While counseling job seekers, I often hear them complain that networking has become more difficult, since many of the people they meet also are between jobs. The rest are employed, but so overworked they have little time to spare for informational interviews.
After thinking about the best place outside the office to locate valuable contacts, many job seekers find the perfect site to be the golf course.
I discovered the power of golf as a networking tool several years ago when a member of my foursome recommended a career counselor who introduced me to the concept of career management. Indeed, that round of golf opened the door to my new calling as an author and career counselor.
Later, as I interviewed executives for a book on the uses of business golf, my golf buddies gave me names of people who made networking contacts, found job leads and actually got hired as a result of playing golf. I also learned how business golf helped many people advance their careers, find mentors, land new clients and even break the glass ceiling.
In an increasingly competitive business environment, it pays to know and use all the tools at your disposal to achieve your career goals. Don’t overlook golf. Savvy executives use it in combination with other career-management strategies by taking these steps:
*Learn how golf is used in your target industry and company. Professionals in the banking and financial services industries tend to socialize over golf more than other professionals. Many people I talked with say they were asked during job interviews if they played golf. If golf is a regular pastime in your field, you’ll be at a disadvantage from the outset if you don’t play.
*Establish a business objective for playing. Are you using golf to network, prospect for clients, entertain existing clients or develop closer ties to senior managers? It’s fine to just spend time on the links, but to turn that time into greenbacks or a better job, you must have an agenda.
* Review your options. There are several other methods besides golfing to help you meet your business or career goals. For example, you could meet potential employers at their offices or for lunch, entertain clients over dinner. While business golf is useful, it may not be for everyone.
* Determine the cost of options in terms of time and money. Weigh the expenses and expected benefits of golf vs. traditional networking methods and base your decision on your potential return on investment.
For example, if you’re networking to meet senior-level executives, you could attend an association dinner that takes two or three hours and costs $30, but might attract few senior professionals. Or you could meet a few valuable contacts during a more relaxed round of golf at a public course that takes five hours and costs about $40. (You could increase your odds of meeting these contacts by finding out their tee-off times from the pros.)
Or, you could attend a charity golf outing populated by many senior-level executives that takes six hours and a tax-deductible $250 donation.
* When using golf as a business tool, plan your game and its role in meeting your business objectives. Are your contacts highly competitive, or do they use the game to chat leisurely? How skilled should you be to impress these networking contacts or clients. As you improve, review your strategy regularly to ensure games stay “friendly” and yield a favorable outcome.
Eventually, you’ll be able to choose strategies, courses and plan foursomes that enhance everyone’s business opportunities. But even if you decide not to play, so much business is conducted on the golf course that it pays to become “golf literate” in case an opportunity comes up during a discussion of the game.