The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Caroline

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

 I have so been looking forward to sharing this feature with you ever since I heard back from the guest! Caroline is shaking the series up a bit by sharing her story via YouTube! I always tell my guests that I want this feature to reflect their story in the best way possible, so I was excited when she suggested a video. Personally for me, video is something I have yet to venture into on my blog, but I am definitely curious!

I met Caroline early on in college through our participation in Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference, and then got to know her a bit better overtime as we both eventually served on the organization’s national student advisory team (not the same year). Caroline’s journey is inspiring. A few months after I moved to DC in 2015, Caroline called me up because she was a crossroads with what the next step was in her life and career. I was honored that she reached out to me for that kind of advice. I vividly remember her sharing so passionately about these ideas and goals she had, about her values and faith and the challenges she was facing. Fast forward to 2017, and I am so excited to see her living out (and crushing) those ideas and goals, and more importantly, so happy and positive about the road she’s on. It’s contagious.

What has always stood out to me since I first met Caroline, was how friendly she is and how gracefully she wears her confidence, and I think you’ll see that in her video. Caroline is also a regular blogger, so if you read or hear something in her story that interests you, I would encourage you to check out her blog at https://strongsweetcaroline.com/. 

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Caroline Weihl
Age: 25 YEARS YOUNG!
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): May 2014 Agricultural Communication, minor Agribusiness
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Job: Entrepreneur – starting a meal prep company

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm and always enjoyed sharing an agriculture story. I was a good writer so it made sense to study agricultural communication. I was fortune to receive a scholarship from The Ohio State University and made the decision simple. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity in front of me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
AFA, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity and many other student orgs through college. I interned with Trupointe Cooperative (now Sunrise Cooperative), Ohio State Livestock Judging Team, Bader Rutter, and freelanced for the Ohio FFA Association.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
Anything you would change? Learning to say “no” to the unimportant and make time for priorities.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Make the most to explore new things you want to learn, people you want to build relationships and network with and discover as much about yourself as possible.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked three years with Syngenta in corporate seed sales. I left in August 2017 to start a meal prep company in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch video for more details.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Helped me identify my deeper purpose and talents.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Focusing on small steps, one day at a time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Evernote and podcasts!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: confidence, vision, drive, compassion. Weaknesses: impatience and multi-tasking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
YouTube, gratitude, self reflection, vision board.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
It’s not work-life balance. It’s lifestyle.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Having the courage to do something most won’t: stepping out of a “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Very busy but towards things I want!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Start my company and continue to build it from there.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Meditation and 16oz of water right when waking up.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Music.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This one, but with other businesses started and going in the travel and clothing industries.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Close friends and networks.

*****

Caroline, I know you are hustling at life right now, so I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your story on my blog! 

Want to follow Caroline more? You can find her on Instagram: @strongsweetcaroline and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongsweetcaroline/

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Alison

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

I am excited to share today’s guest because this feature offers something new to the series. Alison is my first guest that is a stay at home mom and small business owner. One of the original reasons why I first began this series was because there are so many different paths that young adults can be on that it sometimes makes it hard for us to learn from, respect and relate from each other. I wanted to create a space that simply celebrates the “hustle”, highlights different opportunities and maybe encourages others to think “hey, maybe I am doing alright.”

I have known Alison for most of my life. We both grew up in Hermiston, OR, and I’d say we really became friends in high school when we were both involved in FFA. What has always stood out to me about Alison was her kindness, creatvity and work ethic. Even as kids, I remember always enjoying working on things with her and I always knew she was someone you could depend on. If you know Alison, then you know that she is grounded by the importance of family, and that hers also happen to be some of the nicest people you could know. (I have so many fun memories from hanging out at Hawman Farms!) I think it is really cool to see Alison start her own (adorable) family and business, and thrive at both. I hope you enjoy hearing her story!

-Amanda 

Name: Alison Green
Age: 27
Hometown: Hermiston, OR
College: Eastern Oregon University
Degree(s): Multidisciplinary Studies (Elementary Education)
Current Location: Meridian, ID
Current Job: Stay at Home Mom & LuLaRoe Fashion Consultant

Background Story
I was born and raised in Hermiston, OR. I grew up in the country on my family’s farm and spent my summers working on the farm. I come from large family which I love; we always seem to have a good time.  When it was time to leave home and go off to college I chose to attend Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande, OR. It was at college where I met my husband, Chad. Chad and I dated all through college and got married once I graduated. Once I married Chad, I moved to Meridian, ID where he had already established his career. We have now been married for 6 years and have two beautiful daughters with one more on the way in just 3 short weeks!

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I had known I wanted to be a teacher since I was in the 2nd grade. I love working with young children and spent many afternoons as a young girl playing “school” with my sisters at home. As soon as I was old enough, in high school, I began going to the elementary schools as part of the juvenile tutoring program to get as much experience as possible.

When it came time to choose a college I knew I wanted to stay close to home. I have always been one to get home sick so being a short drive away was going to suit me best. I ended up choosing Eastern Oregon University in LaGrande, OR. I knew they had two great teaching programs and I loved the small university atmosphere.

I graduated from Eastern with a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies with minors in both Elementary Education as well as English as a Second Language (ESOL).

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
Outside of class, I was involved in the Education Club at the university. I also spent many hours in elementary classrooms, getting a feel for all grade levels. In addition I spent summers helping in different summer school programs.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I ended up graduating from college in three years. I would never change that but it did bring up some challenges as far as scheduling went and the time/quarters classes were offered. But in the end it all worked out.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
The piece of advice I would give to a student during their senior year is to enjoy it but also look to the future. It is your senior year, you need to make sure you have fun and enjoy every part of it. At the same time you need to start planning for your future. Make sure your resume is up to date, start applying for jobs/internships in the area you are looking to be at and make sure you have everything in place for graduation.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
My first year after graduating I did not get a teaching job like I had hoped for, I had numerous interviews but since I had moved to a new state not everything fell into place at the right times. I spent that year transferring my Oregon teaching license to an Idaho teaching license and substituting. Now looking back, I realize how much my year of substituting helped me grow. It allowed me to not only get familiar with the new city I had moved to but I was also able to familiarize myself what Idaho’s standards and curriculum.

After my year of substitute teaching I was fortunate enough to get a full time teaching job teaching kindergarten. Kindergarten was my number one choice so I was ecstatic! I taught kindergarten for three years and loved it.

During those three years, I ended up having two daughters. Once my second daughter was born, I knew where my time needed to be spent and that was at home with my two girls. Luckily, my husband and I were able to make this happen. I have always dreamed of being a stay a home mom and I could not imagine being anywhere else than at home with my girls.

