Despite finishing her college career virtually, Megan Zwiefel said she hasn’t missed a beat heading into her new career.
Zwiefel graduated from Iowa State University in May and is now a grain merchandiser for Flint Hills Resources. Although COVID-19 threw a wrench into her final semester of in-person classes, she credits her previous internship with Flint Hills as a major reason for the transition from the classroom to the office going smoothly.
“Flint Hills really treated us as full-time employees,” Zwiefel said. “Our opinion mattered just as much as what other merchandisers thought.”
After her internship, she was able to continue working with Flint Hills two days each week during the semester, and was offered a job at their Fairbank, Iowa, location. That consistency between internship and job placement was helpful for the recent graduate.
“The transition has been relatively easy for me,” she said.
For many students and companies, internships have slowed down tremendously in 2020, largely due to the pandemic forcing limited contact and, in some cases, hiring freezes. In instances where these options aren’t available, former students suggest using any contacts made throughout school for assistance
“Get involved,” said Rebecca Vittetoe, a 2014 graduate of Iowa State and current field agronomist for Iowa State Extension. “Not only can you build your leadership skills, but it’s a great way to build relationships. You will be surprised how those connections become very useful after you graduate.”
She also said there are plenty of options available for those looking for help — turn to the career services office and the faculty for any possible openings they may hear about.
Zwiefel credited her university for preparing her for the working world after graduation, but there were still a few things she wasn’t able to find in a classroom setting.
“You have more of a schedule and more responsibilities,” Zwiefel said. “At school you are more responsible for getting homework done and studying. It’s all on your own schedule and now you are on someone else’s.”
She said being a part of clubs and extracurriculars at school helped her learn how to manage her time around those meetings and events, and if she was in a position of leadership, she knew it was her responsibility to be there.
That education and experience is shown by the Iowa State College of Ag and Life Sciences placement numbers from recent years. In the 2018-19 school year, they achieved 100% placement of their 54 graduates, with four choosing to opt for further education. The other 50 were able to find employment, according to the results of their survey. The same was true for their 37 graduates in 2017-18.
To help with the transition, the University of Illinois offers a class specifically for those in agribusiness to learn what is available for them in the future. The class, Issues and Careers in Applied Economics, has a goal of helping students understand what they may need on a resume to find employment.
“In order to graduate and not feel at a loss, keep the relationships with the people you’ve built at college,” Zwiefel said. “Take time to learn from those who have experience and can help throughout your way.
“Don’t be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. The places it could take you would surprise you.”