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.

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 Robyn Smith!

This week’s “Let’s Hear It for the Girls” post is all about one of my oldest and best friends. Robyn and I grew up in the same town, but didn’t really know each other until we started carpooling to gymnastics practice an hour away from where we lived four days a week. It’s crazy to think where our friendship started on those long car rides to where she is now as a successful physical therapist (I guess now I should start calling her Dr. Robyn!).

Meet one of my best friends, Robyn Smith, who is now a physical therapist near in Grand Haven, MI.

Meet one of my best friends, Robyn Smith, who is a physical therapist near in Grand Haven, MI.

Background

Current location:
Grand Haven, MI

Originally from:
Brown City, MI

Education (college/major):
Hope College, BA in Exercise Science
Grand Valley State University, Doctorate of Physical Therapy

Job title and company:
Physical Therapist, Mercy Health

Brief description of Mercy Health:
Mercy Health is a non-profit hospital that serves the Muskegon and lake shore community.

How did you become interested in physical therapy?
It’s hard to pin-point an occasion or moment that led me on my career path, but I give a lot of credit to my early years in gymnastics and developing an interest in human movement and helping people. I loved learning anatomy and understanding how our bodies functioned to do the incredible tasks we challenge them to do. Slowly it became clear to me a career in physical therapy would be both challenging and rewarding.

Around the Office

Office culture in a few words:
Relaxed, independent, and supportive.

A day at work looks like:
Every day I have the opportunity to work one-on-one with individuals for about 45 minutes each. My day can vary from evaluating them to determine the cause of their impairment or pain to helping them manage their diagnosis. I work with diagnoses varying from back and neck pain to knee surgeries to shoulder injuries. Plus, there’s always the daily pile of paperwork documenting everything I do.

Favorite part of your job:
I love that I get to help people live their life to the fullest and pain-free. It’s rewarding to know that I can make a difference in how someone is able to function.

Biggest challenge you face at your job:
Every day I am faced with individuals I struggle to help and many who continue to live in pain or aren’t responding well to physical therapy. It can be frustrating and disappointing at times.

Apps (or other tech) you can’t live without:
FaceTime, my alarm clock, and the Weather.com app. I also can’t leave home without my watch!

Style

Your personal style in a few words:
Classic? I love to dress up and feel comfortable and confident in what I’m wearing.

Office dress code:
Business casual is the standard at the clinic, but tennis shoes and athletic gear is considered appropriate (gotta be able to move well and demonstrate exercises).

Go-to work outfit:
Black dress pants paired with a cute and comfortable top or cardigan.

On-the-go kit:
Lip gloss, dental floss, cell phone, and wallet.

Lifestyle

Morning routine:
After crawling out of bed I hit start on my coffee pot (prepared the night before), shower, hair/make-up/get dressed (I should start laying out clothes the night before), followed by eating breakfast before grabbing lunch and heading out the door for a short commute to work.

Favorite spot for brunch:
I’ve only lived in Grand Haven for a few months now, but I have to say my favorite is a popular place called “Morningstar Cafe”.

On Saturday, you can be found:
Preferably lounging around my apartment catching up on things or heading out of town to visit family and friends for a weekend.

Favorite spot for a 10-minute break:
At work I don’t spend much time at my desk, so when I have a short break it’s a great place to sit and relax and socialize with co-workers.

Hobbies:
I’m still getting used to this question; it’s so weird to have free-time for hobbies once again! I am trying to get into running/working out more, reading, drinking wine, and cooking dinner.

When you have a day off, how do you spend it?
Days off are usually spent with friends or family.

One thing everyone should do when visiting your city:
Go to the beach and walk the pier!

Cause you’re passionate about:
Breast cancer research. It’s a cause that hits close to home.

Dream job:
I can truly say my current job is my dream job.  I love where I am at and what I do. I know there is room to grow and things will change, but for now I am right where I want to be.

Next splurge item you’re planning for:
Hmm, not exactly sure but I have a few ideas floating around. I just bought a new Jeep!

Encouraging Other Women

Inspiration:
I am inspired by those around me and those I am able to help each day. I am fortunate to be in a rewarding profession where I can help people each day. Seeing the great things some many people do and have overcome truly inspires me to be better.

Best advice you’ve ever received:
Do what makes you happy.