I love spending my days at home with my girls, but after a year of being at home I felt this need to do something for me and to do something where I felt I was contributing financially for our family. This is how LuLaRoe came into my life. After falling in love with their clothing, I decided to look more into the business side of LuLaRoe. I took a leap and a year ago signed up to be an Independent Fashion Consultant for LuLaRoe. Becoming an independent fashion consultant is exactly what I needed. It allows to me to be a stay at home mom while working my business. I am able to create my own hours, determine how much or how little I want to work each week and I am able to involve my girls in my business. I truly enjoy staying home with my girls while working my business at the same time.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Everything I did in college definitely prepared me for my teaching career. I felt so prepared and ready for my first teaching job. But not only did my college experiences prepare me for that, it also has helped me in my “post-teaching life.”  While staying at home with my girls I am able to bring my teaching experience home to begin their schooling early. We do school every day at home so they are prepared and ready for preschool.

As far as my LuLaRoe business goes, the major thing that has set me up for success is organization skills. You have to be organized to run any business and I have found this to be true, plus some, when running a business as well as running a house hold.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
In college, my classes were definitely geared towards education, especially elementary education. When starting my own business I felt a little lost on the business side of things just because I don’t really have experience in the business world. I wish I maybe would have taken a business course or two in college. But lucky for me, I married a financial analyst who is very good with numbers and business side of things.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?

A good portion of my LuLaRoe business is mainly online. I really take advantage of free advertisement through Facebook and Instagram. Facebook is also where I run my Online Boutique. Some other apps I use for my business include; WordSwag, PhotoGrid and MileIQ.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
At this stage in my life, some of my strengths include; being organized and prepared. This works for both my business and family side of life.

One of my weaknesses is definitely being a worrier. I worry about everything and most of the time, over analyze everything.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
Being that I work from home and provide a secondary income for our family, when my business gets busy or difficult I just look at my girls and know that I am doing this for them. This extra income for our family helps us go on those fun family vacations, allows my girls to do all the activities they want to do and eventually will help them through college. My girls are definitely my reason why I do what I do.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Having a work-life balance is very important to me. My number one priority is my family and making sure they are taken care of and have what they need, that includes up keeping the house and the house hold chores. What works for me is scheduling, to know what I am going to do and when I am going to do it, for both my business and family. I have also learned that it is okay to take breaks every now and then, that’s what you need to stay refreshed.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
What I am most proud of so far in my post grad life is definitely my family.  I have the best husband and two little girls and we are so excited for our third to be here soon!

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Life right now is definitely busy but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love what I do and who I am doing it for. Some of my hobbies I enjoy include; cooking, baking and crafting with my girls. I also love to go shopping! And when you’re a mom shopping without little helpers is always a treat!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Business wise, some of my long-term goals include growing my online boutique shopping group so I am able to reach more customers and bring them fabulous clothing! I also want to step out of my comfort zone and try new business techniques that I will help grow my business and increase sales.

Family wise, some goals include adjusting to life with three kids and finding a routine that will work for all of us. I want to stay active and involved in all aspects of my girls activities; here at home, at school and in their extracurricular activities.

Just For Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
I am surprisingly not a coffee drinker but what is essential for me to start my day off right is to be up and get ready before my girls are up. That way when they do get up, I am all theirs.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
When not pregnant, I love to have Diet Coke, definitely my caffeine of choice! Another must have is snacks for my girls, when they are happy and in good moods so am I!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
Although it is not a completely different career, I would choose to be a Preschool teacher. I absolutely love little children and watching grow and develop those new skills. In preschool kids are still so excited for school and their love for learning really shows.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
What I miss most about college is my roommate. We become such good friends and had the best time doing everything together. We still remain very close friends today but it’s just not the same when you live in two different states and not in the same apartment.

*****

Interested in checking out Alison’s online LulaRoe boutique? You can find her Facebook group page HERE.

Alison, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this blog series! And congrats to your almost family of 5! I always enjoy seeing your girls’ little personalities and growth when you share on Facebook. They are so much fun!

p.s. Look at us back in high school! Just babies ourselves!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Megan

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

If you read this blog even occasionally, then you probably already know who today’s guest is. But in case you don’t… I met my best friend Megan at the beginning of my freshman year at K-State when we both lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship House. We quickly became inseparable and the world hasn’t been quite the same since (dramatic I know, but we are the first to admit that we can be pretty obnoxious together).  We lived together for 4.5 years,  and even as we’ve “grown up” and I moved across the country again, we’ve been really fortunate that our friendship has only grown and evolved to best fit where each of us are at in life. Most of my best memories since 2009 involve this gal.

But this post is really about Megan and her story. First and foremost, what you need to know about Megan is that she has such a kind, thoughtful heart and she REALLY loves food. She has a loud, but warm and contagious personality that makes people feel welcome and like an old friend. She is naturally curious, fiercely committed to what is important to her and isn’t afraid to own who she is, mistakes and all. Because we are so close, I have had a backstage pass to every part of Megan’s life, and I am honestly so proud of who she is and what she has accomplished so far in life. I know I am a better person because of her.

-Amanda 

Name: Megan Torline
Age: 27
Hometown: Derby, KS
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): BS in Food Science
Current Location: Wichita, KS
Current Job: Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech, Inc.

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a vet. I was always the animal lover of my family and asked for a dog for every birthday and Christmas. In high school, I worked at a vet clinic my junior and senior year. This gave me a bit of experience in the environment and as my mom put it, “made sure I could handle blood.”

When choosing a college, K-State appealed to me because it had a vet school. There were a lot of perks of doing my undergrad there, plus in-state tuition made a lot more sense to me. My first semester really dove into animal science courses that exposed me to the agriculture industry that I really knew nothing about. Growing up in a more urban area, a lot of the concepts that were part of growing up for most people in my animal science classes were brand new for me. (Amanda here… pretty sure it was studying for ASI 102 our first semester that really solidified our friendship!)

I took a food science course as an elective thinking, “I like food,” and it really opened my eyes to new career options that I didn’t even know existed. I swapped my major to Food Science/Pre-Vet and continued to take more food science classes. Eventually, I dropped the Pre-Vet all together and stuck with Food Science.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I had various jobs all through college, so I feel like my involvement in college groups was significantly less than it would have been otherwise. I lived in Smurthwaite Scholarship Leadership house with Amanda for my freshman and sophomore year of college. Smurthwaite had a lot of house activities that kept us busy and we also had various events with the men’s scholarship house, Smith House. I met some of my closest college friends through time spent in the scholarship houses.

