“Should I include a cover letter when submitting a resume?” This is a question I have been asked countless times in my years of recruiting. I always give the same answer.
When seriously considering new employment, it is always best practice to leave nothing to chance. Control all things controllable, which means writing a standout cover letter.
Over my career, I have had the fortune of working alongside hiring managers from a wide spectrum of industries. I built professional relationships with these individuals while recruiting talent for their organizations, and I learned firsthand about candidate screening etiquette. So, while I don’t represent a national consensus, I can offer professional insights along with these few lessons I learned that will be sure to make for a standout cover letter.
By: Niko Cinquepalmi, Student Recruiter
In my nearly 6 years recruiting for GROWMARK, Inc., I have had the opportunity to speak with people across a wide range of backgrounds, education, and skillsets– all looking for that next step in their professional life. I hear many people’s stories and learn about their strengths, but so many of them qualify their expertise with “...but, I don’t have any farming experience.” If you are one of those people and you’ve stumbled upon my post, I’ve got great news! The FS GROWMARK System has opportunities for you too - No farm experience needed!
Ok… maybe I shouldn’t say NO farm experience needed. Will some positions require an agronomic background? Of course! Does that mean only farmers or people with an agriculture degree are qualified for a job here? Absolutely not!
Just like other industries, ag companies offer opportunities in accounting/finance, HR, IT and other business-related areas. For many of those positions, agriculture experience is not required. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that even ag companies have jobs that may be a fit for you. Here are some tips that can help you decide:
Start thinking outside the box when it comes to envisioning your career path. Expand your job search to industries that you do not have direct experience with. You could be missing a great opportunity that fits your skills and career goals. A great place to start your search would be the GROWMARK Careers Page. Check it out!
By: Megan Peterson, Recruiter
Unprecedented is a word we’ve heard repeatedly over the last few weeks. The Coronavirus has impacted society and our daily lives in so many ways that the word unprecedented has turned into an undesirable buzz word. This time has been and will remain challenging for the foreseeable future, but if you are anything like me, you are ready for something positive.
Let’s use this time as an unprecedented opportunity. An opportunity to spend meaningful time with your family. An opportunity to connect with friends (remotely) with whom you’ve fallen out of touch. An opportunity to improve your physical fitness. An opportunity to be creative. An opportunity to take on those projects around the house that you’ve put off for too long. An opportunity to read a book that’s been on your shelf for a year. An opportunity to improve yourself.
Life has pulled us all in many directions, but now it’s your turn to push. We have this unprecedented opportunity to invest in ourselves. In the words of Eddie Vedder “I know I was born, and I know that I’ll die, the in between is mine.” Now is the time for the ‘in between’ to have the spotlight. Go do it! Get yourself motivated knowing that we are all in this together and there is no better time than right now to take initiative in your life in ways that you’ve been putting off. How many times have you said, “if I only had the time?’ What is your excuse now?
Make those memories with your family, teach yourself that new skill, take those extra 10 lbs off! Do it for you! Once you start putting emphasis on the things that you’ve been putting off or avoiding, your brain will begin changing in a good way. Article after article talks about the positive effect on your brain after exercising, working with your hands, reading a novel, learning a new skill or simply going for a walk outside.
I understand not everyone has the opportunity to have more time at home right now. Maybe I’m seeing things differently due to this being day 11 at home since packing up my work and bringing it home with me. All I know is that if I can use this time to accomplish something that normal life makes difficult, I’m going to do it – and that’s going to make me that much better when the dust settles, and we’re back to ‘normal.’
Use this unprecedented time on you and you will not regret it!
By: George Moore, Recruiter
Whether it’s your first Career Fair or your fourth, there’s something overwhelmingly intimidating about the possibility of meeting your future employer. Here’s the thing- those jitters, at a normal level, are a good tool to use as your driving force to success! Have confidence, but have the humility to properly market yourself to your full potential. As an undergraduate senior, I have seen (and made) plenty of mistakes. Here’s a short list of some of the things I have found the most useful while preparing for a career fair.
Regardless of how perfect you view your resume, a second set of eyes such as a teacher or employer may catch things you didn’t see. Make sure to ask well in advance to give them enough time to help you!
This one seems a little obvious, but it is so important. Pick it out, try it on, then try it on again. Does it fit right? Do you feel confident in it? Also, have a backup outfit just in case you spill coffee on yourself on your way out the door. If you don’t have an appropriate outfit, check with your college Career Services office. They typically have a closet filled with various sizes and styles for free!
One of the most embarrassing things that can happen when talking to a company representative is not having an answer to the question, “So, what do you know about (insert company)?” Knowing basic information about the company will give you an edge over candidates who may not.
The most important thing to know when going into a career fair is to know who you are. The term elevator pitch refers to a short speech about yourself that can be competed in a short elevator ride. The essentials for a student would be name, location, year in school, major, and any steps you’ve taken to reach your career goals. I also like to include why I chose my major and a memorable fact about myself.
