Social Media in the Job Search Process

Contributed by: Alyssa Schwarck, Marketing Intern

In today’s society, social media is all the rave. People just cannot get enough of it and are sharing their entire life stories on these platforms. There are conversations being had, pictures being uploaded, and status’s being posted. But, with all of the excitement for these social media outlets, comes mistakes that job seekers are making. These mistakes can ultimately lose them job and/or advancements in their careers. When you are in search for the perfect job, your Facebook, Twitter, or even LinkedIn account may be the last thing on your mind and that is mistake #1.

Employers and recruiters have entered the 21st century and with that, they are adapting to new ways of finding the perfect candidates for career opportunities. They are opening their eyes and seeing that qualified job seekers and passive candidates are on social media sites and that they are sharing their achievements, down-falls, and personalities on these platforms. By doing so, employers are getting a firsthand look at who the candidates really are. In fact, according to the Agribusiness HR Review, 29% of companies are using social media to recruit talent for open positions and 25% are planning on using it in the near future. Furthermore, a study conducted by Reppler shows that a whopping 91% of employers use social media sites to screen prospective employees. Take this information and run with it. Make sure to be mindful that if you are applying to jobs, recruiters and employers will be looking at your statuses, tweets, and discussions. Now that you are in the “know” use that to your advantage and avoid mistake #2: Having unprofessional content and grammatical errors.

We all have that one person on our favorite social media site that is always posting their weekly bar crawl pictures, spelling every fourth word wrong, and constantly complaining about their employer. Do not be that person and clean up your media outlets. Yes, that means taking your college beer Olympic pictures down, deleting that status about how you hate everyone you work with, and yes, even that joke you posted a week ago that has punctuation errors and derogatory language. A red flag is raised when employers see these things on social media sites and most likely, will not consider you for their open positions.

The rule of thumb is that if you would not want your grandmother to see it, then do not put it online. Clean up your social media footprint and showcase yourself in a professional manor. This leads us to mistake #3: Not highlighting your achievements and qualifications on social networks.

Now that your media outlets are cleaned up, go ahead and put the spotlight on you. Think about it as if you were making a brand for yourself. Update your past and current jobs. Put content on these platforms that is relevant to the industry you want to work in. Employers want to see that you are knowledgeable and engaged in the field of work they are hiring in. By showcasing your skills and shedding light on the industry through posts, discussions, videos, and articles, you are just making yourself more marketable. It also backs up everything on your resume by showing that you are engaged in the industry. To make sure that employers know you are active in your field of relevance stay clear of mistake #4: Not associating with industry professionals via social network.

Since you are on social media already, put yourself out there and network with other professionals. One thing that will always stay true is that ‘who you know, will get you where you need to go’. By networking on social media you are meeting professionals all across the spectrum. This givesyou a chance to possibly be hired by them in the future. To successfully network, join groups on LinkedIn that are relevant to the type of job you want. Also, follow your companies of interest on Facebook and Twitter. This gives you a chance to engage in quality discussions with them. By doing so, employers will take notice and want to know more about you. Just make sure that when responding back, try not to act “spam-like” but to be knowledgeable and diligent.

Overall, being on social media networks is a balancing act. You can still have them for your personal life; just make sure to keep it professional. By keeping it professional, you have the ability to showcase your skills and what makes you stand out against the competition. It’s time to get serious about having a social media footprint because it can either make or break you in the new era of recruitment. is the leading ag-specific career portal for job seekers.  Employers post more than 5,000 jobs on the site monthly.  Job seekers are provided free access to the industry specific job board, ability to post their resume in the database, and review online educational materials.  For more information, visit


Soft Skills: What They Are and Why You Need Them

Contributed by: Dawn Rosenberg McKay, Career Planning Expert

Most occupations require that those who work in it have certain abilities that allow them to do their jobs. For example, photographers must understand how different camera settings and lighting affect the pictures they take, teachers must be able to use certain techniques to teach math and reading, and computer programmers need to know how to use programming languages. These abilities are known as hard or technical skills and to learn them one usually enrolls in some sort of educational program where he or she receives classroom instruction and often practical training as well. To work in any occupation you also need what are referred to as soft skills.

