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Alumnus goes nuts about his post-grad job

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OSU alumnus Tom Shepherd poses with Mr. Peanut in front of the Planters NUTmobile. Credit: Courtesy of Kraft Foods Group

OSU alumnus Tom Shepherd poses with Mr. Peanut in front of the Planters NUTmobile. Credit: Courtesy of Kraft Foods Group

For some students, searching for a job after graduation can drive them nuts. But one Ohio State graduate landed a job that literally involves driving nuts.

This isn’t an adaptation of “James and the Giant Peach.” Tom Shepherd took a job with Kraft Foods and has been driving around the country in the Planters NUTmobile after graduating last spring with degrees in psychology and strategic communication.

In the official job description, the position’s duties are listed as a Planters spokesperson, but the reality of the work is much more than that, Shepherd said. He and his coworkers had to attend training at “Peanut Prep” before they stepped into their official title as “Peanutters,” he added.

Brian Mallioux, the Planters NUTmobile coordinator, said the people who hold the job are more than just spokespeople.

“The job provides an interactive experience between the customers and the brand,” Mallioux said. “It allows for that face-to-face interaction with the public rather than sitting behind a computer screen on social media.”

He also said it provides great press for the company, but the company is trying to help the workers in their careers as well.

“The truly unique thing about the opportunity besides driving the nutty vehicle is the hands-on experience they’re able to receive and the nature in which they get to do so,” Mallioux said. “They’re managing their own PR firm on wheels while traveling across America.”

Shepherd isn’t alone in his giant peanut. He is driving along with Meghan Krueger, a graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Melany Rodriguez, a graduate of University of Texas Pan-American. And they’re just one of the teams.

There are three teams of Peanutters just like Shepherd’s that travel in NUTmobiles in different regions of the U.S. Since January, his team has been traveling around the western portion of the U.S., but he has taken the peanut all over the country.

A Westerville, Ohio, native, Shepherd said he is cherishing the experience he is getting away from the city he grew up in. He said the position is an adventure he never thought he’d experience.

“It’s not that I wanted to get out of Columbus, I just wanted to experience something else,” Shepherd said, adding that he likes the adventure that the position grants him, but couldn’t forget about his hometown.

“My favorite place might have been when I got to take the NUTmobile to Columbus for Red, White and Boom in July,” Shepherd said. “But my favorite cities so far were Nashville around Christmas time, and San Diego was definitely one of my favorites.”

The three Peanutters are currently traveling a route that will start in Phoenix and tour most of the West before ending in Madison, Wisc. But Shepherd said the peanut has taken him many places he otherwise would not have had the chance to go.

During his time as a Peanutter, Shepherd has done grocery market promos, stopped at festivals and been in parades.

Not only did the peanut appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2014, but it also attended the National Peanut Festival in Dothan, Ala.

Mallioux said a huge purpose of the NUTmobile is to create “I remember when” moments. He recalled a story of how a man from Tucson, Ariz., remembered dressing up as Mr. Peanut for his dad’s peanut store in 1954. The man brought the newspaper clippings to prove it. It’s these kinds of stories that Mallioux said make the position so great.

“What other job right out of college will provide you with a lifetime of stories and a multitude of responsibilities and experiences that are placed on you?” Mallioux said.

The stories and experiences are what Shepherd said he cherishes. He added that spending so much time in the peanut has provided him with something that he never would have otherwise had.

“Every day is completely different,” he said. “We’re never in the same place twice.”

“We don’t have another company car,” Shepherd added. “If you want to go to Target to pick up toothpaste or something, you’re taking the NUTmobile.”

The NUTmobile, which is a 26-foot replica of a peanut on wheels, wasn’t Shepherd’s first choice for employment right out of college. Instead, he said wanted to drive another iconic food mobile vehicle.

“I didn’t know the job existed until I applied for the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile,” Shepherd said. “Kraft responded by asking if I was also interested in this (Planters NUTmobile) opportunity.”

Now, Shepherd said he is happy with his home in the peanut, and in some ways he prefers it to the Weinermobile.

“I’m the only one who can go from saying ‘I’m a nut’ as a Buckeye to a nut as a Peanutter,” he said.

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