Were You Hired To Do That?

A middle school student, from a town not far from our cooperative headquarters, was given the assignment to job shadow someone working in a field that might interest him down the road.

His top choices for a future career – at age 14 – were

  • a pediatrician (should a student spend their day in a medical office during flu season?)
  • a preacher (he gets weekly insight from this field every Sunday and at youth group)
  • the agricultural field (he chose to spend his day at our farmer-owned cooperative)

I had a meeting with our agronomist and the gentleman that this student was shadowing for the day, our Chief Operations Officer. The three of us discussed plans for an upcoming presentation we are giving at Ball State University, while the student sat in quiet observation. After collaboration over a meal, we engaged the student by explaining to him our individual paths that lead to the current positions we have within Harvest Land.

It was a really valuable conversation. Not only did I learn about the very unique roads my coworkers have taken to get to the successful levels they’re at today, but I also noticed a trend that I think is worth sharing with you.

One employee never went to college, they went straight to into the work force out of high school.

One employee went to a highly accredited 4-year university (after turning down an offer at Notre Dame) and even went on to attain their Master’s.

One employee graduated with a bachelor’s degree in a non-agriculture field.

All three were leaps and bounds above the level – both in position and pay – in which they were first hired (one started at $1 an hour – and it wasn’t 1929). All three shared oddly similar stories when visiting with the job-shadowing-student.

All three never turned down a job.
  • Sweeping the shop floor
  • Answering phones
  • Tying feed sacks
  • Mixing chemicals
  • Making the office coffee (which could be comparable to mixing chemicals)
  • Washing trucks
  • Delivering meals to the field
  • Cleaning up after meetings or guests
  • Taking out the trash
  • Sweeping out bins
  • Working in the pit
  • Loading trucks with bagged feed
  • Painting tanks
  • Making parts runs
  • And more

These were just a few of the things these highly successful adults did in their early careers.

“Were you hired to do that?!” the student asked the COO.
“No, I wasn’t. But it needed done.”

What a lesson that can resonate with today’s students about to begin their careers. There is a strange expectation from many who are early in their career that they will get hired into a middle management position and climb the ladder of success by starting on the third rung. Today’s work force doesn’t work that way. The workforce in 2007 didn’t work that way. The work force in 1997 didn’t work that way. The work force in 1987 didn’t work that way. Do you notice a trend?


What an advantage someone will have if they choose early in life to do the work that needs to be done, whether it was written in their job description, or not. Those who keep the phrase “That’s not my job,” off their lips will have a far greater advantage over those who use it.

Now, this isn’t giving every supervisor across America to take advantage of those who work hard.

But we offer this encouragement to those who want to be successful in their field of choice: If you’re willing to do more than what is expected of you, more opportunities than you expect will come your way. 

work bootsWe believe that farm kids get hired and promoted regularly because they understand that there is work to be done, no matter who does it. They come from a place where 5:00 PM simply means that there is still four more hours of daylight and work ahead of them. They come from a team that doesn’t clock in or clock out – their work begins when the boots go on and it ends when they come off…and then they have to eat dinner with their co-workers.

Farm kids understand that even the bosses have to do the dirty jobs sometimes – – -because they’ve seen their grandfathers use auto steer in the brand new tractor in the same day that they saw him picking up rocks out of the field.

rock in field

We encourage those early in their career to take full advantage of the opportunities to do many different jobs – the good, bad, and ugly – when given the chance. Not only will it offer you new experiences, it will expand your skill set and build your character.

And who knows, it might start a really enlightening conversation in 30 years when you’re being job shadowed by an eager middle schooler trying to figure out the world.

15 thoughts on “Were You Hired To Do That?

  1. I always admired my manager at Harvest Land Co-op/Covington, Dennis Clark, who would never ask any employee to do something he himself would not do. We practiced true teamwork.

  2. Love this story; I think its true! My brothers and sisters all know the value of hard work! One hard job was chasing rocks, my dad would always point out the biggest ones to haul back to the metal bushel basket wired on the back of his planter; loved when our mom delivered lunch and a break during planting!

  3. This is so very true. This would improve our work force in this country if exposed to young people.

  4. I was fortunate to grow up in a house with no shortage of work. My parents taught me the value of “job well done need not be done again.” 40 years later, I was fired from a job for two car accidents in one month. Because I found solutions to problems, did everything that needed to be done, and fixed things so that they would stay fixed, my boss recommended me for a job and I was only out of work for a week.

  5. I was raised to do whatever work we saw that needed to be done. If we saw it and didn’t act on it there were consequences. Usually worse jobs than the one we chose to ignore. If everyone worked to get the jobs done this country would be a better and more efficient place to live.

  6. I remember working in a small Dept Store in the mid 70’s at the age of 19. When sales were up, you got great hours, when down consequently you got less. I asked my fellow workers how they did their job. When someone had to be out, I would volunteer to do their job which meant cleaning bathrooms occasionally. I made it my business to learn every job in that store and be willing to do it. I also offered to stay over, come in early or on an off day for special projects. I was offered the Assistant Manager’s job at the age of 23, which made me the youngest of only 3 female managers in that Company. After 34 Award Winning Years in Retail Management I am retired and still friends with that first boss and some others along the way.
    So, ask yourself this, if my boss was instructed to go start a brand new business and he/she were only able to take one employee to make this happen, would you be that employee?

    1. I was that employee I. decided to retire early and when my old boss heard about it he approached. me to help him open a new business. Hard work does get you to the next place in your life!!I always have told my kids. you will never find d a job where you l like everyone you work with so work hard at what you do don’t complain about everything or worry about what everyone. around you is doing. Just work hard and the people you work with will respect you for it. Today both of my kids have great jobs they love and you can’t ask for more than that.

  7. My dad’s advice when I was entering the work force: “Never be too proud to get someone a cup of coffee”. He had once fired a secretary who refused to do just that for a visitor to his office. I’ve never forgotten that, and I still try to live up to his advice.

  8. Family business was taken to court by a man who was hired hourly. He didn’t like doing the ‘daily’ chores required and after just a few weeks of his bad attitude at doing the ‘dirty work’, he decided he wanted the supervisors job and salary. That position was filled already, thus we were in court for 1 week….until someone remembered his job application. When asked what job he was applying for he had written ‘will do anything.’ Case closed. His actions proved he was NOT willing to do anything. He had done this twice before and the companies had settled out of court. He survived on that money and when it ran out got another job and pulled the same stunt. Lazy never gets promoted….at least in the ag industry where work never ends and changing tires IS what needs doing.

  9. In the course of my work history I had many times when I had finished my responsibility before the work day was over and found something of value to do to make things better.As time went on and i gained responsibility I hired and trained people to do the same.I was lucky the company I worked for liked that approach and rewarded it .

  10. I grew up on a farm and knew that summer/no school meant strawberries and later cucumbers plus the usual farm chores. Free time and do-as-you-want were nonexistant. I worked as a car-hop during the summer to earn extra money for college and was delighted when a bunch of drunk teenagers yelled at me because their hamburgers were too slow and my boss came out to their car with a big spoon and told them to clear out that she could find more customers easier than to find good workers.

  11. I am sharing these words of well-spoken wisdom with my daughter. She is a self-starter, multi-tasking, hard worker. Yiur words are encouraging and enlightening.

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