Valerie Schulthess graduated over a year ago. Since then She has found herself working as a secretary to Dr. Fred Petitt and Agricultural Sciences at the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. Valerie talked about life after graduation and offers a few good tips on job searching.
Where do you work?
I work in Orlando, FL at the Walt Disney Parks & Resorts in the Animals, Science and Environment line of business as a secretary for Agricultural Sciences and Dr. Fred Petitt.
How many jobs did you apply to?
Around five. A really important point is that almost all of them were internal. The jobs didn’t even exist, so these weren’t just postings I found online. They wanted to interview me for a need that they saw in their company for HR/PR related work because they knew who I was beforehand and that I was interested in that area of horticulture.
How did you decide which job to pursue and accept?
When applying for jobs, I didn’t limit myself. If I was remotely interested, I pursued it since it’s better to have more options than none. As I mentioned earlier, most of the jobs I applied for were only available to me and maybe a few others because of the relationships I’d established with company representatives during Horticulture field trips (Spring Trials, PLANET and industry trips to southern California and Washington).
The job I decided to accept was in the same department that I did one of my internships in. I’ll be honest: it wasn’t my very first choice. All my other options fell through not because the companies didn’t want me, but rather because someone decided they didn’t want to retire, the company wasn’t ready at the time I wanted a job, etc. Now that I look back on my decision, which was made a lot by prayer and faith, it fits. Had I only applied to the top few jobs I was interested in, I would have been jobless.
What are your normal daily tasks?
I assist with the daily operations for the Agricultural Sciences team and Fred who oversees Agricultural Sciences, Water Sciences, and The Seas Animal Care & Research. Some of my duties include internship recruiting and processing applications, managing the department’s budget and purchasing needs, processing many different types of HR related requests for all three departments, etc.
What is it about the environment/job that you love?
I love taking care of people, and I am constantly doing that in my role. It’s kind of a full-circle moment as I now have the opportunity to give back to the people that provided me with such a great internship during my college years.
Although I am in a secretary role, I’m encouraged to branch out and am given many opportunities to expand my horizons and become involved in parts of the industry that I’m interested in. My background allows me to be not just a secretary. I can do so much more with my background and am grateful to a boss and department that support me in what I choose to pursue.
What advice do you have for students getting close to graduation?
NETWORK. You should be doing this early on in your schooling. Go on every single horticulture trip you can, and don’t be that person that stands in the back and doesn’t ask questions. Make relationships with the representatives of the company, and that includes correspondence after you meet them. One of the best ways to establish a relationship is to ask for career advice and have them talk about their job instead of begging for a job after graduating.
Some students feel insecure about using the information they have learned, do you have any advice about overcoming that fear and how they can apply that to practical skills?
The more you practice it, the more confident you’ll be. Do internships, get out of dodge, and if you can’t get out of dodge, get a job with Horticulture at school. Also talking to other fellow graduates and/or other people involved in the industry can set your mind at ease as you learn what it was like for them when they started their careers.
Our aim for the Department of Horticulture at Brigham Young University-Idaho is to nurture understanding of both the art and science of Horticulture. Students learn experimentally in the classroom, laboratory, greenhouse, and ten acre Thomas E. Ricks demonstration garden as they pursue an Associates or Bachelors Degree. Using the medium of plants, students develop habits of hard work, enlightened minds, and healthy living that assist in gainful employment opportunitues.