Learn from agriculture recruiting experts about the habits and qualities that make an outstanding employee.
When searching for a job in agriculture or any industry, all of the emphasis usually falls on the hard skills and soft skills specific to that position. And truth be told - you need to have the relevant job experience and working knowledge necessary to be competent and capable of performing the necessary tasks. But this is just the bare minimum.
There are some qualities that take you from simply completing the job at hand, to excelling and becoming an invaluable asset to your workplace. These qualities might not be listed as items to check off the list on the job description, or even taught in training.
To some lucky people, these qualities come naturally. To others, they may be more elusive.
In this guide we will discuss habits of outstanding employees that will help you shine beyond the simple checked boxes on paper.
Leaving your status up to guesswork for others is frustrating and inefficient at best, and leads to preventable oversights with real life consequences at worst.
Don’t worry about overcommunicating progress to your managers and peers. Be transparent and direct about progress on tasks and projects, as well as any hiccups that happen along the way. Communicate problems early before they snowball. Worrying about someone’s response to bad news or “dumb” questions is counterproductive and only increases the chances of fumbling the goal.
And on that note - ask the dumb questions! Demonstrating a desire to truly understand your work despite fear of what others might think is smarter than hiding behind your ego, which could end up hurt in the end anyways because you didn’t ask for clarification. Additionally, there is a good chance someone else had the same question but was too afraid to ask, and showing it is OK to not know something can give them courage in the future.
- Transparency is key!
- Communicate problems before they worsen.
- Ask all questions - even the ones you think are “dumb”!
2. Be Positive
Moods are contagious. Although it is easy to let yourself be consumed by your troubles and have a poor outlook, added negativity is not productive and will not change the situation. That is, aside from contributing to a negative atmosphere that can be damaging and toxic and make work harder and less enjoyable for everyone. This atmosphere contributes to dreaded burnout.
Positive energy contributes to productivity and a more enjoyable atmosphere. Of course, saying phrases such as “Just look at the bright side!” and “Everything happens for a reason!” is not always helpful and might just annoy someone who is seriously struggling. But consciously practicing positivity and being mindful of your energy as well as the energies of the people you associate with can help rewire your brain for positivity.
Start by not complaining. Practice gratitude for the little things, as well as empathy for your peers. At the end of the day everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.
When you start displaying these behaviors, others might subconsciously catch on - the same way one person complaining can cause others to focus on unpleasant and negative things. These negativities will always be there, but not focusing on them can help take some of their power away.
- Be mindful of your energy and those around you.
- Practice gratitude and empathy for your peers.
- Focus on the positivities, not the negativities.
3. Take Initiative
If you see something that can be done and you have the capacity to accomplish it, do it before someone asks you to.
Go the extra mile, as long as it won’t compromise your physical or mental wellbeing. Now that you have finished what has been asked of you, what is one way you can take the quality of your work just one step further?
Do you see someone struggling to understand a new concept or finish a task you are proficient in? How can you make your superior’s job easier? Are there skills you want to develop or improve? Does your manager need someone to step up outside of their usual responsibilities?
Think beyond your job description. These small efforts add up and don’t go unnoticed. Taking the initiative to tend to the little things shows you care about your job beyond the paycheck and helps create an image of you as a good employee and peer. What goes around comes around - people will be more likely to help you in the future, as well as cut you some slack when you need it.
- If you have the time and capacity, find ways to do more!
- Help others when you can.
- Make small efforts beyond your job description.
4. Accept Accountability
Facing your mistakes and shortcomings is scary for even the most accomplished and seasoned among us.
However, accepting accountability sends just as strong of a message as hiding from it.
Mistakes are not always a bad thing - sometimes they happen because we are still learning, and that’s OK. Let yourself experience the emotions that follow, and then take a step back and assess the best course of action to correct the mistake.
Practice putting aside your pride and admit when things go wrong, whether it was from negligence or a genuine lack of knowledge. Try to view the situation from an unbiased perspective. Acknowledge the error, reflect on what could have been done differently, and change how you work in the future. If you are made aware you are doing something wrong and don’t make steps to change, that is when there is an issue.
Respond to the situation from a solutions-oriented perspective. Be transparent and clear when communicating this mistake to your manager. Avoid excuses, and don’t hide! By avoiding addressing the situation, you relinquish control. The problem is now allowed to transform and have a life of its own, which is unquestionably against your best interests.
- Consider mistakes as learning opportunities!
- Communicate the error clearly and without excuses.
- Make the necessary adjustments to avoid the mistake in the future.
5. Show Appreciation
Along with positivity, spread appreciation. You might assume the person you look up to already knows how great they are when in reality no one has ever acknowledged what they do.
People are often quick to vocalize disapproval, but don’t often think to point out the things they do like because they’re “good” and therefore don’t need input. But positive feedback is even more motivating than criticism.