What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are the personal character traits or qualities each of us has. They make up who we are, generally encompassing our attitudes, habits and how we interact with other people. They are much less tangible than hard or technical skills, and unlike them, you do not learn soft skills by enrolling in a training program. You can, however, acquire them through educational, work and life experiences but it will take a concerted effort on your part. Let’s say for example, you are terrible at managing your time but find yourself enrolled in a class that requires you to complete numerous projects. If you want to do well you will have to improve your time management skills in order to meet your deadlines. You can learn how to better manage your time by seeking advice from faculty and fellow students or reading helpful articles.

Examples of Soft Skills

  • Communication Skills: People with good communication skills have the ability to convey information to others either orally or in writing.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Having good interpersonal skills means that one has not only the ability to communicate with others, but is willing to listen to people without judging them, share ideas and pitch in when co-workers need help.
  • Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Skills: Problem solving is the ability to identify a problem and then come up with possible solutions. Critical thinking skills allow you to evaluate each possible solution, using logic and reasoning, to determine which one is most likely to be successful.
  • Active Listening Skills: Good listeners make an effort to understand what others are saying, interrupting only when appropriate to ask questions that will help clarify the information being shared.
  • Active Learning Skills: Active learners are willing and able to acquire knowledge and then apply it to their jobs.
  • Time Management Skills: Those who are good at managing their time know how to schedule their tasks in order to complete projects according to deadlines. They are good at prioritizing their work.
  • Team Player: Those who are team players are cooperative and can be leaders or participants, as necessitated by the situation at hand. They are willing to share responsibility with other team members, whether that means taking credit for successes or responsibility for failures.
  • Professionalism: This characteristic is hard to define, but it’s very apparent when someone is lacking it. It’s probably the one trait that every employer desires, regardless of what you do or where you work. Professionalism encompasses many things including showing up on time, being polite, being generally pleasant and helpful, dressing appropriately and taking responsibility for your own actions.
  • Reading Comprehension Skills: Individuals with strong reading comprehension skills have little difficulty understanding the content of written materials.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: People who are flexible and adaptable react well to changes in their jobs and work environments. They have a positive can-do attitude about anything that gets thrown their way.


Why Do You Need Soft Skills?
Soft skills help us do our jobs. They allow us to effectively and efficiently use our technical skills and knowledge. They improve the way we interact with our bosses, co-workers and customers. They permit us to get our work done on time. They influence how we feel about our jobs and how others perceive us.

Every single occupation you can think of demands that you have specific character traits, whether you’re a doctor who needs to be an excellent communicator in order to convey information to her patients, a janitor who must have good interpersonal skills so that he can get along with his co-workers or an actor who must be persistent in spite of facing rejection over and over. An important thing to note is that soft skills are transferable between occupations. While you may have to go back to school to learn new technical skills if you change careers, you can always take your soft skills with you since they are valued in a variety of fields.

In addition to what is required by your occupation, employers also expect you to have certain character traits. Just look at any job announcement and you will see a laundry list of qualifications that includes not only the technical skills you need to do the job, but qualities like “excellent communication skills,” “strong organizational skill,” “team player,” and “strong listening ability” listed there as well. Even if you have the technical skills required for a job, if you can’t demonstrate that you have the specified traits you probably won’t get the job. Make sure your resume lists accomplishments that demonstrate the desired soft skills and that you also find ways to discuss them during your job interview. is the leading ag-specific career portal for job seekers.  Employers post more than 5,000 jobs on the site monthly.  Job seekers are provided free access to the industry specific job board, ability to post their resume in the database, and review online educational materials.  For more information, visit



Not Sure What Career Path to Take? Do What You Love!

Contributed by: Jean Drasgow, Director of ACES Career Services, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

I’m often asked by students, “Can you find me the career I can pursue with this degree that I can make the most money?” With the higher cost of college tuition, I fear students are basing their long-term career goals on money rather than for love of the work. Although compensation is an important component of one’s career, there is a limit to the satisfaction one can derive from an impressive salary. To have a long and successful career, students need to discover their passion and take jobs that hone their skills and stretch their capabilities. The money will follow.

