6 tips from a young food professional – by Pauline Depierre

As a political science graduate I never imagined that, two years after finishing University, I would be working in the food sector. In 2015, I joined a large agribusiness company through a graduate program and I don’t regret for a minute being a part of this fascinating industry. Just imagine this: working for the food industry is working to provide humanity’s most essential need, how more empowering can it be?

Throughout our childhood, we are rarely pushed towards careers in the food sector. We are encouraged to pursue traditional degrees such as law or medicine, to go into finance to make money, to be an architect if we are creative or to join tech companies for their international reputation. Yet the food sector offers all the same professional benefits and much more possibilities. Two years into my professional career, here are a few things I learned and advise to all students and recent graduates:

  • Develop your soft skills. While you might have the highest academic distinctions and prestigious diplomas, your hard skills won’t get you anywhere if you lack the people skills and qualities enabling you be a part of a team and integrate in the company. On the long-term, recruiters want to hire dependable people who will be able to take initiative when they see an opportunity, to manage their time efficiently to meet tight deadlines and bring creative solutions to problems. Soft skills are becoming the top priority for many recruiters, as many young professionals lack these qualities.
  • Don’t let other peoples’ judgements affect you. Working for an animal feed company, most people assume I deal with dog food all day when I actually contribute to better food security for human consumption. Agribusiness is not perceived as a glamorous work industry, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is a fascinating one with a broad array of divisions. Whether you deal in antibiotic-free feed, organic produce or reducing agriculture’s environmental impact, you can expect great challenges and riveting work perspectives ahead. Always be proud of what you do, especially when you are putting food on people’s plates.
  • Be curious! The food sector is a rapidly changing industry shaped by world commodity prices, politics, new safety regulations, health concerns, consumer trends, environment and many other factors. Stay informed about the latest developments both inside and outside the food industry to identify potential opportunities, innovate and be prepared for your sector’s evolution. I guarantee that being curious will benefit you professionally!
  • Travel! Unlike many of my friends in the education, law or medical sectors who have limited geographic mobility, the food industry is one offering many travel opportunities. Whether you’re a chef willing to learn about other regions’ cuisine or a young professional working for a multinational company, seize these international opportunities while you are young to learn from other cultures and challenge yourself. Working abroad will enhance your soft skills such as flexibility and adaptability and bring new perspectives to your work. While it may be challenging at times, you will only be enriched by an international experience.
  • You have a chance to impact the world. As we all know Gandhi’s famous quote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, there are many opportunities to do so in the food industry. As Millennials, we have grown up experiencing the mad cow disease epidemics in Europe, the food safety scandals in China, a world where morbid obesity coexists with global hunger, growing environmental concerns and a myriad of cooking shows highlighting gastronomy. There is room for improvement, better food safety and innovation in the food sector and you can be a vector of change if you put your heart to it.
  • Opportunities are endless. As I mentioned above, there are many divisions within the food sector, but there are also various job opportunities you might never have thought of within the industry. From veterinarian, to food aroma scientist or food lobbyist, every profile can find its match in the food industry. The sector needs people with science, law, finance, marketing, technical and even medical backgrounds to contribute to the evolution of this intricate worldwide industry. It is probably the sector with the most profile diversity. Hey, I’ve even joined with a political science degree!

And finally, my last piece of advice to all graduates, go out there and rock the food industry!