Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Textbook College Career

It is a scary thought that advisees rely on me for advice about what they should be doing in college to ensure they are marketable to employers at graduation. People like stories, especially when they are true, so I often tell my advisees stories about a certain student to illustrate a point. The story might pertain to the activities they focused on in college or how they went about finding a job.

Today I chatted with a former student who is graduating this semester. As we chatted about her college accomplishments and experience on the job market, I realized that her college career had been textbook-perfect. College students should aspire to her standards, so I tell her story below. For many reasons it is unlikely any one student can mimic this story, and that is okay. One does not have to do everything perfect to get a great job, they just have to do some things right.

This student entered college knowing she wanted to work in marketing, and she liked the culture of agriculture, so she majored in agribusiness with a marketing option. By knowing exactly what she wanted to do, she was able to shape her college career around her professional career goals.

She separated herself from her peers in the area of marketing a number of ways. First, she wrote a research paper on a marketing issue, publishing it in the SS-AAEA Journal of Agricultural Economics. Second, she participated in marketing team competitions much like NAMA and won first place in a marketing competition. Third, she gained internship experience at the OSU Food and Agricultural Product Marketing Center, where she worked with real products developing client relationships. I seriously doubt many students had these credentials!

Because she placed importance on making good grades but did not obsess about perfect grades, her GPA at graduation was 3.5. Not perfect, but it turns out that many employers do not want perfect grades. The optimal grade range is actually between 3.5-3.75, so once again she did everything perfect. By obtaining the position of President of the Aggie-X Club, her resume reflected an ability to work well with others and lead groups.

As graduation approached this student went through the OSU HIRE program where she obtained a campus interview with a marketing firm. A 45-minute interview, they did not ask her situational questions, like, "describe a situation where you had to utilize your leadership skills to make necessary but unpopular choices." Instead, they told her that the purpose of the interview was simply to get to know her. Everything she needed to know would be taught to her on the job. They only needed to know that she was trainable and worked well with people. It was laid-back, and they just ask her to tell them about herself and how her credentials could contribution to their organization.

After two interviews, the second being held in Connecticut, she was offerred a $49,000 a year job in Florida. They loved her, and she will do a superb job for her.

I asked her whether she was more excited or scared at the prospect of this new job, and she replied scared without hesitation. This is normal, this is good. Her fear at the challenges of a new job will ensure she works extra hard.

I should add that this student had a textbook college career which entailed much work, but she was always a happy person. Her first priority was to enjoy life. And she should - everyone should. One can obtain a textbook college career, achieving their dream job, while still having the time of their life.

If you can't have fun in college, the rest of your life seems pretty bleak.

Note: This young lady will be working for Damian International, an international marketing firm dealing with all types of products. This is not an agribusiness firm. Our students can complete against graduates from the business college for almost any job. Majoring in agribusiness does not restrict one to agricultural industries.