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September 15
Score a Touchdown by Answering "Tell me About Yourself"

You've done it! 

You got the call asking you to come in for a face to face interview – you've received the kickoff. 

You've done your homework and researched the company's website thoroughly – You're at the 50 yard line. 

You've thought about what behavioral questions could be asked of you, and you've prepared several great examples – the 30 yard line. 

You've written down a list of questions that you'd like to know more about regarding both the company and position – The 20! 

You've taken a test drive to see where exactly to park and enter the building – The 10! 

You've dressed for success, and your confidence is sky high – The 5!!!!  

"Thank you for coming in today, please tell us about yourself." – FUMBLE!!!!!

As a recruiter, I've seen this time and time again.  The deer in the headlights look after the infamous "tell me about yourself" question.  Why does such a seemingly harmless question become such a difficult one to answer?   Well, we all tend to skip over things we feel like we know well.  So in preparation for an interview, it is easy to tell yourself, "I'll know what to say when they ask me this question – because who knows me better than me?"  When you take this approach, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.  Here's why.  This is your first chance to make an impression and essentially set the tone for the interview.  You can either set a positive, well-meaning tone that impresses the interviewer(s) and make them more interested in you, or you can fumble the question entirely and have to work your way back up.

Here is a possible scenario:

Manager: "So, tell me about yourself." 

You: "Oh boy, where do I start?" (As if you never knew that the interviewer would ever ask such a tricky question).  Well… (INTERNAL DIALOGE - where do I start, where do I start?  Let's see - do I go back to where I'm from or where my first job was?  OK, I grew up 40 miles away from here in a small community, wait a minute, how is that relevant?  No, I'm not going to start there.  How about a touching story about my first dog, Buddy – WHY WOULD I SAY THAT?!?!No….maybe that is good. Now I'm starting to get emotional about Buddy, I miss him so much!  Wait a minute, what was the question again?) 

OK – so that is an extreme scenario, but hopefully you get the point.  Things can start spiraling quickly if you're not prepared to answer that question.   

Brace yourself because I'm going to share some outrageously powerful advice and insight.  There is no right or wrong answer to this question.  As an interviewer, this is a way to see how the candidate communicates.  Every interviewer is different, hiring managers are all looking for different things and they all have different personalities, so there is not a singular correct response.  If you follow the below guidelines however, you will at least set yourself up well for the rest of the interview.

  1. Keep your response somewhere in the 2 – 5 minute range. (Don't tell your entire life story!)
  2. Align yourself with the company's values (that you've researched), and keep it as professional as possible.  Do not read your experience from your resume. Know what you want to talk about, keeping in mind that the interviewer is looking at how you will benefit their department/company – not about how many marshmallows you stuffed in your mouth one time when you were 12.
  3. Talk about how your experience is relevant to the position and why you are interested in this job.  "I see that you're looking for someone who is detail oriented. This excites me because in my previous job I was responsible for…."
  4. It's ok to say what YOU did specifically. Do not give all of the credit to your teammates, and do not be afraid to say "I."  Your teammates are not interviewing for this job – you are.  You can give examples of teams you've worked on later, but this is your time to shine.
  5. Confidence!  Be confident in your response.  Don't say "Where would you like me to start?"  Dive in with what you prepared with confidence.

Touchdown!  You're now ready to answer the 'tell me about yourself' question.   Now keep going, win the game, and get the job!  Good luck!


By: George Moore

September 04
It's an eWorld After All

With inarguable certainty, if you are reading this blog you are probably reading it on some form of electronic device. Perhaps a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This era of pulling out your tablet in an airport or being consumed by a mobile device at a coffee shop is becoming the norm. It's a fast and furious world we live in where we expect information to be sent and received instantaneously. We literally are addicted to our devices.  Whether it is checking the instant feedback we get on social media, what the temperature is in our house, outside our house or even in Beijing, or that growing number of emails we have; our devices are constantly vying for our attention.

Email is an example of how our communication methods evolved into the electronic world, all thanks to one man who had an idea. Ray Tomlinson was a pioneering American computer programmer who implemented the first email program. His first email, sent in 1971 was a test message from one computer to another, while the machines were sitting side-by-side. At first, his email message system was not considered important by him or others, as he had only pursued it because "it seemed like a neat idea." Now, roughly 47 years after that "neat idea," within a couple of seconds, you can send a piece of mail electronically to almost anywhere on the globe.

Electronic platforms play a role in nearly every move we make. We have eLearning, eCommerce, eBooks, eSports, eDistribution, eProcurement, ePrescribing (eRX), eVoting, even eWaste! Everything that is anything seems to have an "e" in front of it.   As for my role here at GROWMARK, I am focused on eLearning. I use specialized software to create complex, interactive web-based training programs you can take with you anywhere you go. You can take a one-hour online course at home on your phone instead of attending a half-day program that may require transportation and other costs to attend. eLearning opens up the world of possibilities to make it easy for anyone to grow their knowledge, skills and abilities with any given amount of time that is available. 

