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
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
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
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
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
What is my brand? What does personal brand even mean? How do I come up with this stuff? These may be some recurring questions flooding your brain while you're on the quest to define your professional career.
How do I want to be seen by others?
Ding, ding, ding! That's the big question to consider before you begin identifying your personal brand. Answering this question may seem daunting, right? Well, here are some suggestions to help you begin defining your personal brand:
Build your platform
Grow your network
Social media management is key
By: Kayla Portwood
If I said you could make tomorrow the best day ever by implementing a few simple habits, would I have your attention? Most of us would say yes, but the reality is most of us wouldn't make the necessary changes. The way we start the day impacts how we finish the day. So, to make the day great we must win the mornings!
Those who live great lives experience the power of the morning by creating strong habits and routines that set them up for an unbreakable day. The goal is to develop a routine that works for you. Here are some suggestions to help you win the morning so you can win the day:
Life is a journey and we want to enjoy it. Find the routine that works for you, so you can conquer the morning and the day!
By: Brandon Umphrey
Stephen Covey's book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is so rich in content that I find myself still using and learning from it 11 years after my initial read. I cannot count the number of times I have referenced "begin with the end in mind" when coaching Subject Matter Experts (SME's) to develop training, advising colleagues on how to create powerful presentations or creating training myself. It's not just a cliche. It can be a powerful tool in the presenting and training worlds.
As an instructional designer for over 10 years, each time I sit down to create a training, I "begin with the end in mind". What do the learners need to know, do, and apply when they walk out of training? What is the end experience you are striving to create for them? There is so much information on every topic imaginable, it is often difficult to sift through it all to decide what is important.
Whether you are creating a training, a presentation or simply an agenda for a meeting, there are some helpful questions to ask yourself that will allow you focus on the end goal—thereby saving you time, while producing an impactful facilitation.
Step 1: Analyze
Who is my audience? What are the audience's characteristics that affect the content and how it is delivered? What is my topic? What is the amount of time allotted for the facilitation? What is the goal of the facilitation? Why would the participants want to attend the facilitation?
Step 2: Create/Develop
What are the objectives that will fulfill the goal of the facilitation? What do participants need to know/be able to do when they leave? How do you plan to accomplish the objective(s)?
Step 3: Execution/Delivery
Is PowerPoint visually helpful for this facilitation? Is this meeting necessary or will an email accomplish the goal(s)? Would an activity help the participants better understand the content? Does this facilitation need to be face-to-face, or can it be online or a webinar? How can I deliver the content without being a boring lecturer?
Asking yourself these questions before you even begin to sift through the plethora of information will help you focus and create a better product.
After all these years, I still get lost sometimes in the sea of information. I get caught up in reading, learning, the "ooh shiny" moments, and the "that's not what I'm looking for" frustration. What do I do? Take a deep breath. Regain focus. And remind myself to "begin with the end in mind".
By: Michele Hillary
Every day we engage others in conversation, presentations and meetings. You engage in communication where you need to make key points about your perspective, thought or idea. Your intent is to have credibility and impact with the direction or outcome of the interaction. You need to ERASE all doubt in communicating your key points that will increase your influence and outcomes. Below are five different forms of evidence to support your key ideas. The acronym ERASE will help you remember them.
Before your next conversation, presentation or meeting; take a few minutes to identify your key points you want to make, then select one of the five ways you can ERASE all doubt to increase your impact and credibility.
By: David Hansen
Adult Learning Practitioners are often asked if pursuing professional certifications are worth it? The answer is not so simple. Some professionals will tell you YES! absolutely certifications are worth it and can lead to advancement. Others will say NO! certifications are a waste of time, money and mean very little. As a steadfast advocate for lifelong learning, my recommendation is to pursue opportunities that best align and support your interests and growth - whether you experience a certification program, job rotation, mentoring relationship, reading professional journals/blogs, or take a risk and change professions all together – continue to grow.
