In 2017, FFA alumna Beverley Flatt accepted a position as the content creation manager for Bayer Animal Health. She took a sabbatical from her 170-acre family farm in Nashville, TN, and moved to Monheim, Germany, for the role. Here, Flatt explains how FFA led her to a job with one of the largest agribusiness companies in the world and how you can pursue similar opportunities, too.
How did you become interested in agriculture?
I didn’t grow up in a farming family; my parents were high school teachers. In middle school, I babysat for a man who created spice mixtures for fast-food companies, and I thought it was the coolest job. He said that if I wanted a job like his, I needed to study food science. I signed up for agricultural education and was hooked.
How did your involvement in FFA shape your career path?
In college, I attended the State Presidents’ Conference in Washington, D.C. We had an audience in the White House, and I was selected to ask President George W. Bush a question. I asked, if he were in our position, what question would he ask? He said in seven years as president, he had never been asked that specific question and that great leaders ask great questions. After that, I thought about what careers would let me ask a lot of questions and ended up majoring in agricultural journalism.
Do you find yourself in a new full-time role, brimming with ambition, ready to take on the world but desperately in need of a plan for your career path ahead? The steps below can be a good starting point for those who want to map out their career path or those who would like to proactively find ways to stimulate growth and retention of great employees.
Recognize that everyone has their own list of duties and responsibilities. So even the best supervisors can’t commit as much time as they would like to your development. You have to take ownership of your career path discussions – based on your own interests and planning – and not rely on someone else to start the conversation.
Before you have any discussions with your supervisor, reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Assess which career paths within the organization interest you. Compare your perceived weaknesses with skills needed in the positions you aspire to. Identify those top skills you believe you may need to work on in order to even be considered. Make an outline of this assessment – maybe a clean one after your messy brainstorm – to prepare you to have a clear and succinct conversation.
Every internship has its challenges. Luckily mine had nothing to do with the people or the culture of the company, just adapting to the indoor work environment. Last summer I spent 32 hours a week walking through fields, seven hours driving my pickup between locations and two hours in the office working on reports. This summer I have spent majority of my work hours behind two computer screens and only make it outside for my walk during my lunch break. Both extremes from my internships have taught me what paths I would like to take for my future career. Reflecting on my experiences, I have more to share. Here are some tips for internship success I have learned along the way:
• If you don’t like business professional and would rather wear jeans to work – then you need to search for an internship with that type of company culture. Don’t be afraid to ask about the company’s work attire and culture in an interview!
A Veterinarian is a very popular and exciting career path, especially for those with a passion for animals. Samantha Tepley has been a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) since June 2018. She shares a little bit about what life is like as a veterinarian in Eastern Iowa.
What made you want to become a veterinarian?
I have always wanted to be in the medical field. As I had exposure to the veterinary field through my own pets I realized that being a veterinarian was the perfect combination of my love for the medical field and my passion for animals. After I started working in veterinary clinics during my summer vacations I knew it was the perfect fit for me.
What is a day in the life like for you?
I start seeing patients at 8:30 AM. After I have 2-3 appointments in the morning I perform any surgeries that were scheduled for that day, those can be anything from a spay/neuter to a mass removal to a dental procedure. After the surgeries are done I spend the rest of my day seeing patients. Some of them are sick and need to be seen because they aren’t feeling well and some of them come in for yearly wellness exams, vaccinations and testing. On the really exciting days I get to perform emergency surgery somewhere in the day. I stop seeing patients at 5:30 PM but I may be at the clinic later than that if I am tending to sick hospitalized or surgery patients or if I have to come in to see an emergency after hours.
Every college student knows how difficult it can be trying to maintain good grades, a social life, and a job. However, there are some serious benefits to juggling those challenging tasks, especially when one of those tasks is interning. Employers want to see that you can balance several different aspects of life at once and it also gives you the sense of how much you can really handle. Here’s why it may be beneficial to intern during the school year:
Interning during the school year helps keep a balance between work and school. Let’s be honest, when you only have one class at 9 am it can be hard to get up and get going but knowing you must go to campus because you have to work afterwards, helps motivate you!