A career fair will be as beneficial as you allow it to be. Make a list of general questions that can be used for any company you visit, as well as a list specifically tailored to companies you have a unique interest in. Not only will you gather vital information, but recruiters will appreciate the effort!
As cheesy as it may be, confidence is key. Know where you’re going, where to park, and how much time you have to spend. If you only have an hour between classes, you don’t want to spend half of it talking to companies that aren’t related to your field. All of this information should be on the college website.
Believe it or not, recruiters are real people and have personalities too! This means they want to get to know yours. Of course, professionalism is required, but being robotic is not. Not only is being yourself allowed, but recruiters will enjoy their time with you considerably more. They want to know your education and skills, but they also want to know how you’ll fit into their culture. Smile, shake hands, and take a breath. Everyone is on the same team.
By: Halle White, GROWMARK Campus Ambassador
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Farm Progress Show. This blog isn’t necessarily about the Farm Progress Show, but more about its heart – the people who travel hundreds of miles just to be a part of something incredibly special. A diverse gathering of advocates who believe in and defend the stewardship of our food production.
In the short time I was there, I met two agriculture scientists from South Africa and learned about their challenges and opportunities they face in the Ag industry. I met Carol from Ohio who just celebrated a century legacy of farming and is concerned about losing their land to encroaching development. I met Rachel and John from Ontario. Rachel’s father delivered fuel for FS and died of a brain aneurysm during a delivery and her son Ben desires a future in the Ag world. I met two farmers from Brazil embracing the experience to learn and network with others. I could go on, but my point is simple…saying hello and asking, “Who are you and what brings you here?” provides a wonderful opportunity to listen, to truly listen with an open heart and mind. People love to share their stories and it is a gift to receive them.
Listening is often thought of as something we do for someone. However, listening is about learning to listen to our self – our True Self – getting to know the inner voice of our soul. When we deepen the relationship with ourselves, we develop the sensitivity to listen to others.
Listening is connecting to something beyond ourselves and enriches our lives at the same time. It’s about creating space and sharing a moment of presence with another. Present to receive without judgement or feeling the urge to interrupt. Listening is truly a sacred act of kindness in the most genuine way.
Questions to ponder:
By: Stacey Curry Lee
The week before my internship ended, I was practicing for my internship project presentation when I stopped to take a phone call from my mom. It was a Thursday morning, exactly one week before the GROWMARK internship conclusion meeting, and I found out that my grandpa had passed away.
That day was mostly a blur. I was repeatedly given the option to go home, but my grandparents lived out of state, so I chose to stay at work the rest of the day. I don’t remember what I did the rest of the day, or even the rest of that week, but I do remember the kindness and compassion of my coworkers. The cards, hugs, and quiet understanding I received from fellow interns and other employees during those two weeks are some of my biggest takeaways from this internship experience.
The individuals I met during my 12 weeks at GROWMARK demonstrated a level of caring that surpassed any company culture I previously experienced. Throughout my internship, I spent most of my time exploring what a communications position entails, but I didn’t stop to consider what it was about this organization that really makes it unique. I’ve enjoyed working for other companies, but this was the first environment where I could see myself building a career.
There is a saying about a company only being as good as its employees, and that is exactly why I think GROWMARK has been successful. The company vision is to be the best agricultural cooperative system in North America, and they are achieving it by hiring the best people. GROWMARK fosters a culture that turns coworkers into friends, and friends into family.
As my internship ends and I begin my search for full time employment, I know exactly what attributes I am looking for in a company, and what values matter the most to me as an employee. As difficult as the past two weeks have been, I am determined to remember the lesson I’ve learned: you can’t put a price tag on company culture.
By: Becca Dwyer
It’s been awhile since we brought you back to the roots of this blog. I realize there are some new faces here, exploring the purpose and value of this blog. I am here to help! Welcome to the GROWMARK, Inc. Talent Management blog. Our recruiting team has a mission to improve transparency between the company’s people and the public. To improve our communication to the outside world, we have created this blog. Here are a few topics you can expect to find on our blog in the future months to come:
By: Tori Streitmatter
Sometimes when you change your mind that changes everything. In his book, "Six Thinking Hats," Edward De Bono points out that "The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once. It is like juggling with too many balls." Emotions, information, logic, hope, obstacles and creativity all crowd in on us. The more people involved in the thinking process, the more confusing it may become!
To counter this state of confusion, De Bono offers a simple process for doing one type of thinking at a time – one of "six thinking hats" that represents a distinct way of thinking or perspective. Individuals or groups put on or take off a “hat” to signal the type of thinking being used. This helps us to be cooperative rather than adversarial. When we "put on" different hats in a sequence it aids the problem-solving process in a shorter amount of time.
