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John Reitman

By John Reitman

HR pro says set yourself apart to climb the career ladder

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Nancy Dykema of Michigan State University, left, listens in as Carol Rau offers up some career advice to attendees at Bayer's Women in Golf Event.

When offering career advice to a group of women in the golf turf business, naturally, it makes sense to draw upon examples from the oil industry.

That is the example Carol Rau, a human resources specialist with Career Advantage Golf, used when discussing career development and growth to attendees at Bayer’s inaugural North American Women in Golf event.

“Oil companies all do the same thing. They drill, take oil from the ground and sell it. When you see commercials, do they talk about that? No. They talk about what they do for the environment. They are trying to show how they are different and why you should invest in their company instead of a different one,” Rau said. “Think of yourselves that way. When you conduct a search, give them a reason to invest in you, not another candidate.”

When hiring managers are interviewing people for a job, they are deciding where to invest their resources. Give them a reason to invest in you.

The practice of influencing where and how people allocate resources is known as variant perception, and it is something that actually started in the financial industry, but now is widely used in every sector of the economy.

"If you all make a list of your tasks, they're all going to be pretty much the same," Rau said. "There will be a few differences, but they're going to be pretty much the same. What can you put on that list to make you stand out from others?"

Rau suggests focusing on duties that fall outside the normal pall of the job of a golf course superintendent.

"Golfers love golf, not turf. Your job is to grow the best turf possible and make it look fabulous, but that is just a means to an end," Rau said. "The ultimate goal is to provide the best golf experience for whoever sets foot on your property. 

"Are you someone who is truly customer focused, or do you just grow grass?"

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Carol Rau, left, of Career Advantage Golf, says it is important to set yourself apart from others during the application and interview process.

The answer, for those who want to get ahead in the careers, had better be the former, Rau said to her audience at this networking and career-development conference for women in golf turf. The conference, held last month at Bayer's facilities in suburban Raleigh, North Carolina, attracted about 50 superintendents, assistants, sales professionals and academics.

"When hiring managers are interviewing people for a job, they are deciding where to invest their resources," she said. "Give them a reason to invest in you."

That could mean serving on industry committees, being a leader not only on the golf course, but between departments, said Rau who then did a whip around, asking attendees to share what they did in their job or could be doing that would increase their value to their operation.

"Be the first one people call. Not just in an emergency situation, but in the context of daily operations," said Renee Geyer, in her 11th year at 54-hole Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, including the past three as a superintendent. "You don't want to work 80 hours a week, but being available and relatable shows true character. Are you someone who will be there and support others who you don't necessarily have to support? If the phone system goes out and they're trying to figure out where to dig outside, be that person who has the answers and at the same time makes you important to others."

Be the go-to person at your facility. No matter what happens, if a car runs into something in the parking lot, whatever it might be, position yourself as one of the first people they call if something needs to be done. The way to do that is to be accommodating. You typically have the most resources and people available to you at any given time. It's just a matter of redirecting resources or changing schedules to become that go-to person. . . . If they have to land a helicopter on the golf course, I want them to have to call me to figure out how we do it.

Pinehurst's Bob Farren, CGCS, said pretty much the same thing while leading a seminar at the 2013 Green Start Academy for assistant superintendents also sponsored by Bayer - and John Deere Golf. 
 
"Position yourself every day, with every question from any department that comes to you as a resource person. Be the go-to person at your facility," Farren told Green Start Academy attendees six years ago. "No matter what happens, if a car runs into something in the parking lot, whatever it might be, position yourself as one of the first people they call if something needs to be done. The way to do that is to be accommodating. You typically have the most resources and people available to you at any given time. It's just a matter of redirecting resources or changing schedules to become that go-to person.

"If they have to land a helicopter on the golf course, I want them to have to call me to figure out how we do it."
 
That advice has worked out pretty well for Farren. 

But it is not enough to just focus on what sets you apart, you have to upsell it to those responsible for hiring for a position, Rau said.

"Think about your resume and interview answers," Rau said. "Elevate what you are thinking. It's about your team, your overall organization and how you are driving success. It's a bigger picture than just what you are doing in your maintenance department. It's not just you. It's bigger than you."

Edited by John Reitman





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