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Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

March 2018

The next step in your career – are you prepared?

As we move quickly towards the start of a new season, you may be looking for the next step in your career.  But don’t leave your planning too late.

A good start is to ask yourself “what are my goals for the next 2 years?” If you have a family, start with them, to make sure your goals align with theirs. If they are not on board, your plans will not be sustainable.

Then do an honest assessment of your farm skills and write them down. Try to work out the gap between your current skills and your goals and what you still need to learn. For example if your goal is a farm manager position in a year, then you will need to have a chance to properly learn pasture management and feed budgeting.

I always think running this assessment past your boss at this time of year does 2 things (1) gives you an honest assessment of your skill set from an experienced farmer and (2) makes them take notice of your ambitions. Most good employers are looking to help their staff advance in their careers. If they know you are taking your career planning seriously, they will likely give you opportunities to grow your skills on farm, without you having to leave.

If your current farm is not going to be able to further your career, then make sure you discuss your plans to leave with your boss. Employers really dislike getting resignation letters 3 weeks before calving! You are showing them respect by letting them know early about your plans. Good bosses will respect this as they also need to plan their teams. They will be much more supportive of you, in your new job search.

“Focus on what you want to learn, not what you want to earn”

When job hunting, ask yourself if a job will give you the skills you have figured out that you still need. A salary increase may be nice but remember to focus on what you want to learn, not what you want to earn! Nine times out of ten, the money will naturally follow.

Act professionally. If you are organised in your job search, you will have a higher hit-rate. To start with, make sure your CV is sharp, up to date, accurate and has all your referees listed properly. I think adding a decent photo of you always makes it more personal. First impressions play a huge part in landing an interview. A good question to ask when checking your CV is: “would I hire me?”

First impressions count and that starts even before the interview. Be organised. Know exactly when and where the interview is. I suggest phone the night before to check it is all set and who you will be meeting. Aim to be there 10 minutes early.

Present yourself well. An employer recently said to me “why would I let someone look after my million dollar asset, if they can’t look after themselves!”. No one is expecting a suit and tie but a clean car and clothes is a good start.

However presentation is also not just about your physical appearance. Psychology professors say only 25% of our communication comes from the words we speak. The rest is judged against the way in which you speak (tone), the way you sit, and the way you “hold yourself”. These  all count towards coming across well in an interview.

At interview, be honest about your areas of strength (don’t be scared to highlight these) as well as your areas for development. Over-inflated CVs are pretty common, so employers know to look out for them and they will test you.

Remember that the interview is a two way process and employers expect you to ask questions. Have some worked out in advance, it shows you’re interested and you’re thinking about the job. Yes ask about the technical side of the farm but also ask about the team and work environment they have.  Other good questions to ask are what they are most proud of about their farm; what are their main focuses for the coming season; are there opportunities for further training and development within the position? In my experience time off, accommodation and salary should be last on your list. It’s not that they’re not important, just that they are best left to the very end.

When choosing your new job, I recommend you should put the following at the forefront of your decision (1) does the employer share your values (2) do you feel there is a personality fit (will you get on with your employer and their team and likely be able to work things out in tough times) and (3) can I gain the skills I am missing, so that I can meet my 2 year goals.

Lastly, once you have secured an offer, ensure you take the same time to look over your employment contract in detail and get independent advice if needed.  Do not be ‘rushed’ into signing, you are entitled up to 5 days to seek advice and are free to check any details with your employer. Any questions are best dealt with before you start, not later.

Good luck and let me know if you need help.