The Six Thinking Hats are:
The White Hat - facts and figures
The Red Hat - emotions and feelings
The Black Hat - cautious and careful
The Yellow Hat - speculative, positive
The Green Hat - creative thinking
The Blue Hat - control of thinking
De Bono continues, "The six thinking hats allow us to conduct our thinking as a conductor might lead an orchestra." Groups avoid confusion and the problems of adopting random positions at random times. It helps push individuals and teams beyond typical or habitual patterns of thinking.
Six Thinking Hats help us individually and corporately see opportunities, challenges, decisions and obstacles from new perspectives. When we see our circumstances from new perspectives, very often we uncover possibilities that otherwise we would have missed.
By: Mark Sturgell
12 weeks doesn’t seem like a terribly short amount of time, but a 12-week internship is only 60 work days. Each day at an internship is an opportunity to gain experience and grow as a professional, and with only 30 days left, I’m wondering how the time passed so quickly.
When I began the intern program at GROWMARK, I had minimal prior experience in communications, and I had a lot of doubt over my ability to produce quality content for the System. Fortunately, my supervisor and coworkers did not share the same mentality. They saw through my lack of formal experience to my transferable skills, and found value in my experiences with customer service, teamwork, and time management. My supervisor believed in my capability as a professional and her trust enabled me to build confidence in a new field by allowing me to work independently.
During the first half of my internship, I had a few moments of honesty with my coworkers regarding my lack of experience. They took those conversations and turned them into chances to teach me new skills. Luckily, GROWMARK places a lot of value in training and professional development, and I was given the chance to gain practical experience where I felt particularly lacking. Instead of ignoring the problem areas that I struggle with, my team gave me the opportunity to grow. I am honestly amazed at how much I have learned over the first half of my time in the System.
Ultimately, the projects that I was most concerned about have turned out to be the projects that I had the most fun with. It was difficult to have those conversations in the beginning but the value of the experiences that came from them mean so much more because of where I started from. I continue to be surprised by how much I enjoy my job so far, and I can honestly say that most days it doesn’t even feel like work.
As the old saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun, and that certainly has proved true so far this summer. I am excited to see what else I can learn in the next 30 work days, and I would encourage anyone who interns at GROWMARK to take full advantage of the 60 opportunities for growth.
By: Becca Dwyer
Dove-tailing off other blogs written this year the trend has been, well, rain and frustration. Being new to GROWMARK I never thought much of rain other than what it meant for my yard. Growing up in rural NE Iowa, I was raised in very tight-knit farming community. This has always given me a strong appreciation for farming, but being honest, in recent years through college, starting a family, and a fast-tracked career in insurance, I stopped paying attention to the ag industry altogether.
In my new position as a field trainer I’ve had the amazing opportunity of traveling across Iowa, Illinois and Missouri all this spring. Everywhere I go the conversation is generally the same: frustration about the amount of rain. Which has led to worried farmers, worried crop specialists, worried general managers, etc. This level of frustration by many made me reflect on why I chose to go into ag industry in the first place.
Late in 2018, I was shocked to receive notice that my job (and my amazing team) were no longer needed, and as a result I was laid off. My job search was one of the hardest things to endure as I was dealing with a ton of emotion. I had been a top performer for 9+ years, I was being groomed for director-level leadership roles, my team had outperformed other teams, and our business unit valued our work – how had this even happened? It didn’t compute, it was frustrating, and maddening at times.
Similar to how our companies and their customers are frustrated with the weather you must stop and ask, “what is in my control?” This was my mantra for several months and carried me through a very difficult time in my life. The amount of stress, frustration, angst, was plenty for me, but I kept focus on the long-term payoff. Simply put, it was vital in keeping the faith. Like my job search, we need to be that voice for our companies and their customers. Keeping them focused on what’s in their control and positioning them for the best success as possible – even if it’s a down year we can still make a difference.
Now into my second month at GROWMARK, I have realized this: sometimes you make career choices, but sometimes a career chooses YOU… With that, I’ll encourage you to take pride in the amazing industry you are in, strive to make a difference, stay focused on the long-term, and help people along the way. By doing this, you will always have job fulfillment and a purpose driven career.
By: Joe Wegmann
As Memorial Day came to a close, it was a good personal reminder to take time and reflect. As I thought about our spring season and summer quickly approaching, our farmer customers come to mind. As we all continue complaining about the continuous season of rain we are experiencing, our farmers are not necessarily complaining but becoming worried. They are worried about getting their crops planted before the crop insurance cut-off. They are worried about their crops not getting into the field. They are worried. Although many people have never set foot inside a tractor cab we, as fellow humans, can empathize with farmers: they are our neighbors, they are our fellow humans.
Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead talks about empathy and the human connection. “Empathy is not connecting to an experience, it’s connecting to the emotions that underpin an experience.” We ourselves may not have the weight of the world’s appetite on our shoulders, however, we can share a human connection.
