Prepping For An Ag Career Starts Now

Published on Wed, 02/24/2021 - 1:07pm

Prepping For An Ag Career Starts Now.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 As high schoolers wrap up the year, many seniors eagerly look ahead to advance their careers. For some this involves revving up for higher education and for others it means a summer exploring job opportunities.

Many young people in the beef community have a deep passion for the lifestyles their families raised them with. Often this zeal is taking over the farm or ranch someday. Still, it could be working as an industry professional full-time. And of course, we see a handful pave their own way in entrepreneurship.

Passion for agricultural careers, especially in the case of beef and ranch families, is seldom lacking. But finding one’s right fit along this wide spectrum is a bit more difficult.

Beef in particular is at an advantage for career diversity and innovation. From animal management to meat science to economics and marketing, ample opportunities abound. One reason many folks go straight back to working at home because they haven’t explored the many ways they can diversify while still playing an integral role in the beef production cycles.

Today our world is more connected than ever before, and there are many ways to obtain an education and experience. But it does take tenacity and background work before you start filling job applications or accept a new position.

Moreover, the shifting tides of modern agriculture has presented both roadblocks and opportunities – but with ample room to accommodate virtually all backgrounds and interests.

Explore your interests early on
Many undergraduates have already started poking at career ideas, even if they don’t realize it. Participation in 4-H, ag classes, judging teams and even fairs or shows are all get young people a feel for types of work in the real world.

High school is the prime time to get a sense for what’s out there. Even those who are feeling pretty secure about going back to the farm shouldn’t leave other avenues unexplored.

Let’s face it – plans fall apart, families break down and sometimes a single source of income doesn’t cut it.

There are also plenty of professional careers that coincide quite nicely with the farm or ranch business. Sales reps, nutritionists, consultants and the like often have operations of their own. But you don’t know what fits you unless you’ve really made an investment in getting to know your interests and skills early on.

Take those classes that push you outside of your comfort zones, step up for the more challenging projects.

Part-time jobs, even something as simple as the local elevator, feed store or custom processor, can be an introduction to new fields. Throw your net wide and you’ll get the career ideas churning early on.

Explore career opportunities – and investigate
So now you have an idea of your passions and interests. The next step is to turn them into employment opportunities.

If you’ve been active in the agriculture community for a good while, chances are you already have a list of folks with successful ag careers you might be interested in mirroring.

Another place to idea-hunt is online. Even if you don’t think a formal education is necessarily for you, I highly recommend taking the time to scroll through the “majors” feed of some ag schools. There are a lot of ideas and career tracts that branch off from these majors.

Browsing college majors can also give you a pretty good idea of what education might be required for certain careers. You may find that the salary in a particular field isn’t ideal without a master’s degree. Or you might find that something might not really require any college at all.

If your heart is set at home on the farm or ranch, extra learning opportunities can improve your skills to improve your management and marketing strategies. Sometimes working away from home even a short period of time is helpful to learn new skills and give new perspectives.

Finally, don’t panic if your area of interest isn’t inherently ag-related. As our world changes with new methods and means popping up all over the place, you’d be pretty shocked at what needs and career opportunities you can find within agriculture.

For the entrepreneurially endowed, agri-tech startups are pretty hot right now. Data, computer programming and engineering are also growing in demand by agribusinesses. There’s also plenty of corporate and creative roles to be had – some of which you can do from the comfort of your home farm.

When you have the passion and the skillset, if you do enough rooting around, chances are you will find a need for it somewhere within the agribusiness sphere.

Hone your skills
Before sitting down for that dream job interview or internship, a lot of background work took place to make that opportunity possible. How exactly is that done? It’s starts by being active with the opportunities you are given.

4-H, FFA and other ag or college clubs are largely directed towards constructive professional-building activities. Discussion meets, competitions and other extracurricular activities are all great ways to go about this.

You should also get involved with your state cattle and/or beef associations and local Farm Bureau chapters. Besides growing practical skills, these are ways to get your name recognized and earn some credentials.

First-hand opportunities, especially when it comes to job shadowing or ridealongs, are great, especially if you’re looking at entering the workforce straight out of high school. Not only are these free, you also get to hear the pros and cons of what goes on “a day in the life” so to speak straight from the source.

If you want a way to prep for careers in things like design, finances, economics and other types of professional work, there is a myriad of online sources at your fingertips. You just might impress yourself with what you can learn online.

In a similar vein, if you have a dedicated ag-related side hustle, milk that for all its worth. You absolutely want to give yourself credit by putting it on a resume. These are great ways to show your character, start building authority and expertise in specific areas.

Judge a local show or county fair? Resume. Hold a position in a state or regional association? Resume. Volunteer at a youth show? Resume. A lot of young folks undercut themselves because they don’t want to place credence in things that are “only” side hustles or hobbies. Don’t be one of them!

One thing I can certainly give agriculture is there are no shortages of opportunities for young people to get involved with. These are available long before they need to start applying for jobs. You just need to be intuitive about seeking them out and taking ample advantage when they present themselves.

Don’t sell yourself short and rule out what beef careers may or may not be accessible early on. You never know where one path might lead you or when you’ll hit that unexpected opportunistic fork in the road.