Right before my last semester of college, I interned at BlendTech Inc., a spice and seasoning blend company, in Wichita, KS. As a research and development intern, I helped develop seasoning blends for various companies within the meat industry. This internship was a great fit for me and at the end of the summer, I was offered a full time position after I graduated that next December. I was extremely lucky in that I went into my last semester of college with a job already lined up.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I think one of the biggest struggles for me in college was saying no to the fun activities like spending time out with friends, tailgates or hanging out in Aggieville. I think there are definitely times I would have been significantly less stressed, if I had just stayed home and worked on homework or caught up on sleep. I was also (and still am) a fairly good procrastinator. When I wasn’t feeling like doing homework or studying, I was very good at finding any sort of distraction to do instead (which let’s be real, what college student isn’t?). Again, I know that if I had just buckled down and done the work, I probably could have saved myself from a few more late nights and stressful weeks.

I don’t think I would have it any other way though. I know that a large part of all that is just my personality and isn’t really something I could change anyway. But I also think that by choosing to spend an afternoon at a tailgate or staying up a little too late on a weeknight chatting and hanging out with friends, I really cemented in some of the friendships I still value today. And in the grand scheme of things, what’s a few stressful semesters compared to some lifelong friendships?

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?

Hang in there!! It’s so easy to get caught up in the “almost done” mindset and focus so much on being done that you don’t even enjoy parts of your senior year. My last semester of college was definitely stressful, but it was also included some really fun classes. I wish I had spent a little less time focusing on how stressed I was and more time focusing on the enjoyable classes I got to end my college career with and the great people I got to live and hang out with.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I have been at the same job since I graduated college almost 4 years ago. I work as a Research and Development Food Scientist at BlendTech. BlendTech is a spice and seasoning blend supplier. We work primarily within the meat industry and supply dry rubs, marinades and injects food companies across the country. We also work some within the snack food industry, supplying seasonings to sunflower seed, chip and other snack food companies. My average week consists of a couple of meetings with current or new ingredient suppliers to stay up to date on ingredients that are currently on the market, developing and testing new seasoning blends based on customer request, current market trends or my own creativity, and creating and updating technical documentation for each of our blends for our customers. I have been extremely lucky to have a job that is always challenging me and every day is different than the one before it.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
In college, I was convinced that once I didn’t have classes, homework or studying to do, my life would be so much easier! I’d have plenty of time to do all the things and my stress levels would be practically non-existent. Adulting is hard. And I know people (jokingly or not) say this all the time, but I never really understood it until I graduated college. I also believe this is something that no matter how prepared or experienced you think you are, it will always throw you for a loop, because you just don’t know until you experience it. There have been many other challenges along the way, but the biggest challenge that I wasn’t ready for has been learning how to deal with new stresses and to sort of figure it out as I go.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I actually don’t use a ton of new and exciting technology at work besides my email. Outside of work, the calendar on my phone is the only way I can keep track of anything. Player FM podcast app gets me through my commute. I also use a meditation app daily. My current favorite is Stop, Breath, Think.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
I am a rock star at forming habits. Whether it’s remembering to take my vitamins, sticking with my bedtime or maintaining a workout schedule, I know how my brain works and what steps to take to cement them in for good. However, I’ve always struggled with managing my time. The main cause of this is a combination of thinking things will take much less time than they actually do and trying to switch from project to project, which makes everything take longer.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
I’m a pretty big fan of to-do lists. When things get crazy or stressful, the first thing I like to do is get organized. I prioritize my things to get done, I try to minimize potential distractions (lately that means putting my phone in airplane mode so notifications don’t even show up), I pour myself a cup of coffee and pick out some jammy music. I’ve learned that a positive work environment is crucial to getting me in the zone to get stuff done.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
One of the main things I have really stuck to my guns on since graduating college is leaving work at work. I don’t bring my work home with me in the evenings and I don’t check my work email at home. Of course there are always the exceptions (waiting for an important email to come through, or on a work trip and work carries into the evening), and sometimes when there is a ton to get done or I’m behind, I’ll stay late or go into work early, I don’t mind that, sometimes it has to be done. But my line is drawn at working on work projects in my home. For me, that gives me permission to shut my work-brain off and enjoy my evenings. This gives me the space I need to do things that I love like yoga, hanging out with my friends or having dinner with my family. As long as I’m making time for these things, I feel like I’m much less likely to get burnt out at work.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Earlier this year, I started a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training to become a certified yoga teacher. I started doing yoga more seriously in college, not necessarily because I loved yoga, but mostly because I knew I needed to be doing some form of physical activity and the thought of cardio and weightlifting sounded terrible. After college, I joined a gym and kept up with the yoga practice and eventually grew to love it for more than just the physical benefit. Starting the training at the beginning of this year has proved to be a huge, unexpected learning experience. Yoga helps me to clear my head and get grounded. It challenges me to focus on myself and my practice and not compare myself to others. The training has been a huge time commitment and a lot of hard work, but so worth it! I’ll finish my teacher training in October. The plan is to find someplace that I can teach others a couple pf evenings a week. I love the idea of introducing people to yoga and sharing the benefits and the joy that I get out of it. It also feels like a great way for me to give back and help me spend a little more time doing something I love.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Life consists of a LOT of yoga (see above question – 200 hours is a lot). Other than yoga, I spend a lot of time with my boyfriend and his 4-year-old daughter. Hanging with a 4-year-old means I get to release my inner child and do things like play on a playground and build blanket forts to watch Disney movies in. My two dogs, Luna, a 3-year-old Corgi, and Ned, a 9-month-old German Shepherd, also do a pretty good job of adding to the chaos (and fun) of life.

I also just started my own blog as well, called Her Inspired Adventure!” My 27th birthday this month marked the start of My Year of Mindfulness. I am using this year to approach all aspects of my life in a mindful and curious way. My goal is to dig deep and really figure out what it means to live an authentic life and speak my truth. As a way to document my year, I started my blog. I’m really excited to dive into this new adventure and see what this next year has in store.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
During the summer months, I start my mornings by walking a couple miles with the dogs. This does all of us some good by getting us out of the house and getting our blood pumping to start the day. In the winter, that’s a little harder, because it’s so much darker in the morning and I’m not about to willingly spend time outside in single digits. Winter mornings usually include dog cuddles on the couch under a big warm blanket instead. Coffee is also involved somewhere in the morning process too. But starting the day with two happy pups has become an essential start to my morning.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Coffee is always a must. I get THE WORST caffeine headaches without it. Yes, I do realize that means I have a problem.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
All limitations aside, I would be a Pinterest tester. Which technically I think is a thing. I think people are probably out there making a living off of testing ideas and things on Pinterest. I feel like that gives me the option to do so many different things. I could test recipes, do craft projects, clean my house, workout, DIY all the things, travel, pick up new hobbies…the possibilities are endless!

