is the more networks you can make and the more people you can meet, the better off you will be down the road.”