So, you probably think of farmers and crops when you hear the word ‘agriculture’, don’t you?
Rebecca Hannam, a recent graduate of the four-year Bachelor of Commerce degree in Agricultural Business at University of Guelph, is a successful example of how a job in agriculture can be very fruitful (and I don’t just mean oranges and apples!).
“As the industry/food business keeps growing, and as farmers are faced with new technologies, the jobs will keep growing.” —Rebecca Hannam, Agriculture Account Manager, RBC; Agricultural Business graduate, University of Guelph
She now works as an Account Manager at RBC in Fergus, Ont., about 25 km north of Guelph, working with farmers to help them grow their businesses.
“As an Account Manager, I help provide clients with financial advice and solutions and build relationships with them,” Rebecca says.
How was the transition from your university program to a job in this field?
“My transition was smooth. I think this was due to the number of professional roles I had during university and how applicable the courses were,” she says.
“The Agricultural Business program is great because it focuses on the core commerce courses like accounting and economics, but also includes specialized agriculture classes so graduates know the theory that can be applied to any business – but can sell ourselves as specialized in terms of knowing agriculture.”
Rebecca says working as an Account Manager is rewarding because not only does she deal with the commercial aspect of agri-business, but her job also allows her to be out on the road, meeting clients and attending community functions, so she is not confined to a desk everyday.
Is there room for career growth?
Working in the agriculture industry also opens doors to career pathways students may not have thought of: “People have the perception that, when you go to school for agriculture, you want to be a primary producer, or you’re going to school to learn and do food,” Rebecca says. “As the industry/food business keeps growing, and as farmers are faced with new technologies, the jobs will keep growing.”
What makes the agriculture industry even more interesting, she adds, is that there are many opportunities for professional development activities outside of work. She was surprised to discover that, as a recent graduate, there were many professionals open to networking with her and answering her questions.
“We’re encouraged to try different sectors and positions. The reason I went into this role was to work in family business succession and that’s something that we deal with a little at the account management level,” she says. “I intend to grow my client base here, but there are still opportunities within agriculture outside this sector (finance). For example, I also do writing.”
Rebecca’s Top 5 tips for a starting a successful career in the agriculture industry:
- Network! The saying “It’s who you know that gets you the job and what you know that keeps you there” can be true.
- Volunteer for agricultural and community organizations, attend industry functions, and apply for internships related to the field.
- Social media can be an asset (i.e., on Twitter, follow industry leaders and use their hashtags and you will begin conversing together).
- When you meet a professional, follow up by adding them on LinkedIn with a short note that it was nice to meet them. This way, when your prospective managers Google you, it ensures something positive is in the top few results.
- And remember, being able to effectively communicate is the basis of a variety of positions.