Maybe you go home to help on the farm or want to spend a summer traveling abroad. But if you get stuck in a college town during the school year, check into interning for a company or organization in your area. There is nothing wrong with keeping your summer free to work back home and finding an internship for the fall or spring semester.
“The days are long but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin. Time (and hence, life) moves quicker than we realize. If we let life happen to us, we can look back and wonder, “What if?” or feel we let opportunity slip away. If we approach life with purpose and direction, we’re more likely to accomplish personal and professional aspirations. One of the best ways to do this is to have a clear plan that gives you direction, clarity of purpose and allows you to communicate with others what you aspire to achieve! To get started, create a five-year plan. Start at year five and work backwards, setting benchmarks by year or clearly defined goals.
o Know and invest in your strengths.
o Describe what experiences in your industry or organization you believe is important and realistic.
Growing up on the farm has its perks and its challenges. Growing up on a farm often leads to finding yourself so involved in the business that you may not leave or experience other roles. Writing a resume or talking about your experiences may have you drawing a blank. But farm experience is some of the best experience! Here’s how to draw from your experiences working on the farm while interviewing and secure a new role for yourself.
Farming involves being able to think and react in a short amount of time. When something goes wrong, you have to be able to improvise on the spot while remaining calm and executing the new plan safely. Equipment breaks down at the most inopportune times. So explain the time that a piece of equipment broke down and you had five minutes to make a decision on what the plan to fix it, whether that be driving to town or calling the local equipment dealer for spare parts. Talk about how you took initiative and developed a plan of action quickly in a moment of stress. This can also apply to a livestock emergency.
Planning to do an internship? You’ve probably heard some things over the years that might deter you. But to be honest, there’s probably not a lot of truth to those rumors. Check out these intern myth busts to get the real story.
Intern Myth #1: Interns do the grunt work.
Not all interns are just coffee runners like you might see in the movies. Most interns will take on numerous large projects to complete by the end of their internship. As well as advancing their career skills in several different areas.
Intern Myth #2: Internships are only in the summer.
If you are someone who has a hard time committing your warm summer days off of school to a job, then a summer internship may not be in your best interest. And it doesn’t have to be! Internships can take place during the spring and fall as well. The only downfall is that your internship might have to be limited to the hours between school and other commitments. Some students even take a semester off and work a full-time internship during the school year.
I fall into a unique age bracket where some people consider me to be a millennial and others consider me a member of Generation X, point being, I kept my first job out of college for nearly 13 years and that makes me a bit of an oddity. So, as you can imagine the choice to start exploring other opportunities was a daunting one. Speaking from my experience, below are some things to evaluate when deciding whether or not changing jobs is the right decision for you.
Are You Happy?
Honestly, this made the top of my list because just recently I ran into someone I worked with in my previous career who asked if I was happy now that I have made a career change. My guess is the question came from her assumption that I wasn’t happy which led to my decision to make the change I did. This seems like a fair analysis, but there are so many components of a career that can make you happy or unhappy. Leadership, job duties, compensation, etc.
According to the AgCareers.com Candidate Motivation and Behavior Survey, dissatisfaction with their boss or supervisor has a high level of correlation to the likelihood of that person changing jobs. The same question shows that satisfaction with coworkers appears to have less impact on employees searching for another job. I will say for me, this was one of the things that kept me happy for many years in my career. I felt committed to my teammates as much as I did my supervisors. But when you reach a point when you are no longer happy with the direction of leadership, your compensation, or the day to day tasks of your job, then it is probably time to explore a change.
Between high school and college, most students have served some type of leadership position. It can be difficult to shine in a job interview when several of the candidates have the same experience as yourself. So, what makes you exceptional? Standing out to employers may be simpler than you think.
Utilize Your Resources
Ask a previous employer or an organization you were involved in to send a recommendation letter to a future employer testifying some of your key strengths or positive work attributions.
You have probably already heard this one a million times but I will say it again. Building connections is so important to establish relationships no matter what industry you are in. Employers talk and references are key, so take the time to establish contacts with anyone in the industry.