I recently had the opportunity to return to my alma mater, the University of Missouri Columbia (Mizzou), to act as Professor-for-a-Day at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR).
Mizzou provided the foundation for the skills and experiences I’ve cultivated over the years working in agriculture. Being Professor-for-a-Day was an incredible opportunity to talk with students sitting where I sat many years ago about modern agriculture, innovation and career success. It was an inspiring experience and I learned a lot from those young professionals. More than ever, our industry needs their bright, curious minds.
During my short-lived professorship, I shared these five key skills every student and young professional needs for success in any organization:
I think about all of the audiences I’m communicating with on a daily basis: my team, employees throughout our organization, customers, investors, the general public…the list goes on. Every audience has different knowledge, expectations, and perspectives. As a leader, I need to be aware of that. I need to know my audiences and adapt my communication style accordingly. And to do so I first listen. I don’t see my job as telling people what to do. Communication is more than that, it’s always two-way. First and foremost, it’s about listening and exchanging ideas.
I work in an incredibly complex industry. The Crop Science division of Bayer sits at the intersection of agriculture and innovation, and it is critical that myself and my colleagues effectively communicate about science and farming to consumers and societal audiences who are unfamiliar with it.
Success doesn’t just take passion, it also takes patience. Be willing to learn new things and take on new challenges. Be curious and open about opportunities and information outside of your area of expertise. Look left and right and continue to step out of your comfort zone.
To become a leader, you must understand every aspect of the business. Never let your curiosity go stale. Instead, let it lead you to new opportunities that help you gain that fundamental understanding of the business.
Prepare yourself to thrive through change. Businesses and careers are a source of constant curveballs. I can’t think of a time of more change for me personally than this past year as Bayer and Monsanto became one company. Throughout the process, our employees have shown an incredible amount of agility that has without a doubt had a tremendous impact on the success of our integration.
Use your time as a student to network. For me, Mizzou offered an incredible opportunity to connect with people of diverse backgrounds and experience and build my network both within and outside of the agriculture industry.
Reach out to people who have jobs that interest you. Learn about their career paths and experiences and stay connected whether that’s through email, occasional lunches/coffees, or through LinkedIn. Your relationships and networks will be key to finding your first job and eventually your next career move. Relationships are also important to business success. I never lose sight of our customers and continue to foster the relationships I’ve built with them.
Today more than ever, data and insights are critical to success. Regardless of industry or area of interest, we are surrounded by data. Data is being captured, analyzed, and used for decision making across all areas of business. Those with the skills to leverage data analytics and insights will have an advantage in their careers.
As a young professional, use data to demonstrate the impact of your efforts on the overall business strategy, or as a student searching for your first job, use data to show why you would bring value to a company you’re looking to work at. Data and insights drive decision making.
The time as a student provides a foundation, but it’s important to continue developing skills and gaining experience, and maybe more important to understand the different opportunities that are in front of us, within those I can confidently say a career in agriculture can be very fulfilling.