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?

  • Aggieville, the food, the people, the hilarious stories…
  • The fact that everyone around you REALLY FREAKING LOVES K-State.
  • Living with my best friends and having late night life chats that cause sleep deprivation.

*****

Thank you Megan for sharing your story! I am so thankful for our friendship and excited to follow along on your own blog (Because obviously I don’t get enough of you out of our bi-weekly 4 hour long phone calls. 

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Nicole

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

I definitely had a different blog post planned for today, but when Nicole sent me her profile back, I knew I needed to get it posted as quickly as possible. It definitely made me laugh, and even made me tear up a little. This gal has such a GREAT story to share, and I hope after you read it you will understand why I basically want to be her when I grow up. Nicole and I often joke that we practically have the same life story, and while we do have quite a few similarities, it would not be fair to leave it at that. Nicole is talented beyond her age and experience, is a social media guru, puts 110% into everything she does and is often my go-to when I need a creative boost. What I love about Nicole is she really GETS people and the VALUE of relationships. She has a great laugh and I can always count on my conversations with her to be real and fulfilling, whether we are talking about communications strategy or our mutual infatuation and homesick longing for Tillamook Cheese. 

This is a good read folks, through and through.

-Amanda 

Name: Nicole Lane Erceg
Age: 24
Hometown: John Day, Oregon
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism
Current Location: Wooster, Ohio
Current Job: Producer Communications Specialist

Background Story:

I was raised in the Strawberry Mountains of Eastern Oregon where I fell in love with rural life, agriculture and the stories of the people who produce our food. Growing up 2.5 hour drive from the nearest Walmart wasn’t easy, but it did build character. My desire to share the stories of agriculture led me to Kansas State University where I earned my degree in agricultural communications and journalism with a focus in animal science. Why would a girl who loves mountains move to a state rumored to be flatter than a pancake? It turns out, I’ll go just about anywhere with the promise of a great story, adventure and learning more about ag.

When I left my tiny hometown in Oregon bound for Kansas, I was riding shotgun in a little red car next to a boy I’d convinced to come with me. When he agreed to switch colleges and come along for the ride he made me promise he could pick next. His choice? North Carolina. We’ve lived in Raleigh for the past couple of years while he finished a Masters in Swine Nutrition and coached the livestock judging team. Meanwhile I worked from home as the Social Media Director for a livestock marketing and advertising agency.

We planned to stay in Raleigh for the next few years while he finished a Ph.D. program but… I’m writing this from Wooster, Ohio. We didn’t plan to move around the nation so much, but our shared love of agriculture has taken us from one end of this country to the other — from small rural towns to an apartment in the city and back to rural life again. I am one of the few people who understands the pain of living somewhere too remote to get high speed internet and pleasure of living somewhere so urban, I can get Taco Bell delivered to my door.

Currently, I’m learning to call Ohio home while working for the Certified Angus Beef Brand and running my own communications and consulting business on the side.

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told this story…

I had my heart SET on Purdue University. I knew I wanted to do Agricultural Communications and Oregon State didn’t have the major so even though I’d been raised to be a beaver, I knew I was going out of state. I applied to several of the big ag schools like Texas A&M and Oklahoma State but really wanted to go to Purdue. I honestly can’t tell you why, I just really wanted to be a Boilermaker. Kansas State wasn’t even on my radar until we took one of those college tests in class. You know, the kind that is supposed to tell you the PERFECT school for you after answering a million questions? All my friends got pages of lists of hundreds schools for them. Want to know how many showed up on my list? One. Kansas State.

My senior year of high school, I was elected to serve as an Oregon FFA State Officer which required me to defer college plans for a year. I contacted Purdue to let them know I wasn’t coming and asked to defer my admission and if they could hold my scholarships. All I got back was a cold email saying they couldn’t help, wouldn’t defer anything and that I could reapply next year.

Then I let K-State know I couldn’t make it in the fall and asked the same thing. Could they hold my scholarships and defer my admission for a year? Not only were they happy to do so, I got a HANDWRITTEN NOTE from a past Kansas FFA Officer congratulating me and letting me know they couldn’t wait for me to come to Kansas when my year of service was through. I had never been to the state of Kansas but I knew I would be going to school there.

When I attended National FFA Convention that Fall as a state officer, I knew I had to seek out the K-State booth. Amanda and I had barely crossed paths as FFA members from Eastern Oregon and I recognized her. So I walked up to her at the booth and said “You don’t know me, but I know you and I’m from Eastern Oregon and want to go to K-State and study Ag Comm like you do.”

And that’s how I became a Wildcat and friends with Amanda. 🙂

(Amanda here: I TOTALLY remember that vividly!)

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was involved in everything, which I don’t necessarily recommend. I’m not saying that to sound cool, I really did go overboard. I was president of my sorority (Sigma Alpha), president of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Chapter (loved it), was an Ag Ambassador, involved in a program called Student Foundation and helped plan the K-State Proud Campaign. I got to help teach an agricultural advocacy class, I started my freelance business, I served as editor of our college of agriculture magazine, I travelled abroad twice, I did six different internships. I packed a lot into the 3.5 years I was at K-State and loved it, but I wish I’d had the ability to make hard choices about what to invest my time in and when to say no. Saying no is sooooooooooooo hard. Sitting down with leadership of organizations to say “I quit” is not easy but it’s so worth it. It also would have prevented me from disappointing people when things conflicted or I really just couldn’t do it all. Pick 2-3 things and do those things well. But always do the study abroad trips. #worthit.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I don’t think there’s a lot that I would change, other than narrowing down what to be involved in earlier. I would have liked to stay the full four years instead of rushing into the professional world, but I don’t regret saving a semester of out of state tuition. I think if I was to tell my Freshman self anything it would be to be NICE. These people around you aren’t competition. In four years they’ll be your coworkers. Become friends now. It’s better that way. And I know a lot of college kids aren’t this way, but I would tell myself to not take everything so seriously, to go to Aggieville more, take ALL of the human development classes (they are so cool, don’t wait until your last semester) and start making student loan payments now.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Go to Aggieville. Hug your friends. Wear a lot of purple. Buy football tickets. Use the rec center. It’s free. That’s amazing. If your career is in agriculture take more ag econ courses. Do it. Do it now. Understand the markets and what influences them. I don’t care if you are studying herbology, want to work for an ad agency or be in beef genomics. If you want to be in ag, take MORE ag econ. Stop reading this right now and go sign up for more ag econ courses.

