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Iowa State Ag Career Day offers students head start
Iowa Correspondent

AMES, Iowa — Although Lee Schoof isn’t even halfway through his sophomore year, the Iowa State University (ISU) agribusiness major has already become a seasoned job seeker, thanks to such venues as ISU’s Ag Career Day, which offer students the chance to learn about employment prospects long before they ever don their mortar boards.

“Ag Career Day is an extremely important event to many students here at Iowa State University, as well as for the many companies that attend each year,” Schoof said. “Students here at Iowa State understand the importance of obtaining an internship to gain knowledge and experience in their specific field.

“The many companies that return year after year understand that the students coming from the College of Agriculture here at Iowa State are some of the best in the country,” said the rural Primghar, Iowa native, whose family milks 40-head of registered Jerseys on their O’Brien County dairy farm.

Billed as the nation’s largest agricultural career fair, the yearly event, which was held this year on Oct. 26, drew 155 companies to ISU’s Memorial Union to recruit students for jobs and internships that became the biggest turnout of employers in more than 10 years.

Mike Gaul, director of ISU Ag Career Services, said while this year wasn’t much different from past Ag Career Days, this year’s fair was the first time his office ever had to place companies on a waiting list.

“I believe the event was full three weeks prior and we had about 12 companies on a waiting list, which is obviously a nice problem to have,” Gaul said. “We had about 1,000 students officially register for the event.

“This number included students from a vast majority of the community colleges in Iowa, as well as students from neighboring 4-year institutions, including Northwest Missouri State, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls,” he said.

Schoof said the 2006 Ag Career Day exceeded his expectations mainly because he could go online and research the companies attending the event before meeting with them.

“There is always some company there that you somehow looked over while looking at them online,” he said. “You still have the opportunity to go and speak with them at the event, and learn many new things about their company.”

Schoof, who served as the Iowa FFA northwest district officer for two years, with stints as treasurer and vice president, said he and his fellow ISU students also had an opportunity to discover if the job they were looking at was really the right one for them. In fact, one of those companies Schoof said he thoroughly researched before speaking with its representatives was Farm Credit Services of America.

“The week prior to Ag Career Day, we had a few speakers come to a class of mine that work for this company and they explained in-depth the actual responsibilities of their jobs,” said Schoof, whose career goal is to become an agricultural loan officer. “After listening to them, I knew that I wanted to speak with them at Ag Career Day.” Like Schoof, Sheena Spurgin said Ag Career Day also exceeded her expectations.

“The Career Fair is great,” said Spurgin, an ISU senior who will graduate next May with bachelor degrees in agricultural business, international agriculture and public service administration in agriculture. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for anyone, not just college of agriculture students. I attend the Career Fair in the hopes of obtaining a job.

“I got more interviews out of the event than I expected and have already been asked for second-round interviews by others,” the Albia, Iowa native added.

Gaul said this is exactly Ag Career Day’s goal: providing every opportunity for students from every major in the College of Agriculture to get their foot in the door.

“This is certainly reflective of our mission to showcase the diversity of careers that exist within the ag industry,” he said.

“With that, high-demand areas at Career Day included opportunities in the food, grain, horticulture, swine and government sectors.” In turn, Gaul said the one word that resonated with companies that interviewed ISU agriculture students at the event was very succinct: quality interviewees.

“Most were very complimentary regarding the professionalism of our students – especially in regards to dress, communication skills, taking the time to do their homework about the company and asking relevant questions to the recruiters,” Gaul said.

This past year, Schoof’s desire and determination paid off when he had an opportunity to work as an intern at Cache Valley/Select Sires in its South Dakota-based office.

“Even though I am just a sophomore here at Iowa State,” he said, “I have realized the importance of obtaining an internship early in my college career and to continually have one each year until I graduate.”

This farm news was published in the Nov. 8, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.