Networking as an Introvert

By Stephanie May

Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I am an introvert! I would like to start off by saying, not all introverts are the same, but we do share many of the same traits. I am very shy by nature, and in some settings, I find it difficult to connect with new people, or walk up to someone I have never met and introduce myself. My past and current jobs have been either sales based, or client focused. I have had to find ways to overcome this obstacle so I can maintain existing business relationship, meet prospective new clients or customers, and build my personal network.

People wrongly assume that introverts don’t like people. This is not true. We thrive off of meaningful, deep conversations where we feel connected to another person. We do not care for small talk, and because of this, typically do not enjoy walking into a large group setting, or event where we don’t know anyone. We like spending time with ourselves. In fact, I think it is the number one requirement for being an introvert. If there was an application, it would read “Must be able to spend prolonged periods of time alone and with your own thoughts”. This is how we recharge and refuel. While extroverts often thrive off the energy of being around others, introverts receive the same feeling from being alone and processing their experiences, or reflecting on an encounter with another person.

So, how does one flourish in a career that demands high levels of social interactions and networking to be successful?

Play to your strengths

Introverts are good listeners. Think about your goal for attending the event, and ask questions relevant to your goal. I like to think of a couple of questions ahead of time, and prepare a few follow up scenario’s. It may sound like a lot of work, but typically I can come up with a few things on my drive to the event. I like to start out with a basic, or surface question, something easy to answer. Then, let the follow up questions lead into deeper conversation. Talking about the weather typically won’t help you achieve your goal in finding out more about a prospective client.


Surface question: “Where are you from?”

Follow up questions:

  • If you are familiar with that area, tell them something you love about it, or talk about a connection to that area that may lead to a further discussion.
  • If you are unfamiliar, ask them where exactly it is and ask a question about the area. What is a popular nearby attraction, or what is that area known for?
  • How long have they lived in the area? If they are a farmer, you can ask about how many generations have been farming there. This question will then typically be a good introduction into more specific conversation about their operation.

AWN members practice networking at a Speed Networking event in June 2016

Find ways to become involved

Volunteer at an event. This is an excellent way to get to know people, while giving yourself a purpose at an event and a reason to interact. Offer to sit at the registration table at an industry meeting. You will meet everyone by name when they come in and find out what company they are representing. This way, during break, you can specifically seek out the people you would like to talk to, and gain a better handle on who is in the room.

Maintain the relationship

Always follow up. After all your hard work initiating the conversation, you don’t want to lose that person in your network. Once you are back in the office and have had some much-needed quiet time to recharge, make sure you stay in touch with the people you just met. A follow up “nice to meet you” email should be very simple, and often not even require a reply. Try not to have a big ask of a person on the first email, you just want something simple to help them remember you.


  • Say hello and that it was a pleasure meeting them, and you hope your paths cross again
  • Send them a link to an article or resource that is relevant to a discussion you had
  • Send them a link to your company newsletter, or ask if they have a newsletter you can subscribe to in order to stay up to date on their business

Keep in touch long term. In order to keep the relationship, you want to ensure a minimum contact of 1-2 times a year.


  • Schedule networking follow ups with people in your calendar as a reminder
  • Always keep in mind people that are in your network, and send them information relevant to their business
  • Send congratulations on an achievement (personal or professional), or birthday wishes
  • If you are travelling to their town, ask for a restaurant recommendation or an activity to do while visiting. You don’t always have to offer to see them while you are there

This week, I challenge my fellow introverts to make a new connection! Use AWN Facebook group to reach out to someone you have never spoken to, comment on a post, or reply to someone’s tweet! Happy networking!

Winter Warm Up – Challenge yourself!

Being your best self is something that takes constant thought and adjustment to adapt to the ever changing world around us.
We at the AWN would like to challenge everyone to set some goals this week as we discuss professional and personal development. Sign up for an online course, learn a new skill or practice public speaking; no matter how big or small the task seems to be, any action toward those goals will not be wasted.
“When you develop yourself to the point where you believe in yourself so strongly that you know you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, your future will be unlimited.” – Unknown.
Reflecting on my own development milestones, I realize that I would not be the person I am without my mom. I am a natural non-joiner, I’d happily spend my time by myself working on the farm or reading. My mom had to push me on the bus to get me to kindergarten, and every 4-H club and camp I’ve ever gone to. I never wanted to go, and then I ended up never wanting to come home either. I always have a great time once I’m out but it takes some motivation to get me there. Some people are extremely introverted and require a lot of energy to do things that extroverts seem to do so easily. We are all so different and will have different ways of approaching personal and professional goals.
Throughout the week I hope that you will join us in sharing your own experiences and goals for development and, as always, we will continue to share and not compare as we are all at different stages of our lives and careers. We hope to hear from everyone: from shy members who have yet to comment on AWN content, to the seasoned public speakers in the group. We are a very diverse group of impressive women and we are looking forward to hearing from you over the week, especially on our Online Networking Social on our Facebook Group Friday, January 13 at 7pm EST, and #AWNChat on Twitter Saturday, January 14 from 11:00 am until noon EST.