So next time you are waiting for a flight, your coffee, or picking up your kids from practice, consider using that time and your technology to learn.  And then, when you are done, you can eFile your taxes and check your investments on E*TRADE, or whatever other "e" action you want to take.  The real "e" word behind all of this is: embrace it. The "e" is here to stay; anything less than electronic seems archaic. ​

By: Rhonda Catalino

August 15
Living out your brand -- defining yourself and sticking to it


What is my brand? What does personal brand even mean? How do I come up with this stuff? These may be some recurring questions flooding your brain while you're on the quest to define your professional career.


How do I want to be seen by others?


Ding, ding, ding! That's the big question to consider before you begin identifying your personal brand. Answering this question may seem daunting, right? Well, here are some suggestions to help you begin defining your personal brand:


  • Define yourself


Start with identifying what it is you want people to think about when they see your name. Think about the people you admire. What common characteristics do they have? What makes them unique? Why do you continue to read their content, interact with the social channels, listen to their podcasts?


Make a list of qualities you want linked to your brand. Come up with a strategy around how you can add value to those around you.


  • Build your platform


Now that you have defined yourself and a strategy is in place, it's time to build your platform.


Some options to think about:  LinkedIn Twitter Instagram blogs and other websites to showcase content built by you.


The most important consideration is choosing a platform that will assist in engaging the audience that aligns with your brand.


  • Grow your network


You know your brand and how to showcase it, now let's grow your network.


Be purposeful in the information you share to attract the appropriate audience. Build relationships with thought leaders, industry professionals, and others within your niche. There is power in being visible!


You have your personal brand… what's next? Here are some suggestions to help you stick to it:


  • Social media management is key


Engage with your followers, don't leave people hanging out there if they are commenting or interacting with you – 'like' their posts, comment when you have insights!


  • Be Consistent


There is power in consistency! Be timely in your posts and replies. People may come to expect a weekly blog post from you – don't let them down!


Remember, it's an ongoing process. Your personal brand is something you must cultivate over time. Brand management is vital!


By: Kayla Portwood


July 30
Win the Morning = Win the Day

​​If I said you could make tomorrow the best day ever by implementing a few simple habits, would I have your attention? Most of us would say yes, but the reality is most of us wouldn't make the necessary ​changes. The way we start the day impacts how we finish the day. So, to make the day great we must win the mornings! 

Those who live great lives experience the power of the morning by creating strong habits and routines that set them up for an unbreakable day. The goal is to develop a routine that works for you.  Here are some suggestions to help you win the morning so you can win the day:

  • Wake up early: Set your alarm for half an hour to an hour earlier than you normally would and get up when it goes off. If this means putting your alarm in a separate room, then do it. Rise before the chaos of the day can start. Most of our days feel rushed because we start them that way.
  • Be grateful: Successful people have a heart of gratitude. Be grateful for the opportunity to take a breath because someone didn't have that same opportunity today. Be grateful for the chance to make today great. Say thank you.
  • Insert positive thoughts: Stay off social media first thing in the morning. There will be time to check what your friends are eating later. Tell yourself that today will be the day where you crush your goals and then prepare yourself for great things to happen. The power of positive thinking will change the course of your day. Remember to smile and see if you can make someone else smile today.
  • Exercise: Strong body, strong mind; get yourself up and moving. Investing in your body leads to a mind that is strong and able to handle obstacles that may come its way. Start small and find the exercise routine that works for you. (Exercise disclaimer: always consult a physician before engaging in any exercise program.)
  • Read: Fill your mind with information that will allow you to be great. Don't have time? Listen to an audio book or a podcast while exercising or on a commute. Take time to invest in your brain – we only get one.
  • Write: Put your goals, dreams, fears, challenges down on paper. Writing gets things out of your brain, so you can focus on today; it is a way to clear the clutter that consumes our minds so we can focus on what is most important.
  • Go: The toughest part of making changes is actually doing it. Tell yourself I'm going to invest in myself to make my life great. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we are too busy or it is selfish to take time for ourselves. Taking time in the morning for yourself will allow you to invest in others, which can have a positive impact on their lives.

Life is a journey and we want to enjoy it.  Find the routine that works for you, so you can conquer the morning and the day!

By: Brandon Umphrey

July 15
How Important is Networking?

​We've all heard it before: it's not what you know, it's who you know. How true do you think this statement is? I never thought much of this phrase until I started working in recruiting. I am here to tell you this statement is important and could not be more accurate. It is amazing to me how networking creates connections that can impact your professional life in such big ways. Every time you turn down a chance to network with someone new at work, in the industry, or in general, you are turning down a future opportunity to grow as a leader or professional.

