Translating Farm Work Experience on a Résumé or During an Interview

Growing up and working on a farm has its benefits and challenges. It can sometimes lead to being so involved in the business that you may not experience other roles through internships or part-time jobs. Writing a resume or talking about your farm-related experiences may have you wondering how to articulate the knowledge, skills and abilities gleaned from those years of on-the-job learning. But farm experiences can provide some of the best teaching moments! Here’s how to draw from your time spent working on the farm while interviewing and secure a new role for yourself in the dynamic international agribusiness industry.

Problem Solving

Farming involves being able to think and react in a short amount of time. When something goes wrong, you have to be able to improvise on the spot while remaining calm and executing the new plan safely. Equipment breaks down at the most inopportune times. So explain to a recruiter the time that a piece of equipment broke down and you had five minutes to make a decision on a plan to fix it, whether that be driving to town or calling the local equipment dealer for spare parts. Talk about how you took initiative and developed a plan of action quickly in a moment of stress. This can also apply to a livestock emergency.

 Decision Making

A large part of the farm experience involves preparation. Discuss in your interview your decision-making process. Maybe that includes when you decide it may be appropriate to spray a herbicide or what hybrids to plant in which field. Or maybe it’s a financial plan about how to expand the business without cutting costs. Did you apply for a loan? What type of planning did you need to do to make that happen? Or perhaps you developed a succession plan with your parents or manager. How did you go about that process?

Leadership

You might not have been the manager at the farm, but that doesn’t mean you didn’t serve an important position. Being a leader on the farm can range from operating large pieces of equipment to making sure the livestock are fed each day. You most likely had a regular task that you had to complete in order for things to go smoothly, that others were counting on you to successfully fulfill.  Describe in your résumé or to the interviewer what you were in charge of and how you went about accomplishing your objective. Perhaps you are the type of person to take on and complete jobs without being asked. Make sure to note that you are a self-starter and finding things to accomplish on your own is not difficult.

Teamwork and Collaboration

A very popular behavioral interview question is, “Tell me about a time you faced a challenging problem and how you handled it.” Now is your opportunity to tell the interviewer about the time your herd got out and you had to figure out how to get them home. Explain your strategy and what approach you took with others to get them back in the pasture. Talk about what steps you and the group took to address this problem. Employers want to know that you can improvise and come up with solutions on your own when there is no guidance available, especially when having to rally others to complete a pressing project.

This blog was adapted from an article written in July 2018 by Kate Boeckenstedt, AgCareers.com Marketing Intern.

By Paul Gagnon
Paul Gagnon Career Consultant, College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources Paul Gagnon