Attention: Calling the future of agriculture!

Preface: This is an unapologetic, unpaid promotion of a program that I think anyone who wants to lead the agriculture industry should be part of. It is an admittedly shameless sales pitch. For those not yet scared off, carry on :)

If you’re like me, you crave opportunities to learn and grow in your personal and professional life. However, you’re tired of one-day seminars and webinars where someone walks through their PowerPoint, tells you what you should do to be a better leader, communicator, manager, marketer, etc. and then disappears into oblivion the minute the “training” (and I put it in quotations for a reason) is over. Often, employers don’t continue supporting the messages of these trainings and they become a big waste of everyone’s time and money.

Photo courtesy: Mark Jewell

Thankfully, I just spent two days at a training that takes those types of “trainings” and gives ‘em a big ole punch in the face.

The training was a part of a year-long program I’m taking part in called The Millennial Mastermind. It’s a high-intensity, high-participation program that takes high potential leaders in the agriculture industry and pushes them beyond their limits to figure out exactly why they’re in this business, what their life purpose is, and how they can turn that purpose into big, sweeping change in the industry, their communities, their families and the world. Beyond the two-day intensive, there is ongoing training throughout the year, including podcasts, conference calls, coaching and webinars with industry leaders.

Photo credit: Mark Jewell

The mastermind group that I’m part of is made up of six millennials from seed companies, co-ops and advertising/communications. We came together two days ago not knowing anyone and not quite sure of what we were going to do or learn during the training. We left last night invested in each others’ success and dedicated to living our purpose in order to make a difference to others around us.

This program has only started and already I am beginning to see myself transforming – becoming more confident in myself and more clear on the direction I want my life to take. That’s what brings me to the point of this post:

If you are a millennial in agriculture or have millennials who work for you that you don’t want to lose and think could take over your company someday, you need to sign them up for this program.

No one is paying me to say this. In fact, it’s the opposite – this program is a considerable investment that my company is making in me. And it is life-changing. I want to make sure others have the chance to be a part of this movement. This is what training and development is supposed to look like and I’ve never come across anything like it. Do yourself and your company a favor. Connect with the program’s creator Mark Jewell or leave me a comment if you want to learn more about Millennial Mastermind. The next group starts in December – hope you’re there.

Stop aiming for perfection

I’ve been a perfectionist my entire life (just ask anyone who knows me). I’ve even worn those titles – perfectionist, over-achiever – like a badge of honor, proud of just how much I was achieving with little to no struggle. I was a straight A student, graduating from Michigan State with honors. I excelled in nearly everything I was involved in. I rarely faced a challenge I couldn’t easily overcome.

And now, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a good thing.

Here’s what I believe happens to perfectionists when they enter “the real world”:

  • You take criticism (even if it’s constructive) really hard because you’ve never really gotten it before
  • You live in fear of screwing up because you might disappoint someone (a huge driver of perfectionism)
  • You have a hard time taking risks because you might make a mistake or something could go wrong
  • You’re always questioning your own abilities because what used to make you feel confident – being highly capable in everything – doesn’t come so easily anymore
  • Any small mistake or failure seems epically larger than it is
  • You put more pressure on yourself to get things right the first time than anyone else does, for fear of letting someone see weakness or vulnerability

And if that’s not what happens to all perfectionists, at the very least it’s what happened to me.

In my job, like most, there is no perfect. There’s always something that could be done differently or better. There’s always someone asking if you had thought about things another way or asking your motives behind a decision (even if it was the right one, the fear of there being a chance you did something wrong is terrifying). All of these things are part of learning and growing but, while I know that to be true, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

So, I’ve decided that, moving forward, I’m working to fight my perfectionist leanings and I encourage others to as well. Do your best, yes, but also:

  • Stop being afraid to screw up!
  • Go out of your way to do things where you might make mistakes
  • Learn from those mistakes
  • Surround yourself with people who encourage and support risk-taking (aka they tell you to get on the trapeze because they will be your net if you fall)
  • Try new things
  • Actively remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect to be awesome (say it to your reflection in the mirror each morning!)

Perfection isn’t a compliment – it’s a straight jacket, holding us back from going out and doing all the amazing things that are out in the world. Stop being a perfectionist, but keep being awesome and imagine where it could lead.

