One (or more) of “those” days

The last week has been filled with the kind of days I hate having. You know, the kind you describe as “one of those days” with a stressed out look on your face when your significant other asks you how your day was. The kind where your to-do list is so long, you don’t even know where to start it. The kind where the minute you get one thing done, you add five more. The kind where nothing seems to be going right. The kind where it feels like, no matter how hard you try, you keep dropping the ball.

Yeah…one of those days. Or in my case, several of them.

Thanks to three giant events that are taking place for my clients in February (coupled with the fact that I’m moving to a different state), I know I’m not the only one facing the pressure. Everyone on my team feels like they’re playing an ongoing game of “How long can you keep your head above water?”. But the doggy paddling is getting tiring.

It’s during these times that I start to wonder what it would be like to have a more “normal” 9 to 5 job. The type of job where you go to work, do your tasks and then go home, leaving your work at the office. In this fantasy land, there’s no working in the evenings. There’s no feeling of letting people down. There’s no putting in time at the coffee shop on Sunday morning. Your time out of the office is just that – your time. You don’t feel the pressure to clock the extra time or go the extra mile because it can always be done the next day.

Yeah, I know. There’s a reason I called it a “fantasy” land.

On the flip side, when I start yearning for this type of job, I try to stop myself as soon as possible. Instead of dreaming of less responsibility, my inner voice starts getting real with me:

Why would you want a job that you’re not invested in enough to put in the extra hours?

Why would you want to work someplace where you didn’t hold such high standards that you want to deliver at absolutely peak levels, even if that takes some more time than your regular 40 hours a week?

Why would you want to be somewhere that didn’t require you to push yourself past what’s comfortable?

Remember, lady: You. Don’t. Want. That. You want to be a rockstar and rockstars stop whining and go to the next level.

If evening and weekend work was the normal year-round, my inner voice might be a little more logical and tell me to think about my work-life balance. But it isn’t like this all the time. Once I get through February, I know from experience that things tend to relax a bit. And, starting in February, my role will shift a bit, giving me more flexibility in my work volume. So, I know this isn’t a long-term thing. It’s temporary and, while a pain in the short run, I know it will lead to success in the long run.

I’ve just got to keep swimming.

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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.

6 Ideas for New Hire Onboarding

With the arrival of summer interns and a slew of new hires thanks to expanding business, my company is re-evaluating our onboarding procedure (which is really to say, we’re creating one).

Now, I for one think that your first week at a new job is one of the hardest. Not only do you not know anyone, but you’re also learning a bunch of new processes and — despite being eager to jump in — don’t know enough about the business to just start taking things and running with them.

Knowing those challenges, we’ve brainstormed some ideas that I think would be great additions to any new employee program. I don’t know that we’ll put them all into action but maybe there’s one or a few that you think would work in your office!

Introduce the company mission or vision
For Millennials especially, we want to know what our employer is trying to achieve or the mark they want to leave on the world — and how we can contribute to that. Start introducing the company mission to new employees from the start and help them discover how they can live it every day.

Make a buddy system
Where in the building can you get a Diet Coke? Who do I go to when I need to order office supplies? What does Bob Smith do again? These are just a few of the questions that a new employee may be wondering but not know who to ask. Sure, there’s always your manager, but why not have a buddy? We thought it’d be great if new hires — especially those straight out of school — had a “buddy” that was at their same position, maybe also somewhat new to the company, to answer the questions that seem silly until you get to know more people.

Provide an organization chart
If your company is anything like mine, there are lots of people with titles that may mean little to nothing to you if you’re new to the industry. Having an easy to understand org chart helps new employees learn names and what people do (make sure to include pictures!).

Create “Our Company 101”
Despite the fact that you just interviewed with your employer, know the basics and it seems like a great place to work, there may still be holes in your knowledge of what they actually do. For us, that missing information might be who our largest clients are, how we make money and what our short and long term goals are. Consider creating some sort of introductory document or presentation that helps new employees get more comfortable with the inner workings of the business.

Training materials, practice assignments and/or tutorials
One of the hardest part of starting a new job IMO is staying busy until you know the business well enough to generate your own work. For new employees, consider having a set of training modules/tutorials that teach skills they’ll need or practice assignments that mimic what they’ll be doing. For us, examples might be an online tutorial on basic HTML or writing a creative brief based on a fictional scenario. For your business it might be something else, but make sure the tasks are relevant to their position and help get them up to speed on what you’ll expect from them in the future.

Lunch and happy hours
I’m a firm believer in the power of lunches and happy hours to get to know people. Make sure you’re inviting new employees to lunch and happy hours with people at all levels of the company to build those connections in a more casual setting.

I know there are lots of other ways to welcome new people to your organization, and these are just the tip of the iceberg. Make sure to share what your company does or other ideas in the comments!

3 Things I Miss About College Now That I’m an Adult

My sister graduated from Michigan State this year and it made me yearn for my college days!

My sister graduated from Michigan State this year and it made me yearn for my college days!

As thousands of college students across the country become college alumni over the next month or so, I’ve been spending time reflecting on my college days. It’s been especially pertinent this year as my sister joined the ranks of Michigan State graduates (Go Green!) a few weeks ago and I got to go back to campus.

One of the things that always strikes me when I think back to college are all the things I miss. Sure there was the sleeping in and social time, but there were also a lot of other things you might not typically think of that I wish could continue today. Even though I love my job and a regular paycheck, you have to admit that these things were pretty great.

Setting your own schedule
In college, I would go to work for 2-3 hours in the morning, get lunch, go to class, do some homework, and then go to a club in the evening. Then the next day, it’d be a totally different routine. I got everything done, but did it on my time when it was most convenient — no 9-5 repetition.

Getting to have a variety of experiences
My senior year of school, I was working three jobs, freelance writing and participating in multiple clubs. There’s nothing quite like that in the real world (unless you’re a freelancer) where you can get such a diversity of professional experiences and networking opportunities.

Creating your own stress
Due to the number of things I participated in and the class load I took, I always felt that I was busy and under pressure from somewhere. It wasn’t until I moved into a full-time job that I realized how wonderful it is to have stress put on you by no one but yourself. If something was too much, I didn’t have to do it. In the working world, though, there’s pressure from so many more outside forces — coworkers, supervisors, clients, looming deadlines — that you can’t just walk away from if you feel like you need a breather.

Now, that’s not to say that moving into a career isn’t awesome (I’ll write about that later), but a word of advice to students everywhere: take advantage of every moment and don’t wish it away too quickly — there will never be another time in your life quite like college.

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