Take Charge of Your Career with Confidence

Two hiring managers share what to know when pursuing your dream career, no matter the stage of the game

By Piper Whelan

Jenny Ose

When Jenny Ose interviews applicants for a position with John Deere, she finds many haven’t thought about their career beyond the job they’ve applying for.

“For some people, they think it’s the company’s role to identify what the ultimate potential is for an employee when, in fact, I wish more people had thought about ‘what is it that I really want to do?’” says Ose, Director of Marketing and Shared Services for John Deere.

“What does success look like for me in five years, in ten years, in a thirty-year career?”

Krista Schmidt, Talent Acquisition Lead for Cargill Canada, finds that people may hesitate to apply for a position after they read the job title and fear they don’t have the right experience. Instead, she encourages candidates to focus on the skills and attributes of the role and how their experience can apply. Schmidt says “When thinking about a new career opportunity, ask yourself, where do I get my energy from within my current job?, what motivates me?, what do I get excited about everyday? These are the critical questions you need to ask yourself to really help you identify your passion. This will help you feel confident in what you bring to the new role and be able to articulate your passion to prospective employers.

Krista Schmidt

Ose and Schmidt shared these and other tips with Advancing Women on how women in agriculture can take charge of their careers and pursue their dream jobs.

Highlight what you accomplished in past jobs and extracurriculars

When interviewing applicants new to the working world, Ose considers their extracurricular activities and the opportunities they pursued for leadership and learning beyond the classroom during post-secondary education. For an applicant with more work experience, she pays attention to what they’ve accomplished in their previous roles, as well as how they’ve demonstrated leadership skills.

When considering talent for Cargill, Schmidt looks for strong communication and problem-solving skills, as well as adaptability and the willingness to learn and work as a team player. “We are seeing more and more people working remotely which highlights the need for great communication, flexibility and strong relationship building skills but even before the pandemic, collaboration and working with others was definitely a very critical skill,” she says.

Be honest about your experiences

Be wary of embellishing or misrepresenting your past experiences on paper, both Schmidt and Ose advise. Ose also considers it a red flag when an applicant can’t state why they want to work for the company beyond salary or location. “I need to hear two or three very clear things relative to your personal value proposition of why you interviewed for this job.”

Schmidt notes that prospective candidates are concerned about a lack of work experience, short-term work assignments or employment gaps in their resume. “In these instances it’s really important to be able to explain it. Maybe you left the workforce for a period of time to raise a family, or start a business or further your education. If this is the case explain the experience you gained during that time by highlighting your volunteer work, community involvement and side projects. Focus on what you have to offer” she says, adding that you can briefly do so in your cover letter.

Focus on your performance today when seeking new responsibilities

When Ose speaks to an employee about a promotion, she focuses on the employee’s current job performance, which she feels is more important than how long they’ve held their present role.

“My experience has been the employees who don’t worry about the promotion tomorrow, the employees who are focused on executing today, collaborating today, being the best version of myself today, those promotions have a way of working themselves out,” she says.

Schmidt considers how an employee has prepared themselves for greater responsibilities. “What conversations have they had with their manager in terms of career goals? Have they taken on project work or gone outside of their comfort zone to gain more experience to help prepare them for that next role? Are they continuously learning?”

Discuss your career aspirations with your manager on a regular basis

Ose and Schmidt agree that ongoing conversations with your manager about your professional goals are vital to ensure you can count on their support when you’re ready to seek new opportunities. These talks can include your long-term plans and what you hope to achieve in terms of professional development, Ose states.

“In these conversations, where you are sharing your career goals, your aspirations, be open and honest with you manager. They can help you navigate the steps needed to get you to where you want to go. You never know when a project or special stretch assignment comes along. If your manager is not aware of your career aspirations, you could be passed by or not approached about an opportunity, “says Schmidt”

Be confident in your skills and don’t downplay what you have to offer

No matter where you are in your career, don’t be afraid to ask for connections, support or new responsibilities. “I still don’t think even today in 2021 there are enough females asking the big question about what’s possible,” says Ose.

Schmidt advises women in agriculture to take a chance and not feel as though they must already be able to do the job they want. “Don’t sell yourself short and think your lack of direct work experience is a barrier. You have the experience, you have so many portable skills that can transfer over to another career,” she says.

“Cargill can teach you about the ag industry and the products and service we offer. That is all easily taught, but your soft skills like your ambition, willingness to learn, leadership and teamwork capabilities cannot be taught – that is what you bring to the table. Share examples of how you have used your soft skills in the past and how they relate to the new role you pursing.”

Let us know your thoughts or experiences on this topic in the comments below!