Growing Your Future
in Agriculture


Clay Davis brings a background of contract manufacturing and production agriculture to Career Solutions. He was born and raised on a 1,100 acre row crop farm in Northwest Ohio. In addition to farming, his family, since 1910 has been in the business of installing farm drainage systems. In 2002, Clay graduated with a degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Tennessee. Clay's professional career has included stints with Deere & Company, Fort Wayne Plastics (large part injection-molder supplying components to the agricultural and automotive markets) and Group Dekko (manufacturer of custom wiring systems for the automotive and agricultural markets). Clay's current recruiting responsibility for Career Solutions is the equipment industry.

Clay is married and resides with his wife in Fort Wayne, IN where he enjoys golfing, bowling, fishing, and watching UT football. He is also enrolled in the MBA program at Indiana Tech and serves on the advisory board for NeighborLink, a local community service organization.

Posts by this Contributor

22 August 2011
Topic: Job Offers

Getting To The Acceptance - Negotiation Strategies

What is negotiation? Isn't it simply the discussion between people who are trying to reach an agreement? Then why does the word seem so intimidating and powerful? Possibly, it's because the term often represents situations where much is gained or lost? Or perhaps it is all the fancy books inside the local Borders that outline the newest negotiation tips and tricks? How can one digest all that info?

Here at Career Solutions, we think of negotiating as a simple process that should bring out excitement, not fear, not frustration…negotiation is the result of a successful interview process!

There is no book you can read to perfect the art of giving and taking the key to good negotiation is in having the proper perspective. Your perspective is always based on your intentions. If you are motivated to work for the company, you will find a way to reach an agreement and vice versa. Sometimes one party is more dedicated to reaching terms than the other and things won't work out, but the majority of the time when both parties are committed, the deal gets done and both parties are satisfied. Begin with the end in mind and don't go through the negotiations if you are not serious about accepting the job.

With this in mind, here are a couple of key points to remember on negotiating:

  • No two job negotiation experiences will be alike
  • There are many forces that impact your negotiating power
  • Unless this is an upper level position, there is usually only one opportunity to negotiate.
  • Face to face meetings are always the best format for nailing down the details
  • Make sure to know the 3 or 4 things you bring to the table why they need to hire you
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions this gives you information, information is critical to good communication
  • Honesty is critical… be up front with your needs, there is no need to be embarrassed about what you are worth
  • Don't be unreasonable in what you ask and check the ego at the door, ego's will always cost you money.
  • Always seek win/win…..if one side loses, nobody wins. Utilize a collaborative attitude.
  • Remember, how your counterpart handles the process speaks volumes about who they are.
  • Keep notes on the discussion and get the final agreement in writing.
  • If no agreement is reached, keep the door open should the other party reconsider.

17 August 2011
Topic: Job Offers

Evaluating Job Offers

Evaluating Job Offers - What Path To Take?

The computer beeps, the screen flashes, an email pops up, and your heart jumps as you see
"job offer" in the subject line. As you read through this email, one of two emotions register; "yes, this is the greatest offer ever" or "aahhh, what the @#$% are these folks thinking - I canʼt work for this". At this point, do me a favor, do your spouse a favor, do yourself a favor - pause and donʼt reply right matter what you are thinking.

In his book on Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey discusses the principle of seeking first to understand, then be understood. This is a good time to invoke this principle by beginning to formulate questions and seeking to understand the details. Youʼve heard about the six Pʼs right? - "prior preparation prevents piss poor performance". Piss poor performance, I will assume, is not something you want to achieve in the new job, so seeking to understand what you are getting into is a very important component of preparation. Remember, there is much more to an offer than the offer itself. Let me give you three items to evaluate when considering offers:

I. Financial

There are three primary categories to evaluate in the finance section - base
compensation "(expressed in a yearly salary or hourly rate), incentives
(commissions/"bonuses), and benefits (vacation, holidays, insurance, etc...). Most
of these items are cut and dried, meaning it is either there or it isnʼt. However, this
section has the most flexibility for change, so if it isnʼt there, donʼt close the door
completely. One word of advice, unless you have an extremely unusual situation that
dictates, donʼt base your decision to accept or decline off of the benefit package. This is
very shortsighted, as benefit packages change regularly and constitute only a small
portion of the total package.

