A Five-year Plan? Take Time to Reinvest in Yourself
Contributed Content By Megan Belcher, Chief Legal & External Affairs Officer & Corporate Secretary at Scoular (May 30, 2023)
The years of the pandemic represented a time of unprecedented disruption worldwide, and women in business – including agribusiness – did not escape a disproportionate impact of that disruption. There were myriad personal and professional complexities well-documented for women at work, with the complexity for women on the rise, growing longer and stronger roots as the pandemic marched on. Today, as we look to a quickly approaching fall where hundreds of women from our industry will convene in Nashville for the 2023 Women in Agribusiness Summit to discuss opportunities for our collective success, we would be remiss to not ask how do we not only reset, but how do we invest in ourselves to grow exponentially?
No doubt these layered implications for women in the industry have affected this group because of the long history of mixed – and candidly, destructive – messaging that women in agribusiness have received for decades, and still do in certain venues.
I’d like to offer an optimistic and empowered invitation to women looking to their future in agribusiness. As I have expanded my wings in our industry over the last six years and seen the expansive and deeply talented women who lead in many ways in agribusiness around the globe, it is so very clear to me that the women leading in agribusiness are make-it-happen leaders who absolutely over deliver and innovate along the way.
To that end, I offer you a quote from Leah Johnson, who spoke to Scoular’s female-focused ERG, Scoular Women Influencing Culture, on International Women’s Day. That inspiration offered by Johnson is, “Stop asking for permission to be great.” And I would separately offer, stop playing by a set of rules you think are either unwritten or that you’ve surmised through those dangerous mixed messages. Define your greatness with your own set of rules.
With that invitation to define your own future and parameters under which you will build it, I note that there is no time like the present to reflect on the fact that hard work and technical expertise are only the cost of entry to an exceptional future. To chart your authentic path to leadership, a patchwork of additional developmental investments and acquired skillsets are required. Reaching the pinnacle of your desired personal and professional success requires you make a conscious effort to reinvest in yourself at each chapter of your professional journey, matching those investments to both your personal brand and your evolving goals.
So dig in, prioritize, and commit to make an investment in yourself. It is the safest investment you will ever make, with guaranteed returns. And investing in your development is not simply an add to the to-do list, it’s a personal and public acknowledgment that you are worth the time, effort, and resources required to cultivate your future in the bespoke way that you have envisioned it.
What might those investments look like?
Make a Plan – Spend some time charting out where you would like to be in one, three and five years. Take an inventory of your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities as you consider what it will take to get you to those aspirational “nexts”. Set specific goals and milestones along the way, splicing them into bit-sized bits of 30- or 90-day increments to avoid being overwhelmed.
Network and Build Relationships – No matter the chapter you are embarking on, your network and your relationships will always be your most powerful asset. Ensure that you are growing and nurturing your network and relationships along the way, cultivating a personal board of directors, truth tellers, and sponsors and mentors who can be your strategic human capital. As you start taking on smart risks and stretch opportunities, those relationships can provide essential support and advice.
Think Big – As you plot your climb to leadership, look for “big bets” and transformative development opportunities within your organization or in the industry, volunteering for challenging assignments, leading cross-functional projects, or taking on new responsibilities that stretch your capabilities. Embrace the discomfort as those opportunities will help you learn, innovate, and showcase not only your abilities, but also your agility.
Develop Your Brand – In each new season of your career, you will need to hone and refine an authentic personal brand that not only supports the season you’re in, but the aspirational season ahead of you. Your personal brand reflects your unique skills, expertise, and values, giving context for how others perceive you and what sets you apart from your peers. Make that brand visible through your internal leadership, public speaking engagements, writing thought leadership articles, or participating in industry conferences, among other opportunities.
These are just a few ideas to spark your curiosity and innovation around your development plan. But as you close out the time you’ve invested in reviewing this article, I will ask just one thing of you. Commit to just one thing. Make one plan, one investment, one commitment to investing in your development in the back half of the calendar year. Take some risks. Embrace the mess and use it as fuel for your future. Be authentically self-promoting. But do not return to your daily grind, failing to make an investment in yourself and your future, plodding forward and stubbing your toe on your ambitions from time to time. Find a good stretch for yourself, and remember: The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Megan Belcher is chief legal and external affairs officer, and corporate secretary, leading Scoular’s brand marketing and corporate communications, and sustainability and ESG functions. She also is a director on Scoular’s Board of Directors.
Prior to joining the leadership team at Scoular, Belcher was a partner with an Am Law 100 law firm in its Food & Agribusiness unit focusing on compliance, labor, and employment, and litigation matters. She also served as vice president & chief counsel - employment law and compliance at Conagra Brands for seven years, subsequent to serving two years in a senior counsel role at Conagra Brands. Belcher was in private practice representing large public and private companies in employment, labor, and litigation matters for more than six years prior to her relocation to Omaha in 2007 to begin her in-house career at Conagra Brands.
Belcher is a graduate of the University of Missouri and Boston College Law School. She holds a certificate in Human Resources Management from Cornell University and is a Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional. She also is an NACD Governance Fellow.