The First Year After Graduation: What Next?
It seems like a simple enough formula: get good grades in high school so you can get into a good college or university, and if you work hard and get a solid GPA, amazing career opportunities will present themselves. That was the impression I was under, anyway. I kept my nose to the grindstone all throughout university and going into my last year, I had already started to look for jobs. I wanted to find the best opportunity and I felt that I would have the best chance to do so if I started to look early. But, after nearly one hundred resume submissions and so few interviews that I could count them on one hand, I was still jobless. After months of job hunting and with graduation looming just around the corner, I had become discouraged. What had gone wrong? I was on the Dean’s List, and had plenty of awards and extracurricular activities to beef up my resume. I went through the difficult process of earning the Certified Crop Advisor designation. I had taken summer jobs relevant to my field to build work experience. But, without much to speak of in terms of full time work experience, my resume started to feel a bit like this:
What I have learned over my first year working in the agriculture industry is that there tends to be a lot of turnover. People tend to move around between companies to try something new or capitalize on a better opportunity fairly often. So, there were probably a ton of applicants that had ten or twenty, maybe even thirty years more experience than I did, for positions that I was technically qualified for on paper. As a new graduate with little to prove my abilities, it’s easy to understand that I would be the riskier option compared to an applicant with a lifetime of experience. I was confident in my qualifications and knew I would make every effort to be successful; I just had to keep applying until I found an employer willing to take a chance on a rookie.
I ended up having the opportunity to take another summer job after graduation, which bought me four more months of job searching. Just as the summer was wrapping up, I accepted an offer for a full-time position that was just what I was looking for... but, it was an hour commute each way. I was able to make this work for a couple of months, but two hours of driving each day and astronomical fuel costs meant that my job search would have to continue. Nearly 8 months after finishing school, and 15 months after starting my very humbling job search, I finally found a job that was a great fit for me only ten minutes from home. I’ve been at that job for nearly a year now, and the learning curve has been steep; although I felt very well-prepared by my education and summer work experience, there was still so much to learn.
The moral of my story is that as hard as you might work in school, it still takes time to cut your teeth in the industry; it’s something I will be working on for a few more years still. Finding your place in the agriculture industry might take some trial and error, so hang in there through the tough stuff. My advice to those still in school is to get as much relevant experience as you can, and go above and beyond when you are able. It was my Certified Crop Adviser designation that set me apart from the candidate pool for my current job, because the company is moving towards having more CCAs within its staff.
If you are a recent graduate, I encourage you to look for opportunities to continue to learn and grow. As much as university was trying during stressful times, I really enjoyed constantly learning new things. That was what drew me to the AdvancingAg program; it offers the opportunity to take part in educational conferences and events that might otherwise be out of reach financially, all while pairing you with a mentor who has a wealth of experience to share. In the coming year I plan to attend FarmTech, the Canadian Grain Industry Overview Program at the Canadian Grains Institute, and the Leading Edge Farm Management Conference. Learning new things allows me to keep my clients on the forefront of new developments and keeps me excited about going to work. In an industry that is constantly evolving there are endless learning opportunities, and I encourage everyone to make the most of those opportunities when they can.