A reminder of perspective

I’ll admit that I’ve been feeling a little down about work lately. I’m chalking it up to a minor “quarter life crisis” – which I know I’m not alone in experiencing – and putting an unnecessary amount of pressure on myself to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Do I want to stay in advertising?

Do I want to move to the non-profit sector?

Should I freelance?

Are there other interests outside of agriculture that I should tap into?

Should I be looking at things closer to home, friends and family?

I know that none of these are questions that need to be answered right now, and that I should just stop and take a breath. But it’s just so hard sometimes, when you feel like there’s just so much to figure out! Thankfully, I got to have an experience at work last week that gave me a little bit of perspective.

Right now our agency is working on a little self reflection, trying to discover where we want to be in the future and what steps we need to take to get there. As a part of the process, I got to be part of a focus group. The group was made up of people mostly in my age group, from all different disciplines and departments. We were asked about our thoughts on agency culture, where new business might come from and the creative process. One of the best perspective gaining questions that got asked, though, was the first one we got started with:

Why do you like working here? What makes you get up in the morning every day?

What I loved is that, across 10 or so people around the table, there were common themes that resonated with all of us and prove that yes – despite my constant panic about whether I should shift course – this really is a great place to work.

We don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Minneapolis is a big advertising/PR town, with shops that are doing globally recognized work. We do great work in our office, too, but you won’t see us jet-setting to Cannes or only doing work for high profile, “flashy” companies. We know our clients and their business and that’s why they hire us. We work hard to bring them new insights and ideas and, at the end of the day, we relax over a drink and some happy hour snacks. We love what we do, but we don’t have to stick our nose up at everyone else to do it. We’d rather challenge you to a game of Crud instead.

We value the fact that employees have lives outside of work.

While we expect that the work gets done well, on time and on budget, our senior management (and clients) also understand that people have interests and families outside of our walls. Unlike other “run ‘em ragged” shops, people on our team will raise an eyebrow if you’re still in the office after 6:00 or if you say you’re skipping a kid’s baseball game because you’re trying to get work done. Work is only one part of our lives – it doesn’t do well to make it the only focus.

We put a lot of faith in young talent.

This is one that’s especially good for me to be reminded of every so often, especially when I get caught up in all the things I don’t feel very confident in. At my agency, our leadership has faith in young talent. There are 20-somethings (like yours truly) who get tons of responsibility over strategy development and project execution for lead brands of our biggest clients. When we prove that we can handle the challenge and can be trusted to make smart choices, we’re given the opportunity to lead. That’s huge.

So next time I get stuck in a “What in the heck am I going to do with myself for the rest of my career?!!?” place, I’m going to look back on this list and remember – I’m in a pretty good place to figure it out.

Turning tragedy into inspiration

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I had the chance to volunteer with the Denver Comic Con this year and it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in a long time. Whether it was other volunteers, attendees, comic book artists or celebrity guests, I met so many wonderful people that I got to talk and laugh with over the weekend-long event.

Shane Bitney Crone Love is Louder

Shane Bitney Crone is taking a tragedy and turning it into inspiration for everyone fighting for equality. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of the most inspirational people I met while I was there was Shane Bitney Crone. Shane first rose to notoriety when his YouTube video “It Could Happen to You” went viral. The video tells the story of Shane and his longtime partner Tom, who died in a tragic accident. Despite being together for years, Tom’s family blocked Shane from attending the funeral and threatened him with physical violence if he tried to show up. Shane and Tom’s story has been told in more detail in the documentary “Bridegroom” (available on Netflix).

What is most amazing to me is that, in the face of this tragedy and heartbreak, Shane decided not to pity himself, but rather to take action. Over drinks and dinner, it was so inspiring to hear him share with us the drive he has to spread his story far and wide in order that one day LGBT couples will have the same rights to see and mourn for the ones they love that their heterosexual counterparts do when emergencies arise. He has spoken at universities and events across the country and around the world, including doing a screening of “Bridegroom” at the Denver Comic Con. As he told me, every single person who hears his story is important because that’s one more person joining him in the fight for equality.

I know Tom would be extremely proud of Shane. I only spent a few hours with him and I know I am. May we all take a lesson from his strength.

