So, you want a Career in Dairy? Start Now!

Published on Wed, 03/10/2021 - 11:53am

So, you want a Career in Dairy? Start Now!

By Jaclyn Krymowski


The dairy world is ripe with career opportunities – and not all of these are on the farm. This industry is one full of facets that can cater to almost any interest ranging from hardcore science to white collar professionalism.


Most are born into dairy and further their careers simply because they have a deep passion for the lifestyle and community. Often this results in multiple generations taking the family farm over as the decades evolve. Others may go on to work as full-time professionals educating and inspiring young folks or finding innovative solutions to benefit farmers in the field. 


As young people wrap up the school year, many are faced with urgent choices about pursuing college or returning to the family business. Others are going to return to their part-time summer jobs feeling the mounting pressure as graduation looms another year closer.


For the young dairy enthusiast, even those without a family farm to return to, I can guarantee there is no lack of careers. But if you are ill prepared or unfamiliar with your full range of options, you might feel overwhelmed or even inadequate when it comes to searching the job boards. 


There’s no such thing as being too soon or too late to take an active role in this process. Careers are a journey, not a straight line. Fortunately, our rural communities are very supportive of young people offering no lack of chances to get out there and dabble in activities all directed towards that end. 


So, how do we begin? 



Believe it or not, you can’t realize your dream career if you don’t know yourself. It’s a safe bet to say many of us do not know ourselves anywhere near as well as we may think. That’s part of what high school and, to a lesser extent, college is for. Most of this will happen in your extracurricular activities, job shadows, internships and even part-time jobs.


You may very well know the ins and outs of herd management from your family business, but do you really know where your passion specifically lies? People usually stumble across this doing things they casually enjoy - judging teams, ag classes and 4-H projects are classic examples. 


There are also plenty of opportunities out there for you to go out and take advantage of yourself. Remember, not all things dairy related are necessarily on the farm. 


Ask a family friend who deals in agronomy or nutrition to introduce you to some colleagues and spend a few days doing some ridealongs. Or take a full-time job on another dairy in another region with a different management style or breeding program. 


Even part-time jobs at the local elevator, feed store or equipment dealership can be a doorway to avenues you may not have thought of before.


Trial and error

Whether entering the workforce directly, returning home or pursuing some form of higher education, there is a degree of pressure young people feel to really get settled in the “right” career. However, the first job or first major could very well not be what’s “right” for you as an individual. And that’s ok! 


If you land your dream job on the first go or take a couple years to really find the sweet spot, you will encounter points of trial and error early in your working adult life. Knowing how to learn from failures and when to act on them is so critical.


For example, many a college students begins taking classes and fall in love with a field of study, only to find the most viable job options require grad school education – this also works vice versa. 


The first job could be a real dud and you find it uninspiring, too demanding or a company who doesn’t share your same values. It is these mundane bits of day-to-day work life where you may need to grapple with some real trials and choices. 


Remember, it’s never too late to shift your gears and do a professional pivot all together. Too often students and the young workforce are afraid to make a changes and do something they weren’t planning on. But if things don’t pan out or you’re drawn to a new area – you shouldn’t be afraid of taking the leap.


You can always return home, go back to school or take up another profession. Don’t let fear of the unknown or your comfort zone keep you from taking new opportunities or leaving the wrong ones behind.


Develop your skillset

You don’t need to be doing job interviews or getting a regular paycheck to build your work experience and gain professional skills. Beyond your ag classes, 4-H projects and even shows and other related activities, many young agriculturalists don’t give themselves credit for their personal achievements.


Things like maintaining a show string, breeding your own animals or managing certain parts of the family business all speak volumes to employers. I’ve even known some farmers who used their social media platforms to build additional revenue streams. Examples like these shouldn’t be taken lightly; they deserve a spot on your resume.


College students have a huge array of job-building resources at their disposal. Internships are one of the most powerful, giving an opportunity to “try on” different careers and go through the job searching process. These are the rare chances to experience the real world without being fully committed. Plus, it builds up your professional network.


Likewise, as you learn to professionally engage with peers and superiors, you can also get further insight on what is actually required for your dream career.


Vet students will tell you it takes several job shadows, ridealongs and discussions to really get a clear picture of what you can expect from that field. And, when you have some hands-on experience and personal connections, you can then cater your studies and activities to be directed towards that end.


Speaking of activities, don’t be shy about taking courses or attending events that are outside your comfortable sphere. If you want to learn more about computer science, go for it. If you have an interesting hobby you could make a few bucks off of, start a small business and learn how to track your growth and make sales. These can set you up for skills that will make you more attractive to ideal employers.


As the world continues to change and evolve around us, it is a nerve-wracking yet exciting time to be involved with dairy. Regardless of where you currently stand or your interests, there is a spot in this workforce waiting for you if you are willing to challenge yourself to get there.