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Cattlemen’s Classic Career Day offers up some good advice for job-seeking college students

Written by Saige

Kearney, Neb. – Growing up on a beef cattle operation and being a competitive showman in 4-H, Railen Ripp never expected to have a career working at John Deere. As a college student at the University of Nebraska, Ripp decided to spend one summer at home showing cattle. She found an internship working at the local John Deere dealership. 

“The second day I was there, they had an opening come up in the parts department, and I got put there,” she said. “I didn’t know much about parts, other than the few I went to pick-up for dad and grandpa.”

Ripp told nearly 50 students at Career Day at the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic that the internship changed her career path. She found she enjoyed working with customers and, after college, obtained a job with John Deere as a territory aftermarket sales manager. 

Finding opportunities

“I found it is important to try everything and keep an open mind,” Ripp told students. “We may take a lot of wrong turns before we find the right path.”

“Students should find someone they admire and aspire to have their job someday and seek them out for advice. Ask them to share their knowledge,” she added.

A panel of 12 professional in various agribusiness fields discussed how they found the opportunities that led to the careers they now have. 

One of the best recommendations the panel had for students was encouraging them to pursue internships or volunteer work before they graduate from college. Many of the panelists had internships, which helped them find the right career path.

Clint Lambrecht of Merck Animal Health did everything from mowing lawns to riding with an animal health rep. 

“Try anything and take something from it,” he advised. “I can honestly say, to this day, I learned something from each internship I had.”

Randy Lenz, a district manager with Purina, said most companies would like to have their interns apply with their company after they have finished college. 

“The ones we hire who didn’t have an internship with us cost us double their wages the first year of employment,” he explained. 

Starting

Aliesha Dethlefs, who now works for the University of Nebraska as a 4-H and youth programs specialist, says career fairs are a good place to start. 

“Don’t be afraid to walk around and talk to people. Networking and talking to the right people is important. We never know what opportunities may arise from the impression we left on someone,” she said.  

Randy Dorn, a sales manager with Allflex, added, “Don’t be afraid to show good work ethic, willingness to work hard and are willingness to learn. Show that you have a passion for what you want to do.”

Opportunities

When applying for a position, most applications are online. 

“There is no one-on-one contact, and many times employers don’t even know our name, they just see a résumé,” Ripp said. “It is important to find ways to separate ourselves from the crowd.”

Lenz said, when he is looking at resumes, he pays close attention to all the opportunities the prospective employee has taken advantage of. 

“Were they in 4-H and helped their younger brother and sister? Were they active in clubs and organizations in college? Did they volunteer? All of those things will come out during a job interview and make that person stand out,” he said. 

Interviews

One student asked the panel how to get potential employers to hire someone who doesn’t know how to do something. 

Taylor Ruether, area manager for BioZyme, responded, “When potential employees ask if an interviewee knows how to do something during a job interview, what they are watching for is the response and their willingness to learn.” 

During the interview process, the panelists agreed interviewees should be confident but not arrogant, and they should leave any distractions like cell phones and Apple watches in their car. 

“People interviewing should also research the company on the internet, and if they have a website, click on every link,”  according to Lambrecht. “Have some questions ready for them. Even if an interviewee doesn’t meet every single job requirement they have listed, don’t be intimidated.”

Lambrecht also said interviewees should let prospective employers know they are willing to learn.

“All employers will ask during a job interview if there are any questions for them,” Ruether said. “They want the interviewee to ask them a question. The best thing to do is some research and come up with a predetermined question.”

Ruether even encouraged students to write down their question, if they are afraid of forgetting it.

Making a pitch

Chuck Wilcox with Alligare told students to remember that, during a job interview, they are trying to sell themselves to the company, so they should ask their interviewer questions like, “What is the biggest challenge with the company?”

He continued, “Show an interest in their company and in them. It leaves a good impression. If they are truly interested in hiring someone, to a point, they will also be trying to sell their company to that person.”

Ronette Heinrich, the manager of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic, told students leaving a good impression is important, even if they don’t get the job. 

“We never know when a closed door will open again,” she said.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..