We eat. We utilize fuel in our homes, vehicles, and public transportation. We wear clothes. All of the previously mentioned actions are a result of a farmer. We are connected to them each and every day. There have been or will be days where: it feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, we are running late for an appointment or work, or we have a task to complete on a tight schedule. The emotions we feel during those times are relatable to our farmers right now.
As the weather dries out (hopefully) and farmers make a push to get in the field. Reflect and remember to slow down when you see the slow-moving vehicle triangle because that is their office, and they have an important job to do on a tight schedule. Reflect on the United States having the most affordable and safest food supply in the world because of our farmers. Reflect on our ability to make a human connection even if we have not directly been in their shoes and create a connection through empathy.
By: Amie Hasselbring
Have you ever started a new position at a company, only to feel like the job just doesn’t fit? Do you find yourself chasing a new lead, just to end up disappointed with the day-to-day work? You might be making the same mistake I did.
Like many college students, my career path has taken a few unexpected turns. Agriculture has always been a part of my life, but until this past year, I didn’t see it as a career option. I chased after positions with impressive descriptions, like working on the trade floor at Bank of America, only to find myself unhappy and unengaged in that role.
I was trying to build a career based on what I thought was important, not what was important to me. I recently began pursuing a career in agriculture, which led me to the Communications Internship at GROWMARK.
To some, working in communications might not sound interesting at all. To me, working with employees of the GROWMARK System and experiencing their growth firsthand is an exciting opportunity. As a communications intern, one of my responsibilities is to share System stories with employees and the public, and I get to build experience in a new field along the way.
That’s really what an internship is all about: gaining exposure to different roles in a company to find the fit that works for you. Whether it’s your first time in a position or you’ve already explored a few options, taking charge and capitalizing on those opportunities will set you up for a long and engaged career. Stay tuned this summer to find out if communications is the right fit for me!
By: Becca Dwyer
It’s that time of year again…graduation! What a momentous time it is – celebrating achievements of friends and family members. Let me tell you, after years of hard work, graduation is an accomplishment worth celebrating. So, congratulations to all the new grads out there! Here are some words of wisdom from me to you:
As a new graduate, it is easy to get lost in dollar signs. Trust me, I get it – those student loans are real and they are breathing down your neck! If this sounds familiar, it may be easy to consider working for companies you have no connection to but can see yourself making the big bucks there. It is important to remember, money isn’t everything. Make sure you consider the companies values and mission, their benefits package, and how their path could lead you where you want to go!
Get out of the house (or the office!):
Don’t let work consume your life! It’s always important to make time for yourself, your family and your friends – but as a new grad, it’s also important to have new experiences and make the most of those early years of your career. Get out and try something new – travel, join a new organization, join a work league and meet new people. Whatever it is, just get out and about and remember it’s for your own well-being!
Stay involved with your school:
You have a shiny new diploma to add to your collection from a school you spent some time at. Whether 2 years or 4 years, that place holds some significance to you. Keep that in mind as you get older – come back for homecoming, buy from a fundraiser of an old student organization you loved and give back when you can!
Pass along your wisdom:
You learned a lot (some more useful things than others), but you learned nonetheless. Why not take some of what you learned back to your old stomping grounds. If you are asked to return as a guest speaker to a classroom – say yes. If you are asked to participate in a panel for your career center – say yes. Just spread that wealth of knowledge you have built and worked so hard for to others who need to hear your story.
Never stop learning:
Don’t get complacent! It’s not always those who graduated at the top of their class or had the best offers at the best companies that can be our only definitions of success. Those who adapt and are eager to learn are those who are most successful. Pick up a book or an article related to your industry. Attend conferences. Expand your network and learn from new people. You’ll thank me later.
By: Kayla Portwood
So many times, in life we use the excuse “I don’t have enough time.” Ultimately, we put aside our own personal development. The most important key to your successful growth is your own sense of personal responsibility for your development. Here are 5 steps to help proactively drive your development and establish a cycle of continuous learning. Following these steps will lead to elevating your growth. Development is not a one-time event, it is ongoing.
Elevating your growth has many ingredients that play a big part towards being successful. Are you Sincere? Tough? Practical? Do you stand out? Do you get results? Are you known for something and have a value statement that represents you in your conversations?
Here are 10 Steps to Elevate your Growth:
Development is not a onetime event, it is ongoing. Challenge yourself daily to devote time to your most important asset: YOU!
By: Brian Dennis
I recently came across an article which talked about the appropriate time to have the salary discussion during the interview process. As a recruiter, I quickly opened this article to see if it provided the same advice that I would…turns out, it didn’t! The article advised candidates to wait as long as possible to discuss salary with their potential employer. That is the opposite of what I would recommend. Let’s look at some of the myths surrounding this topic and why it benefits you to have the salary discussion early in the process!
Myth: Recruiters ask for your salary requirements, so they can low-ball you when it comes time for an offer.
