From College Kid to Big Kid

Three tips from a transitioning senior to help you prepare for a career in agricultural communications.

Maggie Seiler, NACT Vice President, Kansas State University

They said college went quickly. They told me to enjoy it. They explained that I should take advantage of every opportunity set before me.

Those were just a few pieces of advise college seniors had for me as I arrived at K-State and tried to figure out how to make the most of my experience. Four years later, I wouldn’t call myself an expert on college, but in the waning days of my senior year and as my near-graduation nostalgia grows, I also have the impulse to pass on nuggets of wisdom I have gained in college. Here are three tips I found useful to solidifying my career in agricultural communications following graduation.

Disclaimer: The following list is a compilation of my experiences and education and may not be universally correct or applicable.

  1. Take Each Class Seriously. This piece of advise I received early on in my college career after I spent nearly a half hour complaining to my mom about how inapplicable my Expository Writing class was to my life and future. When I allowed her the opportunity to get a word in edgewise, my mom suggested that I take the opportunity to work on my research and interviewing skills. Although the class did not pertain directly to my major, and we did not discuss anything I was passionate about the entire semester, I had the chance to edit others papers and reason through organizing my own. These skills proved to be especially helpful as I moved into higher-level journalism course work.

Those college classes we hate will be like that undesirable project we take on when we enter the “big kid” world of journalism. The experience of committing to following through on a class that doesn’t interest us provides a valuable lesson for the work place. It will allow us to focus on the project, survive it and show our employer our range and capability to finish work. Who knows, that Introduction to Computer Sciences class may serve me well later on.

  1. Apply for Internships. Big or small, semester long or just for a weekend, the expertise I gained while working as an intern gave me practical and applicable experiences to build on as I move into the journalism field. If you are a young person that has a very specific interest in a single area of the communications industry as I did, I suggest searching out the best company in that field and making sure you apply for their internships. If you are on the other side of the spectrum and have a variety of interests, try out two or three different areas. As one of my club advisors said it, it’s better to find out if you like a course of work now rather than after you have spent the money to get the diploma. If you are on the hunt for a good internship or are already looking forward to opportunities for the future, keep an eye on the NACT website. (www.nactnow.org/opportunites/internships/). The national ACT officers keep this page updated with communication-related internships.
  1. Make Connections. The coordinator for the internship I held last summer introduced me to more industry contacts than I will ever be able to remember, but he did it for a good reason. He understood how small the communications field is. The first time I realized the family-like atmosphere of the industry I was attending a National Association of Farm Broadcasters meeting, and during the formal banquet, the professionals were waging a food fight with rolls. Wherever you end up for internships or jobs, try to build relationships not tear them down. Be respectful of your coworkers, deadlines and administration. The last tip I have for making connections is to be a business card collector. When you meet someone at a conference ask for their business card and write yourself a note about the individual on the card. This will help you remember them the next time you see them.

Every college student’s goal is to leave college employed and ready to face the realities of the big kid world. Whether it is through classes, internships or work experiences treat each moment as an opportunity, learn from it and show your passion for the industry. Good luck, and enjoy college while it lasts!