A Show-stopping Career
For most, the thought of finding a job after receiving a college degree is a daunting task full of interviews, a few let-downs and eventually, that first job. For one recent Texas Tech University graduate, that dream job presented itself even before the diploma.
Chelsea Clifton, a 2011 graduate of the animal science program at Texas Tech, said she had always dreamed of working for a livestock show.When the communications director position became available at the Oklahoma Youth Expo (OYE), it was an opportunity this Oklahoma native couldn't refuse.
Clifton interviewed with the executive director for the livestock show Dec. 16, 2010, and received a job offer Jan. 7, 2011. Seventy-two hours later, days before spring classes commenced at Texas Tech, Clifton was in Oklahoma City, Okla., beginning her new position as communications director for the largest youth livestock show in the nation, while still enrolled in college.
"Getting thrown into the real world is a shock," Clifton said. "Having to complete classes at the same time was almost overwhelming."
According to Clifton's adviser Sam Jackson, Ph.D., associate professor of animal science, Clifton took two classes during the spring semester while working for OYE. The program does not have a distance learning curriculum so Clifton was allowed to commute to Tech"s campus periodically to complete tests and labs during the spring. Then over the summer Clifton completed 12 hours at the Texas Tech campus in order to receive her degree in animal science in August 2011.
Clifton admits she wouldn"t recommend completing an undergraduate degree while working in the professional world, but for her, it was a dream to not only work for a livestock show, but to work for that particular livestock show.
Surprisingly, Clifton had no real plans of ever going back to Oklahoma. She said she had fallen in love with Lubbock and had every intention of staying at Texas Tech to pursue a master"s degree.
"There are still days that I miss Lubbock," Clifton said. "But sometimes you just know what you"re supposed to do."
The chance to work for OYE was especially meaningful to Clifton because she participated in the stock show during her youth, even before it was called OYE. Her current position allows her to work with people who have supported her for years.
"I first showed there in 1998 when it was known as the Oklahoma City Spring Livestock Show," Clifton said. "Every year I showed sheep there, and I was fortunate to win sheep showmanship, reserve supreme breeding ewe, and grand champion market lamb."
According to Kirby Carpenter, a 2011 graduate of the agricultural communications program and one of Clifton"s livestock judging teammates at Texas Tech, Clifton is a perfect fit for the job even without a communications degree.
"She has a captivating personality," Carpenter said. "She is a very good people person, and she is approachable. Her personality is perfect for that kind of position."
For Clifton, one of the biggest adjustments has been learning to complete the day-to-day tasks of a communications director. Since she received a degree in animal science, Clifton has an extensive background in dealing with animals, which is beneficial since she works with a full-time staff of only five. However, after accepting the job offer Clifton had to teach herself to use Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver and InDesign. She is now comfortable updating OYE"s website, designing ads for the livestock show to place in other publications, creating a promotional book for OYE as well as the expo"s sale of champion"s book and invitations.
According to Clifton, her job description changes with the season. Immediately after the show is over she sends press releases, invoices and pictures. Things around her office slow down in the summer time since the show is in March, but she still spends her time working on advertisements and other types of artwork for the next year"s show.
Riley Pagett, who was a former Oklahoma FFA state officer with Clifton, said hard work is nothing new to this young lady.
Pagett recalled, "One year at the Oklahoma FFA Alumni Leadership Camp, a downpour occurred on the campgrounds. Rain was coming from all directions and slowly, the tabernacle began to seep water through the doors and around the base boards. Chelsea was the first to volunteer to gather sandbags and place them along the edges of the building."
If someone had asked Clifton during her first day of class at Tech if her career would start as it has, she would have simply said no. During her time at Tech, life happened and a chance for a dream career is something that can't be passed up. With the help of some understanding professors, Clifton was able to achieve two lifelong goals within a few months - getting a degree and landing that dream job.