II. Functional

More important than the financial is the functional. Yes, I said it and I mean it. Donʼt
believe me, then think of it this way. If you hate your boss and hate your coworkers, how
much money will it take you to stay there for five years......your right, there probably isnʼt
a reasonable amount!!! The functional is about exploring how you fit with the
company, culturally, operationally, and directionally. We all have that job that if we had it
to do over again, we wouldnʼt have jumped at the money. Therefore, it is ultra-critical to
gather as many facts on why the position is being filled - companies only add people to
solve problems, so knowing the problem ahead of time sure helps."Additional questions
that have relevance include: who is my boss (ie: could I work for them), who will I work
closely with, where is the position located, how much travel, how much commute, is
relocation needed, what are the goals of the position, what am I responsible for, and
what is the companies vision/mission. It is in these questions that you want to base the
majority of your decision, not the pay.

III. Futuristic

In this section, you are posing long-term thoughts to the prior two sections aimed at
understanding where this new position will take you. For example, an engineer who wants to become an engineer manager, might consider a senior engineer level position
as a means to be positioned for management down the road. Individuals who evaluate
from this perspective, understand the importance of sacrificing the short-term for "
long-term gains. Often, it isnʼt about the current pay structure, but more about earning
potential and opportunities to increase pay. There is nothing worse than wanting to take
your career upward and ending up in a dead-end job. Often the hiring company, if asked,
will lay out a potential path for you, however, at the end of the day, you decide this based
on a "gut" feeling.

Webster defines evaluation as "an act of appraising a situation as to form an idea". A good
method for appraising offers is to use a weighted pro/con sheet, weighting the items that have the most importance to you. Remember an evaluation is not about always about reaching a conclusion, but more about forming an opinion on the options at hand. Often individuals arenʼt able to make a decision until after some more discussion takes place, which brings us to the topic of my next blog......negotiating.
6 August 2011
Topic: Job Tips

Good Ole Resigning, The Professional Way To Do It.

Today's topic - resignation letters. The key to effective resignation letters is factual information in a short format. If this takes you longer than 30 minutes to write, then Houston we have a problem…..and if you copy the format below, a simple copy/paste with some editing will make it feel more like 30 seconds. Resigning as a process is about wrapping up old stuff and beginning to think/plan for new stuff, so don't allow the old stuff to take longer than it needs to take. Do it accurately and professionally, but do it quickly. Here is a sample letter for your consideration:

Name (this needs to be your direct supervisor)

Recently, I received an offer from xxx (company) to work as xxx (position), and after careful consideration, I realize that this opportunity is too exciting for me to decline. (the objective is to inform them of what has happened).
Therefore, please accept this letter as notice of my resignation from xxx (company) as xxx (position). My last day of employment will be MM/DD/YYYY. (the objective is to inform them of your intention).
During the last xxx years, it has been a pleasure working as an integral part of this team. I am thankful for this experience and wish nothing but continued success for xxx (current employer). Going forward please let me know if there is anything I can do to ensure this process is a smooth transition. (the objective is thank them and assure them you hold no ill will).
Best regards,
(this should be personal contact info that can be used to reach you after you leave)

Now that the writing phase is completed, consider the following notes before taking any action.
• Prior to submitting this letter make sure to have an accepted offer (preferably a signed offer letter) from the new employer in place
• Do not email the letter, instead schedule a face-to-face meeting with your direct supervisor, bring a copy of the letter to the meeting, and directly hand it to him/her
• Be prepared to be escorted out of the building immediately following the meeting (this is more common for sales people), but have your office emptied before going into the meeting
• Most importantly, no matter how mad you are, this process should be conducted in a positive manner, so not to burn a bridge get even with them by excelling in your new position
• Do not be swayed by counter-offers, they are short-term fixes to long-term problems, trust me the odds are against accepted counter-offers that end well
• Following the submission of the letter, you need to inform your network of your resignation

