Do You Have What it Takes to Impress an Employer?

Wednesday October 5th, 2016, is a day full of excitement, anxiety, and hopefully pure bliss! What is the significance of this date you might ask? It’s the WIU Fall 2016 Agriculture Career Fair!   

Currently we have over FIFTY companies registered that are eagerly anticipating meeting the outstanding Western Illinois University School of Agriculture students. Those fifty plus companies are only three weeks away from meeting us. So with that being said its time to enlist in the CAREER FAIR BOOTCAMP and learn how to land an internship or full-time job!

Boot camp topic 1: What do I wear?

Mrs. Michelle Howe, assistant director of the Career Development Center at WIU, is a fashion wiz when it comes to knowing exactly what the employers are wanting us to wear to a career fair. So to help each of you out, I sat down with Michelle Howe and we discussed the basics of professional dress at the Career Fair. The first tip was “do not let the field of agriculture confuse you on what you should wear…[…] although agriculture is a casual field, that does not mean that wearing your best boots, jeans, and button up is acceptable at the fair. ” Michelle Howe explained that even though you may not have to dress in a business suit each day to work, the employers would still like to see you in a professional suit at the fair. I have included two examples of what would be acceptable.

Pictures extracted from the WIU Career Development Center Pinterest

The second tip would be to be CONSERVATIVE! Michelle stated numerous times throughout the interview that although the world of agriculture is changing we are still a CONSERVATIVE field and with that we must be modest in our appearance. For example “suits should be blue, black, or navy. If ladies decide they would prefer a skirt suit, that is perfectly fine but please make sure to wear pantyhose. Nude pantyhose are perfectly acceptable” according to Michelle. One item that I made sure to touch on with Michelle was tattoos. I asked if tattoos were acceptable to show at the career fair and her response was “tattoos need to be covered up. It does not mean you should not be proud of them, or they (the recruiter) will think you’re a bad person. It just may come off wrong. We are a judging society and because of that you just never know what they will think…”

Third tip: grooming. When it comes to the day of the fair and you are working on your hair and makeup. As well as the guys looking at their beards, make sure that is modest as well. “Nice, simple, and elegant.” was a phrase that was repeated multiple times throughout the interview. Ladies hair should be BRUSHED, WASHED, and not looking like you just rolled out of bed, because employers will notice that. Touching on the makeup, it is perfectly acceptable to wear makeup, and Michelle noted, “please do if that makes you more comfortable.” But please do not come looking like you are headed for a night out on the town after the career fair. Now for our men, please make sure your beard is freshly trimmed. Although the Duck Dynasty beards are pretty cool, your beard should not be the starting topic of your conversation with our recruiter/potential employer.

Last tip from Michelle Howe on career fair attire; “make sure to shower before coming to the career fair. Although you might have just got done feeding the hogs or cattle, make sure you don’t smell like it.”

Boot camp Topic 2: The Career Fair Mysteries….

Mrs. Michelle Hall-ADM College Relations Staffing specialist, was kind enough to answer a few more questions to help us prepare for the career fair. During our interview I asked her some of the hidden mysteries we’ve all been wondering about that occur at the career fair.

First Mystery: “Is there really a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ resume pile?”  

The answer is YES. Michelle said, “It depends on how the recruiter prefers to stay organized, but generally there are piles for “yes”, “no”, and “maybe” candidates. Usually this is the quickest way to keep resumes organized when you are speaking to hundreds of students.” Something new I learned during this question was some employers or no longer taking resumes, but instead having you apply online. Michelle recommended bringing in a business card (which you can make on Canva, which is free design center), that would help the employers still have something you physically handed them!

‘How do we make sure our resume does not end up in the ‘no’ pile?’ Michelle’s response to that question was “The student needs to have a great 30 second “elevator speech” about themselves. This should articulate their background, major, and what they are looking for in a career. They need to have great communication skills within those 5 or so minutes that I’m speaking to them. They also need to be educated about my company and show an interest in what we do. There’s nothing worse than speaking to someone who doesn’t know anything about your company!”

Second Mystery: “What is one of an employers biggest pet peeves on a resume?” 

Some of Michelle’s biggest pet peeves when reviewing resumes are; “Not having their full contact information {mailing address, phone number, and email}.” An employer could have easily fallen in love with you and would like to call you and set up an interview, but without your contact information, how will they get a hold of you? Along with the contact information having the basics is also a necessity, to not only Michelle, but most employers. Some other things to think about when working on your resume according to Michelle is;”I would ensure that your graduation date is clearly listed on the resume… […] and that you have proofread your entire resume.”

Third Mystery: “What is one of the first things an employer looks at when reviewing a students resume?”

“Work experience […] work experience shows a student has a work ethic and initiative.” says Michelle. She is not the only one that I have heard this from. At the Agriculture Alumni Panel last Thursday September 8th, 2016, Rich DeSchepper, one of the alums expressed how ‘work experience’ is also one of the first things he looks at when glancing over a resume.

hint hint… You will more than likely find Michelle Hall at the ADM booth this upcoming career fair.

