How to keep your career on track when you’re feeling lost 


James Robertson has tasted success early in his career as a top Fonterra graduate and Northland’s Young Farmer of the Year Award winner, but it wasn’t long ago he was feeling lost after moving from his comfortable rural lifestyle to the big smoke. 

James picked up a piece of advice along the way that he believes has had the biggest impact on his career: always keep focussed on your long-term goal.

“Moving to Auckland was a massive distraction for me and I felt a bit lost on the track of where I wanted to head,” says the 22-year-old.

What I’ve learnt is that’s it’s really important to make sure you hold true to those long-term ambitions, even when there might be obstacles along the way.

James Robertson, winner of Northland’s Young Farmer of the Year Award

James Robertson

What’s that long-term goal for James? Ultimately, it’s taking on governance roles within the agriculture industry. 

James thinks the other key thing to focus on for career development is lifelong learning. Hailing from a Waikato dairy farm, he studied Agri-business at Massey University in Palmerston North before moving to Auckland to join Fonterra’s graduate programme.

While at the Co-operative, he has taken the initiative to complete countless learning programmes and pick up as many new skills as he can.

“I’ve spent time with the Farm Source Sustainable Dairying team, which helped build my wider knowledge of farm sustainability, and there’s lots of e-learning resources on Fonterra’s intranet that have been extremely useful.”

James is currently in the trade strategy team and has just beaten some of Northland’s top farmers in the gruelling Young Farmer of the Year Competition – proof that many of Fonterra’s corporate workers also know a thing or two about farming. 

He competed against seven other finalists in front of hundreds of people at the Northland A&P Show in March, tackling tasks across a range of different categories – including a written exam, verbal quiz, practical test and head-to-head challenges that covered everything from dairy, to sheep and beef, to beekeeping and horticulture.

In addition to the overall title, he won awards for food production and championing environmental best practise. James spent months preparing for the event and says working at Fonterra helped him along the way.

"They can test you on anything and everything to do with agriculture, so it becomes hard to train for and you have to pick up a bit of everything. The graduate programme at Fonterra really set me up for success.”

He will compete against six others for the national title in Hawke’s Bay this July.

For those who want to follow in his footsteps and join Fonterra’s graduate programme, applications are now open until 5 May 2019.

This includes the technical graduate programme, the business graduate programme as well as the summer internship programme