15 July 2011
Topic: Job Offers

How To Properly Resign From Your Job

Is this a loaded topic or what? As a recruiter, I deal with this subject on a daily basis
and it isn't always as easy as it appears.....some people struggle heavily in this area.
What makes resignations so difficult is that there are many steps involved in the
process - making the decision, acceptance/rejection, writing the memo, counteroffers,
and exit interviews - the more steps equal more potential opportunities to screw up.
My goal is to take the next couple weeks and discuss not only the overall process, but
also some of the individual items, such as resignation letters, counteroffers, and exit

Prior to any announcement is the decision - do I stay or do I go? For me, I always go
back to why a candidate first contacted me or was willing to go through the interview
process. There is always a driving force (usually several) behind an individual seeking
new employment. So the determining question on whether to stay or go is "does this
new position solve my problem(s)". If the answer is no, then you will probably be
looking again real soon (ie: you would be better off waiting for another opportunity),
but if the answer is yes, well congratulations, you have just graduated from the
interview process to the resignation process.

It is important to note that there is no perfect procedure for resigning, but I will try to
do my best to outline the direction you want to steer the ship. One overall theme to
this journey, is that everything is done professionally (being professional is treating
others as you would like to be treated). Resignations are not about getting even or
retribution, they are about bettering you career. Remember, it takes few words or
actions to torch bridges......

That being said, let's back up a bit and not just jump head first into making the
announcement, as there are a few housekeeping items that need to be completed first.
After a "yes" decision has been reached and you are ready to move on with your career,
it is very critical to get everything sealed up with the new company prior to informing
current employer of your intentions. Most employers when making an offer will provide
you with an offer letter outlining compensation, benefits, start date, and other items. I
am a firm believer in obtaining a written acceptance. This presents an opportunity for
another face to face meeting, where both sides can discuss all the details and
expectations up front. Remember, how an employer handles this, tells you a lot about
how they work internally. If you decide to reject the offer, then you should not send
them an email, but instead call or meet with the hiring manager to inform them of your
decision. Again, making a positive impression by handling it in a professional manner
will go a long way.

Okay, let's assume that we have an accepted offer letter signed, now what? The next
step is to write a resignation letter - I will cover this in a future blog, so let's just
pretend that the letter is satisfactory. DO NOT EMAIL THIS LETTER TO YOUR BOSS. It is
not the professional thing to do. Instead, schedule a meeting with your supervisor (be

vague on the subject). At the meeting, politely inform your supervisor of your decision
and hand them the letter. Prior to this meeting, you should have cleaned out your
office (keep only what is yours), as some companies will walk you out of the building
following this meeting. Traditionally, unless there are extenuating circumstances, two
weeks notice is common practice. During this two weeks, you should focus on three
things - 1) alerting your professional network of your career change (only say good
things about the company you are leaving), 2) Finish up all tasks assigned to you (do
not slack off and have a cheerful attitude), and 3) be willing to train your replacement.
If you do these things, doors remain open.

Finally, some organizations will attempt counteroffers and/or exit interviews.
Previously, I wrote a blog on counteroffers (I may re-post this later) and I expect to
write the next article on exit interviews, but in short I will say, if you can avoid the exit
interview, avoid it, and if presented a counteroffer, there are very few scenario's where
accepting one is to your long-term advantage.

Hopefully, this has given a broad scope to the steps in the process. Check back later
for more detailed discussions.
2 June 2011
Topic: Recruiting

What a Recruiter Can Do For You

Over the last couple of months, I've written a couple of blogs discussing how to select the right recruiter and then how to work with that recruiter. In thinking about the next blog post, it dawned on me that I might have gotten the cart ahead of the horse!!! While both of those topics are important, neither does much good unless you understand the value a recruiter brings to the table. Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss my thoughts on what a good recruiter should be doing for you……

Assuming you have selected the right recruiter, this individual will fill two different roles for you: First as a job center, then secondly as a career counselor.

