At some point, I crossed the threshold from being ‘recently graduated’ to a full-blown alumni. It’s a little surreal, being invited back to Career Week to impart ‘wisdom’ when I’m still seeking it wherever I can find it myself. Nonetheless, these events always offer a chance to reflect on what you’ve learned and how far you’ve come. Here are my big three pieces of advice for today’s Aggies (or any undergrad) + one bonus from my friend, Rebecca.
1. Do something different.
You might be absolutely positive about the industry you want to work in, but even if you are passionate about nothing else, try to work outside it, just once. If this seems scary, then start by taking some courses that interest you but might be completely unrelated. As one of my coworkers and fellow speakers this evening put it, “college is your time to explore.” Try summer jobs or course subjects that seem intriguing but your practical, ‘left brain’ tells you are not ‘good experience’. Everything is an experience from which you can learn, related or not. This is probably my biggest regret. I was so set on my destination, I missed the scenery along the way… trips to Belize, history class, College Pro Painters. All experiences I regret missing.
2. Ask for opportunities.
For as many jobs that are posted, there always seemed to be just as many that are not. If there is a particular industry, firm or role you’re interested in, seek out someone to talk to and ask about the opportunities that exist for summer students or recent graduates. They may not be hiring, but they may know someone who is and if you’re particularly driven, they may even create an opportunity for you. What’s the worst thing that can happen?
3. Get your hands dirty.
I don’t know how many tires I shined. In fact, I wore Eau d’Armorall for an entire fall. Luckily, I was never in one place long enough to worry if it was offensive. My point is, we all started there with the ‘dirty jobs’. The boss doesn’t care what you know (because honestly, you actually know nothing) but really wants to see if you’re willing and a team player. It’s a test of character no one teaches you in a textbook. These days, those stripes are no easier to earn but far fewer seem willing. Roll up your sleeves and pitch in. I guarantee it will not go unnoticed. Too few young people think they graduate to be the CEO. The lyrics are for a reason; “We started at the bottom now we’re here.”
Get to know your classmates.
More-so in a tight-knit industry, agriculture obviously being the example, there is a strong likelihood you will not only work with, but work for, support, collaborate with the people sitting around you in those AGR classes. Make an effort to get to know as many of them as you can. Down the road you’ll not only be a hero when you know “X” at “that company” and can call them up, but you’ll be relieved you remember their name when you stand behind them in the lunch line at the farm show.