A curation of tips and strategies that will help you combat the old boys club, move forward in your career and help others to do so as well.
By Natalie Walt
1. Find a mentor
We’ve talked a lot about mentorship at Ag Women’s Network (AWN) and the importance of finding someone that can support you in your growth both personally and professionally. A mentor is someone that can provide guidance for choosing your career path, learning news skills, improving your current skill-set, and help you join a board. Your mentor should be someone that has similar interests and has experience in the field that you are seeking advancement within.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice from someone you think would make an excellent mentor because they are more than likely willing to help out. In my experience, I was incredibly shy and self-conscious when sending the first email, but my efforts were always met with enthusiasm and positivity. People are always willing to help- you just have to ask!
It’s important for women to remember that they don’t always need to limit themselves by only asking for mentorship support from other women. Don’t be afraid to seek mentorship from a male colleague.
2) Be a mentor
Most of us can agree that at some point along the way in our careers, we have sought advice and support from someone else. Over the years, I have been blessed to know several people who have taken the time to offer their advice to me when I have been in the middle of making fairly daunting steps in my career path. Their wisdom and experienced advice were invaluable to me as rookie in the field.
That being said, it’s important to also consider ourselves as mentors for someone else. You have so much more to offer than you often realize. While we often think that we need to find a mentor for ourselves, we should also consider that there is a generation of fantastic individuals behind us that could also benefit from our mentoring. Do not hesitate to lend a hand to someone that you think is doing a terrific job in their work or is starting out in the field.
3) Don’t look for just single mentor, but rather, find a tribe
In life, we do not consult just one single expert for everything. For example, you do not rely on your doctor for legal advice so why should you limit yourself to one expert to guide you in your career?
Consider this to be kind of like finding a board of directors for your career. Connect with people that can lend their expertise to a variety of areas like finance, human resources, technical, etc. I have one person that I always call on when I need personal finance advice because he is an accountant and knows that area inside out. I call on my friend Tony when I need technical advice because he is a digital genius. The list goes on. Depending on the situation, I know just who to call and seek guidance from. Within our careers and volunteer affiliations, it’s important to build a group of people that can lend experienced knowledge as no one single person is an expert on everything.
4) Be aggressive
Simply put, have the courage to put yourself out there and go after the career you so desire. We miss %100 of the chances we don’t take.
Send the email or message to that person you’ve been wanting to connect with. If they don’t have time to meet in person, ask to schedule a phone call with them.
Do the follow up after meeting them. Oftentimes we make great connections at tradeshows or events, but then fail to follow through and send the email afterwards to actually continue the conversation. This next step is key and should be done within a day or two of the initial meeting.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice from a group (like AWN) as to who to connect with. Be specific in your request and likely someone will be able to help point you in the right direction.
5) Find the ‘water cooler’
Determine where the best place to get your foot in the door is and show up. You have to be present and put yourself out there for connections and conversations to happen. Take a look around your industry and figure out where people are making the connections that you want to be a part of. Every industry is different and agriculture is no exception, but there are a lot of events and organizations to get involved in outside of work that could be great places to start.
For example, trade shows like the Outdoor Farm Show are very well-attended and have a lot of representation from businesses and organizations all across the industry. In agribusiness, a lot of these interactions take place on the golf course. I’m not much of an experienced golfer, but I have learned that many of the customer appreciation days or industry events involve golf so I have proactively forced myself to get better and even purchased my first ever set of clubs.