Whether it’s your first Career Fair or your fourth, there’s something overwhelmingly intimidating about the possibility of meeting your future employer. Here’s the thing- those jitters, at a normal level, are a good tool to use as your driving force to success! Have confidence, but have the humility to properly market yourself to your full potential. As an undergraduate senior, I have seen (and made) plenty of mistakes. Here’s a short list of some of the things I have found the most useful while preparing for a career fair.
Regardless of how perfect you view your resume, a second set of eyes such as a teacher or employer may catch things you didn’t see. Make sure to ask well in advance to give them enough time to help you!
This one seems a little obvious, but it is so important. Pick it out, try it on, then try it on again. Does it fit right? Do you feel confident in it? Also, have a backup outfit just in case you spill coffee on yourself on your way out the door. If you don’t have an appropriate outfit, check with your college Career Services office. They typically have a closet filled with various sizes and styles for free!
One of the most embarrassing things that can happen when talking to a company representative is not having an answer to the question, “So, what do you know about (insert company)?” Knowing basic information about the company will give you an edge over candidates who may not.
The most important thing to know when going into a career fair is to know who you are. The term elevator pitch refers to a short speech about yourself that can be competed in a short elevator ride. The essentials for a student would be name, location, year in school, major, and any steps you’ve taken to reach your career goals. I also like to include why I chose my major and a memorable fact about myself.
A career fair will be as beneficial as you allow it to be. Make a list of general questions that can be used for any company you visit, as well as a list specifically tailored to companies you have a unique interest in. Not only will you gather vital information, but recruiters will appreciate the effort!
As cheesy as it may be, confidence is key. Know where you’re going, where to park, and how much time you have to spend. If you only have an hour between classes, you don’t want to spend half of it talking to companies that aren’t related to your field. All of this information should be on the college website.
Believe it or not, recruiters are real people and have personalities too! This means they want to get to know yours. Of course, professionalism is required, but being robotic is not. Not only is being yourself allowed, but recruiters will enjoy their time with you considerably more. They want to know your education and skills, but they also want to know how you’ll fit into their culture. Smile, shake hands, and take a breath. Everyone is on the same team.
By: Halle White, GROWMARK Campus Ambassador
It’s been awhile since we brought you back to the roots of this blog. I realize there are some new faces here, exploring the purpose and value of this blog. I am here to help! Welcome to the GROWMARK, Inc. Talent Management blog. Our recruiting team has a mission to improve transparency between the company’s people and the public. To improve our communication to the outside world, we have created this blog. Here are a few topics you can expect to find on our blog in the future months to come:
By: Tori Streitmatter
Have you ever started a new position at a company, only to feel like the job just doesn’t fit? Do you find yourself chasing a new lead, just to end up disappointed with the day-to-day work? You might be making the same mistake I did.
Like many college students, my career path has taken a few unexpected turns. Agriculture has always been a part of my life, but until this past year, I didn’t see it as a career option. I chased after positions with impressive descriptions, like working on the trade floor at Bank of America, only to find myself unhappy and unengaged in that role.
I was trying to build a career based on what I thought was important, not what was important to me. I recently began pursuing a career in agriculture, which led me to the Communications Internship at GROWMARK.
To some, working in communications might not sound interesting at all. To me, working with employees of the GROWMARK System and experiencing their growth firsthand is an exciting opportunity. As a communications intern, one of my responsibilities is to share System stories with employees and the public, and I get to build experience in a new field along the way.
That’s really what an internship is all about: gaining exposure to different roles in a company to find the fit that works for you. Whether it’s your first time in a position or you’ve already explored a few options, taking charge and capitalizing on those opportunities will set you up for a long and engaged career. Stay tuned this summer to find out if communications is the right fit for me!
By: Becca Dwyer
It’s that time of year again…graduation! What a momentous time it is – celebrating achievements of friends and family members. Let me tell you, after years of hard work, graduation is an accomplishment worth celebrating. So, congratulations to all the new grads out there! Here are some words of wisdom from me to you:
As a new graduate, it is easy to get lost in dollar signs. Trust me, I get it – those student loans are real and they are breathing down your neck! If this sounds familiar, it may be easy to consider working for companies you have no connection to but can see yourself making the big bucks there. It is important to remember, money isn’t everything. Make sure you consider the companies values and mission, their benefits package, and how their path could lead you where you want to go!
