Some career experts say that the day you start a new job, you should begin planning for your next job.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus on your current job and its day-to-day responsibilities; rather it means that advancing your career is something that should be kept in your orbit at all times. After all, finding success in this industry — in any industry — involves a climb up the proverbial career ladder. Anyone will tell you that moving up that ladder involves planning, skill and a little bit of luck.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled some tips and advice for the field manager who might be standing at the bottom of that ladder looking up, or facing an important climb to that next rung.

Career Advancement Tips

  • Make it a point to network at industry events like the upcoming STMA Conference & Exhibition.
  • Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to other sports turf managers.
  • Create a contact base early in your career.
  • Be patient for your chance; first jobs are rarely dream jobs.
  • The importance of a good mentor — someone who truly has your career well-being in mind — can’t be overstated.
  • Always take job interviews and never go into them unprepared.
  • Long hours are part of the job at every level; be willing to work them and make sure you know what you’re getting into when looking for a new job.
  • Become agronomically astute, even if you already have a strong background.
  • Pressure bursts pipes — don’t let it burst you. Pressure and high expectations often increase the higher you climb up the career ladder. It’s important to keep this in mind as you move up.
  • Use social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to meet people, make connections and keep your name circulating within the industry.
  • Make sure your resume is always up-to-date and properly reflects your skills and history. Make sure it’s proofread and mistake-free (spelling, grammar, etc.).
  • When you’re ready to jump up to the next job, don’t make a lateral move just to get a bigger salary. Think instead about adding to your skill set by rounding out your experience.
  • Having business acumen for topics like budgeting and personnel management is crucial.
  • Always keep an eye on potential future opportunities that would be a good fit for you and your family.
  • Maintaining a proper work/ personal life balance is a key ingredient in minimizing stress and maximizing happiness in all aspects of life.

SFM staff

Finding a Better Job is a Universal Concept

Though there are many differences between golf turf management and sports turf management, many similarities exist. For example, one concept that crosses between these two industries — and all industries — is the importance of career advancement.

Ed Ibarguen, general manager and PGA director of golf at Duke University, spoke to a group of assistant golf course superintendents about the topic last October at Bayer and John Deere’s Green Start Academy. Ibarguen specifically talked about trying to find the perfect fit for an aspiring assistant’s next job. Among the many points Ibarguen made was this: “Can you recognize your strengths and also understand where you need to grow in your abilities and skill?”

Ibarguen also explained the importance of maintaining a proper work/life balance. “I don’t want a super [who] works 12 hours per day,” he said. “I want someone who needs to spend time with [his or her] family, come to work, delegate what [he or she] needs to delegate and go home. I want someone who has work/life balance.”

Billy Weeks, head golf course superintendent at the Duke University Golf Club, stressed to the group of aspiring assistants that networking is a tool that you must have in your toolbox. “I can’t stress networking enough,” Weeks advised. “Talk to [colleagues], ask for advice, get out of your comfort zone and promote yourself.”

— Robert Meyer, Editor in Chief

Five Skills to Ensure Success From the Get-Go

How I wish I knew what I didn’t know after I grabbed my diploma, shook the dean’s hand and headed off to the real world some 30-plus years ago.

I don’t blame myself or anyone else. Learn by doing. School of hard knocks. Wait your turn. It was just assumed those were the ingredients in the recipe of career success and moving up the ladder.

Those concepts are not totally archaic today, but it’s clear that career success has taken on a more strategic perspective. An article in the Washington Post by Jeffrey Selingo, the author of “There Is Life After College,” provided me an “ah-ha” moment — and not a moment too soon as my two college-aged children move closer to life in the real world.

Selingo offers five critical skills every college graduate should have as they enter the workforce. They’re based on the fact that the job market is as competitive as ever and the rate of change is as fast as ever. These five skills are not a guarantee. But they do offer a great compass as one navigates a career – especially from the beginning:


Knowing how to use a computer and other technology is a given. Understanding how the device works and even the programming behind them is fast becoming a requirement. Today, technology pervades the profession in communications, irrigation, turf care programs, sunlight monitoring, moisture monitoring, turfgrass firmness and more.


A 4.0 GPA used to be a ticket to career success. But today’s employers are looking for workers who know how to make sound decisions based on logic, reasoning and experience gained through internships and real-life experiences. The athletic field is a perfect example of where necessity often becomes the mother of invention.


With the rate of change faster than ever, what’s learned in school becomes obsolete in short order. Workers need to be curious and continually learning. In fact, employers can gain a sense of how industrious a job candidate might be by seeking to learn more about his hobbies, interests and experiences.


Students learn theory in the classroom with the thought that they will apply it on the job. But the number of times the exact parallel comes to fruition is limited. What is the norm is taking a general concept and then using it in a situation that is different than what one may have learned. For example, you might learn a management principle for a specific cool-season grass that applies in general to a different cool-season turf variety.


College graduates of today are exposed to a better education than preceding generations. They are often better networked and have had multiple internships. But the real world can be humbling. A lagging economy can undercut business growth and advancement opportunities. College graduates enter the workforce with the confidence of being told the world is their “oyster.” But a realistic perspective will keep disappointment to a minimum.

