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University Professionals And Recent Graduates Offer Advice For Effective Job Searching


by Cynthia Hoffman,


It can be stressful. It can be time consuming.


But if you want to be employed, it can not be avoided.


The job search may be a challenge for some people, but it can also be a valuable learning experience.




Students can help improve the experience by starting early. Timely preparation can help reduce the stress of frantic last-minute job searching, said Amy Gazaway, Career Development Coordinator at Oklahoma State University (OSU). Gazaway said the job search starts a student’s first day of college.


“I truly believe that on day one students should start the career exploration process,” she said. “They need to start early by seeking out their interests, getting involved in campus organizations that help develop those interests, and applying for internships early on.”


Gazaway said if students start the process early, they will be prepared when it’s time to conduct the actual job search. At OSU, Gazaway advises her students to follow three basic steps:


  • Career exploration
  • Career planning, and
  • Career preparation.


First students complete career exploration by taking different assessments to figure out their interests, strengths and values. Then students formulate a plan of action that will help them take the necessary steps to be prepared and qualified for their desired job. Finally students begin the preparation stage by preparing resumes, developing interview skills, and searching and applying for jobs.


This may sound like an extensive process, but Deborah Solie, Coordinator of Student Services at Auburn University, agrees that the job search takes time and effort. She said starting early allows a student to explore different career opportunities and change their mind with greater ease.


“If students start their freshmen year, they have time to take a variety of classes, get involved in different student organizations, and have more than one internship opportunity,” Solie said. “These experiences may direct them down a new or different career path, but they will have a better idea of what they want to do when their senior year arrives.”


“We are seeing more and more students come back from the summer break already having job offers or receiving job offers in September or October. Students need to understand that employers are recruiting earlier because they want the better candidates. This means students have to start looking earlier.”  — Amy Gazaway, OSU Career Development Coordinator


Gazaway said not starting early enough is the biggest mistake a job seeker can make. She said it takes the average job seeker six to nine months to find a job, and students need to take that fact into consideration.


“We are seeing more and more students come back from the summer break already having job offers or receiving job offers in September or October,” Gazaway said. “Students need to understand that employers are recruiting earlier because they want the better candidates. This means students have to start looking earlier.”




So students should begin the job search early, but where do they begin? Gazaway recommends that students use their campus career services first, but seek out other avenues as well. “The first place to start is campus career and employment services because you are paying for that service already and those professionals will help direct you to more resources,” Gazaway said.


In reality, not all students have access to resources like the ones offered at the established OSU program. Gazaway takes pride in the services that are offered at her institution, but said it’s good for students to seek out alternative resources.


“Secondly you should look for other resources like online job boards specific to the industry. is a good site that provides outstanding tools for the students who don’t have developed career services on their campuses.”


Gazaway said she is not against using general sites like, but students will be better served if they look into industry- specific resources. is the leading supplier of human resource services to the agriculture, food, natural resources, and biotechnology industries. Students can use the site to post their resumes and search for jobs at no cost.


“Each month employers post more than 2,000 jobs on our site and more than 5,000 applications are sent to jobs through,” said Eric Spell, President of AgCareers. com. “We strive to be the best online job board for students and hope they will use our site to assist them in their job search.”




There are also career guidance tools on the site. Students can take different assessments and receive a “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Career Report” or a “Strong Interest Inventory Profile Report” at a low cost.


Gazaway said professional organizations are another good resource to utilize. From Agriculture Future of America to Alpha Zeta to Collegiate Farm Bureau, there are a variety of organizations. She urged students to seek out organizations specific to their industry sector such as the Society of American Foresters or the Golf Course Superintendent Association.




Professional organizations not only serve as an information source for job availability, but they can lead to personal connections within the industry. Those personal connections are very important when it comes to job searching, Gazaway said.


Another way to start making connections is by attending career fairs. Students should attend career fairs regardless of their year in school, said Laura Boroughs, Kanasa State University (KSU) alumna and Syngenta Crop Protection Sales Representative.


“I think it’s important students attend all the career fairs they can,” she said. “The more times students get their name and face out there through employers, the more they are going to recognize them.”


Boroughs met Syngenta at the KSU All University Career Fair in fall 2006 and then again at the KSU Agri-Industry Career Fair in January 2007.


“After I graduated in December 2006, I came back and attended the agriculture career fair,” she said. “The first connection with them in the fall didn’t result in a career opportunity, but it ended up being a good fit later on.”


Among the many services available to students is the popular Web site that regularly reports 2,000 job openings each month.


Boroughs said students shouldn’t be discouraged even if the conversation at a career fair doesn’t lead to a job offer.