Get out of the house (or the office!):
Don’t let work consume your life! It’s always important to make time for yourself, your family and your friends – but as a new grad, it’s also important to have new experiences and make the most of those early years of your career. Get out and try something new – travel, join a new organization, join a work league and meet new people. Whatever it is, just get out and about and remember it’s for your own well-being!
Stay involved with your school:
You have a shiny new diploma to add to your collection from a school you spent some time at. Whether 2 years or 4 years, that place holds some significance to you. Keep that in mind as you get older – come back for homecoming, buy from a fundraiser of an old student organization you loved and give back when you can!
Pass along your wisdom:
You learned a lot (some more useful things than others), but you learned nonetheless. Why not take some of what you learned back to your old stomping grounds. If you are asked to return as a guest speaker to a classroom – say yes. If you are asked to participate in a panel for your career center – say yes. Just spread that wealth of knowledge you have built and worked so hard for to others who need to hear your story.
Never stop learning:
Don’t get complacent! It’s not always those who graduated at the top of their class or had the best offers at the best companies that can be our only definitions of success. Those who adapt and are eager to learn are those who are most successful. Pick up a book or an article related to your industry. Attend conferences. Expand your network and learn from new people. You’ll thank me later.
By: Kayla Portwood
I recently came across an article which talked about the appropriate time to have the salary discussion during the interview process. As a recruiter, I quickly opened this article to see if it provided the same advice that I would…turns out, it didn’t! The article advised candidates to wait as long as possible to discuss salary with their potential employer. That is the opposite of what I would recommend. Let’s look at some of the myths surrounding this topic and why it benefits you to have the salary discussion early in the process!
Myth: Recruiters ask for your salary requirements, so they can low-ball you when it comes time for an offer.
Fact: Honest recruiters are not asking for your salary information so that they can in turn offer you the least amount possible. We ask that question to ensure that we can meet your salary expectations and to verify that you are seeking a position within the organization that is at an appropriate level for your skills and experience while also meeting your financial needs.
Another important reason we ask? So, we do not waste your time, the hiring manager’s time or our own time, if we know with certainty that we cannot offer you the salary you require.
Myth: Telling a recruiter how much you make will limit what you will be offered.
Fact: Reputable organizations will pay you market rate or higher. When we look to hire someone for a role, we WANT to offer them enough to incentivize them. Our goal is to ensure you are being paid fairly and commensurate with your experience.
Myth: Wait for an offer to be made, THEN try to get everything you want.
Fact: It is helpful for the recruiter to know your requirements and expectations ahead of an offer. This is not only limited to your salary expectation, but also any expectations you have about paid time off, benefits, bonuses, etc. Again, this is not so the recruiter can offer you the bare minimum, but so that they can make you a competitive offer! Leaving all your requests to the end of the process can cause delays and even the potential for the offer to be rescinded.
I get it - conversations about salary are uncomfortable at best. No one likes talking about it, but it’s immensely important during the recruiting process. What should you do when the dreaded salary question comes up?
Ultimately, the earlier you have the conversation with a prospective employer about salary, the better off you will be. The recruiting process is a collaboration between candidate and employer. Be open and honest and it will serve you well!
By: Megan Peterson
Have you ever had a professional mentor of your own? If you don't have a mentor to help you conquer professional roadblocks yet, I suggest securing one! Though there are many ways to do this, here's the story of how I successfully found my professional mentor!
Real talk, when I first started here at GROWMARK, Inc. just a couple weeks after graduating college, I did not have a professional mentor. It wasn't until one of my colleagues mentioned she was getting lunch with her mentor that the light bulb went off in my head. Immediately I thought to myself "Lunch with a mentor? I need that in my life! How do I identify a mentor in my life? Where do I sign up for that?" I started to think about the people closest to me: family, friends, and my work team. I soon realized if I wanted to get the most out of a professional mentorship, it couldn't be with any of those individuals. Instead it needed to be with someone who would give me honest feedback and not sugar-coat situations. I think we all seek guidance, but it's important to make sure we seek the right kind of guidance.
