Student Stories

Early career stories

Eric CruickshankStudent in graduation gown holding diploma

Eric Cruickshank, a 2018 Consumer Economics and Finance graduate, began working at Uber Freight in an entry level sales position that involved making a lot of cold calls aimed to increase driver supply on the Uber Freight Platform. After nine months, Cruickshank’s team was restructured and broken into three sectors to allow for more specialization. He now works on the Engagement Team to increase the number of drivers using the app. Transitioning from an entry level sales position to a more problem-solving position has allowed him to strengthen his analytical skills within the workplace. Cruickshank expresses that he has learned so much about the freight industry in addition to learning and developing more professional skills that he will take with him for the rest of his life, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaborating with teams, dealing with people appropriately, and acting in a professional manner.

Throughout his senior year, Cruickshank did about 25-35 phone interviews and 10-15 in-person final interviews. As a result, he received a great offer but declined it to be closer to home post-graduation and continued his job search. He suggests to trust the process and says “it may not be the 'dream job' right out of the gate, but no matter where you end up or what company you accept an offer with, be a sponge. Learn everything you can, ask questions, find those who succeed and follow their lead. Your career isn’t one year or five years, it much longer than that. Enjoy the process.” He also adds, “The problems, failure, and experiences you encounter in your job are so valuable to your future success, so don’t let the negatives bring you down. Instead, use them as learning experiences you can take with you moving forward.”

Asher Deitch Student in woods with binoculars around neck

Asher Deitch, a December 2014 graduate in natural resources and environmental sciences with a concentration in fish and wildlife, knows the importance of communication in his new job.

Deitch is a biologist at BioResource Consultants Inc. in Ojai, California. In this position, he is involved with a variety of projects including habitat assessments, biological assessments, listed and special-status species inventories, and habitat restoration and mitigation. Deitch spends about half of his time surveying and monitoring biological resources out in the field and the other half in his office quantifying and reporting his findings.

In his first professional job, Deitch has learned a lot from this position. He has advice on how to learn and adjust to a new job.

“It is very easy to become overwhelmed when you are beginning a new job so taking things one step at a time is important,” Deitch says. “Do not try to learn everything in your first couple weeks, but instead focus on mastering certain aspects of your job one at a time.”

He also emphasized the importance of communication in the workplace.

“Ask questions when you don’t know the answer, and be willing to go out of your comfort zone,” Deitch says. “Good communication is essential to being productive in a collaborative environment.”

Deitch also encourages students to continue learning and staying up to date in their industry.

“Never pass up the opportunity to take a class that will further your professional knowledge.”

Morgan BoothHeadshot of student in business attire

Morgan Booth, a 2013 graduate of the animal sciences program, has seen her career path change over time.

When Booth started college, she wanted to be a large animal vet. However, upon graduation she was a county manager for the Illinois Farm Bureau, and now she is the communications director for the Illinois Pork Producers Association.

As the communications director, Booth is in charge of a monthly newsletter, a bi-weekly e-newsletter, and the program book for IL Pork Expo. She also sends e-blasts, news releases, social media posts, and keeps their website up to date.

Booth’s career path changes were inspired by job shadow experiences and realizing that she enjoyed the communications side of business.

“I am so glad I chose this path, even though it changed quite a bit from when I started college as a freshman,” Booth says.

She encourages students to explore lots of career options.

“I would suggest job shadowing and trying a variety of things early on in college. Keep an open mind about career paths and go to the career fair!”

Craig Slaughter

Craig Slaughter, a 2008 FSHN graduate, has worked hard at managing his career. After graduation, he worked for Kraft Foods and served as a scientist, senior scientist and manager respectively. In 2016, he took an opportunity with Tyson foods and started his M.B.A. program on weekends at Purdue University. Slaughter determined he needed his M.B.A. when he realized his passion has always been to develop good products and develop the people around him. He also enjoyed meeting with Marketing and Sales, which took him in the direction of business school vs. more technical training. Slaughter is now the director of Research and Development for Sigma Alimentos Food based in Phoenix AZ.

When asked about what he has learned in his career, Slaughter suggests, “Always embrace change and remember that your job is to please the consumer while keeping their safety as your #1 priority. You will never like every product that you develop. The goal is to be proud of the process that was used to get there.”

Internship stories

Oakley WhalenHeadshot of student in business attire

Oakley Whalen, a junior majoring in Agricultural Leadership Education, interned in New Orleans with Cargill last summer as a production supervisor intern. While interning at one of the largest grain export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico, Oakley spent time with hourly employees, production supervisors, and the executive team to learn about their positions and duties. Oakley says, “I felt as though I was a liaison between the hourly employees and the supervisors because I had a fresh outlook and could see things from a perspective that was unbiased.”

Whalen learned an extensive amount about teamwork, communication, and building relationships during her internship at Cargill. She learned the value of building trust and relationships, and if you are able to build those foundations, working together for a common goal is much easier. Oakley knew that she gained energy and excitement from the people around her and loves collaborating with others, but through this internship her passion for human resources was even more solidified. 

Oakley’s advice to students who are either job or internship seeking, or even trying to figure out what type of work they’d like to pursue, is “There really is something out there for everyone. Find something you’re good at and capitalize on it, because the world needs your talents, and you deserve to be happy and do something you’re passionate about.”

Kolten PostinStudent standing near indoor John Deere sign

Kolten Postin, a senior majoring in ACE, knows how important it is to make connections with professors.

Postin is a market research and consulting intern at John Deere Innovation Technology Center in Research Park. In this position, he maps dairy operations and develops a cost of production analysis for milk. He conducts both primary and secondary research to gather information.