As a job center, a recruiter provides you with exposure to specific or hidden jobs (ones that are not advertised). Good recruiters will have strong relationships with the hiring managers of their clientele and are often privileged to human resource needs that even the HR department is not aware of. In addition, even if there is no job currently open and a recruiter believes you would be a good fit, they can market you in and often a job is created for you.

Also, the use of a recruiter will save you great amounts of time (especially if they pre-screen you to uncover your needs & goals) Instead of wasting time searching for jobs, you can apply this time to your current job. Furthermore, recruiters can operate in a confidential manner to ensure that your current employer isn't aware of your search. This is more of a short-term function.

Then from the career counselor perspective, you can expect a recruiter to look at your career strategically and offer up options based on your needs and goals. For example, they should be able to outline the advantages/disadvantages of different positions or explain which companies are known to have good/bad cultures. They can offer resume suggestions, give advice on whom to use for references, enlighten you to the current salary ranges, or instruct you on what types of questions to ask during the interview process. These are more long-term functions.

The key to this is simple honest communication. Once a recruiter understands how to help you, they can, and most often will. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Those who don't ask, don't get. Career Solutions is here if you have any questions at all.

5 May 2011
Topic: Job Tips

Observations from El Salvador

About a month ago, I took a huge risk I voluntarily traveled internationally to a third world country known best for earth shattering volcanic eruptions, large venomous snakes, and the MS-13 gang (largest growing gang unit in the US). There wasn't one specific reason for this adventure, although when you are jumped one Sunday coming out of church by the pastor who asks if you would be willing to go and before you are able to graciously pass on the opportunity, your wife butts in and says "yes, absolutely he will go", then do you actually need a reason?

Our Habitat For Humanity team, to my surprise was comprised not of bishops, priests, and monks, as I expected, but instead of normal, beer-drinking, fun-loving, tax-hating, card-playing folks like myself. Trust me, this turned the trip from "oh, geez, glad to be here" to "great, this will actually be fun". And fun it was!

We saw a lot of cool things, made some great friends, tackled one of the highest zip lines, attempted to play some soccer, danced our feet stiff, bought stuff we didn't need, dodged wild range roosters that charged, and ate spicy food that tasted good going down, but made you regret it the next day. However, not to be lost in all that fun was a single observation that really made me think.

The house I was assigned to was being constructed under the supervision of Mario and Manuel - Mario was the foreman and Manuel the laborer (a 50 year old man who did more work than our five team members combined). Neither of them spoke English and none of us spoke Spanish, so we all learned to use some key hand motions (believe it or not, they know the bird!). Our project was in the early stages of construction this means that physical labor was king of the day, so if you volunteer for one of these, attempt to choose a project near completion if you don't enjoy sweating or becoming a night-time subscriber to Icy Hot.

One of the first things I noticed was the attitude of Mario and Manuel. They approached work with a joyful spirit. They actually enjoyed being there, doing back-breaking labor for 9 hours a day. It's also important to note that masons, despite being a skilled trade, are paid more like a kid on a newspaper route than a skilled welder (difficult to swallow as a recruiter), so they weren't excited to be there for the money!

All week I tried to gain an understanding of why they had such a great attitude, and then on the ride back to the airport it hit me. The answer was in their approach to the job, (they weren't going to allow their situation to dictate their success) thus their attitude mimicked their approach. Mario and Manuel understood what needed to be done. Each accepted their role, they shared a common goal, but most importantly it was because they wanted to be there. How many times do we not want to be at work? I'm convinced they wanted to be there, because they enjoyed working together as a team.

How often do we not like work because of our teammates? Mario and Manuel taught me that the cohesion of a team has a direct affect on the success of the team. It was evident in the way they made us feel welcome to be a part of their team.

