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Agrimarketing : Career Supplement USA
24 AGRIBUSINESS EMPLOYER GUIDE We've all heard that old adage: it's not what you know --- it's who you know. Never has that line held more truth than it does in today's fast-paced, competitive world. The world we live in is a spidery web filled with strands that connect us to each other in one complicated way or another. The lady who sat next to you at that banquet last year could end up being the HR lady who interviews you for your first job. (Too bad you kept chewing with your mouth open and texting all the way through dinner.) That guy who worked next to you on the line at Pizza Hut during college could be the founder of the grain merchandising company where, fifteen years after the mozzarella and pepperoni, you are desperately trying to get in the door. (Aren't you glad you picked up that extra shift for him that night when he had a date with Suzie Smith from across town?) How about Joe Brown from that committee you worked on for your college council? He could end up being the next Secretary of Agriculture. (Wait, didn't you tell him to shut up during a meeting once? Oops.) When it comes to networking, that's just it. You never know what connection is going to be your ticket to your professional goals. The links and contacts made on a day to day basis make up a network that could unlock the future for you, or get the door slammed in your face. It's your job to build a network that is strong, diverse and productive. This doesn't happen overnight, and you can't just hope that you will randomly meet the right people. Most networks are built brick by brick, handshake by handshake. It sounds intimidating, but when you go about it strategically, with an end goal in mind, you are already on your way to build- ing a foundation of personal and pro- fessional relation- ships that will link you to future opportunities. Put Your Best Foot Forward --- Always. No matter where you go, no matter what you are doing, there is always someone watching. Not in a creepy, horror movie kind of way; but they are watching how you act, listen- ing to what you say, and subcon- sciously filing away the information for a later date. Whether you are volunteering at a county fair, working that minimum wage job at the local feed store, or sitting in the board room of the largest co-op in America, you need to act in a respectful, dignified way that you wouldn't mind your future employer (or your mother) observing. Always treat others how you would like to be treated and you will automatically make a good impression. Get "Organized." You should never let a chance to network pass you by. Where you work, where you study, where you play, where you eat: look for opportunities to build relation- ships everywhere. Join a new club or organization; not only will you meet new people, but you will have the opportunity to work with them and show them just how great you are to have around. Monthly meetings, conferences, community service pro- jects and social events provide excel- lent opportunities to build contacts that last. Organizations such as Agriculture Future of America (AFA) even have specific events to help you network with peers and industry professionals. AFA is a nationally recognized organization for its excellence in leader training and career development for college men and women and young professionals in the agriculture and food industry. Each November, AFA hosts a leaders conference that provides personal and professional development opportunities. It is a great way to network with 500 students and more than 175 industry professionals who share a passion for agriculture and offer a unique perspective into the industry. For more information about AFA opportunities, visit www.agfuture.org. Do Your Homework. After you have identified a few networking events that you would like to attend, do some research to find out who is going to be in attendance at each event. Perhaps you can find that information on the company's web site, or by inquiring with the people who are putting on the event. Researching the guest list will give you a better idea of who you want to talk to and what you would like to ask them. This is a great way to avoid awkward conversations about the weather and the food. Get Carded. It's extremely common to exchange business cards at networking events, so always have some on hand. If you don't currently Networks --- BUILDING ONE THAT COUNTS by Emily Schneider, Marketing and Communications intern, Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Senior in Agricultural Communications and Journalism, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS Networking can take place anywhere! Ensuring you are prepared, organized and thoughtful in your networking approach is when you'll get the most of it.