Fact: Honest recruiters are not asking for your salary information so that they can in turn offer you the least amount possible. We ask that question to ensure that we can meet your salary expectations and to verify that you are seeking a position within the organization that is at an appropriate level for your skills and experience while also meeting your financial needs.
Another important reason we ask? So, we do not waste your time, the hiring manager’s time or our own time, if we know with certainty that we cannot offer you the salary you require.
Myth: Telling a recruiter how much you make will limit what you will be offered.
Fact: Reputable organizations will pay you market rate or higher. When we look to hire someone for a role, we WANT to offer them enough to incentivize them. Our goal is to ensure you are being paid fairly and commensurate with your experience.
Myth: Wait for an offer to be made, THEN try to get everything you want.
Fact: It is helpful for the recruiter to know your requirements and expectations ahead of an offer. This is not only limited to your salary expectation, but also any expectations you have about paid time off, benefits, bonuses, etc. Again, this is not so the recruiter can offer you the bare minimum, but so that they can make you a competitive offer! Leaving all your requests to the end of the process can cause delays and even the potential for the offer to be rescinded.
I get it - conversations about salary are uncomfortable at best. No one likes talking about it, but it’s immensely important during the recruiting process. What should you do when the dreaded salary question comes up?
Ultimately, the earlier you have the conversation with a prospective employer about salary, the better off you will be. The recruiting process is a collaboration between candidate and employer. Be open and honest and it will serve you well!
By: Megan Peterson
The movie "Hidden Figures" brought attention to the historical contributions three brilliant women made to John Glenn's mission to orbit the earth and provided insight as to what goes on behind the scenes. Spectators see the memorable images of the rocket blasting off and the impressiveness of the event. When, behind the scenes, people were tasked with making such an event come together.
Although on a much smaller scale than a rocket-ship, it is an eLearning Designers job to make eLearning experiences memorable for the learner (or spectator), and we are tasked with the mission to make it come together. To do that, we use software created specifically for eLearning design. For you, as the learner, it may resemble the simplicity of a PowerPoint presentation, but the functionality is different and more complex.
Have you ever played a video game that, based on your interaction, took you to a different part of the game? eLearning design is similar because unlike PowerPoint, it is a responsive environment. The designer is tasked with writing the scripting/coding that tells the program what to do and how to do it based on interaction.
Different than PowerPoint, where all the screens appear in order, eLearning courses jump around within themselves with interaction. You may be at the beginning of a course but clicking on any responsive item might send you to the end of the course where a specific location is housing interactive items. You never see it happen. All you see is that it popped up, and when you closed it, you were back on the original screen.
Because it runs seamlessly, it brings the misperception that eLearning courses can be used as PowerPoint presentations and printed for handouts, but they are not similar in structure or design. For example, when printing PowerPoint presentations, the slides will print in order. On the contrary, eLearning software doesn't offer a print option because the pages are not in order. They function on the scripting/coding behind the scenes and printing an eLearning course from the software would result in a nonsensical order of pages.
When you take an eLearning course, watch the items you click on. Each one is moving you around in a self-contained-environment and you never see it happening. But rest assured, somebody, somewhere, worked behind the scenes to provide you with a memorable, interactive experience.
By: Carrie Harshman
Let's face it: most of us make our New Year's goals around 12:00 a.m. on January 1st and by February we are wondering what we've gotten ourselves into. Each year we look toward the next 365 days and say, 'this year I will accomplish [blank].' Business Insider recently posted an article stating 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by February with some failing as early as January 12th. We get so excited about the New Year and our new selves, but this excitement quickly fades with the busyness of life and discomfort of change.
Sticking to our goals doesn't have to be that complicated if we can understand three simple ideas when making and setting our goals. By following AAA (Accountability, Attainability, and Action) we can crush our goals and see them through January 12th and beyond. I have unpacked in brief detail the AAA's below:
Follow these simple steps and make 2019 your greatest year yet!
By: Brandon Umphrey
It’s 2019, and with the change of the year, certain things will come into and out of style. Self-driving cars are on the rise. The Tide Pod challenge (remember that 2018 story?) is a distant memory. Boot-cut jeans are making a comeback, and tablet devices (when is the last time someone bragged about getting an iPad?) are on the decline.
You know what is never going to go out of style: being the person who creates the world’s best PowerPoints. Being the girl who can identify any weed or pest, just from a picture. Being the guy who can take an underperforming department and turn it into a well-oiled machine. Being “that” person is never going out of style, and here’s why.
The Information Era
Modern technology (mainly the internet) can provide any bit of knowledge we want right at our fingertips. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to learn enough Spanish for our trip to Mexico, or how to tie a couple of fishing knots to impress your father in law, all from our phone. But with all this information at our disposal, we can find ourselves without anything to make us “that” person.
