Judging Tips for Life

Horse judging

You have studied those livestock cards for hours. You know what marbling is, you know how to analyze EPDs or cull a class. You’ve been in a walk-in meat cooler more times than you can count and can explain your reasons for “placing No. 2 over No. 1.” If these statements sound familiar, you’re probably an animal or meats judge.

Think about all the time and energy you’ve poured into preparing for these career development events (CDEs). Too bad there isn’t a CDE that you can participate in after high school. But wait! There is!

It’s called … the rest of your life. Yep, there are many experiences you’ll have in life and your career that are similar to your experiences in these FFA events, and the skills you are learning now will be applicable no matter which career path you choose.

You’ll prepare for big meetings using some of the same techniques you are honing right now, such as studying and practicing for judging events.

You can probably pinpoint  the set of reasons you wish you could go back and regive and how you’ll prepare differently to do better next time. You’ll need to apply that same commitment to growth and improvement to excel in a job someday as well.

“Students can get a lot of leverage out of their FFA experiences if they talk about them in a way that demonstrates the skill set they’ve developed, and incorporate the challenges and problems they’ve faced and solved along the way,” says Susan Bies, vice president of Human Resources for Cargill Animal Nutrition. “You have to do more than just list your activities on a resume. You have to make the connection for the employer of how the skills and experience you’ve gained will make you a better employee than others.”

On Writing Your Resume

So, how do you talk about your judging experience on your resume? Take Susan’s advice.

First, think about what skills employers might value.

Then, figure out how to translate your experiences to demonstrate competency of that skill set. An employer may not be able to appreciate, “Placed third in State Meats Evaluation CDE.” But written, “Demonstrated strong verbal communication skills by placing third out of 400 competitors in a career development event competition at the state level” connects the activity to the skill.

On Interviewing

You know the importance of keeping eye contact with the judges, having enthusiasm and a positive attitude, and exuding confidence in your oral reasons to make a good impression in a judging event.

These same attributes will be essential to the impression you make on your potential employer in a job interview. An employer will be interested in how you have displayed leadership and initiative. They’ll want to hear about the characteristics you have that made you successful in the past and what you’ve learned from your failures.

Being able to give specific examples will be really important.

Before the interview, make a list of the responsibilities you might have in your potential job role and how you’ve demonstrated skills related to those, through your FFA activities. Bring your notes with you to the interview.

 – Anne Knapke