Post Grad:

Tell us about your career so far?
I was really fortunate to land a job right out of college that allowed me to work remote from home. This let me live in Raleigh where my husband was attending school and continue the freelance business I started in college. I absolutely loved getting to work in the digital media space helping farmers, ranchers and western lifestyle brands harness the power of social media.

When I was in college, I interned for Certified Angus Beef and to say I loved it wouldn’t be the right choice of words. I feltat home, like I had found my fit. Telling the stories of the beef community for such an incredible brand was like my puzzle piece had found it’s place. When a position came open on the team I had interned and freelanced for, I knew I had to apply. Ohio was never in the plans for us, but I am so fulfilled getting to help teach ranchers about high quality beef production both in the digital and print space. Bonus, is that I continue to freelance and consult, always keeping things interesting and it allows me to live out some other passions like my love for wheat farmers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I know it’s so cliche but it’s really all about who you know. The relationships I built in college through friends, my department, being involved in organizations, internships and attending conferences have been the biggest factor in setting me up for success. Honestly, I paid a pretty penny for my degree (#outofstateprobs) but the PEOPLE I met through my degree program are more valuable than any classroom experience and totally worth the college debt I’m paying off right now.

These people have become my coworkers, my freelance clients, and all around rockstars to have in my life. They are cheerleaders and problem solvers and world changers. I’m really lucky that I actually work for one of the company’s I interned with in college and I get to freelance and work with many other people I met or worked for in college.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Losing your people is tough. In college you go from a life surrounded by friends who have become family and a support system of mentors and teachers and life coaches and then you move away. It’s hard. It gets lonely sometimes. Also, when someone figures out the whole making good friends as an adult thing, I’ll pay to take that class. Notice how both of these answers are about people? People are the best part of college and the hardest part to lose. They are also the most challenging thing about work and the only way you’re going to get through it. People matter. More than skills, more than resumes, more than experience, more than anything.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I’m one of those people that thinks I’m a hot mess and other people think is crazy hyper-organized. I’m a big fan of Asana for task management and am now a firm believer in living that #inboxzero life. I’d be lost in this world without sticky notes, podcasts, the GPS on my phone and the app TapeACall. Also, Freshbooks. Cloud accounting software made for creatives. If you freelance and you are creating your own invoices, stop that nonsense immediately and pay for accounting software.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Ooo deep question.

Strengths:

  • Knowing my stuff. I spend a lot of time staying up to date with what’s going on in the world of digital communications, media, the world and my craft. I’m good at what I do, knowing the cutting edge stuff and I’m always working to get better.
  • Asking tough questions.
  • Storytelling across all platforms from a 2,500 word print story to a 140 character tweet.

Weaknesses:

  • Being comfortable in my own skin. I really wish I didn’t have to say that at this age. I wish I could say I confidently slay all the time, but I don’t. Often I need affirmation from others to go forth and do the bold thing I want to do but am far too afraid to do. Sometimes that “bold” thing really is something out of the box and innovative and some days it’s talking to a coworker instead of sending an email.
  • Man I REALLY wish I didn’t have to say that one. I overestimate what I can accomplish in a day. I need deadlines and I need help with deadlines. I’m not saying I can’t meet them, but I struggle being realistic when setting them for myself.
  • Expecting perfection. From myself. From others. I’m working on this big time right now. Give grace. We all could use some.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Oh I’m the last person you should ask about work/life balance. I LOVE what I do. It’s part of my identity and who I am. I was created to be a workaholic. I haven’t worked just one job since I was a freshman in college. However, I’ve learned the hard way that my type A, over achieving, do it all personality is at a high risk for burnout. HIGH RISK y’all. This means when I burn out, it’s not like I just fizzle out of energy, I crash and burn. There’s flames. Big ones. And I’m not the only one that gets torched in the fire. Coworkers, friends, clients, my poor husband — they all have to deal with the repercussions and that’s just not something I’m okay with anymore.

Right now this is a major focus area of my life. I seriously had to set goals and hard boundaries for myself. I have goals around when I will leave work and when I can bring my work laptop home and when I can answer work emails. My supervisor knows this and knows if I break my own rules. Does this sound overboard? Maybe. But I can tell you I am a completely different human now that I’m working from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. five days a week. I have time for things like working out and cooking dinner and I’m even thinking about starting to watch Game of Thrones. Nicole a year ago had to be dragged away from her computer at 11:50 p.m. every night. I worked weekends. I answered work email as soon as it came through. I never shut off.

Don’t be that person. It’s not healthy and it’s not getting you ahead. I’m not saying don’t go the extra mile. Just be the person that does more in their 8 hour workday instead of the person that works 17 hours a day.

Hannah O’Leary Photography

Just For Fun:

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
My freelance work. This might sound crazy but it’s the first thing I do when I get out of bed. I go straight to my home office and crank out the first chore of the day. It also makes me feel amazing that by the time I head off to my “day job” I’ve already put in a couple hours of work while everyone else was sleeping. Also, then when I get home in the evening, I don’t have to continue working and can just relax.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Um… caffeine. In the past it’s been Diet Pepsi. I’m really trying to cut that out or at least reduce my intake but I used to basically drink it like a fish breathes water. So right now it’s Crystal light with caffeine. I can give up the soda, but not the caffeine.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This is tough because I truly believe I’m doing what I was made to do. I was born to be a writer. I was made to tell stories. I’m passionate about digital media and how we can use it to build common ground. I love agriculture and believe there is not another industry whose stories need so desperately to be communicated and that if they are communicated effectively have the ability to create immense positive change for our nation and our world.

If the ag thing didn’t work out, all limitations aside, I might have gone into journalism for one of the major news organizations or I’d be in D.C. telling the stories of politics. I love D.C. and politics and my husband refuses to live there. He also could care less about policy. However, either way I’d be living out my truth that stories have this insane power to create change and I want to be one of the lucky ones wielding the wand.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Brooke Harshaw. The color purple. Limestone. K-State Football and Bill Snyder folklore. Raspberry Black Bean Chipotle Dip. Rent being only $375. The Thurston House. The Claflin House. The way people celebrate Kansas Day like it’s a national holiday. The people. Feeling at home.