Win-win: Inclusivity for a growing industry

By Maggie McCormick

Agriculture is moving into some exciting spaces. Consumers are interested in what they’re eating, science and technology are advancing, and food, fibre, fuel and feed will never be unnecessary. Just because it’s exciting however, doesn’t mean there aren’t hurdles along the way. Canadian agriculture is going to need talent to propel it to a place that allows farmers to continue to grow food efficiently, safely and in a way that pleases the end user all at the same time.

In 2012, the Ontario Agricultural College released Planning for Tomorrow, a report on hiring trends in Ontario agriculture. It found that demand for post-secondary graduates in the food and agriculture industry far exceeded supply. In the 2015 Canadian report by AgCareers, the job posting service saw a steady increase in agriculture job postings. In November, research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council determined “[t]he gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past ten years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs.” Scientists, engineers, software designers, marketing professionals, educators – agriculture is going to need them all and more.

In addition to the many positions available to be filled, millennials have said they expect to change jobs every three years. The high turn over rate means agriculture will constantly be competing for millennial talent, and that of their younger cohort, with the rest of the country.

What do we need to attract talent to agriculture? At a meeting I attended this summer, a bank executive was reflecting on what sectors needed to attract talent. “We know that for sectors to grow they need to have an appealing culture”. If that bit of wisdom holds true, to attract new talent and keep them we are going to need to keep building an inclusive culture.

By building an inclusive culture, newcomers to the industry will have positive experiences in agriculture. They will feel welcome, supported and ready to put down roots in the communities that support the industry. They will bring new ideas that will both support and evolve current practices.

In an inclusive industry, newcomers will better connect agriculture with customers. We need diversity in our industry to help us reach an incredibly diverse customer base. There are so many different regions, ethnicities, languages, traditions and needs to serve. Insight and ideas will be invaluable to growth.

Finally, an inclusive industry makes a healthier environment for newcomers, but also for those already working and living in this space. Becoming more accepting will help everyone feel safer to share their ideas and be true to their entire identity. It will be a space for open dialogue, and everyone will benefit from the culture.

Ideas for building the inclusive culture

Creating positive experiences

Agriculture is steeped in tradition, but often tradition can be a little hard to access if you’re new. Just because some hasn’t participated in a culture doesn’t mean they won’t want to! Celebrate traditions by sharing them and making them easy to access, without judgement. This industry is incredibly unique and has so many opportunities outside the workplace. By inviting newcomers to participate and explaining traditions, it will make agriculture more inclusive and stand out.

An understanding environment

While we’re celebrating traditions, let’s celebrate what newcomers are bringing to the industry. Maybe it’s their own traditions, maybe it’s their perspective on issues, maybe it’s new knowledge and expertise. If someone has an idea, they shouldn’t be shut down because “that’s not how it’s done”. Maybe the way it’s done is getting really worn out anyways! The HR Council notes that “[w]hen individuals feel that they cannot be themselves at work, they will not engage fully as part of the team or in assigned work.” Ag has to be a safe space to share thoughts, feelings and experiences to attract engaged talent.

Open dialogue

To become more inclusive, we need to keep talking about it. Without discussion we will never be able to acknowledge our issues and try new things to fix them. After all that’s part of the reason AWN exists! There are some obvious ground rules to beginning a dialogue: don’t make assumptions and don’t force it. A good discussion involves a lot of listening, rather than jumping ahead. If someone has a unique perspective, they will share if they want to. Overall though, the more we discuss it, the more comfortable we will all be about addressing industry challenges.

In the end an inclusive culture doesn’t really need justification. “Welcome all people” is a statement I’m sure most can get behind. However, there are definitely some added benefits if the industry can grow and strengthen at the same time.

A place for all people in agriculture –Industry Profile: Sonya Fieldmeier

Originally from Northeast Saskatchewan, Sonya Fieldmeier is a research associate for Ag Quest in Saskatoon. Sonya generously agreed to share about her career in agriculture, discovering her lesbian identity, and her perspective on how we can create a more inclusive industry.

awn-sonya3Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up on a grain farm in Northeast Saskatchewan near a village called Ridgedale. My primary schooling was taken there in a school with 65 kids K-12. Our small school was closed in 1998 and we were sent to Tisdale for high school. I attended the University of Saskatchewan and got my degree in Agronomy with a minor in Agricultural Economics. My father and his brother had grown the farm into a large operation by the time I finished my education, and I came home to work with them for a couple of years.