“If you are not a right fit for a company, still continue to use that company as a resource because oftentimes they have many contacts within the industry,” she said.


Contacts are what resulted in a job opportunity for Kelly Ansaldo, Fresno State alumna and credit analyst at Bank of the West. After she graduated, Ansaldo took an internship with USDA and was stationed in Kansas when a past college professor told her about the opening at Bank of the West.


“You need to take the personal responsibility of initiating your job search and work at exploring opportunities, but don’t forget about the simple and sometimes most effective resources — people and word of mouth,” Ansaldo said.


Ansaldo said one of the best ways to get connected with the industry is through internship experiences. Not only did her college internships connect her with industry professionals, but she said they offered her industry insight.


“I worked for a cotton brokerage company, and learned a lot about cotton production as well as brokering,” Ansaldo said. “The internship at Farm Bureau helped me develop client relations skills. My internship with Senator Dean Florez taught me how legislation can directly affect farms. And when I was an Campus Ambassador I learned about human resources and jobs available within the industry.”


In addition to internships, Solie advises students to get connected with the industry through job shadowing experiences. She said it helps students when they can see what someone who graduated with their same degree is actually doing in the industry.


“It’s so important for students to make the connection between their degree and job opportunities with that degree,” Solie said. “Job shad- owing allows students to see real-life examples of career opportunities for someone in their area of study.”


Ansaldo agrees that it’s important to look beyond the stereotypical jobs that are associated with a major. She said she truly enjoys her job at Bank of the West, but never imagined herself in banking.


“Your degree isn’t necessarily going to lead you directly to the perfect job,” Ansaldo said. “I never thought that banking was an option with my major in agricultural business. But my agricultural education is very beneficial because my understanding of the agriculture production cycle allows me to serve my agricultural clients better.”




Internships or job shadowing can also count as work experience, Ansaldo points out. She said that she was able to apply for jobs that required two or three years of experience because she had gained that experience through her internships. It may not be the experience employers are looking for, but she said it doesn’t hurt to apply.


“Hands-on experience is the best asset. The worst thing that can happen is an employer can say no. They can’t say yes if you don’t apply,” Ansaldo said.


Although Ansaldo had many internships, she said the job hunt was still stressful. She applied to Cargill, Rabobank, and two different entities with the USDA before she received her USDA internship, which was the first position she took right after college.



“Toward the end of my senior year, as the clock started counting-down, I became more and more nervous,” she said. “I was doing backto- back interviews, but wasn’t finding the right fit,” she said.

Gazaway said oftentimes students have to apply to multiple jobs before finding the right one. She said the search takes a lot of time, which can be difficult for students trying to balance school, work, organization involvement and other commitments. Gazaway recommends designating a specific amount of time each week to dedicate to job searching.


“Be intentional about setting time aside for the job search,” she said. “If a student is not proactive, it will get pushed aside, and then become completing overwhelming.”


Although her job hunting process was time consuming, Ansaldo said she learned more about herself and what she wanted to do after every interview. She said job seekers should interview for everything they are interested in because it will contribute to their professional development. But she warns job seekers about applying for jobs they truly do not want.


“A person shouldn’t apply for a job if they are not passionate about it,” Ansaldo said. “Every employer wants someone who is motivated, and they will be able to hear if a person lacks passion or motivation for that position or their organization.”


Solie said it’s important for students to realize when they are not interested in a job, and they should not apply just because it fits with their degree. She said it doesn’t mean they need to change areas of study, but reassessing their interests and career opportunities is a good idea.


“When a student hits a wall, they need to brainstorm other avenues that can fit into their area of interest,” Solie said. “Sometimes they just need an outside perspective.”


Career Fairs provide students with a number of opportunities to interact and learn about a variety of companies.




Even if a student hits a dead end in their career search, they should not abandon or avoid it. Both Solie and Gazaway encounter students who procrastinate their search because they don’t know what they want to do. They also come across pre-vet students who procrastinate because they are embarrassed to admit they didn’t get into vet school.


“These situations can be difficult, but there is no reason why students shouldn’t use career services and resources to continue their search,” Gazaway said. “By not engaging in the resources available they are just postponing the inevitable.”


Gazaway said OSU students who utilize the campus career services have better confidence in their career decisions and are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs.


“Students who don’t utilize career services typically don’t have a job at graduation,” she said. “Or they are the alums who come back six to 12 months later, not satisfied with their positions.”


Gazaway said she can encourage students to utilize career resources, but she can’t make them. She said students need to find their own motivation and take advantage of the resources available to them.


“The job search is going to become important to you when are ready for it to become important,” Gazaway said. “But when your search ends with a successful career opportunity, you’ll be happy you made it a priority.”