Sunday, July 20, 2014

The value of getting (and staying) involved in the industry

This week marks five years (five years!!!) since I was elected national president of the American Dairy Science Association-Student Affiliate Division. This was a big deal.  This experience not only was amazing and opened so many doors for me in my personal and professional life, but also was a turning point in my involvement in the dairy industry.

Half of our amazing national officer team
It was my senior year of college. A lot of dairy friends from college stayed involved until graduation, then for whatever reason, stopped being involved in ADSA and other organizations. There is a lot of value in staying involved. It’s not easy. The first year after graduation as a “professional member” was tough. I like structure, and all of the sudden I found myself with an open schedule and the ability to do whatever I wanted. No scheduled quiz bowl competitions, dairy tours or other mandatory events. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH ALL THIS TIME?!? I eventually figured it out, but not without being extremely frustrated first. Honestly, I almost stopped going to ADSA after that year because it was just not the same.

I’m so glad I stuck with it.

Because it DID get better. So much better. When I was president, the ADSA professional board invited me to their board meetings. Boring? Hardly! I love this kind of thing. I met some great people who really believed in me and my ideas (who creates a new region of a national association? Apparently me!). These days, they are kind enough to let me participate. My role is mostly bridging the gap between students and professional members. The transitional membership (right after graduation) is a huge opportunity, and as a young professional who made this transition, I love helping students do the same and coaching them in the strategic planning and other sessions.

So many people helped me and made such a difference in my life when I was in college and I want to do the same. That is how we are going to make a difference and move our industry and associations like this forward.

My ADSA presentation (2013)...dream come true to speak at this conference as a professional member.
The icing on the cake of my involvement was last summer when I was asked to present (for 30 minutes!) about communicating science to the general public. That was AWESOME!!!! Again, good things happen when people know who you are and what you can do.

There are a lot of opportunities to get involved with committees and during the annual meeting. Take advantage of these opportunities.

I want college students to know that while the first year after graduation won’t be easy, it will be worth it. The industry connections that are made at these meetings do make a difference. In fact, every job I’ve gotten since graduation has been because of people I know. Those people didn’t get me the job, my knowledge and experience did, but it started the conversation and that is so important. As I used to say, life is 49% what you know and 51% who you know.

Whether it’s ADSA, a breed organization or anything else, our industry needs more young people to get and stay involved. The best part of being involved in these types of organizations? It’s fun! And you’ll make a lot of friends that share your passion for the dairy industry.

Love my ADSA friends! Good times.
Long story short: Find something you like, get involved, stay involved, meet people and make a difference. It’s worth it.

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