3 Things I Learned From LeVar Burton

Over Father’s Day weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Denver Comic Con and was lucky enough to be the assistant for celebrity guest LeVar Burton. As a PBS kid with a Trekkie mom, Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation were big parts of my childhood. Suffice it to say, I was pretty darn excited! It was also neat because LeVar is back in the limelight thanks to the Kickstarter he recently started to raise money for Reading Rainbow.

LeVar Burton DCC panel

In one of his panels at Denver Comic Con, LeVar talked about his Reading Rainbow Kickstarter and why he thinks it’s so important to use today’s technology to continue fostering a love of reading in our kids. Photo courtesy of HushComics.com (and make sure to see see their full coverage of LeVar’s Reading Rainbow panel).

Since this really was the first time I’d spent a lot of time with someone famous, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would he be stuck up and not want to talk to me? Or would he be nice and friendly? Well, my experience definitely fell in the latter category and I was lucky enough to learn a few things from Mr. Burton along the way.

3 Lessons I Learned From LeVar Burton

  1. Celebrities really aren’t that different from us.
    Sure, they make a lot more money than I do, I’ll give you that. But, as my dad would say, at the end of the day they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do. LeVar enjoyed talking about his daughter and where she’s going to college, how he and his wife love to read together and that his mom was one of his biggest inspirations. When I got a text of a picture of my dog hiding from the vacuum cleaner, he laughed and said his dog actually prefers to chase the vacuum instead of run from it! Whether it’s a celebrity, a company CEO or the barista at your local coffee shop, remember that people have lives outside of their jobs and often times that’s the more interesting part about them.
  2. Use your power to do good in the world.
    LeVar’s passion is teaching kids to love reading and that’s what led him to start Reading Rainbow. Despite the fact that the show’s no longer on the air, he’s looking at ways to reach kids where they are – on iPads and Kindle Fires, on the web and in their classrooms and libraries. Reading doesn’t have to be your passion, but like LeVar has, find out what is and figure out ways to share it with others.
  3. Care about people and do it genuinely.
    I can’t count the number of times LeVar heard from fans just how much Star Trek and Reading Rainbow made a difference to them. When I think about how much he’s heard those things over the last 25+ years, it blows my mind. Still, no matter how many people came up and repeatedly thanked him for the same thing hundreds of people before them had, he took every compliment gracefully, smiled and thanked them for taking the time to stop by. All of us can stand to take a lesson from that.

I’m sure there are celebrities out there that don’t care about their fans and treat people like dirt, but LeVar wasn’t one of them. He showed me that we all have the power to make a difference and be kind to one another – no matter how famous you are.

Let’s Hear It for the Girls: Meet Brandi Buzzard Frobose!

For as big as the world is, it’s always funny to me when you realize that it’s actually really small at the same time. I definitely had one of those “small world” moments when I met this week’s “Let’s Hear It for the Girls” guest. Brandi and I met through #agchat (a Twitter conversation for people involved in agriculture) but we have only met in real life a couple of times. Despite that, within a short time of knowing her, I learned that I already knew her boyfriend (now husband) from my internship with the National Swine Registry. Yup – small world.

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to learn more about Brandi and one thing no one can deny is that this girl lives her passions day in and day out. I hope you enjoy learning more!

Background

Current location:
Manhattan, KS

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Brandi Buzzard Frobose is passionate about a lot of things (including rooting for K-State!). She definitely puts her passion for the cattle industry to work in her role with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Originally from:
Colony, KS

Education (college/major):
B.S. – Dual major: Animal Sciences and Industry/Agricultural Economics – Kansas State University
M.S. – Animal Science; Behavior, Well-Being and Health – Kansas State University

Job title and company:
Manager, Issues Communication – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)

Brief description of NCBA:
We represent the American beef producer and work diligently to promote and maintain  consumer confidence in beef.

Where were you before NCBA?
Kansas State University/Beef Cattle Institute

How did you become interested in working in the cattle industry?
As long as I can remember I’ve been interested in animal science. During my first year of graduate school, my passion for talking to people about animal science elevated to new levels and that started my journey to where I am today.

Around the Office

Office culture in a few words:
Extremely laid-back; but my office mates, Rooster and Cricket, keep me company and  drive me crazy all at the same time.

A day at work looks like:
A normal day contains one or more of the following: checking major news outlets for hot button issues, coordinating appropriate responses to issues with our team, writing  content for any one of a number of projects, researching issues or events, editing and a  smidge of social media.

