Next month, millions of new college grads will pack up their dorms rooms and venture out into the world to begin their careers. Even though unemployment rates are slowly declining, graduates are entering a still-fragile economy, and unfortunately that hard-earned degree doesn’t guarantee they’ll be able to score a great job in their field right out of the gate. U.S. Labor Department statistics show that out of 3 million recent college grads, 36 percent are unemployed or have a job that didn’t require a degree.

In a field as specialized as turfgrass management, the job market can be particularly competitive. If you’re a future turf grad, here are some tips for finding, and landing, your first job in the field care industry.

  • Immerse yourself in the industry. Conferences, seminars, research papers, trade magazines (such as SportsField Management, of course). Attend/study/read it all. I’m always pleased to see so many turf students in attendance at the national STMA show. The opportunities available at this event are invaluable. Take it seriously, ask questions, and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Who knows, you could meet your future boss! This experience is also a great addition to your résumé.
  • Speaking of résumés … Often the first interaction you have with a potential employer is the moment your résumé reaches his hand, so make a lasting impression. Make your résumé stand out from the dozens of others in the pile by ditching a generic objective and highlighting your experience. Because sports field pros gain so much knowledge on the job, focus on internships, research and field work. Ask professors and other industry connections for feedback prior to sending your résumé out.
  • Attitude is everything. Your education and experience may have gotten you an interview, but your attitude will get you the job. Employers, particularly those hiring for entry-level positions, are looking for people who are passionate about the industry, and who are willing to work hard to be successful. A field manager looking to staff his crew knows that he may be spending 12 hours a day sweating in the hot sun with whomever he chooses, so he’s going to seek out someone with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic. Adaptability is another trait employers look for in candidates; both the ability to adapt to a changing environment and to the personality traits of co-workers. A self-motivated employee is always an asset on any crew; show that you take initiative.
  • Get LinkedIn. As the saying goes “It’s all who you know,” and in a competitive industry, this can be especially true. LinkedIn, for those who aren’t familiar, is a social network for professionals. Once you’ve created a profile, you can use the site for researching companies and facilities, searching for job postings and, perhaps most importantly, making industry connections.

For field care managers looking to add some new employees to their team, see page 20 for advice on making the right hiring decision.

Congratulations to the class of 2014, wishing you all many successful years in this wonderful industry!

Katie Meyers