A 2010 study by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found that emotional well- being rises with log income but there is no further benefit beyond $75,000. Emotional-well- being refers to the emotional quality of one’s everyday experience which is measured by the frequency and intensity of feelings such as joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection-key factors that lead us to believe that our lives are good or not so good. Life evaluation refers to the thoughts that people have about their life when they think about it. After surveying 450,000 adults, the authors concluded that high income buys life satisfaction but not necessarily happiness.

Rather than telling students that they are looking at career prospects the wrong way, I ask them, “What activities do you do, that when you do them, time flies by? Or “What work do you do that leaves you exhausted but feeling accomplished?” When students start talking about what brings them joy, I see changes in their expression. Their eyes light up, they have smiles on their faces, and their body posture opens up—similar changes anthropologists observe when individuals are speaking about the person in whom they are in love. Those unconscious body movements are cues that indicate what the student is actually passionate about.

So, students, how do you sift through all of the agriculturally-related career options that are out there to find what you are passionate about? First, list the things you like to do in your spare time. Omit required duties like grocery shopping (unless you actually like grocery shopping). Include all of your favorite things, like reading, camping, or meeting new people. By having a better understanding of the types of activities that bring you joy; you will have a better understanding of careers you would likely enjoy.

Next, think about your long-term goals. Your perfect job today should be one that helps you prepare for and work toward your ultimate professional and life goals. For example, you may define prestige, financial security or flexibility as your long-term objectives. Ask yourself if your education, work experience and job skills are being fully utilized at your job. If not, brainstorm about the kinds of positions that would incorporate all of these elements and let you use them to the fullest of your abilities.

If you’ve not yet entered the world of work, write down what you would love to do for work, regardless of money, location or education limitations. Having your dream job defined will help you work toward the position you’re passionate about. Realize that unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, you most likely won’t start out as a CEO. You’ll likely begin with entry-level jobs that will help you develop the skills you need to be successful for your ultimate goal. Entry-level positions give you the opportunity to develop a good work ethic, practice your public speaking, enhance your teamwork, and much more. Overtime, you will develop the professional muscle and stamina to be successful in your career. The trick is to keep seeking out opportunities to propel you towards your long-term career goal, such as extra assignments or promotions that increase your skill-set. If your long-term career goal isn’t obvious at first, keep exercising your professional skills and stay current in your profession so you will be ready for opportunities as they come. Don’t forget to seek a coach or a mentor to help you perfect your form so that you can continue to develop. Renew your familiarity with your overall life goals and assess whether your job will help you reach them.

So I can tell you what the careers are that come with higher-than-average earning salaries–but will your heart race with excitement when you head to work each day? Will your eyes light up when you are talking about your professional work? If you cannot dance into work most days, you may not have yet found the work that you love. Your mission is to find a career that you love so that you will love what you do. And when money tempts you, remember that compensation’s role in life satisfaction and emotional well-being is limited. So it is good to earn a decent wage, but the old adage “Money can’t buy you happiness” may be true. is the leading ag-specific career portal for job seekers.  Employers post more than 5,000 jobs on the site monthly.  Job seekers are provided free access to the industry specific job board, ability to post their resume in the database, and review online educational materials.  For more information, visit


Raising the Bar on References

Contributed by: Erika Osmundson, Director of Marketing & Communications

The importance of references during the job search process is often underestimated. In many cases, an employer with two or more candidates may base their final decision on the reference’s responses. It is important to be strategic in who is asked to act as a reference. The general rule of thumb is to provide the potential employer with three references; however providing a fourth reference doesn’t hurt in the case they cannot get a hold of one.

To start, create a list of people that have interacted with you in a number of situations and know you well. Think about people from work, professors/faculty, advisors, mentors, community members, and club/organization affiliates. You want this list to include professional contacts — your college roommate, grandma or best friend aren’t good choices!

