My initial understanding of “career planning” was shaped by the fact that I grew up in small-town America, where my parents worked in the same jobs for their entire lives.

Most of my friends’ parents had the same arrangement. I am not sure words like merger, downsizing, reorganization, bankruptcy and buyout were in the lexicon of the townsfolk. On the whole, people would get a job and stay in it until retirement, so there was not much career planning involved.

My perspective changed a bit when I went to college. Looking back, I am sure I did not expect to keep the same job my whole life. Rather, I seem to remember it was like being a snowball pushed off the top of the mountain. The snowball (me) gained size and speed (work experience) and haphazardly followed a career path that was decided more by random influences than my own conscious decision-making.

The world of constant change

Boy, have times changed. In some industries if you don’t switch jobs every two years, people think something must be wrong with you. Obviously, golf is not, in its current state, one of those industries. But it is fair to say the market dynamic for golf has changed since the Great Recession of 2008.

I recently had a conversation with a superintendent who retired from his facility two years ago when he was in his early 60s. He told me that he had spoken at a GCSAA chapter meeting and asked how many people there thought they would reach retirement age as a golf course superintendent. Not a single hand was raised, he told me.

I wish I could say that the reason they expected to retire early was because they had earned enough money to support them in their golden years, but I can’t.

The truth is that the superintendent profession is becoming one where it is more and more difficult to stay engaged through the “normal” retirement age. Some of that is due to market forces. Courses are closing and staffs are contracting, forcing some to leave the profession prematurely. Others might depart early through an “arrangement” with ownership, and there are those who will make a career change of their own volition.

Superintendents are not alone. There are plenty of industries where demographic shifts and economic influences have had profound influences on careers. With the pace of change in our world accelerating, we must be more cognizant of the impacts on our career, and more proactive and nimble in our actions and reactions. Rarely can one sit back and wait for opportunity to knock on the door, and we no longer plan our career as though it will follow a series of predetermined steps on our path to success.

According to “Association Advisor Magazine,” career management is the new normal:

“Career management is the continual process of setting career-related goals and planning a route to achieve those goals. It includes taking into consideration goals for salary, title, skills mastery and company or organization affiliation, and mapping out the actions and knowledge needed to reach those goals. Career management also entails self-awareness of one’s existing skills and what skills or knowledge are required by industry as the industry’s technological, political and cultural landscape changes.”

We must be aware of our skills and the changing landscape of the industry – not only on the macro level but also on the micro level as well. We must be attuned to what is happening at the facility level that could serve as a threat or an opportunity.

Everyone’s situation is different. Just because the golf industry is smaller than it was 10 years ago does not mean you should be looking to leave it. It means you should be proactively managing your career, evaluating options and creating opportunities for yourself that put you in a position of strength. Nothing should be left to chance and your future should not be placed in the hands of others.