I started making a list of professionals who had impacted my life through internships and past work experiences. I identified my top three mentor picks. I reached out to my first pick… within 24 hours I had a response verifying that I now had a professional mentor! Immediately I knew this was going to be an excellent fit for both of us I was so excited to embark on this journey! My mentor and I meet for lunch once a month. We each bring a list of questions to ask one another, eat lunch, and then discuss the topics we bring! It's that easy. A year later, we still make a pact to meet every month! It always gives me something to look forward and we never run out of topics for conversation.
After reflecting on my time with my mentor, I cannot imagine my professional life without her. Since I have had someone to seek out for professional advice, I have become more confident in my career leading me to improve my performance in the workplace. I hope this inspires you to seek out a professional mentorship as well!
By. Tori Streitmatter
It's the night before your formal interview, the one that you have been dying to land; you've known all along exactly what you are going to wear. You've played this scenario over and over in your head and have picked out every detail of your outfit from head-to-toe. You are going to look fabulous!
It all comes crashing down when you think you are on top of it by getting your outfit all laid out and trying it on just for good measure so, you know; you don't realize the DAY OF that it doesn't fit. But really, you should have prepped well in advance.
In general, today's workplace is more casual than the typical formal interview attire and it may have been a while since you have even worn those pieces. Regardless though if you were on the ball and purchased in advance a brand new outfit for the interview or you find yourself in that last minute scramble; here are some simple tips for helping you dress to feel your best during the interview. (So you can focus on other jitters, like when they ask you "Tell me about yourself." – Just kidding, we've got you covered with that too!)
Step 1: Do your homework.
When you get the call that a formal in-person interview is being extended, it is ok to ask about the culture and dress code of the workplace. This will help you determine what is appropriate and start you off right to figuring out if pieces you already have can be used or direct you in what you need to purchase. Every employer will be different in what they expect and they don't expect you to already know.
Step 2: Keep it simple.
Focus on staple pieces like solids and neutral colors; like black, white, gray, navy, or brown for majority of your outfit. This will help you repurpose those pieces in the future and keep the interviewers focus on you (and your rock star answers) during the interview and not your outfit. Dress slacks or chinos, a button up collared shirt, sweater, tie, suit jacket (if formal), and/or a skirt or dress are all typically appropriate; along with coordinating dress shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk in. (Incorporating one statement piece to the outfit such as a tie, necklace or earrings, or a patterned shirt under a solid jacket or sweater can be a nice touch; but you want to be sure those standout pieces are limited.)
Step 3: Show up polished and pressed.
Make sure that your outfit is clean; free of stains, wrinkles, and is not ripped or tattered. Style your hair in such a way that it will be out of your face and distraction free. Proper hygiene is a must and again will help ensure you feel confident in your outfit. You don't want to be blindsided by that morning's breakfast making a guest appearance in the interview room.
Step 4: Let your skills stand out – not your scent.
Moderate use of cologne or perfume is ok, but don't let the scent of that takeover and cloud the interview because it filled up the room more so than all of the great conversation around the reasons you are qualified to do that job.
Step 5: Put it all together.
Give it all a test run. Don't end up in a scenario like how this story kicked off. Coordinate your outfit and try it on (shoes, accessories, even hairstyles included) so that you are prepared for any malfunctions.
When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to always err on the side of being overdressed. You will feel more confident knowing you are dressed for success! If you find yourself still unsure, this overview of common dress codes will help:
Business professional: In this environment suits are the norm. Women might typically wear a skirt or pantsuit with heels, and men it is common to wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirt, suit pants, a tie, and dress shoes.
Business casual: A suit is not needed. Men might consider dress slacks or chinos, a button down or polo shirt, a belt and dress shoes. Women might wear a conservative dress, or a blouse (or sweater) with a skirt or dress pants and dress shoes or boots.
