This June I had the good fortune of representing Organic Valley at the Wisconsin 87th State FFA Convention held in Madison, Wisconsin. Every year, FFA members flock to the Career Expo in hopes of learning about the many careers within agriculture. At the event, I shared my experiences as an intern at CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley and provided advice on improving as an agriculturalist. Here are a few tips that I shared with students and believe are important to a successful career in agriculture.

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Network, Network, Network

Networking is one of the most overused business buzzwords; however, I’ve listed it first anyway. Why? Because it is just that important. Not only is it a good practice to build positive relationships with the people around you, but in agriculture it can really pay off. Agriculturalists are notoriously social, and as a result the agriculture industry is extremely close-knit. Whether you’re trying to get your foot in the door, looking to move up in the ranks, or starting up your own business, a glowing recommendation can always help place you ahead of the pack.

Build a Narrative

Stories are powerful. They can convey personality, aptitude and beliefs. When you’re talking about yourself or your career, having a personal story sharing why you do things can be just as—or more—important as how you do them. Telling your story to an employer adds value to you as an individual and shows them how you would like to grow in the future. Plus, focusing on why instead of what or how is a great way to tactfully skirt the dreaded “What do you want to do with your life?” question at the next family reunion while still giving Auntie a thoughtful and meaningful answer.

Diversify Yourself

Superman is great at his job. From stopping bad guys to saving the girl, some days it seems like he can do just about everything. So why can’t you become your own career Superman or Wonder Woman? You don’t necessarily need to do every job, but maybe studying abroad comes in handy when you need your marketing campaign to reach internationally. Or maybe receiving a minor in computer science makes you irreplaceable in the research lab. The more roles you are able to integrate into your career, the better. Be sure to pick skills that make you dynamic and unique, and if Superman’s laser vision is an option, pick that too.

Be Ready for Opportunities

As you begin your career in agriculture, prepare yourself for all of the twists and turns that come along with the industry. You will be presented with new ideas and opportunities every day. When you find something that resonates with your career ideals, go for it! Be ready to take a chance when it comes time to pursue a new interest, internship or job.

After talking to the FFA members, I am thrilled to see where a career in agriculture could lead them. Their interest and enthusiasm is apparent, which makes it easy to be excited about the future of agriculture.

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