In 2017, FFA alumna Beverley Flatt accepted a position as the content creation manager for Bayer Animal Health. She took a sabbatical from her 170-acre family farm in Nashville, TN, and moved to Monheim, Germany, for the role. Here, Flatt explains how FFA led her to a job with one of the largest agribusiness companies in the world and how you can pursue similar opportunities, too.
How did you become interested in agriculture?
I didn’t grow up in a farming family; my parents were high school teachers. In middle school, I babysat for a man who created spice mixtures for fast-food companies, and I thought it was the coolest job. He said that if I wanted a job like his, I needed to study food science. I signed up for agricultural education and was hooked.
How did your involvement in FFA shape your career path?
In college, I attended the State Presidents’ Conference in Washington, D.C. We had an audience in the White House, and I was selected to ask President George W. Bush a question. I asked, if he were in our position, what question would he ask? He said in seven years as president, he had never been asked that specific question and that great leaders ask great questions. After that, I thought about what careers would let me ask a lot of questions and ended up majoring in agricultural journalism.
When applying online, it’s difficult to determine who you’re communicating with, and therefore, addressing your cover letter is difficult as well. Most job postings on AgCareers.com do not list the employer’s contact person.
You’re tempted to just say forget it and skip the cover letter altogether. However, this can be a mistake. Even though the electronic systems and recruiters may not evaluate the cover letter, the hiring managers will take notice. Addressing it to the wrong person is an even bigger snafu.
Is Contact Information Available?
Even though most jobs do not list a contact, read over the posting again to make sure. You don’t want to miss that little detail if it lists an actual contact name.
If you don’t see a contact on the posting, you can call the company, or search online, the company website, or LinkedIn.
When you find a contact, use the full, formal name, such as Ms. Johnson or Bonnie Johnson. Address it to Mr. for men and Ms. for women (skip the Mrs. or Miss unless specified). If you are unsure of the gender, use the full name (first, last/family name) with no title. If the contact has a professional title, use it out of respect, such as Dr. or Professor. Most importantly, double-check spelling.
Meetings. We all have them. Some of us may dread them, some may love the opportunity to share and see our fellow coworkers. Regardless of how we may feel, meetings are likely a part of your job whether they are in person, over the phone, or virtually with a webcam. So, how do we make the most of these meetings? How do we consistently pay attention to remain engaged? It starts by being intentional.
To begin, we must set ourselves up for success. And if you’re anything like me, this means eating beforehand. As much as I like to think that I do not get “hangry,” without food…it happens. This can also prevent you from getting distracted during the meeting if it were to run late or into your lunchtime.
The phone interview has become a basic and expected precursor to the in-person or virtual interview. It is the interview in which employers get the chance to know you a little bit better before determining if they’d like to spend even more time and resources getting to know you, thereby determining whether or not they’d like you on their team. In other words, it’s pretty critical! I remember prior to my first phone interview for a real job, talking to my current mentor about it and saying that I didn’t feel like it would be that big of a deal. That I was headed back to my dorm at that moment to sit in my desk chair and make time for it before starting in on my homework for the night. The way he looked at me with concern and the way I felt after the interview cemented the reality that, yeah, it actually is a pretty big deal.
So why don’t we adequately prepare for it like we should? Why don’t we treat it like the important step in the interview process that it is; the step that if you make or break it, determines whether you get a seat at their table or whether your application is swiftly withdrawn from the running? Here are some crucial forgotten rules of the phone interview to take seriously in order to help yourself take the phone interview seriously. And win an in-person interview.
1. Find a place of privacy and quiet. It’s not always convenient when you are a student or current employee trying to find the least distracting place during the 8 to 5 day that you can to focus on and successfully complete a phone interview. Your dorm room or apartment can even be a struggle if you have roommate(s) or a cluttered space. If you can, ask your roommates to leave for a little while so you can prepare for and do the phone interview in complete quiet. Turn off any noise, put away the pets, and get to a room or part of the room that is as secluded, silent, and focused as possible. If you are on campus, check with your career services to see if they have a secluded room that you could reserve to complete your phone interview.
Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it! What we do and don’t talk about at work these days has changed. We’ve become much more open and willing to discuss things that in our parent’s day and age, they’d never dream of sharing. This is a double-edged sword–both good and bad–blurring the lines of what is considered taboo.
