Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ag Jobs A to Z: Human Resources

Photo Credit: Samantha Miller
Passion, agvocate, and outgoing are the first words that come to mind when I think of Samantha Miller. We spent many hours together at the Indiana State Fair sharing Why I Farm stories with fair enthusiasts during my Beck's marketing internship. Last summer, each afternoon as I sat at my desk I would hear Sam leading a new group of farmers through the office tour. Now that I'm back in school at Iowa State, I enjoy seeing her at career prep events and keeping in touch on social media.

Since we met, Sam has been very supportive my blog. I'm thrilled to finally have a chance to feature her. Thanks, Sam for sharing your perspective and advice!

1. Where did you go to school?
I have a B.S. in Plant Science-Agronomy from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in Agronomy from Purdue University. 

2. What inspired you to pursue a job in human resources?
I love that human resources, through the internship program at Beck's Hybrids allows me to mentor college students and help them find where they fit in our rapidly changing and very diverse industry.

3. How long have you been working in human resources?
I have been in Human Resources for almost one year. 

4. How does your job fit into the agricultural industry? (Who do you work with? Who do you help? Who helps you?)
As the Agvocacy Lead at Beck's Hybrids, I have the opportunity to work with our internship program.  This twelve week program allows students to experience the seed industry, and allows our company to get acquainted with some of the top students in our marketing area.  We have internships all across our marketing area and throughout the organization- in everything from marketing to research. 

5. What career/internship opportunities are there in human resources?
The entire agricultural industry is growing and changing at a faster pace than ever in the history of our species.  It requires an engaged Human Resources department to address the issues of finding great talent, and matching them to the perfect position. Unless the candidate is excited about the position, it probably won’t be a good fit.  Over the course of a career, the employee will grow and change, so it is our department that can make sure employees are given the professional development and an evolving position to the benefit of the employee and our company.  There is an oft-cited USDA study released a few years ago details the shortage of graduates in agriculture.  The industry is absolutely going to be hiring over the next few years, but in maybe different areas than traditional ‘ag’ roles.  Data management, precision agriculture, and automation are becoming just as important as agronomy and sales.

6. Is there anything else you would like a student audience to know?
One of the most fulfilling parts of interacting with students is learning what interests them, and then letting them know about various opportunities.  For instance a student who is interested in environmental science might not be aware that there are entire firms dedicated to ecological remediation and establishing wet land offsets. I’ve been lucky to have very diverse experience in the industry so simply putting students in touch with the right company and people can make a big difference.

My standard, general first job advice: Students should spend a considerable amount of effort exploring the culture of a company before agreeing to any position.  Often, a student will pick whichever opportunity offers the biggest number on the initial contract. The value of working for a company you believe in, and where you truly fit, far outweighs the initial 5 or 10 thousand dollar difference in initial salaries.  I’ve known many students who realize six months or two years into a position that the company isn’t exactly what the website described when they googled it in the interview phase. Unfortunately, by the time they make that determination the opportunity at the alternate firm is gone and the employee is back at square one.  Ask lots of questions, have lunch or connect through email with some employees who aren’t on the hiring committee to see how they feel about their jobs, use your network (or you university’s alumni network) to make some contacts before you commit to anything.  Remember, there is no such thing as a ‘right answer’ when you are selecting a job or a graduate school- just ‘different answers’ that can put you in very different places a few years down the road. 

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