Have you ever worked with a new employee who was fresh out of high school or college ... or perhaps an older employee new to your company and industry, who impressed you due to his or her enthusiasm to learn, a strong commitment to be a productive part of the team — and perhaps even volunteered to spearhead a project that ended up being tremendously successful?

Although rare, such folks do exist and they can work anywhere — on-line in the processing or packing plant or in the QC lab or in the new product development center or in the corporate office. In celebration of these valued employees, some of whom will become industry leaders in the not too distant future, the third annual Rising Stars feature is scheduled to be published in the April issue of Meat&Poultry magazine.

In order to qualify, candidates must be employed by a US-based meat or poultry company; new to the US meat and poultry industry (five years or less); be a proactive team player; possess extraordinary leadership qualities; as well as be someone who has helped, or even led, his or her company to business achievements.

Here’s what is needed for each entry:

• Candidate’s name
• Name and location (city/state) of the meat or poultry company he or she works for
• Candidate’s full professional title
• Five sentences maximum on why the candidate should be named a ‘Rising Star’
• Candidate’s contact information (phone number and e-mail address)

Extraordinary new employees could be shy and not very outgoing so my advice to managers is take a chance on newcomers and let them head up a project to see how well they manage it. And if a job opening unexpectedly pops up, consider one of your newer hires as a possible replacement. Many newcomers can rise to the occasion if given a chance.

For example, when I was managing a national supermarket magazine while working at my first food trade magazine publishing company, I had a young associate editor on staff who was around 20 years old and was very good at what he did, but he was very shy and quietly went about his work every day. Shortly after I had left that company to pursue a new opportunity after working with this young man for about six months, I found out that he, too, had left the company not long after I did. Within five years, that shy young man ended up replacing Chicago Tribune syndicated marketing expert and columnist George Lazarus after George unexpectedly passed away. It appears a managing editor at the Chicago Tribune gave this newcomer a chance and he stepped up to the plate and excelled. The last I heard, this man was a major top executive at one of Chicago’s daily newspapers.

But I digress. The US meat and poultry industry is blessed to have many spectacular employees. Last year’s Rising Stars inductees are proof of my statement. Loretta Barisas, director of sensory, Sara Lee Corp., (now Hillshire Brands), Chicago, Ill., was nominated for several reasons. Spending almost all of her time on Hillshire Brands’ meat businesses, she was credited for shifting the company’s product development focus to front-end consumer research using leading-edge methodologies, such as immersion, rapid prototyping and co-creation.

At the time of her Rising Star induction, Melissa Bonorden was newly promoted to senior scientist in product development at Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minn. An excellent scientist, she provides nutritional insights and guidance to Hormel’s development chefs and food scientists, said Phil Minerich, PhD., Hormel vice president, R&D.

Travis Scarpace, director of sales and marketing, Jensen Meat Co., Vista, Calif., exceeded all expectations by his managers and as a result was promoted to director of sales and marketing from sales associate in less than two years. And Justine Giordano, regional sales manager for Vincent Giordano Corporation and director of marketing for Philadelphia-based VGC and sister-company SafePac Pasteurization LLC, has become HAACP-certified, a certified Safe Quality Food (SQF) practitioner and a certified SQF Internal auditor since joining the company, among other accomplishments.

Dr. Sean Holmer, manager, research and development, Smithfield Packing, Smithfield, Va., was initially hired as a research and development manager overseeing the fresh-meat area. He was soon promoted to research and development manager, product and process improvement. He also oversees Smithfield’s new Innovation Center and pilot plant where he is developing products to meet customer requests.

Dr. Justin Ransom was assistant vice president for food protection and government affairs at OSI Group LLC, Aurora, Ill., and was nominated to be a 2012 Rising Star because he did a great deal for OSI and the industry. Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp., OSI’s largest customer, apparently was also very impressed with his work because he began his new job as senior director, US Supply Chain Quality Systems, for McDonald’s last April 2012. Ransom is in charge of developing strategic food-safety plans for McDonald’s in the US.

After joining Kiolbassa Provision Company, San Antonio, Texas, Michael Johnson, director of brand growth, helped to expand distribution of the Kiolbassa brand outside of Texas — building on the statewide strengths that made it the No. 1 selling premium smoked sausage in the Lone Star State. Johnson has since overseen the distribution footprint for Kiolbassa to expand to include many more states stretching from the Great Lakes states in the Midwest to the Gulf Coastal states.

At the time of his nomination last year, Worth Sparkman was hired just one year earlier by Tyson Foods. He brought his background as a news editor in northwest Arkansas to his position as manager of public relations. He has since established positive relationships with key members of the media. Maintaining these relationships has proven valuable during an era when issues — ranging from animal welfare and labor to lean finely textured beef — can lead to a boatload of phone calls to Sparkman’s Springdale, Ark. office from around the country.

Who will be inducted as M&P’s Rising Stars of 2013? I’ve got a hunch that many readers are working with promising people today brimming with leadership qualities and potential. I encourage you to email your Rising Star nomination to bsalvage@sosland.com by March 1. Remember, all contenders must be new to the meat and poultry industry — having worked in the industry for only five years or less — regardless of their age.