Many people want to take their professional skills a mile wide, but only an inch deep; want to learn everything and impress everyone. In a world where learning a little bit about a lot of things is easy, why not take the other route? Why not learn as much as you possibly can about a couple of things? Be the person at your company who knows everything there is to know about the accounting software you use. Be the person who knows every single customer in a specific trade territory.
Going a mile deep on a couple of topics will separate you from the crowd. It gives other members of your team or company a person to rely on. You become the subject matter expert. And when you are the go-to person on a topic, the undisputed master, you become indispensable. Your knowledge and/or skills are harder to replace, and that can make the difference during lean times.
The Social Media Effect
Social media isn’t going anywhere. It has permeated every aspect of our personal and professional lives and it’s never been easier to communicate who you are and what you do. Although this is a very positive thing, there is a down side: being able to walk the walk isn’t a requirement anymore. 30 years ago, the only way to be labeled a marketing expert was to learn the field, impress clients and gradually work your way up to larger and larger projects until you gained recognition.
Now, it takes no time at all to hop on your favorite social media platforms and rebrand yourself as a marketing expert, regardless of whether you have the experience. “Marketing is my passion and I want people to know that!” Great, just make sure that you can back up that label. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where people look to you for expertise, and you can’t provide it.
Instead, be a breath of fresh air to all the companies out there looking for a marketing expert. Go a mile deep on your topic, and then hit a home run when someone gives you the opportunity to be “that” person.
Make 2019 the year where you find something that makes you “that” person. Your company will recognize your effort, your clients will value your expertise, and your future-self will be very grateful.
By: Tim Callahan
In our communication with other people the challenge is "What do I say?", "How do I start the conversation?", or "What will make a good impression?" Many times, we end up asking 'formula' type questions that lead to limited conversation backing us into a 'conversation corner' and ultimately ending the conversation altogether. The responses confirm our worst fears: that we look awkward, uncomfortable, and lame.
The answer to avoiding being backed into a corner - how we ask questions. This can fall into two categories of questions we ask. The first type of question we can ask ends with a response of 'yes' or 'no'. This is called a Closed-Ended Question. We get limited response, information, or conversation from the other person. You receive 'yes' or 'no' for responses. The Closed-Ended questions we are asking can put us into a 'corner' that is difficult to get out of. It begins to sound like your questions are 'nosy' for information and antagonize the conversation resulting in it ending altogether.
The second category of questions is called Open-Ended Questions that will make you a very interesting conversationalist. Open-Ended Questions begin with key words of who, what, when, where, why, and how. The two easy favorites that will make you an expert conversationalist are what and how. Questions that begin with 'what' or 'how' allows the other person to speak and expand on your question. You will gather more information, gain more insight, and be easy to talk to!
So let's try an example:
Stay out of the 'corners' and be an expert conversationalist with questions that begin with 'what' and 'how'!
By: David Hansen
The holiday season can be such a busy time for all of us! It is easy to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and put other things to the side – like your future career! The holidays typically bring people together that you wouldn't see throughout the year – family, friends, spouse's co-workers and many more. These gatherings are the perfect opportunity to network with people you don't normally see, and build relationships that could eventually lead you to a career you've been searching for! As we all know, it is all about your "network." Tips to build professional relationships in your network:
By: Marissa Williams
Since my first psychology class in high school, I have been fascinated by human behavior and how our minds work. Maslow's Hierarchy of needs particularly resonated with me because they made sense. If I am starving, I am going to focus on my empty stomach and filling it before I type another line in this blog. My brain will not let me forget my hunger until it is satisfied, or it is overridden by another stimulus. Once basic needs are met, our brains can focus on higher thinking.
In the early nineties, Maslow's Hierarchy spilled over into the learning world with the concept of brain-based learning. Brain-based learning postulated that our brains can change over time, are affected by diet, stress, exercise, environment, and, most importantly, how our brains work plays a role in how we learn. Simply stated: if I am hungry, cold, or sick, learning will not be a priority. Expecting children, or even adults, to sit in a chair and absorb information does not help them learn. Their minds are way more complex and need different approaches to help make learning happen.
Decades after Maslow and brain-based learning, neuroscience of learning has emerged. Technology now allows us to map brain activity during certain stimuli. We can literally map what our brain looks like when we are hungry! Fascinating and a little freaky. Neuroscience of learning studies how our brains create and respond to learning.
So that is a lovely short story of psychology, learning, and a little peek into mind invasions. Why should learning practitioners care? So that we can create more impactful learning experiences! Neuroscience is another tool that can help us optimize learning. For more information, ATD has a great article on why learning neuroscience matters. Growth Engineering has an interesting info-graphic to inspire your synapses.
By: Michele Hillary
Have you ever had a professional mentor of your own? If you don't have a mentor to help you conquer professional roadblocks yet, I suggest securing one! Though there are many ways to do this, here's the story of how I successfully found my professional mentor!