Favorite part of your job:
I am privileged to represent America’s beef producers AND I get to do something  different every day!

Biggest challenge you face at your job:
Being a remote employee makes it difficult to pull away from the computer. At the end of  the day, I sometimes forget to unplug and ‘go home.’

Apps (or other tech) you can’t live without:
Actually, I could pretty easily live without social media and the internet! I could absolutely not live without my iPod, though (although I did own a Discman back in the day).

Style

Your personal style in a few words:
Purple. Laid back.

Office dress code:
I work from home so I can either be found in jeans and a K-State t-shirt or running shorts and, you guessed it, a K-State t-shirt.

Go-to work outfit:
When I am going to be in the Denver or D.C. office or if I’m going on a work trip, I’m  almost always wearing a bright blazer, khakis and square toed boots.

On-the-go kit:
Right now my purse contains my wallet, check book, three tubes of Chap Stick, bobby  pins, a coozie, a lint roller, pens, a notepad and my sunnies.

Next splurge item you’re planning for:
A saddle for my barrel horse

Lifestyle

Morning routine:
Brush teeth, grab a banana and make the long commute to my office down the hall.

Favorite spot for brunch:
Early Edition – Manhattan, KS

On Saturday, you can be found:
Outside!

Favorite spot for a 10-minute break:
Outside, throwing a ball for the mongrels of the house

Hobbies:
Rodeoing, vehemently cheering for my K-State Wildcats, visiting friends and family,  planning my next globetrotting escapade

When you have a day off, how do you spend it?
Since I work from home, when I take a day off I use it to get out of the house – ride my  horses, go golfing, visit family or friends or go with my husband to a stock show.

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A vet – young people who want to be in animal science really only know of one or two jobs in that field and veterinarian is the leading option.

Dream job:
I cannot wait to buy cows and start ranching. If I could stay home, raise cattle and rodeo  that would be perfect.

One thing everyone should do when visiting your city:
Go to a K-State sporting event – we really are a family out here on the plains. The  camaraderie and team spirit is contagious!

Cause you’re passionate about:
Breast cancer – it’s nasty and doesn’t care who it affects. It needs to be fought with more force than what it uses to attack.

Encouraging Other Women

Inspiration:
I draw inspiration from some of my favorite Bible verses: Joshua 1:9, Romans 5:3-5, 2 Timothy 4:7 and Hebrews 12:1.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
“You have to make things happen, you can’t wait for things to pop up on your doorstep”
– my dad

My mentor(s):
Jackie McClaskey, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture
Daren Williams, Sr. Executive Director of Communications – National Cattlemen’s Beef  Association

In 10 years…
My husband and I will have some cattle and farm ground; maybe even a few kids.

Career wisdom for young professional women:
Be kind – work hard – be humble – never, ever, ever give up

Let’s Hear It for the Girls: Meet Kelly Rivard

One of my favorite article series is “Behind the Pencil (Skirt)” that Levo League does about once a week. The website – which focuses on providing useful information and resources for young professional women – uses this series to highlight 20-something women who are making waves in their respective career fields. I definitely recommend it for anyone interested in learning about the wide variety of careers that are out there and learning from your peers.

Whenever I read “Behind the Pencil (Skirt)”, though, I always wonder how my friends and network of 20-something women would answer these questions. After all, I know a great group of young professionals who are working in all sorts of fields, in the city and in the country. Wouldn’t it be neat to learn more about them and their careers? So, that’s what I’m doing.

Kelly Rivard headshot

Meet Kelly – she’s originally from rural Illinois, but is now an SEO and social media specialist for Kansas City full-service marketing agency, PlattForm.

My friend, Kelly Rivard – or, rather, “sister from another mister” as we like to refer to ourselves – kindly agreed to be my guinea pig for this project. I hope you enjoy learning more about her!

Background

Current location:
Kansas City

Originally from:
Rural northeastern Illinois

Education (college/major):
North Central College (IL), Interactive Media Studies Major

Job title and company:
SEO & Social Media Specialist, PlattForm

Brief description of PlattForm:
PlattForm is a full-service marketing agency with a specific focus on vocational and continuing education.

Where were you before PlattForm?
I was previously with AdFarm, a full-service agency that specializes in agricultural clients.

