What Makes a Good Agent?

This is not the first time I’ve tackled this question on the blog, and far from the first time I’ve considered it in my mind.

What makes a good agent?  And in a more self-serving context, am I meeting those marks?  Am I a good agent?

Folks, you are in luck- someone has studied this!  Imagine that!  In our scholarly, research-based organization someone has begun to answer this question.  I love it when research meets real life!

In the article Lessons from Outstanding Agents  (Smith, Hoag, & Peel, 2011) suggested the following techniques are used by thriving extension agents:

  •  Setting priorities.  Extension offers an abundance of opportunities.  How do you determine which to pursue without overwhelming yourself and/or sacrificing the quality of your work?
  • Looking ahead.  What’s next for your county?  For your specialty area?  How can you be ahead of the curve?
  • Engaging in Reflection.  We are constructivists by trade but not always by practice.  We know that youth (and volunteers) learn through reflection, but seldom do we allow ourselves this same space to grow.

Smith, Hoag, & Peel also explored the question, “What can young agents do early in their career to set themselves up to be successful?”  While the question specified “young” agents, I would assert that the same answers they found for young agents could just as easily apply in each career stage.  Respondents in this study suggested the following for young agents:

  •  Gain Resources:  For many that is time.  Having an effective time management system may give way to other resources.  Beyond that finding ways to secure the tools you need to get your job done is important- people (volunteers), funds, technology, etc.
  • Build Relationships:  Know your clients, know your county, know your colleagues, etc.  Have MENTORS!  (And if you are shaking your head now saying that your mentor didn’t help, I’ll argue that you don’t understand my point).  Everyone has the potential to be a mentor, and everyone needs a mentor.  Find those people you respect and consider them your “panel of experts.”  Those people you go to for advice because they maybe think a little differently from you and you respect their judgement.  This may be a formally assigned mentor, but it just as often may not be.  This may be a colleague, administrator, subordinate, or none of the above.

While this is an older article (2011) I found much value in it still.  Check it out at:  Lessons from Outstanding Agents.

And…if you just need some validation today that you are a “good” agent.. You ARE!  As proof, print out this very special OFFICIAL GOOD AGENT AWARD and put it on your bulletin board or office door (and put it in your packet while your at it).

gold star

Have a great week!



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1 Response to What Makes a Good Agent?

  1. Irvine,Kelsey M says:

    another fantastic blog!

    Kelsey Irvine Extension Agent I/ 4-H Youth Development Nassau County Extension Office: 904-530-6353 Mobile: 904-570-5390

    [resize for email]


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