Tell us a bit about your career path and your current role.

I decided to leave the farm due to my aversion to risk. My wife and I then moved to Saskatoon and I started off as a retail agronomist. I found that sales are not my strong suit and quickly began looking for a more hands-on career. I found a position covering a parental leave with an independent research company called Ag Quest and have been there for 7.5 years now.

When did you identify you were a lesbian, and when did you share this with your community (or family)?

I always knew I was different from my friends, but there were no openly LGBT folks in my community, so I didn’t even realize that it was a thing until Ellen came out on TV. There were a couple of teachers in my school everyone knew were gay, but refused to acknowledge it. This made me think it was something shameful that should be hidden. So I thought, “surely that’s not me, I’m a good person.” It took a while for me to accept that it wasn’t a bad thing, just different. I came out while in university. I told a few close friends and my family who were all very supportive. The rumour mill took care of making sure everyone else knew.

Have you found your community to be accepting and supportive?

Ridgedale is a wonderful community.  My wife and I were married there in the town hall. The Co-op put out a donation box, same as they do for any local event, and we received a lovely gift of cash and a card signed by everyone in town. When we moved to the city, they had cake at Coffee Rowe to wish us luck. We hope to move back there in the near future.

awn-sonya1Has your LGBTQ+ identity influenced where you’ve chosen to live and work?

Its hard to say whether this is just due to my personality, but I’ve always been really nervous doing cold calls to farms. My appearance is quite androgynous so there is often an awkward moment when I’m mistaken for a man. I’ve become used to it and it doesn’t bother me much anymore, but that may have influenced my choice to work in a career that limits the amount of interaction I have with new people.

 In your opinion, how could the agricultural industry (or any industry) be more supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals?

Company’s need to ensure that all employees are aware of their human resources policy and also ensure that it is enforced should any discrimination occur. It is important for LGBTQ people to know that their employer will protect them from hate.

In your opinion, how could the agricultural industry encourage more diversity and be more inclusive?

I would like to see employers ignoring the name at the top of a resume, and instead focus on the education and experience of the candidates only.  I also believe that media has a big role to play in shaping public opinion. Seeing more diversity in coverage of agricultural events or farm focused advertising in magazines, TV and online will help everyone realize that there is a place for all people in this industry.

What solutions, tools, or processes do you think could be put in place to help advance Canadian women and specifically Canadian women in agriculture? 

I think the agriculture industry has been doing very well in this regard. Enrolment at the U of S College of Agriculture and Bioresources is majority female now, and it seems that a nearly equal number of men and women are employed by many ag companies. Of course we all know about companies or organizations that are still the “old boys club”, but hopefully we can see them opening their doors a bit more soon.

Do you have a piece of advice for young women starting their career in agriculture?

Lead with your knowledge. The most successful women I know are always able to impress when they reveal their expertise up front and refuse to let anyone undermine their strengths.

Who is (or has been) your biggest influencer/mentor? What have you learned from them?

My dad, he taught me the value of patience. He raised me to appreciate the magnificent diversity of nature and how each plant and animal has a role in the ecosystem. I’ve chosen to make my career in the agriculture industry because of my dad’s influence. As a kid, I spent as much time as possible out with him on the farm and he encouraged me to get my degree in agriculture.

What do you think is the most important topic in agriculture right now? Or what should be?

Misinformation and education regarding science, agricultural technology and food safety.


By Maggie McCormick

So what is public health- how can it help?


So, what is public health? 

After working in public health for over 5 years in various front line positions, and now management, I can truly use the phrase – If I had a dollar, or even a dime, for every time one of my friends or family members asked me “what is public health” I’d be rich! I’ll do my best to answer by asking (and answering) three key questions.

  1. Immunizations… Smoking cessation… Prenatal classes… Breastfeeding support… Free dental care… Safe food handling… Seniors fall prevention… what do all of these have in common?

Yes, hopefully you made the connection, they are all services offered by public health units, but they are also all examples of health promotion and disease prevention. This is one of the main differences between a public health practitioner, and a primary care practitioner, such as a clinical nurse or doctor. While clinical nurses/doctors focus on treating conditions, in public health we are interested in working with communities and populations to promote health and prevent disease and injury. For example, rather than prescribing medication for high blood pressure, we look at the evidence, identify the causes, and use this information to influence changes in our community! There are many other things that go unnoticed that public health professionals work on behind the scenes.

  1. With the information overload that we experience on a daily basis, how do we know that we can trust the information offered by public health professionals?

With google and Wikipedia at our fingertips we are able to find an answer to any question pretty easily in today’s society, but this also causes complications when interpreting the information. The Ontario Public Health Standards dictate the expectations for how public health units operate in Ontario. These standards are evidence-based and therefore ensure that the information, programs and services offered by public health professionals are based on the most up-to-date research, data and evidence.