Past managers make good references if departures from the position were amicable and you feel they will provide positive input. If you are unemployed and no references are listed from your most recent employer that can be a red flag to a potential employer. Ask yourself if there is a colleague that may provide a good reference for you if your manager is not a smart choice. If currently employed, a trusted colleague can be a good option if you are uncomfortable listing your manager or leave off a contact from your current employer completely.

From the list, begin to narrow the field by asking yourself who could speak to your work ethic, personal attributes, and experiences that relate to the types of job you may be seeking. For example, if you are looking at a customer service position, the manager from your high school part-time job at the local restaurant might be a good reference choice. They could speak first-hand about your ability to interact with customers and how you dealt with difficult customer situations.

Once you have narrowed the list down it is time to start making contact to see if they will act as a reference for you. This is an important step — you should ALWAYS seek permission to list someone as a reference before doing so. Provide the person with an update regarding the types of jobs you are interested in and reasons why you feel they may be a good reference for you.

You might even remind them of some of the positive accomplishments or characteristics that you hope to bring to an organization. You can approach this by asking questions, such as, ‘Do you think I’d be a good fit for this type of job? Why?’, or ‘Is there anything you can think of that I should focus on sharing during my interview?’ Not only is this a good reminder, it allows you to gauge how they may respond to the questions asked by a potential employer. If you aren’t getting a good vibe from their responses, you may want to rethink utilizing them as a reference.

If they agree to be a reference, be sure to verify their correct name (spelling especially), company/organization name, title and best phone number and email to list. Ask that they let you know if any of those details change so your reference sheet can be updated accordingly throughout the process. It is also helpful to supply a recent copy of your resume to the reference.

It is very important to keep in touch with your references throughout the job search process and let them know how it is going. At these check-in points check that all contact information is still accurate.

After you have completed your job search process, be sure to reach out to your references to let them know you’ve taken a job. They will be happy to know and share in the excitement with you! Don’t forget to thank them for their assistance.

There isn’t a need to include a statement on your resume stating references available upon request. Instead, utilize that valuable space on your resume selling yourself!

Rather, have your references listed out neatly on a separate document that contains the header from your resume and is printed on the same paper type. Have your reference sheet available and ready to share at your interview.

References can be the determining factor between you and another candidate. Spending the time and effort to maintain a strong and strategic references network can be one of the most valuable assets to your job search. is the leading ag-specific career portal for job seekers.  Employers post more than 5,000 jobs on the site monthly.  Job seekers are provided free access to the industry specific job board, ability to post their resume in the database, and review online educational materials.  For more information, visit
This article was first published in the 2014-2015 Ag & Food Employer Guide


A Building Block to Success: Job Shadowing

Contributed by:  Macy Schneider, Iowa State University, Agricultural Communications Student


How do you know if your dream career is the right fit for you? There are hundreds of tests and quizzes online to assure you. You can spend hours and hours in the classroom and in college lecture halls filling your toolbox with information you hope to be able to put to use one day. There are even job descriptions available for job seekers which give a broad overview of the exact position you may wish to fulfill in the job market. However, none of the tests or quizzes, endless lectures, or job descriptions will give you as much reassurance as job shadowing a professional in your future career field.

The first step to any successful job shadowing experience is to determine what you wish to gain and what you want to learn more about. Once you have your overall objectives in mind, you can then look online or through your current networking contacts to determine who will help you meet those goals. It is always best to contact the person in the position you wish to job shadow first by email or phone. Always remember to be polite and professional, identify who you are, what you are wishing to achieve, and ask if such opportunities are available.

On the day of your job shadow allow yourself enough time to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early. Be sure to dress accordingly. Ask about proper dress code when you are working out the details of the job shadowing experience. It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed. Go over the objectives that you wish to gain from the experience again with the individual you are shadowing to ensure that you make the most of your time together. Be attentive and notice the job environment you are in, the equipment used, tasks being completed, communication methods, workplace morale, et cetera. Can you imagine yourself doing the same things long term?

Ask questions about anything and everything. Is something confusing to you or are you curious to know more, feel free to ask. Some examples of key questions to ask are:

  • What path did you take to work in this position?
  • What is one thing that surprised you about your career/current position?
  • What is the most rewarding/most stressful part about your position?
  • What advice do you have for anyone aspiring to enter this career?


