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Top 10 Soft Skills for a Career in Agriculture

Young, Beginning, Small and Veteran Farmers

When we talk about careers in agriculture, we often think about the technical skills necessary to do the job, the experience and know-how for a particular sector of ag, or as someone possessing market, machine and mechanics knowledge.  These are important core skills and knowledge needed, for sure!  What people are beginning to discuss that is just as important are soft skills.  So what are soft skills and what does that mean in relation to getting a job in agriculture?  This is a common question and we are glad you asked. 

Soft skills can be defined as your ability to work with and interact with others. Soft skills are also known as personal skills, non-technical skills and interpersonal skills. Employers place emphasis on soft skills because they are often skills that are difficult to teach.  Soft skills, when combined with hard skills, is very complimentary and extremely employable.

Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills

Hard skills are the technical skills someone possesses.  Hard skills are also considered job-specific skills that can be taught or acquired through training or hands-on experience.  For example, in agriculture, hard skills can be understanding precision agriculture, being a large animal veterinarian, having a degree in agronomy, or being a mechanic. 

Soft Skills are In-Demand

As mentioned before, soft skills are highly sought after because they are not easily taught and not acquired as easily through training.  One might say soft skills are learned over time as an individual grows up and learns through their life experiences.  Soft skills are often seen as personality traits and behaviors individuals possess.

Employers have started to put an emphasis on the soft skills a candidate displays.  During the interview process, employers are looking for soft skills that will ensure that person is going to be a good addition to the operation.  Along with having the hard skills necessary to do the ag work, hiring managers are tuning in to the soft skills someone holds.  Employers also believe that individuals who possess multiple soft skills is often an indicator of long-term success.

Top 10 Soft Skills for a Career in Agriculture

Creativity-Often referred to as “thinking outside the box”.  Being able to view a problem from multiple angles helps to generate ideas so business can move forward.

Teamwork-Being able to work with others to move toward a common goal.  Being able to effectively be part of a team which includes co-workers, colleagues and managers.  Teamwork allows the group to work on tasks efficiently and in an enjoyable environment.

Dependability-This means you are trust-worthy and reliable.  Dependable employees are trusted to finish tasks and meet deadlines.

Assertiveness-Being assertive shows you have confidence in your work abilities and are not afraid to be held accountable.  Being assertive also means you are able to express your opinions and contribute.

Problem-Solving-Employers see problem-solving as the ability to handle difficult or unexpected situations.  Good problem solvers can calmly analyze a situation and identify possible solutions.

Communication-This refers to one’s ability to give and receive information.  When employers are asked to rank soft skills, communication is most often at the top of the list.  Being able to give information (speak) and to receive (listen) information is an important balance.  Make sure you have a solid understanding of communication skills.

Flexibility-Working in agriculture can be unpredictable, and you may be asked to complete a task outside of your normal work duties or pivot in a new direction.  Flexibility is an important soft skill that tells employers they can trust you will be able to continue moving forward even under unexpected change.  Being flexible also means you are willing to learn something new.

Time Management-The ability to effectively manage multiple tasks simultaneously.  Also refers to your ability to prioritize your time in order to complete tasks in a timely manner.  Good time management can also indicate you are organized, all of which is very important to employers.

Accountability-Being accountable means you are willing to take responsibility for your work and your actions.  Holding yourself accountable shows you can be trusted.

Leadership-Most positions in agriculture require some degree of independence.  When you show leadership that means you are able to handle tasks on your own.  Even if your position is not one of leadership, there will be instances where you can show leadership in the work you are doing.

The top 10 in-demand soft skills list is not all inclusive.  There are many other skills one can possess that are often considered by employers.  It is normal for individuals to vary in their soft skills.  Do not worry if you have a few weaknesses.  It is important to evaluate your levels of ability in each area and work on the ones that need growth.  This is normal!  Most people prepare for the dreaded interview question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses”?  Take this opportunity to mention the soft skills you excel at, the ones that you are currently working to strengthen, and how you plan to accomplish that.  Employers will see your answer as positive because of your awareness and willingness to improve and grow.

If you are currently looking for a position or career in agriculture, make sure to research and read as much as you can about the soft skills necessary for a career in agriculture.  Employers in the field of agriculture are looking for soft skills just as much as hard skills, and it is best to be prepared.  Arm yourself with personal life stories and examples of your soft skills that would best apply to the position you seek. 

To add to your skills, check out our Business Handshake and Dress for Success Dress Code Guides.  You will be sure to impress!

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