By Tasha Bohlig, PGA
The U.S. job market is ever-changing, and even more so in the golf industry. There are countless certifications and education programs to make PGA Professionals better at that chosen career. As we specialize within our industry, we should take caution of narrowly defining ourselves as having one skillset. To be great at anything, specialization is crucial; but don’t neglect the valuable tools learned along the way.
Employers are always looking for talent, and golf professionals possess a unique set of skills that demonstrate a wide range of versatility. When you fill many buckets of experience rather than overflow in just one, you become a much more valuable candidate in whatever industry you choose.
After playing competitive golf, I wanted to stay in the golf industry and help grow the game. I love coaching and understanding how people learn. That journey has led to wearing many hats, with my most recent as PGA Head Professional. Most of my career has been focused on player development as the PGA Director of Instruction at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, California. For over a decade, I specialized in instruction, and enjoyed the flexibility of coaching to raise our child. When presented with the opportunity to add a management role, I was reticent due to my perceived lack of experience. What could a teacher possibly know about managing an operation?
Golf industry professionals are uniquely qualified for a wide range of opportunities that can be overlooked if we see ourselves through a narrow lens. After being in this new role for over a year, I know now that I was ready for this challenge all along. I needed a little push to boost my confidence and realize that my coaching background made me more qualified for the position. Below are some strategies that have helped my growth and can assist in your self-discovery and ultimately, success in your career:
A great candidate
To be an ideal candidate for any job, it is to your advantage to be a “Swiss army knife.” When gaining experience and knowledge, we tend to pick a path and specialize in that direction. If it’s coaching, there are countless certifications we can pursue and educational opportunities to learn more and become a more proficient coach. Even if you are specializing in an area like coaching, you can gain experience in creating marketing materials, formulating budgets and managing lesson plans, as well as managing other instructors. The more layers you can add to your experience, the more your value increases.
What ultimately makes you special is all the skills you possess that go beyond a specialty. It takes a unique person to excel in a customer service setting with technical skills like running tournaments, coaching, club fitting and much more. These skills transfer to any industry and should be highlighted when taking your next steps.
Watch how you define yourself
Focus on the skills you have honed, rather than the title you have. If you are a club fitter, you do more than just adjust someone’s set composition. Expand your definition to someone who is a problem solver who is proficient in technology with a keen attention to detail. These are valuable skills that transfer to any career.
Another example of this is in instruction. The new teaching professionals, especially women, are often seen as the instructors for beginners, juniors or just other women. Although this is a terrific specialty to have (and some of my favorite golfers to teach), it is a label that can stick and define you. See yourself as a coach for all levels, and be open to teaching anyone interested in taking a lesson from you. Before you know it, those successful beginner lessons turn into referrals for friends, significant others, club champions and more. The skills acquired along the way will help you adapt. In fact, I am seeing more PGA and LPGA Professionals in management, marketing, sales and other areas than ever before.
Encourage people, especially women
We can all use a little push or support. If you can mentor or help someone grow professionally, encourage opportunities. In the early 2010s, there was an internal study of Hewlett Packard employees regarding job applications. They found that when applying for a job, men applied for a job when they met only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women applied only if they met 100 percent of them.
There is some debate about other factors weighing into a decision to apply or not, but the findings are noteworthy. Encourage those who are reticent to evaluate their talents and see if they would be a good fit for an opportunity. No one should put themselves or an employer in a position where they are not prepared for a position, but people often talk themselves out of jobs before applying. For me personally, I would have never applied for a managerial role without encouragement and extremely grateful for the push.
The ability to connect
In the service business, the ability to connect with people and make their day is a huge recipe for our success. Think about how many interactions you have each day as a PGA Professional. All your experiences with these touchpoints make you extremely valuable in any workplace environment. Like Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” With our social connections being formed more and more through devices, the ability to connect face-to-face and change attitudes and perceptions make you more valuable than ever.
In reflection, without the push, and without seeing the transference of skills that I have developed over time, I may never have moved into a different role in my career. My hope is that someone reading this may take away a few concepts to help themselves or someone they mentor to achieve great things. Having specialties is crucial for success but it is even more important to see the special in what makes you unique.