Five Essential Tips for Landing a Job in Agriculture
By Beren Goguen, Colorado State University Online
Thanks to ongoing innovation within the industry, the diversity of agricultural career opportunities is greater today than ever before. Whether you’re considering a new job in agribusiness, horticulture, farming, ranching, agricultural science, or another career, it’s important to set yourself up for success.
In many cases, seeking employment in most agricultural fields is similar to other industries. You fill out an application, attach your resume and cover letter, and wait. However, there are some other steps that can improve your odds of actually landing that job.
1. Cultivate your online reputation carefully. Although not all potential employers will “Google” you, some will, and the last thing you want is for something to surface that reflects poorly on you as a candidate. If you have public-facing social media accounts with posts and/or images (including images that other people have tagged you in), do a thorough assessment to determine if anything unseemly might crop up.
Cultivating a professional online persona isn’t just about what people don’t see. This is also an opportunity to showcase things you want prospective employers to see, such as your enthusiasm for agriculture, volunteer work, and any additional credentials that didn’t make it into your resume (e.g. recommendations from colleagues on LinkedIn, articles you may have written, etc.). Ultimately, your goal is to make sure that what people see online reinforces why you are the ideal candidate.
2. Groom your resume and cover letter. Although this step should be obvious, many people fail to regularly spruce up their resume. If it’s been a while, take the time to go through everything with a fine-toothed comb. Ask a friend or colleague to review your application materials and give you constructive criticism. It’s not just about catching typos. Uninspired writing in a cover letter can make you look boring on paper. If you’re currently in college or a recent grad, seek assistance from your school’s career center and/or writing center. Otherwise, explore other available services that can help you polish your materials, such as a local career development consultant.
3. Conduct informational research and field interviews. Although many people skip this step, it could mean the difference between a successful job interview and a poor one. First, take the time to read about the organization you are applying to, including information about how that organization conducts business and any other available information (e.g. the “about us” page and other PR materials). Reread the job description and write down some questions about how you can best help the organization accomplish its goals. Try to frame your questions in ways that show you’ve done your research.
Next, try to setup a brief phone call or in-person chat with someone who already works for the organization. Ask them how they like working there, what the culture is like, and what type of people fit in the best. Of course, try to avoid approaching someone who could potentially be part of the hiring process for the position you are seeking.
Bonus tip: Networking (in-person and online) is actually one of the best ways to open up new job opportunities. According to ZipRecruiter, 60% of employers’ top candidates are found via referrals, and 73% of recruiters have hired a candidate they connected with on social media.
4. Thoroughly prepare for every interview. Although the previous step will give you an edge, consider doing a mock interview, especially if it’s been a long time since your last job interview. Unless you are naturally very comfortable speaking in public, it’s always a good idea to take a dry run. Mock interviews can help you feel less nervous about answering questions and allow you to practice talking in detail about your qualifications.
Ask the person assisting you to provide feedback on your verbal communication, volume, eye contact, body language, speech patterns, and other quirks. If you say “um” or “like” too much, now is the time to start working on speaking succinctly and confidently. If you’re really motivated, consider joining a public speaking group like Toastmasters International to polish your oration skills until they really shine.
5. Never stop growing. Whether you’re currently on the job hunt or comfortable in your career, it’s essential to never stop seeking education and professional development opportunities. Not only can enhancing your knowledge and skills help you land a better job, it can also help you advance within your current or future career.
If you’ve been thinking about earning a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or graduate certificate, explore Colorado State University’s online agriculture programs. CSU's online programs provide the academic rigor, value, and convenience you need to move forward in your career with confidence.
Apply now to start this fall in programs like Agricultural Business, Horticulture, and Integrated Resource Management.