No matter the industry you are in, cultivating your personal brand and having a positive online presence are vital to your career success. Your personal brand is not only the unique combination of expertise, experience, skills and traits that make up who you are as a professional, but it is also how you portray yourself to others in person and online.
Your online image can drastically impact your career trajectory and/or people’s perspective of the organization for which you work. Potential employers often search job applicants online, and patrons frequently conduct an online search of venues before visiting. The information they find helps them form their first impression of you and/or your facility. Have you searched your name online recently? If not, do it now! Evaluate whether the information you find includes images, content or headlines that positively reflect your professional achievements. If you are unable to find any beneficial content about yourself, consider utilizing LinkedIn, a popular online platform, to help you elevate your online presence and build your personal brand. (Note: We will discuss additional platforms – including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and online portfolios – in an upcoming article).
Building a solid LinkedIn profile
A person’s LinkedIn profile is often one of the first results to appear when someone searches a name online, so it is important to spend some time crafting a well-developed and up-to-date profile. According to LinkedIn’s website (https://about.linkedin.com), LinkedIn has more than 774 million members from more than 200 countries and territories, making it the largest networking site targeted specifically toward professionals. Although this platform may not immediately seem like a valuable tool for those in the sports field management industry, it certainly can be when utilized effectively. LinkedIn allows you to showcase your expertise and credibility within your industry, and gives you the opportunity to connect with other professionals in your field, as well as prospective visitors to your facility. Outlined below are specific steps you can take to help you build a compelling professional profile and make a positive first impression with potential connections.
Upload a profile photo
This helps establish legitimacy, and leads to more people engaging with your profile and posts. Choose a photo of you that clearly shows your smiling face. For the sports field management industry, a nice photo of you outside standing on a field you maintain often works well. Photo size should be 400 pixels wide by 400 pixels high.
Add a background photo
A nice landscape of the field(s) you manage would be perfect. This immediately captivates a viewer’s attention, and shows off your work from the very beginning of your profile. Photo size should be 1,586 pixels wide and 396 pixels high.
Create an attention-grabbing headline
Yes, you can simply use your current job title, but consider being more creative. This is one of the most important sections within your profile, because the description you include will appear next to your name in search results along with your profile picture. Therefore, it is essential that it accurately reflects your role, as well as persuades readers to learn more about you and your background. The headline is limited to 120 characters, so the key is to be compelling while also keeping it concise. Sample headlines include:
Grounds Superintendent at Top-Rated Campus Facility in Alabama
Turf Manager at 4.5-star Rated Baseball Complex in Charlotte, North Carolina
Grounds Manager with Expertise in Perennial Cool-Season Grasses and Horticulture
Sports Field Manager | Mentor | President of STMA MoKan
Tell your story in the “About” section
Showcase your personal brand by highlighting your key experiences, strengths, specialties and successes. Write your story in the first person, and show your personality by sharing some personal insight into what you enjoy outside of work. A sample about section is as follows:
“I am a sports field management professional with 15-plus years of experience within public and private universities throughout the northwestern United States. During 10 of those years, I led teams of 15-30 to maintain high-quality cool-season grasses, including Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and bentgrass varieties across diverse college sports facilities. I enjoy mentoring up-and-coming turfgrass professionals, and have been active in regional professional organizations, most recently as the president of the Pacific Northwest Sports Turf Managers Association. While work does take up a majority of my time, I enjoy fishing, golfing and expending the energy of my German shepherd, Harley, as much as possible.”
Highlight artifacts in the “Featured” section
Include images, articles, websites, etc., that show off your work and professional achievements. You can upload files or insert web URLs.
Expand on your relevant work history in the “Experience” section
Add a brief description for each work experience outlining your accomplishments and incorporating keywords whenever possible. If you have been in the industry for several years, we recommend only including positions from the past 15 to 20 years at the most. Consider featuring media, when possible, to provide examples of your achievements. This can include such artifacts as photos of the fields you have managed and the web URLs of the organizations where you have worked. By adding images that demonstrate the results of your actions, it can serve as an abbreviated version of your electronic portfolio. This is why it is important to take photos of your work! The following is a sample experience entry:
Grounds Manager, Northern Pacific University
Led sports turf operations and a team of 13 across a large campus with two soccer fields, football field and practice facility, and baseball and softball fields.
• Upon hire, increased health and aesthetics of neglected turfgrass by implementing aggressive fertilizer and pesticide application programs to combat identified disease and pest infestations
• Enhanced organizational culture by explaining the how, why, and anticipated results of each task at hand to ensure thorough understanding and increase buy-in, resulting in motivated crew members who produced exceptional daily output
• Named “Grounds Manager of the Year” for the Northwest region in 2019
Include the URL of your LinkedIn profile on your resume so hiring managers can access these photos and other artifacts during the application process. You can customize your URL in the edit mode within your profile by going to “Edit public profile & URL.”