Casual: It is still important to look polished and professional. Again, err on the side of being overdressed and go with a business casual outfit. (There will be plenty of time to rock the jeans, tennis shoes, and/or tees when you get the job!)
Want more clarity? Check out the '9 Things You Shouldn't Wear to a Job Interview'.
By: Allison Stephey
You've done it!
You got the call asking you to come in for a face to face interview – you've received the kickoff.
You've done your homework and researched the company's website thoroughly – You're at the 50 yard line.
You've thought about what behavioral questions could be asked of you, and you've prepared several great examples – The 30 yard line.
You've written down a list of questions that you'd like to know more about regarding both the company and position – The 20!
You've taken a test drive to see where exactly to park and enter the building – The 10!
You've dressed for success, and your confidence is sky high – The 5!!
"Thank you for coming in today, please tell us about yourself." – FUMBLE!!
As a recruiter, I've seen this time and time again. The deer in the headlights look after the infamous "tell me about yourself" question. Why does such a seemingly harmless question become such a difficult one to answer? Well, we all tend to skip over things we feel like we know well. So in preparation for an interview, it is easy to tell yourself, "I'll know what to say when they ask me this question – because who knows me better than me?" When you take this approach, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Here's why. This is your first chance to make an impression and essentially set the tone for the interview. You can either set a positive, well-meaning tone that impresses the interviewer(s) and make them more interested in you, or you can fumble the question entirely and have to work your way back up.
Here is a possible scenario:
"So, tell me about yourself."
"Oh boy, where do I start?" (As if you never knew that the interviewer would ever ask such a tricky question). Well… (INTERNAL DIALOGUE - where do I start, where do I start? Let's see - do I go back to where I'm from or where my first job was? OK, I grew up 40 miles away from here in a small community, wait a minute, how is that relevant? No, I'm not going to start there. How about a touching story about my first dog, Buddy – WHY WOULD I SAY THAT!? No….maybe that is good. Now I'm starting to get emotional about Buddy, I miss him so much! Wait a minute, what was the question again?)
OK – so that is an extreme scenario, but hopefully you get the point. Things can start spiraling quickly if you're not prepared to answer that question.
Brace yourself because I'm going to share some outrageously powerful advice and insight. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. As an interviewer, this is a way to see how the candidate communicates. Every interviewer is different, hiring managers are all looking for different things and they all have different personalities, so there is not a singular correct response. If you follow the below guidelines however, you will at least set yourself up well for the rest of the interview.
Touchdown! You're now ready to answer the 'tell me about yourself' question. Now keep going, win the game, and get the job! Good luck!
By: George Moore
Careers take twists and turns making your professional experience a path unique to you based on your aspirations and experiences.
While in college I was told, "Your degree will help you get placed in your first job – after that it will be based on your experiences." At first, I was unsure how this was possible due to my degree being the career path I was wanting to take. I knew the skillset it equipped me with prepared me to take on a communication based career. However, as my career path began to evolve the above statement has never been more true. GROWMARK has a variety of positions available across multiple facets of business. No matter the position you are in, you are developing valuable transferrable skills to prepare you to take on your next career move. Transferrable skills can be applied whether you are in accounting, energy, agronomy, etc. If you find an area interesting, talk with the team currently in place and learn more about it. Determine the skillset you need to develop that could be applied to a similar position.
Recently I took a different position in the company and many people saw the switch as an extreme change. Yes, it is very different from my former position. However, I was able to apply skills gained from one role and build new skills in my current role. All of which are preparing me for my future career goals. Again, the path is unique to you and no two people may have the same path.
A path is there for guidance not set in concrete. It is meant to be flexible and allow for the individual to make his or her decisions based on interests and new discoveries along the way. It is not meant to be straight and narrow but allow for curves along the way. If you have an interest don't be afraid to pursue it because you could end up finding a position that fulfills a passion you may not even realize you had!