Before we dive into a few of the things that are a bit more acceptable to discuss these days, I’d like to preface with–no matter what is being discussed–the who, how and when of these discussions is still as important as it ever was. Water cooler conversations with peers in a gossiping manner isn’t productive or helpful. Coming in as a new employee and discussing your financial problems and family challenges, doesn’t set a good impression. As we look at my 4 things I think are valuable to discuss nowadays, keep in mind that I’m talking about with productive intentions and with the appropriate person(s).
1. Conflict – Conflict arises, and while it might seem taboo to talk about, address and deal with issues with your manager, colleagues and peers as they happen (Take time to cool down if needed before you address!). There is no value in holding onto negative feelings for prolonged periods of time. Have an open discussion, focus on listening to the other person. Ask clarifying questions. Ask that they hear your point of view. Remain calm and keep the overall objective of business performance top of mind. Work on a resolution with the person with a conflicting view point. Only bring in others when another opinion is necessary, or an agreement can’t be found and is necessary. Most times a consensus isn’t needed and agreeing to disagree is okay.
In the first week of the new year I spent some time de-cluttering my social media feeds. While I did unfollow several Instagrams that no longer resonate with me, I was reminded of what individuals and organizations are sharing really great content!
1. Rural Revival ruralrevivalco
“Bringing America back to the country, one idea at a time.”
Rural Revival is fairly new to the scene and their Instagram page highlights rural communities and the people committed to ensuring their vibrancy. You’ll travel across the nation and meet rural changemakers who are making an impact.
2. Common Ground Commongroundnow
“Conversations about farming and food.”
Common Ground encourages going straight to the source–farmers and ranchers–with your food and agriculture questions. This Instagram not only shares views from the farm, but also food facts that are easy to share with others.
3. MN Millennial Farmer mnmillennialfarmer
“Family owned, 5th generation farmer in west-central Minnesota.”
The good, bad and ugly of farming. This farm owner shares it all with a dose of humor and humility.
If you have a resume, you know that everyone has an opinion about it. There are lots of different rules to follow, but the basics should all be there. That’s why we’ve created the ultimate resume checklist for you! You’re probably thinking that this is also subjective. And you’re right, it is. But we’ve talked to hundreds of agricultural employers over the years and can say with certainty that this list is fairly agreed upon. You’re welcome.
I don’t know about you but being called lazy is one of the biggest insults I think there is. I was fortunate to be raised where productivity, hard work and accountability were encouraged, which is why I’m sure that I find the term lazy so insulting. But, I do know it is an issue. Talk with any business owner or leader and I bet they’ll tell you that one of their biggest challenges is finding good employees that will show up and do the work.
Are you one of those? Are you lazy at work? While we could blame it on generations or upbringings, the reason really isn’t the important piece. What is important is how you step up and change your approach from lazy to productive. There is so much to gain for those that are on the productive and accountable side, particularly in a market that is screaming for good talent.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is right up there with “Tell me about yourself.” in the realm of interview questions you’re likely to be asked in a job interview. Taking the time to really craft your answer for questions like this will really pay off when you’re in the hot seat during an interview. So how do we prepare to deliver a great response? I recommend reverse engineering the question. The end goal of the interviewer is to determine if the candidate is a solid fit for the position. So, let’s begin our reverse engineering exercise by asking ourselves what the interviewer is trying to learn by asking the question:
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” These three things come to mind right away:
1. Does this candidate set personal and professional goals?
2. Does this candidate have confidence in their abilities, and do they demonstrate continued self-improvement?
3. Would it make sense to hire this candidate, considering the company’s needs? Is the position a match for this candidate’s aspirations?
“It’s what I’ve always known…” Growing up on his family’s livestock operation, rancher Ryan Sproul (husband of AgCareers.com Education and Marketing Specialist, Kristi Sproul) was surrounded by immediate and extended family that made their living off the land and the cattle that grazed it. Ranching has been a part of him for as long as he can remember. Now, Ryan and Kristi own Sproul Livestock, raising commercial Red Angus cows in Northwestern Oklahoma.
There’s never a typical day! I also work a full-time job as a Field Representative for the United States Senate, so I balance this with the work needing to be done with the cattle. This often means the ranch work is done during early mornings, late nights and weekends. Our operation’s work load varies by season. During the summer we are slower, while winter and spring are consumed with feeding and calving.