Add any degrees you hold in the “Education” section
Avoid including high school information.
Include all applicable credentials in the “Licenses & Certifications” section
Enter information related to applicator’s licenses or special industry-related certifications you currently hold.
List professional memberships within the “Organizations” section
Include information on any industry-related professional organizations in which you have been a member, as well as any committee involvement or leadership positions you have held.
Showcase your professional competencies in the “Skills & Endorsements” section
Create a list of at least 10 industry-specific skills, and prioritize your top three by moving them to the top of the list. Remember to consider turfgrass management and agronomy skills, as well as leadership and management strengths. Once you have identified your list of skills, your first-degree connections will be able to endorse you for any of those competencies. Including skill endorsements in your profile can help you build your personal brand, strengthen your credibility within your industry, and potentially elevate your ranking in future LinkedIn searches.
TIP: One of the best ways to receive skill endorsements on LinkedIn is to endorse others.
Add other sections as appropriate
Consider including additional content such as volunteer experience, honors and awards, or languages that demonstrate your diverse range of skills, interests and qualifications.
Making the most of Your LinkedIn profile
Once you have your LinkedIn profile created or updated, use it to demonstrate your commitment to the industry by connecting with other professionals in your field, engaging with others’ content, sharing relevant information and resources, and posting original content related to happenings within your organization. Specific tips on how to effectively utilize the platform to foster professional growth and strengthen your network are as follows:
Establish at least 50 first-degree connections
If you are new to LinkedIn, once your profile is created, you will need to secure connections. It is suggested to acquire at least 50 connections as soon as possible to establish your presence and have an audience with whom you can engage. Start by sending connection requests to people you already know, including friends, family members, current and former supervisors and colleagues, former classmates, and members of professional organizations in which you are involved.
Once you reach 50, however, do not stop! Your LinkedIn profile is like an electronic business card. As you meet new people, follow up after that initial introduction and invite them to connect on LinkedIn. You can also send connection requests to people you have not met yet but view as potentially valuable connections. For example, if you know you will be relocating to Houston, you might reach out to the board members of the Texas Sports Turf Managers Association to introduce yourself and ask them to connect with you so you can stay up-to-date on the turf management industry in that region. When sending a connection request to someone you do not know or have not communicated with recently, you should always send a personalized message with your request. Be aware that personalized connection requests are limited to 300 characters. The following is a sample connection request:
I am also an STMA member and will be moving to Houston soon. I have been involved in my regional STMA chapter and hope to continue this through the TXSTMA. I am looking to connect with more turf management professionals in the Houston area on LinkedIn.
Cultivate your LinkedIn feed
Once you start securing connections, information posted and shared by your network will appear on your LinkedIn feed. To generate more relevant content, in addition to connecting with others, make sure to follow several industry-related influencers, companies and organizations, as well as join relevant groups. You can search for groups by typing keywords or group names into the search bar at the top of the page and selecting “groups” as your filter.
Interact with others’ content
Once content begins to show in your LinkedIn feed, start engaging with the information by liking, commenting and sharing. Your activity will automatically show up on your profile. Also, LinkedIn rewards you for engaging with content within your feed by increasing the visibility of content you post from your profile. Make sure to check your LinkedIn feed at least once a week, or more often, if possible.
Post original content
To further demonstrate your expertise and commitment to your field, post your own content, including helpful industry-related resources and tips, facility photos and updates, job opportunities with your organization, etc. You can even write and share original articles on topics of your choice. Your content will be visible in the page feeds of your connections, which allows them to start engaging with you too!
Having a solid LinkedIn profile can lead to potential job opportunities, attract talent and visitors to your facility, help you establish yourself as an expert in your field, and ultimately elevate your personal brand. Once you have a strong LinkedIn profile and start using it as an effective professional tool, remember to keep it updated so it accurately represents you.
If you are interested in using LinkedIn but are not comfortable tackling this tool yourself, our career coaches at Career Advantage Golf (https://careeradvantagegolf.com) specialize in providing LinkedIn profile development and optimization services for turf management professionals. We would be happy to help you build your profile and use it to your advantage.
Erin Wolfram has more than 15 years of experience in career services, and owns and operates Career Advantage Golf (http://careeradvantagegolf.com), specializing in career services for those in the turf management field. She has a podcast called A Year of Career: 52 Practical Answers to Your Questions, where she provides quick career and job search advice. Wolfram has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary English Education, Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, Master of Science in Educational Technology, and is a certified professional etiquette consultant. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Melissa Johnson has more than 20 years of experience working with individuals from a variety of careers and industries. She specializes in one-on-one career coaching, resume and cover letter development, and job search assistance. Johnson has a passion for providing individualized support and guidance for each of her clients to ensure they are able to achieve their career goals. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Education in Counseling Psychology.