By: Amie Hasselbring
Every day we engage others in conversation, presentations and meetings. You engage in communication where you need to make key points about your perspective, thought or idea. Your intent is to have credibility and impact with the direction or outcome of the interaction. You need to ERASE all doubt in communicating your key points that will increase your influence and outcomes. Below are five different forms of evidence to support your key ideas. The acronym ERASE will help you remember them.
Before your next conversation, presentation or meeting; take a few minutes to identify your key points you want to make, then select one of the five ways you can ERASE all doubt to increase your impact and credibility.
By: David Hansen
It is one thing to enjoy the work you do, but another thing to enjoy the environment you work in. My inspiration for this blog came from a somewhat recent situation with a friend. It was similar to this:
Person A: "I love my current employer, but I found a career elsewhere that pays more and I really want to take a chance on this opportunity. I could use a pay increase."
Person B: "Oh really? What have you heard about their company culture? Are you sure you want to leave everything about this company for a little more pay? You do realize companies like this are hard to come by…"
Person A: "The company didn't score very high on their review when I looked them up on Glassdoor, but I'm sure it's fine. Again, I really need this pay increase."
Person B: "Well, I hope you're making the right decision. I'm not sure I would give up the amazing culture at your current employer simply for a little more pay. I guarantee if you're patient and work hard, good things will happen for you at your current workplace!"
*TWO MONTHS LATER*
Person A: "I have really tried to be positive about all of this and not complain, but the culture at my new job is unbearable. This may sound terrible, but I wish I had never left my former position. I think I am going to try to leave here soon. I'm sick of being treated like another number here."
Is leaving a highly respected company for a little more pay a smart decision? Not in my book. You don't realize how impactful company culture is. At GROWMARK, our culture is one of a kind. I have been spoiled with compassionate teammates, a plethora of ways to directly engage with our CEO, and many opportunities to get involved with employee programs that host annual walking challenges, recycling programs, food drives, and numerous employee recognition events. (Honestly, this list could go on and on.) I think everyone would agree that it feels good to work for an employer that truly cares about me and my well-being. There is something special about working for a place that puts forth effort to make their employees feel appreciated. I've learned you can't put a price tag on that!
The next time you are forced to make a new career decision based on career advancement, pay increase, or length of commute, be sure to stay mindful of just how important company culture can be.
By: Tori Streitmatter
Earlier in my GROWMARK career, Jim Spradlin explained to me the best way to showcase your leadership abilities and advance your career is to "leave your mark on the organization." At the time Jim was my supervisor in Agronomy and he has since become the CEO of GROWMARK. Those words have really stuck with me and I think about them often. I have since realized this "mark" can be outside of your job description. So, a few years ago I began seeking out additional opportunities in which I could "make my mark" on GROWMARK.
It began when I was invited to join GROWMARK's Diversity and Inclusion initiative. What started as a think tank, turned into a task force with me serving as a co-chair because of my personal interest and the time and effort I was willing to invest. About that time, I learned of an opportunity with the IAA Credit Union's board. I had inquired previously and learned the board consisted of employees from the IAA Family of Companies. After getting involved on the board, my desire to make an impact led me to serve as the chairperson. More recently, I was asked and accepted an opportunity to join a GROWMARK advisory committee which helps navigate the balance between the need for information security and employee productivity with systems and processes.
Leadership comes in a variety of forms beyond holding a specific job title or being a supervisor. Sometimes being willing to take on additional responsibilities, outside of your position, department, or even company, is a great measure of your traits and capability as a leader. There are multiple variations of the phrase "say yes and figure the rest out later." While I don't believe this is a great rule to live by without question, remember stretch assignments and opportunities will not appear every day or forever into the future. I highly encourage all employees to think strongly before just simply responding with "no, I don't have time" when an opportunity presents itself.
By: Jeff Frank
I always knew my true passion was to serve others, but I had no idea where to begin finding a career path where I could make a big impact. Here are four tips that are continually on my mind as I navigate my life and career.