*****

Nicole, I am so, so, so very thankful for our friendship and that I always have someone to chat with that totally gets it. Thank you for sharing your story on my blog. I know that others will appreciate it as much as I did. #westcoastbestcoast

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Logan

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

First off, welcome back to this series! It has been long overdue! If you missed my post about bringing the series back, you can read that here.

I am so excited to welcome the series back with one of my favorites! I can’t exactly remember when I first met Logan, but it was sometime my sophomore year of college, when he was an incoming freshman. He was in the same department as me (ag communications), eventually became a fellow ambassador for the College of Ag and worked for a while with me as a student at the IGP Institute on campus. I struggled a bit with how I was going to introduce Logan because he is such an all-around great guy. I’m not sure I know anyone that works harder than Logan, or that is as committed to the things that he is passionate about. But what will always stand out to me is how great of friend he is to others and how much he invests in those around him. I’m so grateful that I can always rely on him for a serious chat and an honest reply in return, but also for the perfect sarcastic reply when we are talking about basically anything else. He also loves K-State sports, good Mexican food and doesn’t believe in the Oxford comma… so really, there shouldn’t be any question why I’m excited to share his story.

He just finished up a year-long fellowship here in DC and it was so much fun having him around! But I believe Logan is one of those people that was meant to teach and share the love the learning and agriculture with others, so I am so excited to see him to continue working towards his goals as a Ph.D. student.

-Amanda

Name: Logan Britton
Age: 25
Hometown: Bartlett, Kansas
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): B.S. in Agriculture, Agricultural Communications and Journalism and Agricultural Economics; M.S., Agricultural Economics
Current Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
Current Job: Ph.D. student and graduate research and teaching associate, Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics

Background Story:

I hail from a small town of 80 people in the southeast corner of Kansas, which owes its existence to an agricultural cooperative. It wasn’t until I took agricultural education classes and engaged in FFA programs during high school that I realized the importance and reach of agriculture. Throughout my childhood, I aspired to be a math teacher and doctor, but FFA allowed me to explore career possibilities within the agriculture industry.

One of our high school’s agricultural education instructors and FFA advisors is a family friend and recommend I enroll in an agriculture course during my freshman year. He exclaimed it would help me immensely – how right he was. My mom called my guidance counselor to take me out of my agriculture class once she got my schedule in the mail. In her mind, I had no future in the agriculture industry. She later recanted after observing how much I grew from the experience. I was blessed with four FFA advisors during my time at Labette County High School. Each of these men taught me various aspects of agriculture and how to be a leader. Through their encouragement and coaching, I transformed from a soft spoken and timid freshman to a strong, confident person ready for the challenges of college.

During my time at K-State, I worked in the College of Agriculture and one of its departments. Seeing the other side of higher education through academic programs, I soon discovered a passion for academia. As a college sophomore, I decided I would become a professor.

Fast forward six years later, I’m currently a graduate research and teaching associate and Ph.D. student in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?
Through FFA, I participated in the agricultural communications career development event as a sophomore in which I completed the design practicum. I enjoyed learning the material, and it was there my love for agricultural communications began. While practicing for the CDE, I turned to one of my advisors and asked if I could do this for a living. He introduced me to material about Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture and the agricultural communications and journalism major. During high school, I gained experience in this field by running the FFA chapter’s website and designing printed materials as part of my supervised agricultural experience program.

I’ve always had a fascination with numbers, so while in FFA, I competed in the farm business management CDE. To enhance my education at K-State as well as learn more about agricultural markets, I decided to declare a dual major in agricultural economics.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was engaged at all levels while at K-State – I actively participated in College of Agriculture Ambassadors, College of Agriculture Student Council, Alpha Gamma Rho and Student Governing Association. I also participated in Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Student National Agri-Marketing Association, Alpha Zeta Honor Society in addition to Agriculture Future of America.

As an undergraduate student at K-State, I held part-time jobs with the IGP Institute (where I first met Amanda!), the College of Agriculture Academic Programs and the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education. In my tenure, I completed internships with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Junior Livestock Show and the National FFA Organization.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
One of my challenges was saying no. During the first couple years, I was definitely a “yes man.” I wanted to make the most of my college experience by learning and doing anything I had interests in. Eventually, I got to the point where I was stretched a little too thin. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and wasn’t always in the best of moods. Once I started lightening my plate, my attitude changed.

One struggle I had to conquer in college was depression. I think this topic is taboo, especially in our culture and among guys. As mentioned earlier, I let stress overwhelm me. It got to the point where I’d get anxiety attacks, wanted to sleep constantly and couldn’t think straight. If I were to go back, I would have sought help sooner or found a healthful avenue to release my stress. I let my pride get in the way because I didn’t want my family, friends or people I admire see me struggle. Yet, I learned a great deal about myself through the experience.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
In college, we spend a substantial time learning course materials and objectives, but some of the best teachers are the people around you. Spend time getting to know more about them and how they developed their skillsets. Be in the moment, especially around your friends, mentors and professors. Time in college will fly by. As humans, we tend to remember negative experiences more than positive ones. Take pictures to capture these memories or write in a journal about the positive times you have.


Post Grad:

Tell us about your career so far?
After I finished my bachelor’s degree in May 2015, I stuck around for another year in Manhattan to finish my master’s degree through the concurrent B.S./M.S. program in agricultural economics.

Once I finished my master’s degree, I received a yearlong graduate fellowship with the U.S. Grains Council which was partially fund by the Kansas Corn Commission. While with USGC in Washington, D.C., I analyzed U.S. coarse grain trade and the benefits of U.S. free trade agreements as well as developed a long-term demand model to determine future growth of U.S. feed grains. I utilized both of my disciplines – communications and economics – every single day either writing an economic article for the weekly newsletter, editing content on the website or calculating feed grains in terms of value-added equivalents.