If you do find yourself reflecting on the possibility of pursuing a professional certification program, here are three key points to consider:
Remember when selecting the most suitable certification program for you, it's not about the piece of paper you received. It's about the experience of the process and the integration of new skills and knowledge. No matter your choice, continue to remain a curious learner.
By: Stacey Curry
Earlier in my GROWMARK career, Jim Spradlin explained to me the best way to showcase your leadership abilities and advance your career is to "leave your mark on the organization." At the time Jim was my supervisor in Agronomy and he has since become the CEO of GROWMARK. Those words have really stuck with me and I think about them often. I have since realized this "mark" can be outside of your job description. So, a few years ago I began seeking out additional opportunities in which I could "make my mark" on GROWMARK.
It began when I was invited to join GROWMARK's Diversity and Inclusion initiative. What started as a think tank, turned into a task force with me serving as a co-chair because of my personal interest and the time and effort I was willing to invest. About that time, I learned of an opportunity with the IAA Credit Union's board. I had inquired previously and learned the board consisted of employees from the IAA Family of Companies. After getting involved on the board, my desire to make an impact led me to serve as the chairperson. More recently, I was asked and accepted an opportunity to join a GROWMARK advisory committee which helps navigate the balance between the need for information security and employee productivity with systems and processes.
Leadership comes in a variety of forms beyond holding a specific job title or being a supervisor. Sometimes being willing to take on additional responsibilities, outside of your position, department, or even company, is a great measure of your traits and capability as a leader. There are multiple variations of the phrase "say yes and figure the rest out later." While I don't believe this is a great rule to live by without question, remember stretch assignments and opportunities will not appear every day or forever into the future. I highly encourage all employees to think strongly before just simply responding with "no, I don't have time" when an opportunity presents itself.
By: Jeff Frank
“Employee development doesn’t happen inside one’s mind”
Learning is not the same as growing. Learning becomes growth only when it is applied, practiced and sustained over time and in new situations. Understanding the purpose of learning is just as important as understanding that learning must occur. A KEY fundamental of learning is cultivating and growing new skills to ensure you are meeting the workplace challenges of today AND tomorrow. Without a focus on developing defined knowledge, skills and abilities (aligned to business drivers and a competency model) a path to greater achievement becomes unclear. Skill building is a behavior, and behaviors change by learning new skills or adjusting old ones to conquer new challenges. Competencies are the language of leadership/employee development, and are a key tool to help employees better understand where to focus their training activities.
It is important to remember that formal training alone isn't going to drive development if you aren't actively engaged in practicing and implementing skills learned in the classroom back in the workplace. Formal classroom training does not create more skilled employees. It simply focuses, and brings to light, what you need to learn and develop in order to be a better and more effective employee.
The goal in leadership/employee development is NOT to achieve complete mastery over a skill, but to build enough capacity and understanding to apply that skill back in the workplace. This practice will ultimately lead to the mastery of certain skills and behaviors that have a positive impact inside the workplace.
A common challenge we see in our formal training programs is that when employees move into new roles, they rely on old skills and behaviors to do a new job. With the new position, they are unclear of what they need to focus on. Their development goals become nonspecific with no ties to learning outcomes which can lead to a stall in development, and frustration in the new role.
A clear understanding of what knowledge, skills, behaviors and abilities are needed to perform effectively in one's current position is an imperative part of training. Becoming clear about what training you need, when you need it and how to apply it back in the workplace will ultimately lead to greater satisfaction and personal growth as an employee. As the great book titled, "What Got You Here, Won't Get You There (Goldsmith)" states, having a clear understanding of your development needs will ultimately help you achieve success.
Understanding Your Development Needs – Where to Start
How do you ensure you're building the right skill set for your current position and for future opportunities? The key to answering this question is to identify what skills and abilities you need to develop, obtain an understanding of how to improve them, and then implement. It is as easy as 1-2-3.
