How to Stay Relevant in the Agribusiness Workforce!

by: Victoria Stark

I had the pleasure of attending our latest Innovation Series breakfast and to be part of the conversation about “Developing the next generation of NZ’s agribusiness workforce…are you ready for the next 10 years?” Special thanks to our speakers, Frances Valintine (CNZM), Ash-Leigh Campbell (Ngai Tahu Farming & Chair of Young Farmers) and Andrew Watters (CEO My Farm & Chair NZ Rural Leaders), as well as to everyone who attended who engaged for a lively dialogue.

Technology is developing exponentially, and the modern workplace is evolving as well – there is a real divide at age 35 in 2018 – those who grew up with technology and those who have learnt it. That makes for some interesting challenges. An increased life expectancy, new and varied ways of pursuing education and the emergence of the “gig economy” all present opportunities and challenges for today’s workforce. Success is no longer solely defined as earning a university degree and staying with the same company for your entire career. Our discussion explored how we might navigate this new landscape and stay relevant and achieve success over the next 10 years?

Before we talk about where we are going as a workforce and what we need to get there, we need to first determine what our purpose is. One of my favourite ways to think about this is the concept of “WHY”, which was developed by bestselling author of Start with Why, Simon Sinek. Without knowing “why” you do what you do, you will not be able to make the well-informed decisions about your career development. If you’re not sure what you want in your career, put time aside to do the work and determine what is important to you. We are living in a world where increasingly purpose is defining work and it has played a role in my own decisions.

Halfway through my undergraduate studies and a 12-month internship, I discovered that the most impactful thing I had learned thus far was that my chosen career (from the age of five) was not right for me. I changed my coursework and completed another three internships to explore opportunities within my new area of study to help determine what I would do next. I wrote lists for myself of what I loved to do and what my short and long-term goals were; then I worked backwards to try to figure out what skills and jobs I would likely need to get there. I also reached out to people who had “already made it” to learn both about their career journey and what their day-to-day life looked like to decide if the reality of the role even resonated with me.

Once I started my first “real job”, I quickly realised that my learning was only just beginning. Learning on the job and upskilling is part of nearly every role, however, I’ve found throughout my career that those who are most successful are those who take opportunities and do not wait for the “right” time or when they are “ready”. Upskilling can be as simple as completing training on a software system that is always giving you headaches or taking on a project that forces you to work with departments within your organisation you usually never interact with. It can also be more formal, but online learning and short courses have made upskilling more convenient and affordable than ever before.

Micro-credentials and badges provide high-level coursework and learning for a fraction of the cost and time of completing a formal degree programme through a university. I had the opportunity to complete a Diploma course earlier this year and although it was a challenge to work and study simultaneously, I found the connections I made with my classmates, as well as the new perspective and skills gained, were instantly applicable in my day-to-day work and made me challenge my own ways of thinking. This training, as well as past trainings I’ve completed, have not only helped my career development, but also made me more confident in the workplace.

Looking towards the future of the agribusiness workforce, upskilling to keep up with changing technology and emerging talent is a given. However, there is a huge opportunity for workers to truly own their careers and think about not only where they want to work, but also how they want to work. Knowing when you get your best work done, in what environment and how many projects you’re comfortable with to feel like you’re both challenged and thriving is unique to every individual. Do you do your best working remotely? In an open office? In your own office? Outside? In the morning? At night? Being responsible for your own career, includes being responsible for your own learning and knowing what you need to produce your best work.

Ash-Leigh Campbell pointed out during the panel discussion that Millennials tend to bring their “whole selves” to work and give 100%, especially when they find their work meaningful. I changed industry for the first time in my career when I began my role at Blinc and although I was brand new with a lot of learn, I was confident that the vision and purpose of our company aligned with many of my own values. We all have different interests and passions – find your purpose and then find a way to follow your interests and passions in your day-to-day life. If you are excited by the work you do every day, developing your skillset and pursuing opportunities will become that much easier.

Great leaders know that education and development is a journey, not a destination. Frances Valintine used an analogy of a river to demonstrate this during her keynote address. A river is always moving and slowing, but if the water is calm, it becomes stagnant. Reach out to resources available to you—if your company does not have a mentorship programme, find one. Reflect on yourself, your goals and your progress and keep yourself accountable for your own development.

In summary:

  • Life-long learning is essential – invest in yourself/your workers

  • Diversify your skillset and take charge of your own development

  • Embrace being challenged by different perspectives, ideas from different ages

  • Management, relationship and leadership skills remain essential

  • Be flexible and embrace new ways of working to keep the right talent in your organisation

  • Would you rather have the people who are learning or growing working in your organisation or those that are in the same role doing the same thing.  Investing in yours and your businesses future is key.

What have you learned in your own career so far? What do you think you will need to do differently to continue to achieve success for the next 10 years? Comment below and let’s continue the conversation.