— Jeff Bollig, contributing editor of Superintendent magazine and former senior communications director of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America

Keeping Your Career Well-Being in Mind

When I heard those words, it took me aback — could that really be true? I sat and thought about it for a few minutes. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, yes, it’s probably true for a lot of us. In other words, most of us probably don’t spend as much time developing our careers as we need, or ought to.

That hard-hitting quote above was said to me by Carole Daily, of Daily HR Solutions, who hosted a session about career advancement at the STMA Conference and Exhibition last year in San Diego, California.

Daily’s presentation was designed to help sports turf managers, staff and students prepare for success in their next job.

`Among the topics Daily discussed were how to be more “interview ready,” best position yourself for future opportunities, identify good resume builders, recognize the importance of networking and self-marketing and avoid “potholes” on your way up the career ladder.

“The thing that concerns me most for [recent college graduates] is that they don’t often present themselves in a [job] interview- ready way,” Daily told SFM. “Concerning mainly Facebook and social networking sites, they fail to realize that every post, every picture, every activity that they’re posting on social media doesn’t go away in a day, and it doesn’t go away in a week. It stays with you, it’s a thumbprint of your persona that can be seen by so many people.

“As far as being interview-ready, your social profile is fair game. There’s not an HR group out there at this point in time that doesn’t research somebody’s social media profile when hiring for management positions.”

Another area of Daily’s expertise is the discussion of resume builders — what they are and how they can help you advance your career.

“Is there a class you can take that you can put on your resume?” Daily explained. “Is there a committee that you can be on and participate in? Is there a certification that you can obtain? These are resume builders. These are things that you use to stack the cards in your favor. The job you show up for now, every day, is preparing you for your next job, tomorrow.”

The bottom line is this — don’t neglect your own career well-being. It’ll pay off in the long run.

— Robert Meyer

Advice from an Expert

Ross Kurcab knows a thing or two about advancing in the sports turf industry. Along with holding the distinction of being named the first Certified Sports Field Manager (on Jan. 1, 2001), Kurcab was the head turf manager for the NFL’s Denver Broncos for 30 years. He’s also a past president of the Colorado Sports Turf Managers Association. His achievements include the 1989 and 2001 Rocky Mountain Turfgrass Association Turfgrass Professional of the Year award, the 1998 STMA Dick Ericson Founders Award, the 2002 STMA Harry Gill Award (STMA’s highest honor) and the 2005 STMA Field of the Year Award in both professional football and professional soccer categories. He holds a bachelor’s degree in landscape horticulture/turfgrass from Colorado State University.

Kurcab is currently an industry consultant, owner of Championship Sports Turf Systems and a contributing editor and monthly columnist for SFM. Here are Ross’ tips for sports field managers who want to advance their careers:

  • Realize that you’re building something, have a blueprint and make necessary changes as you build. Start at the foundation, not the fourth floor.
  • It’s your career, not anyone else’s, so be patient — it’s an adventure, not a race.
  • Get educated in turfgrass science and sports field management. Build credentials, certifications, certificates, etc.
  • Your education never ends — read industry magazines and university blogs and bulletins every month.
  • Work and practice to be an excellent and safe equipment operator.
  • You control your attitude, not the other way around.
  • Challenge yourself professionally.
  • Break out of comfort zones regularly; that’s where the magic happens.
  • Don’t take things personally at work and drop the ego.
  • Opportunity looks a lot like hard work, and smart work is just as important as hard work.
  • Be good at fundamentals — always work on them.
  • Learn all about and excel at soil science.
  • Learn from mistakes and failures, own them and use them as opportunities to improve.
  • Take time off and balance your life.
  • Develop non-turf hobbies, like recreating in nature — it’ll make you a better turf manager.
  • Be a leader, not a ruler.
  • On the field, learn to see what you’re not looking for.
  • Build and maintain your network of trusted sports turf professionals — and join the STMA.
  • Learn how to persuade and sell your ideas.
  • Help others with their careers.
  • Have fun — you’re working in a fun industry, so learn by experience.

A View from the Big Leagues

Eric Hansen, assistant director of turf and grounds for the Los Angeles Dodgers, was a high school teacher before becoming an athletic field manager. The Illinois native earned a degree in agronomy from Texas A&M after giving up teaching.

At Texas A&M, Hansen studied under noted turfgrass professor and agronomist James B. Beard, who became his mentor.

“He was instrumental in helping me get into sports turf,” Hansen told SFM in 2015.

Beard, who was a turf consultant with the Toronto Blue Jays at the time, helped Hansen land a job as head groundskeeper at the Blue Jays’ spring training facility in Dunedin, Florida, in 1991. Hansen says he made “noticeable improvements” to the facility in his nearly six years there, which helped him get the attention of the Dodgers.

While with the Blue Jays, Hansen joined the STMA, where he networked and became friends with some notable industry figures, including Steve Wightman, a former NFL field manager, who was a consultant with the Dodgers. With his experience with the Blue Jays and his relationship with Wightman, Hansen had an “in” when the Dodgers’ job opened.

His point: Find a mentor and network. Both will help you succeed.