Step 1: What skills do I really need to understand or develop to be more effective in my job? Taking the time to asses where you are in terms of skill development is important. Be honest with yourself about where you need help and what you need to do to improve. Your manager should be involved in the conversation to help coach and guide you in terms of where they see potential deficiencies, competencies and skills you need to focus on. Once you understand what you need to improve, you can move to step 2.
Step 2: Based on your understanding of what you need to improve to drive your growth, determine what competencies you want to focus on and create a plan of action on HOW you are going to learn these new skills. Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) can be a powerful tool to help you formalize this process. You may need to take a formal training class to obtain a better understanding of how a particular skill should be used in the workplace. If that is the case, then by all means attend a training class! Remember, training is often a very small piece of your development. Consider what else you might do at work to help grow your skills. Experiential learning is a concept that has proven very valuable in helping employees grow on the job, gain invaluable experience and learn from mistakes. What is experiential learning? It is a method of educating through first-hand experience. Skills, knowledge and experience are acquired outside of the traditional training setting, and may include the following:
Once you have created an IDP and begun to implement experiential learning in the workplace you are ready for step 3!
Step 3: How are you doing? Work with your manager to ensure that you are applying what you have learned, and understand the mistakes that you are making and why you are making them. Confirm that you are continuing to focus on the skills you want to improve. Reviewing your IDP regularly with your manager is a great way to ensure that learning transfer is taking place. By understanding what you need to do to improve as an employee, you can be assured that your growth will continue.
By: Andy Schuster
Business leaders today have a lot of responsibilities. Not only are you expected to make decisions, deliver results, and manage people, you also have a responsibility to develop those people. The decision and results responsibilities along with human nature drives us to be fixers. When questions, issues and problems come across our plates we are quick to give the answer or fix the problem. However, the development responsibilities require that we stop fixing and do something else. Coach them.
Today's employees (regardless of generation) want coaching. It's one of the greatest tools that a leader has at their disposal for engaging and developing the people that look to them for guidance. Coaching can have significant impact on performance, morale, retention and goes a long way in creating new leaders for the future. Despite all these benefits leaders are not coaching as often as they should. According to a 2016 report from Blessing White, out of 1,800 employees and managers surveyed, only 1/2 received any type of coaching. But why? The main reason managers give, is they don't have enough time to coach. Many leaders feel like coaching is an added behavior they have to do in addition to their daily responsibilities. But it doesn't have to be that way.
As leaders/managers you are already having conversations with your people on a daily basis. What if you could use that time differently, to coach and actually (get some time back for yourself) by just tweaking one little thing? I bet you would do it, wouldn't you? If you would, you want to be a coach. So here's how you do it. Ready? The next time someone comes to you with a question or a problem that they need to solve, instead of giving the answer, ask a question. That's it! "Surely it can't be that simple" you say. But it is. Coaching starts with being curious. Start broad and work your way down to the details. "Tell me more" is a great place to start. You could use a Who/What/Why/When/How question, like "How would you go about solving this." Then probe for details.
Together you will brainstorm some solutions. Once they employee identifies the solution they are going to move forward with it's important to make sure they take action. Don't leave the conversation without establishing what it is they are going to do and when they are going to do it. This is most important. It provides an element of accountability. By asking great questions leaders can provide an environment for people to find their own solutions and develop themselves to their full potential. By doing so, the person being coached actually becomes more self-sufficient, creative and a better problem solver.
Finally, to make this a part of your daily routine, you have to create a coaching habit. What I mean by that is you have to identify the behavior you want to create (asking questions instead of giving answers) and put a plan in place to practice and implement that behavior. Michael Bungay Stanier has a great book about this called The Coaching Habit. In it, he lays out a plan for you to create a habit of coaching that can be done simply and on a regular basis without adding time to your already busy schedule. I encourage you to check it out.
By: Andy King
Hello! Welcome to the GROWMARK, Inc. Talent Management blog. We have a mission to improve transparency between the recruiting and training teams and the public. In an effort 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