Guest Blogger: Megan Karlin, Agriculture Future of America Marketing & Communications Manager
When it comes to whether or not your company should invest in Agriculture Future of America, I definitely have a biased opinion. However, when it comes to making the most of your relationship with us, I have the inside scoop.
For very nearly five years, I’ve immersed myself in listening to and telling AFA’s story. I’ve interviewed partners, participants and anyone else who would give me a few minutes. I’ve seen what works and what does not.
As I said, I’m biased when it comes to the question of financial investment; so, for the remainder of my time with you, let’s assume you do. That’s the first thing I would tell you. When you partner with AFA, you have a stake in the game. You’re committed to pursuing the opportunities I’ve outlined below. The first, of which, is to connect with our students.
Connect with Top Talent
The industry is hungry for talent. There is a war on human capital. You can say it a lot of different ways, but the reality is the same. Finding intelligent, reliable people is important for your business.
AFA understands the talent debacle. In the late 90’s we helped organizations develop internship programs that provided real value to both the company and the student. Today, we continue to make meaningful connections between companies and students. And we know our students are leaders because they’ve gone through a highly competitive selection process. When you interact with an AFA student, whether at the AFA Opportunity Fair (the career fair portion of AFA Leaders Conference) or at an AFA Leader Institute, you’re interacting with a student who has competed against their peers for a selective position. Because of our model, we don’t accept everyone who applies. We believe investing in students, who are talented, passionate and committed to agriculture and food, will better prepare leaders who will in turn better lead their peers. As our co-founder often puts it, a rising tide floats all boats.
Beyond the selection process, AFA students are committed to lifelong learning. Whether at our events or in your companies, AFA’ers are part of a culture of curiosity. AFA’s mission is to build bridges for young leaders to foster engagement and innovation in food and agriculture. AFA’ers believe in bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to your company.
Engage & Share Your Story
Be a part of our programs. This might be the most important thing I share. If you’re invited to send a speaker to a round table, do it. If you are asked to a reception, be there.
There’s nothing like a captive, hungry audience. Being part of AFA’s network affords opportunities to share your company’s story with bright young minds of the industry. Whether these individuals will be part of your company one day or one of your customer’s, these are the people who will make a positive difference for agriculture and food. Make sure your voice is one they hear. While standing on our stage may not always expose you to the largest number of people possible, it will put you in front of a valuable and engaged audience. These students applied to be here. They want to hear from you.
Support Future Leaders
No one gets anywhere on their own. Truly, we all are backed by many mentors, teachers and coaches. When I talk to our alumni about the difference AFA made in their career trajectory, they never forget your investments. They talk about the personal relationships they made with you as a professional. They also talk about the quality training that helped them better understand what it would take to be a professional. They trust the training because you said it was important.
Once they graduate and join your company, they notice how you keep investing in their development. Our strong belief in lifelong learning is the premise for the AFA Alliance, our program for young professionals. While you may have in house professional development, the Alliance is something unique. Because Alliance participants represent all areas of agriculture, the diversity of the group allows for greater creativity and innovation. It helps young professionals better understand their role in your company and in agriculture and food. While your young professional is honing their management skills at the Alliance, they also are gaining a greater appreciation for how your organization plays a larger role in the global marketplace.
Who is AFA?
For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of knowing AFA, we are a catalyst in the preparation of the next generation of agriculture leaders. We provide college students and young professionals with experiences and trainings that help them more clearly define their role in agriculture and food and be better prepared personally and professionally for that role. Learn more about us at www.agfuture.org.