Currently, I’m at Oklahoma State where I hope to conduct research in the areas of consumer and food economics as well price analysis and forecasting.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being involved in several things across K-State and in the agriculture industry, I learned a significant amount about the expectations of others and how to work more efficiently. For example, if my boss wanted me to complete a task by the end of the week, I would attempt to get a first draft done a few days before so that I could receive feedback and make enhancements before the final deadline. Being in two somewhat different disciplines in college helped with approaching a problem from different perspectives, so I’m able to think from an economic lens and then from a communications’ one.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I’m a Type-A personality right down to the letter. At K-State, I feel as if we were prepared to take on several responsibilities through coursework and extracurricular activities. I have always worked at a fast pace, so I hit a brick wall in the real world. I realized other people may not work on the same rate. This has helped prepare me for an academic setting, where decisions about programs and journal articles may take a rather long time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Google Calendar is a blessing for my Type-A personality. I’m able access it on my phone or through a browser as well as color-coordinate different events and create to-do lists. Google Calendar also has a feature called goals, in which it will continually analyze your schedule and find the best fit for the activity you want to complete, such as working out or reading.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
When I set forth goals, I’m adamant to accomplish them with all my effort. So, my drive and work ethic are important assets. Through my experiences and academic disciplines, I have developed well-rounded skills and can use both sides of my brain. My top theme in StrenghtsFinder is harmony, which means I enjoy bringing people together and steering people clear of conflict. I also am observant of others, so I attempt to understand them and learn about their preferences. On the other hand, I am quite the introvert. This may shock some of my friends, but it takes a great deal of my energy to talk with others. So, I usually don’t make the best first impression nor would I ever cut it in a sales role. It takes me a handful of interactions to warm up and truly trust others.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
My faith is an important piece of who I am. When I get down or need to re-focus, I think of the saints and other holy people who got through difficult times by God’s will and grace. I also think of people who have great expectations for me, either now, such as my family or role models, or those in the future, such as my wife and kids.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
As a graduate student, this is a must. I try to either incorporate workouts or times to read into my schedule or participate in social events through the department or the Newman Center at OSU.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
It’s difficult to pin down to one thing. I have accomplished many feats in my life with some daunting constraints and obstacles. My education has been important to me as a first-generation college student. Thus far, I have financed my degrees on my own with relatively low debt.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I’m currently single and have no prospects in sight (school has been my main squeeze for a long time), so my hobbies and interests are mainly those any mid-20-year-old male would have. I’ve been a skinny kid most of my life with some athletic ability. Recently, I’ve been working out regularly and eating a more balance diet to gain muscle. I’m by no means an Olympic weightlifter or fitness model, but I feel like I’m making progress toward my fitness goals.

I used to loathe reading thanks to Accelerated Reading in grade schools. Yet, with more free time and being more interested in learning, I’ve started to read again. Nothing too serious, but I mainly stick to books under the genres of theology, education and leadership.

I love sports, especially watching K-State play (Go ‘Cats), and spending time with friends and family.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Hopefully I survive one more stint of school and obtain my Ph.D. in the next three to four years. The next segment in my journey through life will be trying to be hired as a faculty member at a land-grant university. Ideally, I would like to return to K-State; however, I understand that going elsewhere will only diversify my experience and make me a better teacher and researcher.

Just for Fun:

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Either by eating a bowl of cereal or drinking a glass of orange juice.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I need white noise to work. If I’m at home, I’ll watch TV or binge watch a Netflix series (Friends or How I Met Your Mother). If I’m in an office setting and it gets too quiet, I’ll put my headphones on and listen to my Spotify playlists.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
If I could have muster enough courage and gained a stone-cold stomach, I would have been a medical doctor. I’ve always wanted to help people, so I’d either be in neurology, oncology or diagnostic medicine.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the proximity of friends. I know several colleges throw the word family around to describe the atmosphere. K-State is unique in which that mentality is engrained into students, especially in the College of Agriculture. It’s amazing to see what my friends are doing in this world and where they are currently. This also reinforces how well K-State programs train our students for the workforce.  … Also, I really miss Call Hall ice cream though.

**********

Logan, thanks for helping kick off relaunching this series. We miss you here in DC but are excited for your new adventure at Oklahoma State!

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Series Renewed

Almost two years ago now, when I was on one of my blogging highs (aka super motivated to blog a lot), I started a series called “The Road I Traveled.” I was about six months into a new job and moving halfway across the country (again) and I felt that I needed a bit more motivation as a young professional. I kept thinking, surely other people are experiencing these ups and downs of being a post grad! Surely others feel the back and forth tug between having no idea how to navigate being adult to feeling good about not having to call your mom for the third time that week.

What I found the most encouraging was when I would be chatting with friends who exclaimed “me too!” Not that I felt good that others were struggling too, but it was helpful to know that a lot of those ups and downs were completely normal.

The more I chatted with others about this topic, the more I also heard about the struggle of not having other young professionals/20-somethings to relate to. There are so many different paths to set out on after high school whether its college, trade school or straight into the work force. Then the path splits again into more school, starting families, making big moves and starting careers (or realizing that you want something totally different than what you studied for.) We are always questioning what the right decision is, and unfortunately that often leads us to comparing ourselves to others who are often on a totally different path

So I started “The Road I Traveled” series with the hope of offering a bit more real-life, relatable motivation. In each post I highlighted different young professionals, and let them share how they got to where they are, their ups and downs, and how they are striving to make it through this phase of life.

I received way more positive feedback that I could have ever anticipated, and when I had to slow down my blogging schedule a few months later, I was disappointed that I let this series slip.

Well, its coming back.

Because after two years, sure I’ve figured some things out. But for everything I’ve learned and accomplished, I have 5 more questions and hills to climb.

So I hope that this series once again serves its purpose and that each reader can find a little something in what they read that makes them exclaim, “me too!”

As always, I am going to try to plan ahead for future guests so that this series can be featured regularly, but with that said, if you are interested in being featured and I haven’t asked yet, don’t be shy, Let me know!

Stay tuned for the first new guest on Thursday!

If you are new to this series, click here for a list of all of the guests featured previously!

Cheers!

P.S. I still call my mom multiple times a week.

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Taylor

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

**********

When I stop to think about it, I have quite a few interesting stories about how I’ve first met people over the last couple of years. My feature today is a good example of that. Taylor was a fellow Agriculture Future of America (AFA) student, but she was only starting to get really involved as my involvement was slowing down so though I knew who she was, I don’t think we had ever chatted prior to the summer of 2014. I was traveling to Austin, TX, to participate in my first #AgChat conference and the way my flights worked out, I got in before 10 am and didn’t have to be at the hotel for events to start until that evening. I decided to be a little brave and reached out to Taylor and her friend Taysha who had mentioned in the conference Facebook group that they would be in Austin earlier in the day as well. They ended up picking me up from the airport, and then we floated down the river for the afternoon. I still vividly remember how fun and spontaneous that day was!

Taylor has a contagious personality. She’s open and honest about what her goals are, and is not afraid of putting in the work to get here. She’s outgoing, independent and kind, and happens to be a a bit sassy to top it off. There really haven’t been that many, but I remember many of conversations with Taylor because she is genuine and pours herself into the conversations and people around her. Taylor’s post grad life has already took some twists and turns, but I really respect that she continues to go her own way and put the things that are important to her first. No doubt she’s another great addition to this series!