If someone does a great job, tell them! If someone took the time to show you how to do something or went out of their way for you, acknowledge that you noticed. This goes for superiors as well as peers. This person might have done you a favor without thinking twice because that’s just the kind of person they are, but they deserve a thank you and will feel good about themselves knowing they truly benefited someone.
This culture of appreciation helps foster a kind and caring atmosphere where people feel like more than just an employee. Be a person who contributes to that feeling!
- Acknowledge your peers’ hard work or assistance on a task.
- Acknowledge your superiors’ hard work too.
- Do what you can to contribute to a positive work environment!
6. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
At some point, everyone feels inferior to someone else. But at the end of the day, the only person you need to compare yourself to is the old you. This is especially true in the beginning of your career or when starting something new, which can happen at any age.
Are you consciously trying to improve yourself? Are you trying to learn from your mistakes? Are you making an effort to put your best self forward? This is what matters, not your “rank” among others. The reality is there will always be people with more experience and refined skills, and getting caught up in that competition will be an endless battle.
Eventually, whether it is on your own volition or duty calls, you will have to learn something new. There will be a learning curve, and you probably won’t be good at it right away. In fact, there might be someone younger than you who makes it look like a breeze. But you’ll only be “inferior” if you let this surface-level rank assessment discourage you from focusing on self improvement.
Look back at where you were a year ago, or ten years ago. Odds are you’ve been so laser focused on the day-to-day that you didn’t realize how much progress you made. Keep track of your accomplishments and positive feedback for when you are feeling down about your work performance, and reflect on this proven track record when you are having doubts. You might be your own best pickmeup!
- Focus on self-improvement!
- Learn from your mistakes.
- Keep track of your personal and professional growth.
7. Take Risks
It’s time to get comfortable with risk. If you are going to spend time worrying about the worst case scenario, do yourself a favor and prepare yourself for the best case scenario as well.
Look past your self-doubts and fear of embarrassment and realize the potential reward for not just yourself, but for the business as a whole. Practice looking beyond what people might think and at the big picture.
For yourself and for the company as a whole, there is no growth in the comfort zone. Avoid becoming stagnant, and look ahead for opportunities for improvement and innovation. Voice your opinions and ideas - you might avoid challenging the status quo in fear of rejection, when in reality the concept had simply not yet occurred to others.
Preparation is the best tool against anxiety. Think out your plan before you suggest it so you can answer questions regarding specifics and are ready for any counter-arguments. Having a simple script you feel comfortable with can help you approach your manager with more confidence, even if it is for a small ask. But remember you are both humans and not robots - your conversation should reflect this.
If after all of your preparation your plan still fell flat - it’s OK! This was a learning experience, and most mistakes can be fixed. Seeing for yourself that you can fail and the sun still comes up can actually give you the confidence to try taking more risks in the future.
- Don’t be afraid to voice your opinions and ideas.
- Focus on the potential reward.
- Prepare for your presentation and for follow-up questions.
8. Ask for Feedback
The best way to know for sure you did your job well? Just ask.
Get used to asking for feedback regularly to get the most accurate picture of your work performance. Feedback can help you build your confidence and avoid second guessing yourself when you’re doing well even though you don’t see it. It can also provide you with some pointers on how to improve your weak spots.
And that is how you should view your critical feedback - as pointers. The purpose is not to offend you, but make you a better employee. You, your coworkers, and management are a team working together to build the best business and provide the best service you can. Take it seriously, but not personally.
- Ask for feedback regularly.
- View constructive feedback as pointers.
- Don’t take anything personally.
9. Take Care of Yourself
In order to bring your best self to work, you need to make your mental and physical health a priority. Work is important, but not more important than you.
Work-life balance can often feel especially challenging in the agriculture industry. It might seem like a silly concept and counterintuitive when people are depending on you to get the job done. A hard work ethic is admirable, but can consume you if you let it.
Be in tune with signs of excess stress and burnout. Some stress is OK and helpful as a motivator, but when it starts affecting your daily life at work and at home, take a second to stop and notice.
Know yourself and have regular mental check-ins so you can notice changes. Are you losing interest in your hobbies? Relying on escapism more? Eating and sleeping less?
Although it might feel like the right and honorable decision to “just deal with it,” it could cost you your wellbeing and work performance. It is not shameful to let your manager know you are overwhelmed with work and you need help. If the system in place is not conducive to mental health, management will want to know so adjustments can be made.
Additionally, professional help is available to help you get back on your feet if you need it. The Farm Resource Network has a variety of resources available to help you find local options.
- Prioritize your mental and physical health.
- Know yourself and when you need a break.
- Speak up about any problems that cost you your wellbeing.
Being an outstanding employee is more than simply knowing the soft and technical skills necessary out in the field. By practicing the habits we’ve discussed here, you can greatly improve your work performance and make a positive impact.
Looking for agriculture career opportunities? You’ve come to the right place. AgHires helps ambitious jobseekers like you secure their dream jobs across a number of agriculture fields, including food production, ag technology, vertical farming, agronomy, horticulture and more.
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