Boot Camp Topic 3: Things to remember at and after the career fair!

When attending the agriculture career fair, Wednesday October 5th, 2016, you now have everything you need to know to be physically prepared to land the job. BUT emotionally there are a few more things that need to be considered.

First, Michelle encourages all students to think: “what do I want in a career…?” Some may think that money is their number one driver. Where others may consider that their morals, family, and other emotional aspects are a large aspects of a career. When at the career fair, you may be asked, what are you looking for a career? Be prepared to come up with a meaningful response to the question; ‘what are you looking for in a career?’

Lastly, according to Nick Westgerdes, an alum of Western Illinois School of Agriculture, you should always have in the back of your mind that “not every opportunity is a good one.” At the career fair there is a chance that you could be offered multiple internships. When deciding which one would be best for you, you will need to step back and consider, which opportunity is a GOOD one.

Boot Camp Wrap UP:

By using the following tips-each of you will for sure have success at the 2016 Fall Career Fair!

Final Bootcamp Thoughts…

Inspirational Quotes-Pinterest


Thank you for reading my blog! My name is Elizabeth Miller, better known as ‘EB.’ I am currently a junior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business and communications. I enjoy staying extremely active here on campus. In my free time  you can find me spending time with family/friends, my adorable dogs, or crafting! Go Leathernecks!! 



It’s Not Advocating, It’s AgVocating.

Photo Credit: Marcie Blackburn

Growing up on my family farm, I was taught the importance of agriculture from an early age. Being surrounded by it and living in a primarily agriculture community, I always assumed that everyone else knew general farming practices. Upon coming to Western Illinois University as an agriculture student,  I assumed I’d mostly have classes with other students who had the same passion that I did (which I mostly did). But of course I had to take those pesky general courses and I got to meet people from all over, with a lot of different backgrounds.  Now I knew that not everyone grew up in a rural community, but for the first time I truly got to experience just how different others opinions and ideas of farming were.

Photo Credit: Marcie Blackburn

My junior year I took a speech class and we had to form groups in which we all had to get to know one another. We talked about the typical topics like where we were from and what our majors were. One student, who was from downtown Chicago, could not believe that I actually grew up on a farm. She exclaimed, “Wow, so do you like grow your own food and stuff?” I told her that, no, I bought my food from the grocery store just like her. I explained that we had corn and soybean fields, and that we raised cattle. She then asked me if I had to milk the cows, again I replied no, and explained that we didn’t have to do that because they are beef, not dairy cattle. I then discussed the differences between them. Part of me couldn’t believe that someone in higher education did not know some of these things but then it occurred to me, how would she know? Without having visited a farm, or been taught in school, there is a good chance you might not know where your food comes from.

So often I have heard that “people are so far removed from the farm” and this phrase could not be more true. The United States generally lives in an urban society and many people may have not seen a farm first hand. The only images they receive are the ones that the media has presented to them. The media sometimes portrays farmers in a negative way that scares consumers to believe that they don’t consider the safety of the food they produce, which is far from the truth.  The United States has a population of 319 million people with only 2% of that population consisting of farmers and ranchers.  That 2% has a big job of feeding an increasing population and these “farm folk” take a lot of pride in the work they do. Around 97% of US farms are operated by families, family partnerships, or family corporations. Generation after generation has provided food to this world and have been lucky enough to have advanced in so many ways. As a person with a passion for agriculture, I have come to find that it is our jobs as agriculturists to share our experiences and knowledge to those that may not know. We must advocate or shall I say, agvocate for agriculture.

What can we do?

Photo Credit: Shelbie Blackburn

A LOT! There are so many ways to promote agriculture and help consumers distinguish the myths from reality. When discussing these things with consumers it is very important not to argue but instead listen to their concerns. Not everyone is going to agree with what you have to say but it is extremely important to be professional when stating your side.

Social media is another great way to share your story. Post photos or videos of your daily life to show people exactly what you do. Visit your local farm bureau or other organizations to learn and participate in agriculture promotional events.

As a consumer, it is great to ask questions about where your food comes  from and the process of how it was grown and raised. In fact, please ask questions! Farmers and other members of the agriculture community love to talk about what they do. Do not believe everything you hear on TV;instead visit a farm, go to a community lecture, or read an agriculture based article. Find out for yourself!

Check out some of these links for more agriculture information!


blackburnshelbieMy name is Shelbie Blackburn and I am currently studying Ag Business with a minor in communication. I grew up in Schuyler County, IL, on my family’s row crop and cattle farm. Upon coming to Western Illinois University I became involved with the AgVocators, Agriculture Council, Sigma Alpha(Professional Agriculture Sorority), Collegiate Farm Bureau, and the Ag Mech Club. After graduation in  December, I look forward to continuing advocating for agriculture in my future endeavors. If you have any questions please email me at Thanks for reading, God Bless!


Educating the Future of FFA

“There are 350 members present madam president!” Stated the FFA Section 11 Secretary at the 2016 Western Illinois University (WIU) Greenhand Conference on Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 at Macomb High School in Macomb, IL. Western Illinois University had a record breaking attendance! Each year the Greenhand Conference is held for first year members to educate them on the opportunities that the FFA organization presents to its members.