1. Always Stay Curious
I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I was in Kindergarten, I recall very vividly wanting to be a mad scientist when I grew up. I thought each of these would be my career path at one point of my life: farmer, youth pastor, DEC officer, soldier. I researched and explored just about any career path that sounded good to me; I wanted to find my place. I knew I loved the outdoors and I knew that I wanted to make a difference. (Pretty cliche, I know). Eventually I discovered that agriculture was the perfect fit for what I was looking for. With the help of a family friend, (who to this day continues to be a career mentor for me) I found my life calling.
2. Take Risks
I needed a summer job and applied for a Seed Research Technician position at GROWMARK FS. I had zero industry experience, but I was ambitious. I had an insatiable desire to get out of my comfort zone, take risks, and succeed. I was hired and had an amazing summer with my first true exposure to agriculture. I was originally studying Criminal Justice at Buffalo State College, but ended up transferring into Morrisville State College's Agricultural Business Development B.B.A. program after that first summer. I refused to accept that I would be at any disadvantage not having grown up on a farm or having an extensive background in agriculture since this was what I knew I wanted to pursue.
3. Overcome Doubt
Without a traditional agriculture background and with my future goals of getting involved in the farm service sector, I did not want to be ignorant to the fact that I needed to be able to understand my future customers, the growers, and their needs and concerns. I ended up going to a local dairy farm in college and taking a job as a farmhand during my semesters there. Passion forms its own path. If the passion is there, you will be able to find solutions and form a path to be successful. In my case, I leveraged my soft skills, problem solving abilities, and work ethic to be successful in agriculture. Doubt from others (and even from yourself) is imminent if you are pursuing something new. True character reveals itself in the midst of trials like these.
4. Stay the Course
I have held numerous roles in my five and a half years in the GROWMARK System in both New York and Illinois. I have been an Agronomy Intern, Customer Service Representative in agronomy, and most recently a University Relations Recruiter. While for some it may look odd going from a technical role to now being in human resources at the corporate office, it made perfect sense to me. I wanted to become a more well-rounded employee and leverage the skills and experiences I have had to succeed in the company and grow personally and professionally. This career in agriculture has allowed me to serve others in so many ways, from addressing grower's issues in New York to helping manage the GROWMARK Internship Program and match passions with opportunities. In 2017, I took on a role with GOYA Ministries as an Agricultural Advisory Board Member and Co-leader on my second agriculturally focused mission trip in Nairobi, Kenya and the surrounding areas. Seeing firsthand how what I have learned could help address food security issues and feed starving children has been nothing short of life changing for me.
If I would have let my concerns and doubts make my decisions for me in my career, I never would have been able to experience a fraction of what I have. Throughout my childhood, I was very unsure of the future, including my future career. I am still unsure of where this career path will take me, but I know that passion forms its own path into amazing opportunities.
By: Luke Martin
'Twas the night before the interview and all through your brain, ran thoughts of anxiety – will they think I am lame? You want to be prepared but aren't sure what to do. Follow these simple tips and you will breeze right through!
GROWMARK Recruiting wishes you and your family a wonderful holiday season!
By: Beth Fannin
It's 4:00 a.m. on Black Friday and you are up with the rest of the other manic shoppers trying to be first in line to get that hot gift of the season at a remarkably low price. There you are, face pressed up against the glass just hoping for a chance with hundreds of people behind you hoping for the same. The doors open and everyone starts pouring in, but you find out that hot gift you have been looking for is sold out so the store gives you a rain check. Before you know it, New Year's rolls around and you still haven't heard anything.
Looking for a new job can be just like Black Friday. You spend hours of your time prepping, revising your resume, and hoping you beat out all the other hopefuls. You hold your breath and hit submit on the application and then…..nothing. It's frustrating and you have to wonder if you are the latest victim of the HR black hole. You know, the one where you submit an application and hear nothing back. What can you do?
By: Megan Peterson
Hello! Welcome to the GROWMARK, Inc. Talent Management blog. We have a mission to improve transparency between the recruiting and training teams and the public. In an effort to improve our communication to the outside world, we have created this blog. Here are a few topics you can expect to find on our blog in the future months to come:
By: Tori Streitmatter