Back home, I see the opposite, where the focus is on individual achievement, and it concerns me. Why do we approach things more from an individual viewpoint than a team viewpoint? Possibility? Or perhaps our advantage with technology allows us to do more, so we feel more self-sufficient. Perhaps we earn more through reaching individual goals. Whatever the reason, I left El Salvador feeling reassured that the only correct approach to ultimate success is the team approach.

5 April 2011
Topic: Recruiting

How To Work With Recruiters AND Be Successful With Them

A few weeks ago, I discussed the keys to selecting a good recruiter. Today, I want to follow up on that discussion by reviewing how to effectively utilize a recruiter's services. Before doing that, I think it is critical to note that most recruiters work on contingency searches, meaning they only get paid when one of their candidates is hired by a client. Therefore, the two most important commodities to this type of recruiter are time and reputation. That being said, being respectful of these points will help greatly in understanding how to work your selected recruiter.

1) Don't play games, be honest - trust me, recruiters have seen it all and heard every sugar-coated excuse, so don't try to fool them……this will only get you dropped from their list of candidates (recruiters won't risk their reputation or time on someone who tells half-truths). Just be up front about everything. If you won't relocate, tell them. If there is a certain dollar amount required, tell them. If you have a non-compete, tell them. If you don't like a job they present, tell them. Don't string them along if you aren't serious about taking a new job, because you will be the boy who cried wolf!

2) Ask for their opinion - good recruiters won't judge you, and they have a wealth of knowledge to draw from. Ask them about your situation, your career path…...ask them about the company, the position, the interview…..pick their brain, but don't waste their time. This is also a good gauge on whether they are going to help you - a recruiter who spends the time doing this, probably actually cares about you. One disclaimer on this: Be prepared...some of the answers given may not be what you want to hear!

3) Give the recruiter an opportunity to work for you - things don't always happen overnight, so don't get mad if the results aren't immediate or in your time frame. Sometimes it takes me six months to place a candidate due to various restrictions or objections. Trust me, recruiters are always trying to move the process forward. It's okay to check in with the recruiter weekly (in fact this shows good follow-up skills and proves your interest), however, don't become a pest. Never go around the recruiters back direct to the hiring company. This only makes you look bad in front of the hiring manager and makes the recruiter mad!

4) Give the recruiter as much detail as possible - the more we know, the more we can help. Detailed information helps us sell you to our clients better. It helps us better understand your needs, so we don't present job opportunities that you wouldn't have interest in. Sometimes this may take two or three conversations or a face-to-face meeting. I am always better at helping those I have seen in person!

5) Handle your discussions with the hiring company professionally - recruiters can do some buffering of relationships, but if you torch a bridge, often you can take the recruiter down with you, so be professional. As I have stated before, making the recruiter mad by hurting their reputation is not a good idea, especially if you expect future assistance from them. The common example I see is when a candidate turns down a job offer…..instead of going off on the company as to the reasoning behind declining the position, handle it tactfully, so the door is left open. Things may change in a year (new hiring manager, new ownership) and you may need a job. Recruiters always appreciate and respect those candidates who make them look good if front of the client, even if they don't take the job.

When working with a recruiter, you have to remember that it is just like building any other relationship…..there is give and take. Once the relationship is built it needs to be maintained, as a good recruiter can not only be one of your best assets to a successful career, but a trusted colleague and friend. Please let me know if you have any questions.
8 March 2011
Topic: Recruiting

Don't let the wrong recruiter bring you down


Recruiters are just one of the multiple avenues available to you while taking that next step along your career path. A good recruiter can launch your career to the next level, whereas a poor recruiter can move you back to down the ladder.

Think of it from a carpenter's perspective. When they're on the jobsite, reaching into the toolbox and pulling out a dull screwdriver or a broken hammer costs them time and money, not to mention frustration!!! Therefore, it is critical that only high quality and dependable tools make it into their toolbox. In order to accomplish this, carpenter's tend to buy tools referred to them by their counterparts. However, referrals are not always available, so occasionally these skilled tradesmen have to test out a tool by the old trial and error method. I think this thought process applies well to the job search and selecting a recruiter.

