Jennifer Badger works as Agricultural Marketing Specialist for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture in Columbia. She has been in this role for nearly a year, but she has been working in agricultural marketing since August 2012. In this interview, she shares a bit about her career path as well as advice for young ag marketing professionals.
What made you interested in this career path?
I became interested in this career path in high school while taking marketing and agricultural vocational classes. I was very involved at my local Brevard, NC FFA chapter so upon graduation I left to study Agricultural Business Management at North Carolina State University. Marketing came more naturally to me than accounting or economics, which were also parts of my business degree, but that fact coupled with my involvement on the yearbook staff at the high school and collegiate levels, I just enjoy the communication and marketing side of ag business more. These subjects along with agricultural science classes are all very important to my current job, but I really enjoy the personal connections that ag marketing establishes.
What is a day in the life like for you?
Like many jobs, most every day is different for me. Being a part of so many different organizations within the Department, I do a lot of multitasking. In the course of one day I might attend a SCNLA board meeting, post to Facebook for SCSFA, send some emails and make calls recruiting Certified SC members for upcoming events, help a coworker unload their car from an event, and drive to visit one of our Certified Roadside markets for an inspection. I have never been bored at work and I love it that way. Each day I get to wake up and help promote the agricultural industry in SC, which is a role that I have aspired to be in since my early days in high school.
What skills do you think that someone should possess to work in an agricultural marketing career?
Based on my experience, it is very important as an ag marketing professional to have all of the knowledge that you can about your product or service. I get a lot of phone calls and emails throughout the day and I always feel as if I have really served the person on the other end if I am able to fully answer their question and not transfer them to another department or get back to them when I know the answer. There’s no shame in asking questions – I did a lot of that my first few months, but it is also important to know what you’re talking about and know your industry.
That brings me to my second skill, which isn’t really a skill but a habit that one should form which is: reading the news. As previously mentioned I talk to a lot of people over the course of the day, many of them being elderly farmers who watch a lot of news and like to talk about what is happening in the world. It is important to be able to make conversation with these people, but being in such an ever-changing and I would say somewhat controversial industry it is important to know the latest news and science behind hot-button topics like GMOs, antibiotic use in animals, as well as others.
Aside from those two, I think it is also important to have an outgoing and confident personality, or at least be able to “turn it on”. I think of myself as a mix between extrovert and introvert, so before trade shows or events sometimes I have to psyche myself up to be as involved in conversation as possible. Ag marketing is about spreading news and information about your products and services, so it is important to be confident and knowledgeable about them, be able to answer any question, and really relate these facts to whom you’re speaking with.
If you were talking to someone who wanted to be an ag marketing professional, what kinds of special training would tell him or her they need?
Aside from taking as many marketing classes with their degree as they can, I would say that experience is what got me my first job. Holding a marketing internship for the duration of my college career, I had a good portfolio of work examples and experiences to speak about in my interview. The main advice I would give would be to work as a marketing intern and keep a journal about what you do everyday. Even if it is just a bulleted list, this will help you remember what you did day-to-day and make it easier when you’re applying for a full-time marketing job in the resume and interview preparation.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I love that I get to utilize concepts that I learned over the course of my college career into my everyday job. I get to leave my desk to visit farms, hangout with farmers, and as Executive Director of the Specialty Food Association, I get to eat a lot of really great food as well as spend time with some of the most creative, driven entrepreneurs in the Palmetto State.
What are the challenges of your job and the not-so-fun parts that people wouldn’t expect?
One challenge for me has been that I am not a Clemson fan and I am not a Gamecock fan; I’m a part of the Wolfpack. Moving states has definitely been an adjustment, and being the only NC State grad in the office, I’ve begun watching more SC games just to be able to converse with coworkers at the water fountain. That seems very trivial, but for someone who just graduated college NC State is still a large part of my identity, and not being able to share that with anyone can be tough. It is also a challenge being the youngest person in the office – I’m even younger than the graduate student intern. I think that being young, people think I may not be capable of all that I am, so it is a rewarding challenge when I prove that I can keep up with the seasoned marketers in the office.
What would surprise someone to know about your job?
People would be surprised to know that about once a month I am featured on live TV! The SC ETV has a program with SC Cooperative Extension called Making It Grow, and I alongside one of my Specialty Food Association members are featured regularly preparing meals and sharing recipes using their products. It is a lot of fun!
See links to Jennifer’s videos here:
What advice do you have for aspiring ag marketing professionals?
If I had to go back five years and give myself, an aspiring ag marketing professional, advice I would say this: Networking is everything. I look back on my time at NC State and how many times professionals in the industry visited my classroom, or free networking events were held on campus, and how much more I could have done to build relationships with those people that would one day influence whether I heard about a job opening or not. If I could go back I would make a more concerted effort to make a good first impression upon these individuals and to maintain a relationship with them at least until I graduated and found a job, hopefully afterward as I entered into a part of the ag industry as well.
Find careers in ag marketing on AgCareers.com.