Your level of interest will show the employer how serious you are about the job shadowing opportunity and the added conversation will allow for a more relaxed and friendly environment.

After you have completed your shadowing experience be sure to at least send a thank you note. It is best if the note is sent within one to two days after the experience is completed. To add an extra touch of appreciation you can personalize it with your own penmanship and comment on what you gained from the opportunity. Take time to reflect on the experience and how it will benefit you in your future endeavors. Remember to use your job shadowing experience to your advantage on your resume and during an interview process. Job shadowing can be listed as industry-relevant experience and during the interview you can refer to the company and the goals and observations you achieved from the opportunity. Don’t forget to add the professional you shadowed to your career network and stay in touch with them. One day they could be an asset to helping you achieve your career goals!

Job shadowing has the ability to lead to an interview with the company. It also shows your interest in the business career field, and can increase your chances of being hired by them one day. The opportunity allows you to gain experience and insight on how the industry operates on a daily basis while also providing lifelong networking connections. There are many positive benefits of job shadowing that you simply cannot get by doing online career placement quizzes, attending class, or by browsing the job market for position descriptions. Job shadowing is an underutilized, hands-on experience that delivers one of the most realistic insights into what a certain career field holds for your future! is the leading ag-specific career portal for job seekers.  Employers post more than 5,000 jobs on the site monthly.  Job seekers are provided free access to the industry specific job board, ability to post their resume in the database, and review online educational materials.  For more information, visit



Job Interview Do’s and Don’ts

Contributed by: Alison Doyle, Job Searching Expert


Do you know the best behavior codes for a job interview, or aren’t you sure? Your success in an interview will be determined not only by whether you say and do the right things, but also if you can avoid making major mistakes that will cost you a chance at getting hired.

Here are some suggestions to help you optimize your chances of interview success.

Job Interview Do’s:

  • Dress the part of someone who is successful in your chosen field.Make sure your clothing fits well, is neatly pressed, and is appropriate for the work environment.
  • Greet your interviewer with a firm – but not bone crunching – handshake,and a warm smile. Sit up straight and lean slightly forward during the interview.
  • Make regular – but not piercing or staring – eye contact. Show some energy and enthusiasm through your vocal tone.
  • Analyze the requirements for your target joband be prepared to share at least five compelling reasons as to why you should be hired.
  • Prepare anecdotes, stories and examples that show how you have tapped those strengths to be successful in your past jobs, internships, classes and activities. Describe specific situations or challenges, the actions you took to intervene, and the results which you generated.
  • Pay particular attention to how you have positively impacted the bottom linein your past jobs – whether that was saving money, increasing sales, retaining staff, recruiting employees, securing funding or improving quality.
  • Listen carefully to each question before jumping in with your response. Ask for clarification if you are unsure of what the interviewer is getting at.
  • Carefully review your resumeand be prepared to discuss challenges and successes in each position listed in your document.
  • Rehearse answers to some typical interview questions, including the dreaded inquiry about your weaknesses.
  • Be ready to explain in as positive a manner as possible why you left,or why you were asked to leave, any position on your resume.
  • Make sure you research the employer thoroughlyand know why you would like to work there.
  • Let the interviewer know at the close of your meeting that you are highly interested in the jobbased on what you learned through the process. Make it clear that you would welcome the opportunity to work with them, or continue on in the process.
  • Secure the name and email of each interviewer prior to leaving the premises.
  • As soon as possible after departing, send a follow up email, card or letterwhich expresses your gratitude, briefly summarizes how the job is a good fit and references your heightened interest in the position.


What to Avoid During a Job Interview
In addition to being sure that you are doing all the right things, it’s important not to do the wrong things during a job interview. Acting inappropriately during a job interview, or saying something that causes concern for the interviewer will hinder your chances of getting hired. Here are some things not to do when you’re interviewing.