  1. How do people access public health services in their community?

In Ontario there are 36 public health units, each covering a distinct geographical region. By visiting the Ministry of Health and Long-term care’s “Public Health Unit Locator,” individuals can identify their health unit easily by typing in their postal code. Every health unit will have a website that explains the programs, services and information available to improve the overall health and well-being of their local community.

Now that you have a basic understanding of public health, I encourage you all to be your own health advocate. Take a few minutes to visit your local public health unit’s website and do your research. There will be something relevant to you, your family and/or your friends. Spread the word and contribute to improving your health and the health of those in your community, we can all play a role.

By Jillian Gumbley- Health Promotion Manager 


My journey as a first time bikini competitor

By Erin Calhoun

I started my fitness journey many years ago, when I decided to start jogging. This eventually led me into the weight room, where I have always thoroughly enjoyed working out. Generally speaking, I would work out 5 or so days a week, plus taking my dog for long walks every day – I am an active person, but have always liked to eat a LOT and whatever I want. (Body type – likes working out, but definitely likes eating pizza. I was happy with myself – mentally and physically).

The idea of competing in a bodybuilding competition came to me gradually. I had a friend that competed and I always looked at photos of her at shows and think two things: 1. Holy crap she looks amazing and 2. I could never look like that. This thought stuck with me for a few months, and being the stubborn person I am, I eventually decided to really find out if I could do it – the training, the diet, and have the discipline needed to get stage ready.

I hired a coach to work with me to do my diet and training plan. Initially we worked off macros – my coach would assign a certain number for protein, fat, and carbs I would meet throughout the day. I had already been loosely tracking these for a couple months, but became much more strict – I had a big goal, after all. I enjoyed my workouts and the resulting changes in my body. Eventually, I switched to a meal plan, where my coach would give me a plan of what I would eat every day.

My competition prep lasted 18 weeks. During these 18 weeks, I spent countless hours in the gym lifting weights and doing cardio, took approximately 4 total rest days, monitored what I ate very closely, drank infinite liters of water, ate what seemed like infinite egg whites and asparagus, and didn’t have a single cheat meal. I did slip up a couple times – but was always quick to rectify that by cutting back the next day.

I became a machine. All that mattered to me was my show prep. I couldn’t wait for my next meal. I became lethargic, hangry, and it’s all I talked about. I discovered I am a very, very goal-oriented person, and I was driven like I had never had been before. I had my eye on the prize (not literally – my only goal when I set out on this path was to not stick out in a bad way on stage) and nothing could stop me.

My show day eventually came, and the experience the day-of was surreal. I wasn’t nervous to step on stage (even in a tiny bikini!)– I had put in the time in my workouts and posing, and there wasn’t anything else I could do at that point. I ended up placing first in my category out of 8 girls – I wasn’t expecting this and was blown away.

I will admit, there’s a certain high associated with being on stage – I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but the road to get there wasn’t an easy one. It was physically and mentally exhausting, very hard on my relationships, and was difficult to stay focused at work. However, a great deal of personal growth also happened, unintentionally. This was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I killed it. To this day, when I look back on my stage photos, I am still shocked.

My whole prep was an amazing learning experience. I learned so much about exercise and my body, and myself as a person. Here’s the Coles Notes version:

  1. I can do anything. Like seriously anything. If I can eat like a disciplined monk for months on end – I can seriously do anything. If I can never miss a cardio workout or a workout and push as hard as I can during both – I can do anything.
  2. You cannot, I repeat – CANNOT out-exercise a bad diet. It can’t be done. Trust me. You can’t.
  3. There’s nothing like being SO excited to have two whole eggs added into your diet to show that your mentality can change if you want it to. I never in a million years thought this would excite me so much. But it did. I had gone without egg yolks for about a month, and to have them back – amazing.
  4. This is a lifestyle, but not a life. This has two parts. Don’t decide to compete on a whim. It is very very hard, and a great deal of money. Don’t do it to inspire yourself to lose weight. And don’t forget to accept yourself no matter what – ripped on stage or fluffier. You need to find a balance where you eat well most of the time, but enjoy treats. That extra 5 or 10 pounds you have? That’s life. That’s birthday cake, dinner out with friends, lazy days with Netflix. That’s the fun part of life. I struggle with this part every day, as do many competitors. You don’t look at yourself the same way.

Now, almost 1.5 months post show, it’s all a mental game. In theory- I am supposed to be on a reverse diet to slowly increase caloric intake and decrease cardio, to make sure I don’t go off the rails and balloon up in weight. My reverse diet has been a total failure, but I am oddly somewhat OK with it. I have plans to step on stage again in 2018, much to my family’s dismay – so we will see what happens. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy eating a cinnamon bun for breakfast.