One experience that comes to my mind is a networking exercise I took part in at Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference years ago. Over 70 agriculture students from around the country were sitting in a hotel meeting room in Kansas City. The speaker threw a large ball of string at our group. We were confused. He had us go around the room and state our overall career goals and one fun experience on our bucket list. As we did this, others from the group would raise their hands to signal that they had a connection within their network that could help the person holding the ball of string complete their career goal or cross the identified item off their bucket list. The person holding the ball of string would throw the ball to one of the individuals with their hand raised. It was amazing. We heard so many different conversations starting. "I want to raise alpacas once I retire." "I want to work in Ag Law." "I want to hike the Appalachian Trail." "I want to work for Kraft-Heinz as a food scientist." As these statements were said, hands shot up in the air, and people identified their go-to people in the room and had the chance to network with them after the exercise concluded. By the time we were done, the room looked like a giant spider web. There wasn't a single statement mentioned in that room that someone didn't make a connection through.

This exercise opened my eyes to how important it is to take the time to get to know the people around you as they can help you reach your dreams. I would argue that networking is not only important, but more so your best linking to success.


By: Tori Streitmatter

June 30
“Begin with the End in Mind” is Not Just a Cliché—Really!

​Stephen Covey's book "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" is so rich in content that I find myself still using and learning from it 11 years after my initial read.  I cannot count the number of times I have referenced "begin with the end in mind" when coaching Subject Matter Experts (SME's) to develop training, advising colleagues on how to create powerful presentations or creating training myself.  It's not just a cliché.  It can be a powerful tool in the presenting and training worlds.

As an instructional designer for over 10 years, each time I sit down to create a training, I "begin with the end in mind".  What do the learners need to know, do, and apply when they walk out of training?  What is the end experience you are striving to create for them?  There is so much information on every topic imaginable, it is often difficult to sift through it all to decide what is important. 

Whether you are creating a training, a presentation or simply an agenda for a meeting, there are some helpful questions to ask yourself that will allow you focus on the end goal—thereby saving you time, while producing an impactful facilitation.

Step 1: Analyze

Who is my audience? What are the audience's characteristics that affect the content and how it is delivered? What is my topic?  What is the amount of time allotted for the facilitation? What is the goal of the facilitation?  Why would the participants want to attend the facilitation?

Step 2: Create/Develop

What are the objectives that will fulfill the goal of the facilitation?  What do participants need to know/be able to do when they leave? How do you plan to accomplish the objective(s)? 

Step 3: Execution/Delivery

Is PowerPoint visually helpful for this facilitation?  Is this meeting necessary or will an email accomplish the goal(s)? Would an activity help the participants better understand the content?  Does this facilitation need to be face-to-face, or can it be online or a webinar?  How can I deliver the content without being a boring lecturer?

Asking yourself these questions before you even begin to sift through the plethora of information will help you focus and create a better product.

After all these years, I still get lost sometimes in the sea of information.  I get caught up in reading, learning, the "ooh shiny" moments, and the "that's not what I'm looking for" frustration.  What do I do?  Take a deep breath.  Regain focus.  And remind myself to "begin with the end in mind". 


By: Michele Hillary 

June 15
Changing Direction Leads to Discovering a Passion

​Careers take twists and turns making your professional experience a path unique to you based on your aspirations and experiences.

While in college I was told, "Your degree will help you get placed in your first job – after that it will be based on your experiences." At first, I was unsure how this was possible due to my degree being the career path I was wanting to take. I knew the skillset it equipped me with prepared me to take on a communication based career. However, as my career path began to evolve the above statement has never been more true. GROWMARK has a variety of positions available across multiple facets of business. No matter the position you are in, you are developing valuable transferrable skills to prepare you to take on your next career move. Transferrable skills can be applied whether you are in accounting, energy, agronomy, etc. If you find an area interesting, talk with the team currently in place and learn more about it. Determine the skillset you need to develop that could be applied to a similar position.

Recently I took a different position in the company and many people saw the switch as an extreme change. Yes, it is very different from my former position. However, I was able to apply skills gained from one role and build new skills in my current role. All of which are preparing me for my future career goals. Again, the path is unique to you and no two people may have the same path.

A path is there for guidance not set in concrete. It is meant to be flexible and allow for the individual to make his or her decisions based on interests and new discoveries along the way. It is not meant to be straight and narrow but allow for curves along the way. If you have an interest don't be afraid to pursue it because you could end up finding a position that fulfills a passion you may not even realize you had!


