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."