Real talk, when I first started here at GROWMARK, Inc. just a couple weeks after graduating college, I did not have a professional mentor. It wasn't until one of my colleagues mentioned she was getting lunch with her mentor that the light bulb went off in my head. Immediately I thought to myself "Lunch with a mentor? I need that in my life! How do I identify a mentor in my life? Where do I sign up for that?" I started to think about the people closest to me: family, friends, and my work team. I soon realized if I wanted to get the most out of a professional mentorship, it couldn't be with any of those individuals. Instead it needed to be with someone who would give me honest feedback and not sugar-coat situations. I think we all seek guidance, but it's important to make sure we seek the right kind of guidance.
I started making a list of professionals who had impacted my life through internships and past work experiences. I identified my top three mentor picks. I reached out to my first pick… within 24 hours I had a response verifying that I now had a professional mentor! Immediately I knew this was going to be an excellent fit for both of us I was so excited to embark on this journey! My mentor and I meet for lunch once a month. We each bring a list of questions to ask one another, eat lunch, and then discuss the topics we bring! It's that easy. A year later, we still make a pact to meet every month! It always gives me something to look forward and we never run out of topics for conversation.
After reflecting on my time with my mentor, I cannot imagine my professional life without her. Since I have had someone to seek out for professional advice, I have become more confident in my career leading me to improve my performance in the workplace. I hope this inspires you to seek out a professional mentorship as well!
By. Tori Streitmatter
In the Training Industry there is a great debate on who is "responsible for employee development". This debate seems rather simple at its core, but requires a fundamental understanding of the difference between two key concepts; employee training and employee development.
Simply stated, employee training is the responsibility of the organization. Employee training should incorporate the skills that are going to help employees do their job as it relates to achieving organizational goals. In other words, training should be provided (and required) so employees are able to meet the basic competencies for the job. Likewise, employee training offerings should mirror strategic goals of the organization. By offering programs and learning opportunities that mirror the strategic goals of the organization, we can be sure that employees are receiving the training they need to drive business results. Whether or not an employee takes ownership to learn and then apply the new skill/behavior is dependent on several factors, but the most important factor is the willingness of the employee to apply what they learned back on the job.
Employee development is a shared responsibility of management and the individual employee. The responsibility of management is to provide the right resources and an environment that supports the growth and development needs of the individual employee. It requires an understanding of what skills an employee needs to develop to take the next steps in his/her career, the person's future goals and a desire by the manager to take an interest in developing employees. From the employee perspective, it is important to understand that some key learning opportunities lie outside formal training in a classroom and to take advantage of learning that may not seem "traditional." Some examples include job rotations, job swaps, mentorship, committee participation, etc.
Organizations that understand the true value of employee development also recognize the value of continuously educating their employee base to ensure they are prepared for today and the future. These "learning organizations" are the ones that will be better positioned to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of the work environment. Incorporating professional development within the overall corporate strategy can also be seen as a key for engagement and recruiting.
For employee training to be successful, management should:
For employee development to be successful, the individual employee should:
By: Andy Schuster
It's the night before your formal interview, the one that you have been dying to land; you've known all along exactly what you are going to wear. You've played this scenario over and over in your head and have picked out every detail of your outfit from head-to-toe. You are going to look fabulous!
It all comes crashing down when you think you are on top of it by getting your outfit all laid out and trying it on just for good measure so, you know; you don't realize the DAY OF that it doesn't fit. But really, you should have prepped well in advance.
In general, today's workplace is more casual than the typical formal interview attire and it may have been a while since you have even worn those pieces. Regardless though if you were on the ball and purchased in advance a brand new outfit for the interview or you find yourself in that last minute scramble; here are some simple tips for helping you dress to feel your best during the interview. (So you can focus on other jitters, like when they ask you "Tell me about yourself." – Just kidding, we've got you covered with that too!)
Step 1: Do your homework.
When you get the call that a formal in-person interview is being extended, it is ok to ask about the culture and dress code of the workplace. This will help you determine what is appropriate and start you off right to figuring out if pieces you already have can be used or direct you in what you need to purchase. Every employer will be different in what they expect and they don't expect you to already know.
Step 2: Keep it simple.
Focus on staple pieces like solids and neutral colors; like black, white, gray, navy, or brown for majority of your outfit. This will help you repurpose those pieces in the future and keep the interviewers focus on you (and your rock star answers) during the interview and not your outfit. Dress slacks or chinos, a button up collared shirt, sweater, tie, suit jacket (if formal), and/or a skirt or dress are all typically appropriate; along with coordinating dress shoes that are comfortable and easy to walk in. (Incorporating one statement piece to the outfit such as a tie, necklace or earrings, or a patterned shirt under a solid jacket or sweater can be a nice touch; but you want to be sure those standout pieces are limited.)
Step 3: Show up polished and pressed.