By: Amie Hasselbring


May 31
Increase Your Credibility to ERASE all Doubt

​Every day we engage others in conversation, presentations and meetings. You engage in communication where you need to make key points about your perspective, thought or idea.  Your intent is to have credibility and impact with the direction or outcome of the interaction.  You need to ERASE all doubt in communicating your key points that will increase your influence and outcomes. Below are five different forms of evidence to support your key ideas. The acronym ERASE will help you remember them.

  1. Experiences – Real life situations, your own or third parties are recognized as a powerful form of evidence. Experiences can be delivered with conviction and credibility because they are real. Include enough background information to make them come alive to you listener. They should be current and brief. Make sure the audience can relate and the outcome is successful. Be careful not to overuse.
  2. Reasons – Reasons answers the "why" questions your audience may have. You can use outlined facts, thoughts or ideas which will explain or answer the "why" questions that come from your ideas.
  3. Authority – This is usually a well-regarded authority or an informed source that can be a documented quote, finding, conclusion or rationale that are almost never doubted.  The authority must be regarded as credible by the audience.
  4. Statistics and Facts – These are the most commonly used sources for proof. Although statistics show factual information, they can be difficult for an audience to remember or understand. Help your audience visualize what you are saying by adding a more personalized example of what the statistic means to the listener.
  5. Examples – Examples are similar to experience except that you are explaining an event that did not occur, but is still relevant to your point. Your audience will make inferences to other moments in their lives that will lend more credibility to the point you are making. Analogies are often used as examples.

Before your next conversation, presentation or meeting; take a few minutes to identify your key points you want to make, then select one of the five ways you can ERASE all doubt to increase your impact and credibility.


By: David Hansen

May 15
Connecting with your Company

"I don't know why you are so excited to graduate. You're going to be working for the next 50 years of your life" – stated my senior year college professor. I am now several years out of college and still refer to this as one of the best statements I had ever heard. Like a smack in the face, this rather blunt statement put my future career into perspective and prompted me to think of what I do and the company I work for with a different approach.

I believe it is not only important for every person to find passion in what they do, but also important to find a connection to the purpose of the company... What makes you complete your best work? What keeps you walking in that door every day? What makes you stay the extra hour – or four to accomplish the task?  The big reason that rises to the top for me is my connection to the big picture – what is the company's impact on the world? I may not have grown up on a farm, but I find the agricultural industry a place where I can see a real impact on the world. I connect to the work I do because I work for a company that is making a difference in the world by providing. The ways we impact the world range from supplying propane to heat the house on a cold winter day, feeding and fueling the world by providing the best products and services to farmers and growers, and by being the best we can be for our customers daily.

I'm proud of the company I work for and the industry which it does business. I find passion in what I do daily because I know the difference the GROWMARK System is making on the world. Although 50 years is literally a lifetime, the days go fast when you work for a company whose business you are truly connected to on a deeper level!


By: Marissa Williams

April 30
Celebrate Good Times… Come On!!

On any day of the year, you can guarantee there is something being celebrated or remembered on a national or global level.  The month of May is no exception and presents quite the variety of interesting and unusual things to remember or celebrate.  Cinco de Mayo, Mother's Day, graduations, and Memorial Day are a few well-known ones.  But did you know that May also includes Star Wars Day, World Red Cross Day, National Eat What You Want Day (celebrated all year long in my case), and World Turtle Day?!

We can argue that some of these days are more important that others, but regardless, it seems on any given day there is something to celebrate.  In the workplace, it doesn't have to be any different.  Celebrating and recognizing the good work, efforts and progress of team members creates a positive work environment, increases team morale and creates a more engaged workforce.  Whether you are the leader of a team or an employee, we can all do our part to build each other up and take time to celebrate successes. 

Here are some simple ways to celebrate those successes:​

  1. In team meetings have each person share something they want to celebrate or recognize.  This could be something they personally accomplished or something they want to recognize others for.
  2. After completing a big project, take time to celebrate by going out for lunch, hosting a potluck, going bowling or plan an activity that allows you to pause and appreciate your success before moving onto the next project.
  3. Create a "kudos" board where team members can write a note to recognize their peers on a job well done.  Individuals can hang up positive feedback they received from customers or others that relates to their work.
  4. Create a traveling plaque or trophy that gets passed from employee to employee based on being "caught" doing something impressive.
  5. On regular basis, determine one positive behavior that you want to recognize.  You don't have to be a supervisor to do this. Maybe today you recognize excellent customer service skills and tomorrow you show appreciation for a timely response to a customer.  Vary the behavior and vary the way you recognize it.
These are just a few ways to weave celebration and recognition into the fabric of your team's culture.  Have fun and get creative! I don't think there is a team out there that wouldn't love some pizza on National Pizza Party Day (May 18) or donuts on National Donut Day (June 1)! ​

By: Carrie Kuhns
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