My mentor(s):
Professionally, my current boss Dean Millar, as well as numerous other clinical instructors and professors who have guided and molded me. Personally, I look up to many wonderful friends and family who I can always rely on for great advice and support.

Career wisdom for young professional women:
Don’t give up, even if the journey seems long – if it makes you happy, it’s worth it in the end.

Stop the work and make time for the people.

As the end of our fiscal year at work winds down, we’ve been putting in a lot of hours trying to get things wrapped up for the current year and get things moving for the start of 2014. That means spending every minute possible at my desk trying to crank away at the many projects we’ve got in the hopper.

Which is why, a couple weeks ago, I was a little irritated to receive a meeting invite for a last minute all agency meeting smack in the middle of the day.

See, everyone knew what the meeting was about. We had won a new piece of business and the pitch team was going to formally announce it to the rest of the agency. In my head, I kept thinking, “Why can’t they just send an email? Why do I have to take 30 minutes when I could be working on client work, just to sit in a conference room and be told something I already know?”

The minute I went to the meeting, though, I realized just how selfish I was being.

This is just a small subset of the awesome people I get to work with every day. Sometimes I need to stop myself for a quick attitude adjustment and remember – these folks are the reason I love my job.
This is just a small subset of the awesome people I get to work with every day. When I get too self-involved in the pressures of the job, I try to take a few moments and remember to be people-focused. After all, these folks are the reason I enjoy heading to work each day.

The meeting wasn’t really about the news at all. It was about the people. It was about recognizing the team that put in long hours to get a piece of business that would benefit us all. It was about giving new staff that had worked on the pitch the chance to share their contributions. It was about getting excited as an agency that we are getting to enter a new business segment and expand our expertise.

In other words, it wasn’t about the work at all. It was about the people.

How often do we get caught up in the work and forget about the people? Whether it’s client work, conquering the never-ending to-do list or meeting a big deadline, there’s always so much to do and so little time to do it. We’ve got our nose to the grindstone so often that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that we have teammates at all levels who may need help, a listening ear or a little recognition. While it’s hard to stop what you’re doing (sometimes even for 5 minutes), remember that a good job is rarely about the work. Most times it’s about the people that you get to spend your days laughing, celebrating and overcoming challenges with.

So, next time you’re buried under a pile of paperwork, dig yourself out and take some time to be people-focused instead of work-focused. Play a game of pool, stop by somebody’s desk to check in on their weekend, or take a walk for some coffee, just to get a chance to build those relationships that are so vital to career happiness. If my change in attitude after that meeting was any indication, I think you’ll be glad you did.

Choose to go left

I had my semi-annual performance review with my supervisor recently and, while it wasn’t meant to result in a pay bump or promotion, I felt like I walked away with more confidence in my abilities and what I need to improve on before moving forward (which I don’t think I could have said before the meeting). If you’re not having regular check-ins like this with your manager, I would highly encourage it.

Left turn signOne of the things that stuck with me the most from our conversation is the notion of choosing to go left when the normal reaction is to go right. Like being right-handed, doing things with the other hand is uncomfortable and unusual. However, becoming ambidextrous can be a cool skill. Similarly, for me Going Right is an instinct that I default to when things don’t go well. Going Right too often involves taking all the blame on myself, focusing on what went wrong and ultimately stewing on how the bad situation ended up so bad. I think Going Right can be a result of perfectionism combined with being pretty good at a lot of things which turns into never hearing a lot of criticism (constructive or otherwise) – not a good thing.

Going Left, however, is something my supervisor is pushing to do every time my instinct is to Go Right. Going Left means focusing on what needs to be done to make the situation right. Even though a mistake may have been made, chance are you can’t go back in time and change it (no matter how much you think wallowing in blame might accomplish that), so what are you going to do instead?

This doesn’t have to be the Going Right/Going Left combination for everyone. What is your basic instinct that you want to rebel against? Maybe Going Right for you is keeping your head down in meetings when you should Go Left and share your opinions and ideas. Maybe Going Right is falling into the trap of working with the same people over and over again instead of Going Left and working with a new team to gain fresh perspective.

Whatever it is, every once in a while, I’d encourage you to Go Left when you really want to Go Right — because all of us need to try going in a different direction sometimes.