Penn State

Agriculture career fair allows Penn State students a chance to show their knowledge, confidence

Melinda Lebofsky, with Lansing Trade Group, shakes hands with Penn State student Keith Taylor Jr. during the career day. The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences held an Ag Career Day at the Bryce Jordan Center, October 21, 2014.
Melinda Lebofsky, with Lansing Trade Group, shakes hands with Penn State student Keith Taylor Jr. during the career day. The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences held an Ag Career Day at the Bryce Jordan Center, October 21, 2014. CDT photo

Lisa Kirby was looking for confident and professional students.

From an employer’s perspective, first impression is the most important when hiring, she said.

Kirby is a 2010 Penn State graduate and commercial lines field manager at Westfield Insurance in Westfield Center, Ohio.

Her company was one of 137 that set up a station at the 32nd annual Ag Career Day hosted by Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences at the Bryce Jordan Center on Tuesday.

It’s an event held for one day to help give students in the College of Agricultural Sciences a chance explore internship and career opportunities.

Westfield Insurance isn’t a traditional company you’d think would be at an agricultural career fair, but the company has an agricultural division that provides insurance for farmers and commercial agribusinesses.

And ag jobs aren’t just “limited to working on the farm anymore,” said Richard Rateau, coordinator of experiential learning and career services.

“We have insurance companies to landscapers here,” he said. “We try to cover all aspects of the students in our programs.”

The career fair was where Kirby found an internship with Westfield about five years ago that turned it into a full-time job.

“I was an ag business major,” she said. “I found a place that fit my needs and vice versa.”

Last year, the fair attracted about 850 students, of whom about quarter found some type of employment after the event, Rateau said.

“We’re trying to increase that number,” he said. “We want to increase the number of (vendors) that come in so it gives the students a chance to see where they fit the best.”

Senior Anthony Tatone, an agriculture business major with a minor in supply-chain management, said he was hoping to find a company that highlighted his skills — including knowledge of managing the food system, agribusiness strategic decisions, food product marketing, economics of the food system, agribusiness markets and prices, and global agribusiness.

He walked away last year with an internship at Aramark Food, Facility and Uniform Services in Washington D.C., which has already offered him a job upon graduation, he said.

“Right now, I have the chance to expand my experience and pinpoint a place that is more specific to what I’m looking for,” Tatone said. “I’m talking to a lot of different companies.”

Kirby urges students to get interview experience before talking to a company of interest, by chatting and networking with numerous companies, even if not in the student’s field of study.

“We’re attracted to students who really do their homework before coming into it,” Kirby said. “We look for someone professional and with confidence, and know their stuff. The training will come later.”

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