Some students know the exact career path they want to take upon high school graduation, while others have no clue.
Yet other students know what field they want to go into, but are not sure of the career possibilities in that area. This is where Amy Gazaway and Kelsey Lee, career development coordinators for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Oklahoma State University, come into play.
In addition to providing students with one-on-one career guidance, Gazaway teaches a one-hour elective course called “Career Exploration in Agriculture and Natural Resources,” which serves as a career guide for agriculture students at OSU.
“Students often don’t know what their opportunities are,” Gazaway said. “This course is designed to help them figure out what opportunities are out there and connect them with their personal abilities and preferences.”
The course is broken into three sections. The first section reveals the many opportunities an agriculture graduate has after college by exploring the diverse fields associated with agriculture, food and natural resources.
The second portion of the class is designed to get students to identify and label their interests, skills, talents and values. It is a self-assessment process allowing students to filter career options that are compatible to their personal qualities.
“A lot of times they will know what they are interested it, or they know what they are good at, but they have a hard time describing it and connecting it to career possibilities,” Gazaway said.
A three-week period toward the end of the semester reviews United States Department of Agriculture projections for upcoming years. The report covers what career paths are in demand, the number of jobs available in certain areas and other important information regarding the workforce.
The final week of the course is an open forum. Students can ask any career related questions such as how to look for an internship or hone their interviewing skills. The class is geared toward second-semester freshman and sophomores who are looking for answers to how they can apply their degree in agriculture or natural resources toward their future.
“They don’t realize there are so many opportunities in agriculture and natural resources,” Gazaway said. “Students have ‘blinders’ on when they come into college.”
Television has an impact on what a student’s career path may be. Gazaway said, for example, many students have become interested in becoming crime scene investigators in recent years, in part, due to the success of C.S.I.
“That’s what students know. They know what their parents are doing. They know what their friends’ parents are doing. They know the jobs in their community and they know the jobs they see on TV,” said Gazaway. “When they get here, they realize there are all of these other possibilities.”
The feedback received by Gazaway through evaluation sheets and one-on-one discussions with students has been positive since the course inception.
“I think it gives the students some confidence in what they are studying and in their futures. I see some excitement that is generated amongst the students,” said Gazaway.
It is the perfect course for those students who are on path to earn an agricultural communications degree, for example, but don’t want to go into broadcast or publications. Many other opportunities are out there and Gazaway helps shed some light on those options, as well as on options for other majors within the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
“It’s not so much what you can do with your degree, rather discovering what you want to do with it,” Gazaway said.