-Amanda

The Road I Traveled- Taylor

Basics

Name: Taylor Truckey

Age: 23 (and a half!)

Hometown: Leonidas, MI

College: Two years at Western Michigan University before transferring to, and graduating from, Michigan State University

Degree(s): Crop and Soil Sciences (MSU)

Current Location: Michigan, for now!

Current Job: I’ve built an online-based business focused on empowering women to be confident and healthy. I want to inspire people to take risks and live outside the norm if that’s what they feel called to do. Although my primary income isn’t in the ag industry currently, I still do freelance work and have a passion for the ag industry that has shaped my life.

Background Story:  I grew up on a small hobby farm in southern Michigan. After years in 4-H, FFA, and a misguided attempt to be a Poli Sci major, I found my home at Michigan State where I dived into the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

College

How did you choose your college and your major? This might be a long answer! Honestly, when I began looking at collegiate programs, I didn’t want to go to Michigan State. I felt like EVERYONE went there and I’ve always been the person to want to do things a little differently. I was thisclose to going to K-State to study ag but ended up deciding to go to WMU to keep showing in 4-H and to be closer to my grandparents.

After a year, I wasn’t happy in my program. I loved WMU and the Lee Honors College, but I didn’t feel like I fit in there. My heart missed the ag industry and my political science/environmental studies classes were missing the mark for me. I started looking again at K-State, in addition to UNL, OSU, and A&M (let’s be real, I just wanted the ring LOL). I was burnt out. I started considering two-year programs just to be DONE. A family friend forced me to check out Michigan State, and to humor him, I said I would.

After he drove me to campus for a visit, I was hooked. The passion professors had for the program, the energy in East Lansing, and the Spartan pride convinced me it’s where I needed to be. Let’s be honest, ag is also where the jobs are!

IMG_20150509_142740

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships? The groups I was most heavily involved in were the MSU Agronomy Club, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and Agriculture Future of America. I had internships with B&M Crop Consulting, CHS, FarmLink/MachineryLink, ZimmComm New Media, and worked on campus as both a teaching assistant and in the MSU Weeds research department. I feels like it was already so long ago that I might be missing a few!

15597900718_80e633690c_k1

14-ffa- (50)1

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change? Deciding to transfer out of WMU was a hard decision. I felt like a failure when I decided at the end of fall semester my sophomore year that I needed to leave Western. I signed up for online classes that spring, moved home, and jumped into an agronomy internship working with some of the best minds in the industry while I waited to hear from MSU. That internship helped me choose my Crop & Soil Sciences major at MSU. I don’t believe in regret and I will always treasure my time at WMU; I met some of my best friends there and had a lot of great opportunities!

DSC_3762

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year? Just enjoy it. Stress less about your GPA, and more about making memories. Do all of those bucket list blogs that past seniors wrote for you and drink a beer with one of your professors. Celebrate this chapter of your life, but be smart too. Recently, we had to say our final goodbyes to a great friend of ours that graduated from the CSS program last May with us. Without getting too philosophical, those memories are way more important than a GPA that no one asks me about!

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far? Twists and turns! Graduated, started a job, moved, didn’t work out how I planned, moved again. Basically, I’ve learned to just not plan, ever. I’m not doing something I ever would have planned on (there that word is again), but I am happy, my work is incredibly rewarding, and I’ve met so many amazing individuals along the way!

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad? Overall, I experienced a lot of things that I think most don’t by the time they graduate because I applied for a lot of things I probably didn’t qualify for, then figured it out as I went. #realtalk.

I traveled quite a bit the last few years, worked with various groups, learned to work with many personalities, took scary leaps, made a few mistakes, learned from them, survived a knee replacement, almost failed Trig, did fail Chemistry, and yet, somehow, I had a 100% record of surviving. That gives me the strength to continue taking risks. I’m willing to fail, as long as I fail forward and learn from it. I think this is important in any career. In mine, I was willing to take a chance on a job that follows a non-traditional path just because I was willing to say, ‘why not?’ I’m thankful that I took that chance every day. It’s worked out pretty darn good.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for? Learning that in a workplace, co-workers aren’t necessarily friends. I value relationships and consider many people a friend. It can be a hard pill to swallow learning that not everyone values relationships that way!

received_953364728065145

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job? Wunderlist is near the top; any kind of tracking app or CRM that helps me stay on track of things because #scatterbrain. PocketCasts/Audible for personal development and training. Instagram, Facebook; my business is primarily on social media/my phone. I’m learning Google Streak to see if that can help my business grow as well. I also have the Passion Planner that I try to remember to write things down in!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?  Motivating and training teams, engaging people, and renovation vintage campers are current strengths. I’m not a detail-oriented person, that is something I have to constantly work at. But I realize it. And luckily you can spend $ on apps that serve as personal assistants to keep you looking like you have your life together.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult? You have to dig deep and find your why that is going to keep you pushing through the hard shit (can I say shit?). It will fuel you the moment you get a message that says, “I believe in myself again because you believed in me first.” The idea that some people have no one in their corner, I want to be that person for them. I want to give them the tools chase whatever life it is they want to be living. The tough days are made easier by having my Airstream parked outside my window; it keeps me looking towards a life of flexibility on the road. That will come with it’s own perks like being able to give my time freely in service to others.

 

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed? Lots of personal development, adventures, vacations, weekend trips, and the occasional pedicure.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far? Learning to go after what I want. I spent so many years doing the things I thought I had to. It’s been fun figuring out life with a new set of lenses that college and post-grad life seem to give you.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about? Outside of work, I spend a lot of time traveling. I’m also renovating a 1974 Airstream in preparation of an epic roadtrip. The plan is that by the end of August, I’ll be able to hit the road full time for a cross country roadtrip in my Airstream! Donations accepted gladly accepted.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right? A strong cup of coffee, time with Jesus and personal development make it hard to have a bad day! My morning workouts also just make me a nicer person in general HAHA

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace? My phone for sure. It’s what I run 80% of my business off of!

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be? I freakin’ LOVE what I do, but I think if I could do ANYTHING, I’d have sponsors pay me to go on my Airstream adventure this fall/winter and just take lots of cool pictures, drink a lot of craft beer and meet amazing people along the way.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college? The people! This is a growing phase and shifting phase of life, it gets hard to keep in touch. But I’m forever thankful for the friendships and memories made during those FIVE years!

received_10100234001483046

*****

Taylor, thank you so much for taking the time to open up and share about your post grad journey so far! I am excited to see final pictures of your Airstream. You know… Virginia and DC are really pretty in the fall… you may want to add that onto your road trip!

Cheers!