Make sure that your outfit is clean; free of stains, wrinkles, and is not ripped or tattered. Style your hair in such a way that it will be out of your face and distraction free. Proper hygiene is a must and again will help ensure you feel confident in your outfit. You don't want to be blindsided by that morning's breakfast making a guest appearance in the interview room.
Step 4: Let your skills stand out – not your scent.
Moderate use of cologne or perfume is ok, but don't let the scent of that takeover and cloud the interview because it filled up the room more so than all of the great conversation around the reasons you are qualified to do that job.
Step 5: Put it all together.
Give it all a test run. Don't end up in a scenario like how this story kicked off. Coordinate your outfit and try it on (shoes, accessories, even hairstyles included) so that you are prepared for any malfunctions.
When in doubt, a good rule of thumb is to always err on the side of being overdressed. You will feel more confident knowing you are dressed for success! If you find yourself still unsure, this overview of common dress codes will help:
Business professional: In this environment suits are the norm. Women might typically wear a skirt or pantsuit with heels, and men it is common to wear a blazer or suit jacket, button down shirt, suit pants, a tie, and dress shoes.
Business casual: A suit is not needed. Men might consider dress slacks or chinos, a button down or polo shirt, a belt and dress shoes. Women might wear a conservative dress, or a blouse (or sweater) with a skirt or dress pants and dress shoes or boots.
Casual: It is still important to look polished and professional. Again, err on the side of being overdressed and go with a business casual outfit. (There will be plenty of time to rock the jeans, tennis shoes, and/or tees when you get the job!)
Want more clarity? Check out the '9 Things You Shouldn't Wear to a Job Interview'.
By: Allison Stephey
As parents, coaches, managers, leaders we all have certain things that we value and expect from the people who are looking to us for leadership. Often, we refer to these values as our 'standards' whether they be for performance, obedience, action, follow through, etc. How we set these standards matters in respect to how successfully they are met. But how do we define these standards? Where do they come from? More importantly, how do we put standards in place that people will actually adhere to?
I would like to offer 3 tips for setting standards that will be upheld no matter what role you are in.
Keep it simple - The first one is pretty basic. Make sure that your standards are simple. Simple means easily explained. The more complicated the standard, the less likely it is to be lived up to. You should be able to explain it clearly and articulately to your people. "But my standards are complicated. We have a very technical environment. Our team deals with high-level information. The safety standards include so many steps, the manual is 3 inches thick!" Ok. Break it down into steps. Have simpler standards that combine to your overall standard. The activities that we want to be held as a standard must be actionable and realistic. Unrealistic standards will frustrate your people so quickly. Not only that, but unrealistic standards get talked about. Or worse yet (but a better way to say it) they get complained about. Just as quickly as people get frustrated, the complaints spread, and morale goes down.
Let's look at an example of the impact this has.
A new employee who begins working for a manager who has high, unrealistic, complicated standards for behavior is defeated. They feel like they can't live up to the expectations and are constantly letting down their boss. It could be hard for them to take on new challenges or push themselves to try new things. If left in that environment long enough it can have long term effects on their self-value and work performance. If the standards are too high, you get underachievement and loss of confidence or high turnover. On the flip-side, if your standards are too low, you will see complacency and lack of drive which has a similar effect on morale and drive.
Know the WHY - Standards are most effective when the purpose is well known. People are motivated by WHY. Simon Sinek talks about the power of WHY in his TED talk. It's a must watch for any leader.
The purpose of your standard should drive the definition. It puts value on the standard. With value placed on the standard the result is that much more satisfying and it creates buy-in for the people expected to meet it. They will likely be motivated to not only meet that standard, but exceed it because they are now invested in the outcome and understand it's impact.
Tell Show Observe Verify - In order to ensure people truly understand the expectations placed on them, it's important to follow this simple model.
First Tell them what is expected. Clearly articulate the standard, being sure to explain the why behind it and the impact it has.
Now Show them what you mean. This may be doing sales calls with an employee, leading a meeting, or developing a report. Show them how the work needs to be done or how quickly you would like them to respond when a customer calls. With each example, you must model how to perform the task/behavior at the level you expect. People will do what you show them. Keep in mind that your standard is what you're willing to accept.
Next, observe them performing the behavior at the standard level you model and expect. Provide feedback and coaching. This is your time to make sure they really understand what the standard is and fine tune their performance.
Finally, verify that they are performing at the standard level. Come back after some time has the past and observe again. Ask people who are close to their work. Follow up with one of their customers or review survey data. Or simply go check their work. We need to inspect what we expect!
This is not a time for shaming when you find that the standard hasn't been met. Rather it's a time to praise when you find the standard has been met and reward when the standard has been exceeded. If you find the performance lacking, this is a coaching opportunity. Ask questions. Find out why they missed the mark. Encourage them.
Love your people and set them up for success by providing realistic standards that have a true purpose and value. Then hold them to it.
By: Andy King