Industry Viewpoint: Six learnings I would love to share with my younger self
Twenty years ago, I started my first job out of college and 12 years ago next month, I entered the produce industry. When recently speaking to a colleague about how different the workplace is now for college graduates vs. when I entered, she asked me, “If you could give advice to your younger self, what would you say?”
Despite feeling like I am just starting out in my career some days, I realized that through experience, wonderful mentors, lots of laughs and a few tears, I may have some words of wisdom to pass along.
Become a student
The grocery industry is challenging, but the produce industry is a whole different game. Mother Nature is not always friendly, and as one of my aforementioned mentors would remind me, “we’re not selling cans of soup.” To really understand the complexity of our industry, you must become a student of it. Study price books, devour trade articles and publications, visit farms, and jump on those retailer tour busses. Most importantly, ask questions. Once you do, you will quickly learn that there is a lot to learn, but also a lot of amazing people who will be more than happy to be your teacher.
What makes a good teacher? Passion. The produce industry has it in spades and it is our responsibility to pass it along. Spark passion when speaking to someone about our industry. Help them understand how hard, but also how rewarding it is, to produce, ship and market food for people all over the world. Whether it is someone new to the industry, a friend, or a consumer on the other end of the phone, when you are excited and passionate about what you are doing it brings joy and satisfaction to your job.
Think like a consumer
One thing I am still learning is that not all consumers shop, or even think, about produce like I do. It’s important to remove my “industry shoes” occasionally, and really walk the department like a consumer. What is catching my eye? What matters most to me? What solutions am I looking for? Answers to those questions will help elevate our offerings and our programs both to retailers and the end consumer.
Lead with empathy
The most important lesson I have learned, especially over the past two years dealing with unprecedented circumstances, is to have empathy with your team, vendors, partners and everyone in between. Taking a moment to acknowledge what may be going on in another person’s world will help build relationships and create solutions for obstacles that are weighing us down.
Despite the challenges and curveballs that each day brings, every time I walk a field with a fellow grower or help a customer with an issue, I am thankful. It cannot be understated — we produce food for the world. It is an incredibly important — and at times thankless — career path, but it is also rewarding and fulfilling. I will always be thankful and humbled to be in this industry.
Find a cause that is important and give back. Whether it is partnering with like-minded organizations, like Healthy Family Project, volunteering your time, donating to help those in need, or mentoring an up-and-coming star in the industry, giving back will make such an impact on your life. I encourage everyone to make this a priority and discover how it can change your life.
I’m curious as to what advice you would give your younger self (or me!). What do you wish you knew when you started your journey in the produce industry or what would you love to tell a group of college graduates? Shoot me an email at [email protected] and let’s keep this conversation going!