Postin learned about this opportunity through Professor Gary Schnitkey. Professor Schnitkey asked Postin if he was interested in the position and helped him work with his supervisor to get started.

“If you are interested in an opportunity like mine, let your professors know,” Postin says. “In my situation, John Deere contacted Professor Schnitkey first asking him for prospective students.”

This internship allowed Postin to learn more about the dairy industry. He has also learned the objectives and processes that companies go through when conducting market research.

“This position has opened up additional career opportunities and has opened my interest in feed ingredient segment in agriculture,” Postin says. “I feel extremely fortunate to have gotten this excellent opportunity!”

Hayden SchaumburgStudent standing in field

Hayden Schaumburg, a senior studying farm management, is interning at Granular as a data specialist intern on the Professional Services team. His responsibilities include entering massive amounts of data for farmers, specifically Land-Cost Benchmarking, and the farmers then use that data to make educated decisions for their farm operations. Hayden gives his Granular team and internship credit for solidifying his goal “to work in the agricultural sector contributing directly to producers.”

As Hayden’s continues to work toward his career goals, it hasn’t always been an easy ride for him.

In October of 2014, Hayden was involved in an accident while playing football that changed his life forever. After a hard hit, he had broken his neck and suffered a spinal cord injury that rendered him paralyzed on the field. He was then rushed for emergency surgery and faced with a statistic that injuries of this magnitude only had a 5% chance of ever returning to his feet again. After realizing the dire situation and what he had to lose, it motivated him to get to work. It took three months of intensive rehabilitation until he was able to make it to his feet again. He worked very hard to graduate high school on time and make his childhood dream of being admitted to the University of Illinois a reality.

Schaumburg's resilience shines through and through. He says, “At a young age, I painted a picture in my mind of attending the university and working in agriculture. It is my belief that when you find something you are truly passionate about there is nothing that can keep you from it.”

Find out more about Hayden Schaumburg's story here.

Julianna Ge Headshot of student in business attire

Julianna Ge, a senior double-majoring in Human Development and Family Studies and Industrial Engineering, is also a James Scholar in the College of ACES.

This summer, Ge worked for the Pearson Student Advisory Board, a small group of scholars who were selected to serve as advisors to the Pearson leadership team and executives. This position gave her the opportunity to edit and create written or pictorial works for Pearson. Ge is also able to continue this work throughout the semester.

“Given my passion for engineering, people, and education, I thought serving on the Pearson Student Advisory Board would allow me to bypass prosaic intern work and do some tangible good in a relatively short period of time,” Ge says.

The experience has given her excellent insight into the current state of education from a business and personal perspective. This insight will be especially useful as Ge plans to attend graduate school in education after receiving her bachelor's degree.

Working for Pearson was the perfect opportunity for Ge, but she couldn’t have gotten there on her own. As a freshman in the James Scholar program, Ge met some of her closest friends. The James Scholar program also gave her the opportunity to be the co-president of the James Scholar Advisory & Leadership Team. Ge’s James Scholar honors coordinator is even going to write her a letter of recommendation for graduate school.

“Being a part of the James Scholar program helped me form close friendships with many intelligent students, staff, and faculty, which then helped connect me to the resources I needed to succeed.”

Job shadow stories

Erin KettelkampHeadshot of student in business attire

Erin Kettelkamp, a junior studying animal sciences with a pre-vet concentration, took advantage of a job shadow opportunity over winter break last year.

Kettelkamp job shadowed at Nestlé Purina PetCare’s corporate headquarters in St. Louis. She applied for the opportunity on I-Link and was contacted by one of the senior scientists to set a date over winter break to spend with the company.

“They really cared to reach out to me, talked with me on the phone and found out what my interests and goals were in order to give me the best experience,” Kettelkamp says.

During the job shadow, Kettelkamp had the opportunity to meet with representatives in various departments, human resources representative, and scientists. She also got to tour the processing plant and have hands-on experience with their quality assurance tests. The participants were encouraged to ask questions throughout the day.

“Every employee was so warm and welcoming it really gave me the opportunity to get the most out of that day,” Kettelkamp says.

Before this job shadow experience, Kettelkamp was curious about the nutrition industry in relation to veterinary medicine. Because of her experience, she is planning to take more nutrition classes.

“If you are not sure about your career path, or are curious about a certain industry, a job shadow is a great way to get your feet wet,” Kettelkamp advised. “They allow you to network with professionals and get an inside look without necessarily committing to a job or internship position.”

Nick TarletonHeadshot of student in business attire

Nick Tarleton, a senior studying food science and human nutrition, did a job shadow at Newly Wed Foods in Chicago during Winter Break.

Newly Wed Foods is a smaller food corporation that is a premier global purveyor of customized breads, batters, seasonings, and functional ingredients. During the job shadow, Tarleton got to see many departments in the company including sales and marketing, research and development, quality assurance, regulatory, production, and sensory departments.

“My favorite department during the job shadow was research and development where I had the opportunity to play around with the ratio of spices that add flavor to cooked potato chips,” Tarleton says.

Tarleton also had the opportunity to network during the job shadow. He found the industry professionals were interested in getting to know him. They asked him to keep in touch and offered their assistance if he needed it.

“Job shadows have helped me better understand what I am learning in the classroom,” Tarleton says. “Take advantage of opportunities pertaining to job shadows and internships, maintain an updated I-Link and LinkedIn profile, make valuable and true connections with industry professionals, and keep in touch with the industry professionals you meet. It makes a huge difference.”