Not surprisingly, every golf course superintendent envisions/dreams of working at a prestigious golf course because of the unique job status, higher available compensation packages and presumed better job security associated with these “pedigree” jobs.
The problem is, however, that it is very difficult to directly qualify for the better pedigree jobs unless superintendents sequentially apply and qualify for better jobs (i.e., climb the “pedigree job ladder”) presumably earlier but also later in their careers.
Accordingly, at appropriate career times and when their children’s schooling allows, assistants and superintendents should seek jobs at higher status golf courses than their present jobs because strategically planned upward job mobility commands the respect of search committees.
The undeniable career truth that applies here is that prior employment pedigree will always be the “primary factor” determining whether a candidate will be interviewed, or not, when applying for a job.
Other things being equal, candidates with better pedigree job experience will consistently “pre-empt” interview fieldsbecause earlier pedigree employment confirms to each subsequent search committee: (i) that prior discerning employers have measured a candidate’s credentials and found them to be compatible with their high standards; (ii) that once hired, these candidates have performed at the high performance level expected; and (iii) that similarly, future employers can trust these candidates to perform at the highest professional level once hired. You can’t buy better references.
I am not saying that every golf course superintendent should pursue the “ultimate” career job because this would result in a never-ending job search for most golf course superintendents.
However, I am suggesting that every golf course superintendent should identify with his/her yet to be obtained “wish list” job level and then in due course climb the “pedigree job ladder” to get there.
To do otherwise could/will risk stalling careers and family stability.
The concept of “confidentiality” discourages an untold number of superintendents from seeking jobs they would normally pursue because these potential job candidates inherently know they would be putting their present jobs at risk every time they applied for a job on a “confidential” basis.
Where Does The Problem Lie?
The problem does not lie with the search committees because they are essentially made up of private sector business people used to routinely working with and keeping confidential agreements. Rather, the problem arises:
1. When the majority (not all) of the general managers at the clubs looking to hire a superintendent surreptitiously call their fellow GMs at the leading candidates’ employing clubs to get a “true inside read” on each candidate; i.e., is the candidate a team player, or too independent to manage, etc.?
2. When losing candidates quite successfully search out the names of fellow candidates they competed against and then spread their findings naively throughout the local golf community grapevine.
It is estimated that roughly 85% of all confidentiality promises/requests are compromised via the above two scenarios. Prudent thinking superintendents should assume confidentiality will be broken 100% of the time when applying for jobs – and act accordingly.
How To Address The Confidentiality Issue?
While there is no perfect way to defuse the confidentiality issue, the following two approaches will minimize the risks taken – absent a “threatening” GM, or committee chairman:
1. Superintendents with solid on-the-job track records should always advise their employers before applying for another job because experience shows they will consistently get their employers’ full support the first time asked, but generally not soon again.
2. Then, superintendents working within less secure job environments should also advise their employers of their job intentions because it is professional and will eliminate a job-threatening confrontation should/once employers find out after the fact.
Finally, it should be noted that when superintendents apply for new jobs without advising their employers who later find out – a trust is broken that will eventually lead to the parting of the ways.
Seize The Opportunity
Whenever a superintendent is drawn into a discussion where his/her employer is willing to support a new job candidacy but also expresses a wish to retain the superintendent is an ideal time to bring up the issue of a written contract that would fairly allow both parties to mutually protect their respective interests.
Go for it – because proven cost-efficient superintendents are more valuable in a bad economy than in a good economy. This is what the “chess game of life” is all about.
During a bad economy, survival instincts dictate that the employed hunker down job-wise and wait out the downturn. I suggest otherwise because virtually every golf course superintendent’s compensation package will be re-evaluated every coming budget cycle where the “cost of employment” will consistently be given a higher priority than the quality of the job done.
Consequently, it behooves all currently employed superintendents to stay mentally involved within the job market. This does not suggest, however, that presently employed superintendents commit to an immediate job search. Rather, I am suggesting that golf course superintendents scrutinize meaningful job opportunities as they arise with resume, web site and family planning ready to respond where appropriate. Never assume job security when there are so many variables involved.
New Job Approach
Furthermore, I am not proposing that every vacant job will offer better job security than a present job; i.e., not even close. However, I am suggesting that proper due diligence will confirm that the majority of job vacancies do potentially present better job security. Accordingly, superintendents should quality-test the more inviting job openings by applying the following due diligence check-list:
Discreetly talk to the outgoing superintendent, regional sales reps and fellow superintendents to measure job attributes; i.e., is the general manager fair and trustworthy; does the command structure offer the superintendent the comfortable opportunity to report and be heard; does budget funding correlate with job expectancies; does the administration respect the work and person of the golf course superintendent; and finally – plain and simply – would this be a good place to work?
If the feedback from the above due diligence inquiries is encouraging, apply for the job and give it your best shot because it is highly likely that your next job – once properly vetted – will bring you and your family peace of mind and better job security.
Why do I say this? Because all the testy issues inherently present within a current job will have been mutually resolved going into a new job; for example: starting and future salary/compensation, fringe benefit and job description issues would/should have been mutually agreed to. Always be mindful that a proven fair-minded superintendent can often write his/her own ticket on the way into a job – in any economy.
The Ultimate Issue
What about the ultimate issue of multi-year written contracts? The truth of the matter is that superintendents with multi-year written contracts should not change jobs unless a new job matches this level of job security. Then, those presently working without written contracts are free to pursue new jobs – with a written contract or not – based on the results of their due diligence homework.
Next week’s blog message will directly address the one issue that discourages more job seeking than any other; i.e., job application “confidentiality”. Stay tuned.
We know that golfers like to take pride in their “home” golf courses whether they play at a private club golf course, a daily fee golf course, or a municipal golf course.
Accordingly, golf course superintendents should identify with this concept because when golfers are able to take pride in their golf courses they become beholden to those who deliver these uniquely enjoyable playing grounds. Accordingly, appreciative golfers don’t want anyone messing with their “Svengalis.”
Consequently, golf course superintendents’ jobs become more secure every time a golfer proudly acclaims course playing conditions.
Therefore, the key question golf course superintendents should be asking themselves in today’s tough economy with its more limiting operating budgets is: “Where can priority dollars best be spent to maximize golfers’ pride in their home course?” The answer to this question is that superintendents should allocate all the “flexible” spending dollars available to providing the best greens and green envelopes possible to the extent that turf conditions will allow and within authorized budget parameters. Continue reading