With college and high school graduations recently having been completed, I was curious what professors and employers believe are the ideal qualifications for the new graduate. I sought the opinion of nationally respected university professors and industry professionals. Here are their answers:
Dan Kniffen, Animal Science Professor, Penn State University: Employers pursue individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to showing up on time and completing a full day. Education will be assumed. If you have attended school they will anticipate you should have acquired a level of skill and problem solving.
The next generation of employers will look for the individual who has displayed a level of leadership and one that assumes responsibility as they move through their undergraduate program.
Communication will become even more important. As students become more attached to electronic devices and lose the interpersonal skill of one-on-one or group communication, the ability to engage people in communication will become even more important. Students who have either held club officer positions or have been a part of a university judging team will be heavily recruited.
The most important educational value of participation on a judging team is the life skills an individual develops. Developing problem solving, reasoning and presentation skills will be second to note as individuals prepare for their careers.
Tom Field, Director of Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and the Paul Engler Chair of Agribusiness Entrepreneurship, University of Nebraska: Successful agriculturalists through time have shared one common skill – the ability to solve problems. And so it will be in the future.
The application of creativity, adaptability and resilience has and will define success in agricultural endeavors. Underpinning problem solving capacity is the desire to vigorously pursue continuous learning.
As technology and information have proliferated, the importance of curiosity has risen in concert. However, given the vast amount of available information and the growth of specialization in the disciplines related to agriculture; it is impossible to expect any one individual to master all the domains of knowledge.
Through the intentional creation of local and global networks, agricultural decision makers can harness not only their own capabilities but the shared capacity of their network as well. Undergraduate education should focus on enhancing these three human capacities – problem solving, learning and meaningful networking.
Greg Lardy, Animal Science Department Head, North Dakota State University and President, American Society of Animal Science: In addition to a degree from an accredited institution, graduates need the following:
Excellent communication skills – both written and oral; demonstrated leadership skills/experience; the ability to think critically and keen understanding that we live in a global society; the ability to analyze data to solve problems and make decisions and/or recommendations to supervisors; a basic understanding of finances, profitability and return on investment; the ability to work in a team and independently; a positive attitude; a willingness to start at an entry level position and work your way up; and a lifelong willingness to learn.
Mike Siemens, Cargill Meat Solutions: When visiting with new interns or recruits we always find out the basics such as their academic strengths and weaknesses and GPA. I also try to find out their depth of knowledge of the potential job that they are applying for. Quite often that depth of knowledge is somewhat shallow due to inexperience, but that is OK because much of the required knowledge will be taught to them if selected for a position.
In searching out good young talent, I always look for the basics first. Are they smart and wise (smart comes from a book; wise comes from experience)? Do they have the ability to work with other people and be an active and welcomed participation in a team setting? Are they passionate and motivated for the right purpose, which should be to showcase their talent and not just position themselves to move up the next rung of the ladder.
After years of visiting with many young people, I think the most successful interviews come down to the intangibles. Leaving a positive impression with an interviewer is what will make them remember you and hopefully lead to greater opportunities. Be authentic when you visit with people, be reliable when you say you are going to do something, and be punctual; no one likes to be kept waiting.
Jerry Lipsey, Former Professor, University of Missouri and Retired Executive with American Simmental Association: Be sure to know the demands for intellect, experience, work ethic and personality. No person is perfect, so plan which of the above your team can advance/improve. Experience and work ethic are the result of good mentoring.
Intellect and personality modifications are tough to teach. Be wary of references. I’m jaded, but a large proportion of references evaluate the candidates as far too superior. Be sure your team’s evaluation is similar to the reference.
I think students who have significant work experiences, especially interactive work-settings, have been more successful. Of course, this depends on the position description, but one of the most common factors of employee failure is inability to get along with others. Experiences in meeting customer satisfaction and service are often a trait of employee success.
This is old fashioned, but three things often explain the potential of a candidate: How they look, how they talk and how they write gives me an indication of their passion to join, serve and succeed in a work team. A Ron Jon Surf Shot tee, inability to interact both one-on-one and when addressing a group, and discomfort with pen or chalk doesn’t fit many situations.
Finally, passion. Indicators of real passion for the goals of our businesses, and usually, the vision that winning is a team-thing makes all the difference between a super successful hire and “just another person in the building.”