To accommodate so many students, WIU’s Collegiate FFA (CFFA)/Post-Secondary Agriculture Students (PAS)/ Agriculture Education (AGED) Chapter had to call on students outside of their Chapter to volunteer.There were over 45 WIU students present to help. Many of these students were not an Agriculture Education major, but were students who had attended the WIU Greenhand Conference when they were in high school.

Students attending the Greenhand Conference got to attend four breakout sessions that focused on the theme of “Transform.” Students learned how to transform their leadership skills, responsibility, competition and also themselves. These themes translated into what the workshops were about.

  • Transform Leadership into attending different FFA Conferences and Conventions in the State and Nationally.
  • Transform Responsibility by creating and operating their own Supervised Agriculture Experience.
  • Transform Competition during different career development events that showcase each students individual talents.
  • Transform Yourself in the game of life through leadership skills taught throughout the FFA.
David Erickson and Martin Nall Photo credit to Jana Knupp

This year the WIU CFFA/PAS/AGED Chapter was able to partner with the Illinois Farm Bureau and provide each Greenhand and Advisor attending a t-shirt. They did this by providing a $1,000 grant to WIU and the CFFA/PAS/AGED Chapter. Without their sponsorship, this would not have been able to be completed. The Illinois Farm Bureau focus is to “Improve the economic well-being of agriculture and enrich the quality of farm family life” and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  

Not only did the IFB partner with WIU, they also supplied the keynote speaker for the night.  Mr. David Erickson, Vice President of Illinois Farm Bureau, is a proud alumni of 4-H, FFA and Western Illinois University. He encouraged students to “keep learning and work hard.” Mr. Erickson was very excited to be taking with the future leaders of FFA and the Agriculture Industry. 

The National FFA Organization is a youth based organization designed for career and technical students in junior high and high school by focusing on the potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. To learn more about the Illinois FFA, click here




My name is Martin Nall and I am a senior majoring in Agriculture Education at Western Illinois University. I call Camp Point, Illinois home which is about 20 minutes east of Quincy, Illinois. I grew up on and am still active in my family’s row crop and beef farm. My dad farms about 800 acres, has 70 head of cow-calf pairs and fattens about 90 head of calves each year. My mom is a CNA at Blessing Hospital in the Emergency Room. I am a 2013 graduate of Camp Point Central High school and a 2015 graduate from John Wood Community college.


Slow Cookin’ Pork for Charity

Western Illinois University’s largest student organized philanthropy is just a month away! The Alpha Tau chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity will be holding its 24th annual event of “Smokin’ Hog” on October 22nd. The men of AGR are keagreping the tradition of Smokin’ Hog alive with a pulled pork dinner being served from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. As always, the event will be hosted at the AGR house, 1010 North Lafayette Street, Macomb, IL.

Just to inform everyone on what Smokin’ Hog is, it is an all day event that consist of  a meal during the day, games for kids, and a raffle. It all starts with the men of Alpha Gamma Rho smoking 7 hogs Friday afternoon before the event. The hogs are slowly turned and smoked all night before being processed into pulled pork. At the conclusion of the meal, the men of Alpha Gamma Rho start to set up a concert area stage. We are happy to have Walker McGuire as this year’s concert. In addition to selling tickets for the pulled pork dinner, event t-shirts and koozies are also available for purchase.

We’re hapvibepy to be donating all proceeds of the event once again to McDonough  County VIBE. In 2015’s Smokin’ Hog philanthropy, AGR’s vigorous efforts allowed the men to donate $13,800 to McDonough County VIBE. In 2015, VIBE gave their yearly donation to the Busnell-Prairie City Backpack program and Court Appointed Child Advocacy
(CASA). The 2016 VIBE recipient with be the Special Olympics and local food pantries.

Tickets for the family friendly event can be purchased for $5.00 before October 22nd from any member of the Alpha Tau Chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity and $7.00 the day of the meal. Stated best by Noble Ruler, Sam Woodrow “Besides all the efforts done by our brothers, this event would not be possible if it were not for the generous hog and monetary donations from sponsors.”  If you are interested in purchasing tickets or being a sponsor for Smokin’ Hog, feel free to contact VNR of Planning, Michael Houston at (217) 617-2043. Take out meals will be available as we know that this is the rush of harvest season.




Thank you for taking time to read my post about Alpha Gamma Rho’s 24th annual Smokin’ Hog philanthropy. My name is Mitch Miller and I am a senior studying Agriculture Education at Western Illinois University. I am proud to have come from Pontiac, IL, which is nearly 100 miles straight south of Chicago on I55.  I have been around agriculture my whole life with my father being a hobby grain and hog farmer in rural Chenoa, Illinois and my mother being a quarter horse breeder and trainer. I am a 2013 graduate of Pontiac High School and a 2015 graduate of Joliet Junior College. Since attending WIU, I have enjoyed joining and participating in the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Collegiate FFA/PAS/AG ED Club.

Hope to see you at Smokin’ Hog!