In farming, not only hard skills are needed (for example how to drive, vaccinate, irrigate or prune plants) but also soft skills such as good clear communication, positive attitude and honesty. Remember that everything you do creates an impression on someone. Make sure those impressions are positive.
Here are a few soft skills needed to become a successful farmer.
When farming, being on time is important. In fact, try to be early for work every day. When you leave in the evening, ensure that everything is in order. By doing this, you show that you are keen. Those few minutes are not making a big difference to you but might leave a huge impression with your employer. You are also training yourself to take responsibility and might be setting yourself up for a managerial position.
Always be on time for appointments. For example, when you think it will take 30 minutes to get there, leave 45 minutes before the meeting time.
Have the contact number of the person you are meeting and let them know when something happens that might cause a delay.
Your attitude will take you further in life than almost any other asset you may have. A good attitude means to be keen and hard working. Be willing to take on extra tasks and do not be grumpy. A positive attitude makes it nice for other people to be around you.
Do not be arrogant. When you are in a senior position, you may not be a leader because of your position. You will be a leader if people look up to you. Be one of the team and lead from within the team. If they respect you and know that you care about them, they will make you their leader and follow your example.
What does work ethics mean? It is your attitude to your work. It means you do your work with attention to detail. Keep a notebook and pen in your pocket to make notes and write down questions.
Look for opportunities to learn and do more than what is expected of you. At the end of the day, you are not really doing it for your employer, you are doing it for yourself.
Honesty and trustworthiness are closely interlinked, yet not the same thing. If you are always honest, your employer and people around you will trust you.
Everyone makes mistakes, but the way you deal with a mistake could end up being more important than the mistake itself. If you made a mistake - big or small - tell your employer. Take responsibility. Your employer will appreciate your good attitude and your braveness to stand in front of him/her and say ‘sorry’.
Make sure you get the details right - it can mean the difference between failure and success. If you are given a job to do, make sure it is done right and properly.
Doing something right is not the same as micro-managing. If you have people working for you, make sure they know their work and that you trust them. Allow them to make decisions within their area of responsibility.
If you see that someone needs help with a job, go to their aid. It does not matter what the job is or who they are. Show that you care - you might later need their help too.
Former Future Farmer apprentice Lunga Ndwandwa sums up the soft skills needed for farming: ‘Love is the most important element. You must love what you are doing. It affects your attitude and life becomes easy. Always be the first at work and the last to leave. Work as if it is your own business because if you do, one day you will be working for yourself.’
By Judy Stuart