Having a colleague or coworker direct you towards a recruiter that they have prior experience with is ideal, but not always reality, so there will be times where you have to go in cold turkey!!! With that in mind, here are some tips that may help:

  • Seek out a recruiter who specializes in your industry or concentrates in your profession. This will keep you away from the recruiter who tries to be everything to everybody.
  • Reference checking the recruiter with either candidates who have worked with them or clients who have hired from them is something to consider.
  • Ask them why the got into recruiting and then probe around this topic with some follow up questions. Don't be afraid to engage them in this topic. Your goal is to uncover their intention. Are they in it for the placement or do the genuinely want to help the candidate/client.
  • Find out how they work. Do they keep your information confidential or are they resume blasters? What type of career planning approach will they take with you? How do they handle the interview and negotiation process?

If you currently have a job but are seriously considering switching companies, I would suggest only using one or two recruiters in order to safeguard confidentially and to keep from over-extending yourself. Should you find yourself out of work, then turning up the heat by using three or four recruiters might make more sense. It is important to understand that your initial impressions may be wrong after a couple of test runs and in a couple weeks your portfolio may need some reorganizing!!!

Once you have completed this selection stage, you are prepared to move into the search stage. In my next blog, I'll discuss how to properly interact with recruiters and how to let them help you.
21 February 2011
Topic: Job Offers

The Truth About Counter Offers

Picture this scenario: You have just accepted a job offer from a company and find yourself walking into work on Monday with resignation letter in hand and butterflies in your stomach.

Upon arrival, you schedule a meeting with your supervisor. To your surprise, the meeting goes surprisingly well, you announce your intentions and the manager is very supportive and understanding, he even wishes you the best of luck! What a relief, right? Then out of nowhere the manager and his boss, a VP, swing by your office in the afternoon and present you with a lucrative counter-offer. Then confusion sets in. What do you do? How could you not accept a 20% raise?

Yes, that is an option, but let me provide you some "food for thought" with three perspectives on counter-offers.

First, consider the general principle of the matter. What was it that drove you to seek out a new position? Obliviously you were dissatisfied with something or you would have not shot out the ole' resume. Were you not being treated well? Is the culture or work environment toxic? Did you desire a new responsibility/position? If the answer is yes, then no increase in salary will change these problems.

Second, if money was the primary driver, then why now are they suddenly opening up the pocketbook and giving you that big pay raise? Before you had another offer you weren't worth the money and now you are? What has changed since then? Possibly leverage? Remember, good quality companies don't
wait to reward an employee until they are about to lose them. At quality companies, pay raises are the result of hard work, not threats to leave.

Let's say that you do accept this counter offer with a 20% raise, what do you think your raise will be at the upcoming review? Absolutely correct...nada!!! This was your raise, it just came early!!! Do you know what also came with this raise? A special reserved spot at the front of the downsizing line the next time sales drop. You say how can this be……they just told me how much my work was valued? It is valued, until they need to chop out the highly paid employees in order to keep their own jobs.

When a downsizing occurs, you have two strikes against you: Disloyalty and price. Accepting more money simply means that you can be bought. Others in the office will take note and remember.

Thirdly, in order to accept a counter-offer, you have to call up the company that you just accepted an offer from and explain to them that your word is no longer any good. Isn't this a more gut-wrenching experience than resigning? There is no good advice on how to do this, because no matter how it is done, a bridge will be burned and if you work in a small industry, the word will get out on what happened.

Fast-forward ahead to that time you are downsized, wouldn't it be nice to have the option of reopening discussions, but oh if only I hadn't closed that door. What if that hiring manager now works for another company? Well, cross them off the list too.

The truth of accepting counter-offers is that your risk is maximized, your reputation is soiled, and your reward is limited.