How did you become interested in SEO and social media?
As an Interactive Media major, I was always fascinated by developing digital communications trends. Even though my focus was graphics, I accidentally became involved in the “social media revolution” of agriculture, often referred to as “agvocacy.” I landed some really life-changing internships in agriculture that focused on social media, which led to my first full-time job out of college at AdFarm. As the social media coordinator there, I learned a lot of valuable skills. Eventually, my career took an unexpected turn and I got the opportunity to learn some new skills as an SEO and social media specialist for PlattForm.

Around the Office

Office culture in a few words:
Nurturing, empowering, and fun.

A day at work looks like:
Every day is different. Usually, my day is a combination of organized chaos and unexpected situations. The job is stressful, but rewarding beyond belief.

Favorite part of your job:
Working in education, I get to know that the work I do changes lives.

Biggest challenge you face at your job:
Time management. So much of my job is free-flowing, independent work with lots of surprises that sometimes it feels like fitting 10 gallons of stuff in a 5 gallon bucket — but it’s fantastic.

Apps (or other tech) you can’t live without:
My Outlook Calendar, my iPhone calendar, and my iPhone clock for timers, alarms, and reminders.

Style

Your personal style in a few words:
A hot mess? The only shoes I like to wear on a daily basis are cowgirl boots and Chuck Taylor high-tops.

Office dress code:
“Smart casual.” Jeans and a t-shirt is acceptable most days; dress for the occasion for different types of meetings.

Go-to work outfit:
Jeans, boots or Chucks, and a t-shirt or cute top depending on my mood!

On-the-go kit:
Clear or pink lip gloss, sunglasses, and a Swiss Army knife with a nail file.

Lifestyle

Morning routine:
Hit snooze as many times as I can get away with. Get up, get dressed, walk my dog, then pack a lunch and head to work. I talk to my boyfriend on the phone for a few minutes, and then listen to 96.5 The Buzz for the rest of my 30-40 minute commute to work.

Favorite spot for brunch:
My boyfriend’s apartment. We love breakfast food. His kitchen is bigger than mine so I love to go over there and cook omelets, French toast, and breakfast burritos for us!

On Saturday, you can be found:
On adventures with my dog and/or friends and/or boyfriend. Or, volunteering. I’m a chronic philanthropist.

Favorite spot for a 10-minute break:
Somewhere inside of a book. I’m currently reading Clash of Kings, the second book from the series that Game of Thrones is based on.

One thing everyone should do when visiting your city:
Kansas City is an AMAZING food city. Find a local favorite restaurant (or several) and eat yourself stupid.

Hobbies:
Reading, painting, video games (I have a pink xBox 360 controller), and volunteering with the American Cancer Society.

Cause you’re passionate about:
Mental health awareness. Statistics say that as a bipolar woman, I should not be as successful, happy, and stable as I am. Yet, here I am, kickin’ ass and takin’ names. Anyone can succeed if they have the willpower and support structure!

At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian/professional artist/a flute player in a world-famous symphony.

Dream job:
Someday I’d love to work in a non-profit setting. I have a very charitable soul, and making a difference gives me a deep sense of satisfaction in my job.

Encouraging Other Women

Inspiration:
My parents (my mom, my dad until he passed when I was 12, and my step-dad) have worked hard to give me and my siblings a good foundation in our lives. My mom is especially inspiring to me. No matter how tough life gets, she smiles and does what we needs to for those she loves most.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
Have confidence. I struggle with confidence every day of my life; I KNOW I’m good at what I do, I KNOW I’m a good person, but knowing and feeling are two different things.

My mentor(s):
I have had so many! I’ve stood on the backs of giants to get where I am today, and I only hope I can pass on wisdom like I’ve received from them over the years. A few to mention: Katie Pinke, who was a supervisor for my internship with AdFarm; Libby Hall, who was my supervisor when I was Social Media Coordinator for AdFarm; Mark Gale, who gave me my first ever agency experience as a 20-year-old intern; Janice Person, who has more wisdom than any single person should be allowed to keep in their own head.

In 10 years…
I will be one of those crazy women juggling a family and a professional life.

Career wisdom for young professional women:
Don’t ever pigeon-hole yourself – don’t assume you can’t do a job because you’re a woman, you’re “too girly,” “too nice,” or “too young.” If you have the experience, drive, and passion to do it, go for it!