By: Bailey Munday, 4th year animal science major with a minor in agricultural communications
As a resident of Tulare, CA, I have attended the World Ag Expo for the last 15 years. Though our small town is known for having more cows than people, we are especially known for hosting the largest, annual agricultural exposition at the International Agri-Center. This year alone, the three-day event hosted 106,700 attendees representing 49 states and 63 countries, according to the International Agri-Center.
When I originally attended the exposition, it was simply to pick up free stuff and a day off from school. However, as a college senior anticipating graduation, my perspective on the exposition shifted. Instead of a way to grab freebies, I realized the event offered endless encounters for networking with industry professionals to gain insight on potential career opportunities. However, these exhibitors typically aren’t looking for someone to hand them a resume, as they’re presenting their newest agricultural services and technology. The question then comes to mind, how does one network for career opportunities outside of a career fair setting?
The exposition can be overwhelming with the number of people, square footage, and attractions, but the best thing to do is take a deep breath and keep in mind an end goal. This isn’t an easy task, but luckily there are over 1,480 exhibitors at the event providing ample opportunities to practice.
Personally, I start in the Farm Credit Dairy Center. First, I do a walk through to make a prioritized list of the exhibitors who interest me. Then, I practice my pitch on a random booth to help prepare. Finally, I approach a company of interest and start a casual conversation asking what their company does, do they have a sector-specific to my career path, if there are opportunities available, and lastly give my pitch followed by asking for contact information. Typically, someone gives their elevator pitch first, but in this setting, I feel it’s best to become familiar with the company beforehand as they’re there to engage producers and consumers with their products. However, you should never get stuck in a practiced routine when networking. The conversations all flow differently, therefore it’s important to be flexible and remain unfazed if things don’t go as planned. Most of all, wear a polo associated with your university. I can’t express enough how many conversations were initiated with exhibitors who saw I was from Cal Poly.
Nonetheless, my networking experience here was very different from others, as my mother attended the event alongside me. As my biggest supporter, she would approach other exhibitors while I would be speaking with a representative to find out what they do, and then discuss with them how she has a daughter who is graduating and needs a job. Though I don’t recommend this, it was great having her on my team to prep the companies before I met with them.
Networking may seem intimidating, but the World Ag Expo presents an excellent opportunity to gain experience. Regardless of your background, it connects people from all walks of life, and could potentially land you a job.