Job Interview Don’ts:

  • Criticize any previous employer, co-worker or supervisor.
  • Make any false statements that could be discovered by your employer in the future.
  • Share any weaknesses which are central to your target job.
  • Make vague, unsubstantiated assertions about your qualifications.
  • Show a preference for any single interviewer in a group interview situation.
  • Act like a know it all.
  • Arrive late for your interview.
  • Enter the employer’s facility more than 20 minutes prior to the interview.
  • Dress in too casual a manner.
  • Act like you could take or leave the job.
  • Talk too much.
  • Talk too much.
  • Order an alcoholic beverage during an interview meal or select an entree that is difficult to eat gracefully. is the leading ag-specific career portal for job seekers.  Employers post more than 5,000 jobs on the site monthly.  Job seekers are provided free access to the industry specific job board, ability to post their resume in the database, and review online educational materials.  For more information, visit


Figuring Out What You Want to Do

Contributed by: Lauren Vann, Sales Support Coordinator,


We have all heard the infamous question “So what are you going to do when you graduate?” Now how many of you actually know or knew before graduation what you really were going to do? If you were anything like me it took the week before you graduated to finally secure a job. My biggest frustration was deciding which sectors in agriculture to focus on.

I grew up on a farm, so I applied to jobs related to those commodities we grew. I had marketing internships, so I applied to marketing jobs. And the applying goes on and on where I eventually lost track of where my resume was. Looking back I wish I had been given tips or a guide book so that I did not waste my energy elsewhere.

Taking from my personal experiences, fellow graduates, and industry friends, I have developed a few tips on answering that in famous question — what do you want to do?

• Focus on your agricultural personalities. An example is wasting your energy applying to an animal production facility if you know that you wouldn’t like the smell, or applying to only desk jobs if you love the outdoors.

• Know your resume and what you are qualified to do. If a job requires 3+ years of work experience that doesn’t mean your part-time college job is always relatable. If it is, you can explain that in your cover letter.

• Start exploring early. Don’t wait until you need an internship or a job to begin looking at possible career opportunities. Begin to learn about all of the options early and often. Go to career fairs in your first year to learn about companies, jobs and organizations. Attend info sessions at club and organization meetings. Subscribe to or read online industry publications.

• Internships! If you are not graduating make sure you are applying for internships. Make every effort to get as much experience as possible. Many internships help you get a feel for a sector without the long term commitment and could even result in a full-time position. If you are graduating, never think you are too old for an internship program. If you enjoyed your internship(s) look for similar entry-level jobs.

• Look for trainee programs. This requires you to plan ahead. Most programs have their selections of who they want to participate in their trainee program by December. Many companies have you work a certain amount of time in each department, which can help you see what you do and do not like, providing insight into what you might like to pursue.

• Temporary work assignments can provide sector insight. If a company offers you a temporary assignment, or contract, look at it as a learning opportunity to see if you are a good fit in the sector or culture. Many companies like this approach for new grads to see if they are committed before providing full-time offers and benefits.

• Procrastination is your worst enemy. You are competing with students all over the United States, do not sit back and let them take all the jobs while you say “I’ll start looking tomorrow.”

• Talk to your advisor or favorite professors. They taught the hiring managers of today years ago and can help direct you to someone as an industry mentor. Having an industry mentor can help you find ways to network with industry leaders and help you when applying to jobs.

• Job shadowing can help you branch out to other sectors. You may have at least one class assignment that requires you to job shadow, but you can utilize your professors’ connections and job shadow multiple companies and different roles within that company. It helps you network and learn from others in the industry.

• Post your resume in’s resume database. Many employers utilize this tool daily to find new hires without advertising their job. This can help you be approached by employers instead of approaching them.

• Look outside of your zip code. Internships or first jobs are a great way to test the boundaries of your state and think outside of the box. Willingness to move to another region or state could make you very marketable.

Take our Ideal Career in Ag Quiz to find out what your perfect career may be based on your interests.

Hopefully you can now take these tips and quiz results to help tackle your job search! is the leading ag-specific career portal for job seekers.  Employers post more than 5,000 jobs on the site monthly.  Job seekers are provided free access to the industry specific job board, ability to post their resume in the database, and review online educational materials.  For more information, visit