Who Are You?

Columns - Parting Shots

November 2, 2018

Perhaps it’s the fact that they are created from dead trees. Perhaps it’s that it requires some thought to have them when you need them. Perhaps they are symbols of an archaic culture that’s been surpassed by a new one.

Any way you look at it, the humble business card seems to be a problem for our younger generation.

I tested that hypothesis once again at the 2018 Green Start Academy, the Bayer/John Deere collaboration that has now identified, trained and helped to promote nearly 700 top assistants over 13 remarkable years.

Just to set the scene, there were 56 talented assistants from all over North America in Raleigh this year. I was heartened that the group included five women. There were also 12 attendees from Canada. And, overall, the group was a bit younger than last year’s class which tended to be a bit long in the tooth. It was a fantastic group of people.

A year ago, I attended the Academy for the first time in too long and decided to have a little fun by challenging the aspiring superintendents to produce a business card. Maybe 20 percent were able to hand me one, so I did what I always do and hopped on social media to point out that this was unacceptable. Many actual superintendents agreed, but some also said, “Hey, they can just trade phone numbers or follow each other on Twitter to build a productive relationship.”’

My problem with that is it doesn’t work consistently. Here’s what happens: “Oh, I meant to get your phone number, but I forgot.” Or: “I tried to follow you on Twitter, but I had your handle wrong.” And you fail to connect.

Also, it ignores the fundamental fact that connecting with other wannabes by technology may work fine but – guess what? – they aren’t the ones doing the hiring! The employment world is generally conducted in a loop involving a bunch of old farts who know thousands of people and are likely (for a variety of reasons including early onset Alzheimer’s) to mis-remember your name without a damned business card!

So, I made a bit of a thing about cards back then and there was some kerfuffle about it on social media. Message received? Maybe.

Flash forward to Green Start Academy 2018 and the subject comes back up again. People remembered! And there were several social posts directed at attendees saying, “Hey, kids … Jonesy is going to hassle you if you don’t have a business card!” I went to Raleigh with high hopes that lessons had been learned and those wonderful, analog 2”x3.5” pieces of chipboard would be flying around the event.

Not so much, as it turned out. I wasn’t able to abuse all 56 attendees, but I did ask about half of them and the following folks are now getting their names printed in this here old-fashioned magazine because they had the forethought to do what should be automatic:

Jordan Roberts, Valhalla GC, Louisville; Chuck Szczurek, Deerwood CC, NJ; Tyler Szela, St. Thomas G&CC, Ontario; Conrad Pannkuk, Wynstone, Chicago; Sean May, Mad River GC, Ontario; Dane Olsen, Victoria National, GC, Indiana; Peter Lange, Atlanta Athletic Club; Ashley Davidovich, Royal Mayfair GC, Ontario; Chris Hurley, TPC Boston

So, good for them. They got their names in GCI. But, I will make a case that having a business card means more than impressing some crotchety old editor. It’s one part of an overall effort to manage your career development as well as you’d try to manage a project on your course. Here’s the advice I tried to give to each one of the assistants I spoke with at Green Start:

  1. Identify your dream job based on whatever matters most to you: location, prestige, amazing boss, great culture, superb course, etc. Why would you do anything unless you’d set a big, hairy, audacious goal to go after?
  2. Figure out what you need to do to get that job and, more importantly, who you need to know. Networking is a long, ongoing process. Make a list of the people who have an influence on that dream job and get to know them. Be transparent! Tell them that it’s your goal in life to be at that course and ask them to give you advice. Let your enthusiasm shine through.
  3. Find out everything you can about the course, the culture of the club, who’s hiring and what they specifically want. Worry more about this than how pretty your “portfolio” is.
  4. Reach out to key recruiters and share your goals and capabilities.
  5. Start now!

And, finally, get some damned business cards because that’s what grown-ups do.

Pat Jones is editorial director of Golf Course Industry. He can be reached at pjones@gie.net or 216-393-0253.