© kennedy ellis

If you’re a superintendent or manager, always assume you’re the first impression. Whether it’s an email, a direct message, a phone call or a verbal conversation, always assume you’re the first contact.?

The industry is struggling to find new people, GOOD people, who will find a passion and make this a career. The solution could be as simple as you.?

We all remember our first contacts in the industry. They were the people who completely changed our lives. Did they know it at the time? How do you know that you’re a student’s first impression? You don’t! Always assume you’re the first impression.?

This industry is very small. You don’t know when you’ll have someone approach you about your career and their interest. What will you do??

© kennedy ellis

If that student takes an interest in your work, pass along your contact information, show them how to mow a green, arrange a meeting with them or offer advice, support and encouragement. Even if you can’t help, tell them, “Keep me updated on your journey,” at the very least. ?

You’d be surprised how far a five-minute conversation can take you and that student. We don’t know where the next graduating class will be in 10, 20 or 30 years. You want to be remembered for good reasons, right? ?

Encourage and help that student. They will always remember you when they’re applying to schools, internships and jobs.?

The industry only has two degrees of separation. Why not be the person they recommend to their fellow classmates or industry friends? It might help you land an employee, intern or student. ?

That student will always thank you. They will call you when they have landed a job or internship or have successfully accomplished something meaningful. ?

They will seek you out at a conference or a virtual lecture. One day they might introduce more students to you. ?

Turn on your camera and interact with others during virtual lectures. There might be a student on the other end who could gain a contact from you.?

Comment on a student’s Twitter post. You don’t know how much that means to them. The latest generation of students are very familiar with social media. It’s second nature. Social media is how students interact with prospective schools or employers. Respond and give them the time of day.?

Be the person who they come to when they have a problem. If you can’t fix it, you know someone who can.?

ALWAYS take a student seriously and talk to them today. If they come to you today, positively respond. Take that time to listen and treat them like a professional, because they will be professionals, too, one day.?

Most students know what they want or plan to do. Don’t wait for them to prove themselves before you listen. Make eye contact. Remember their name.?

© kennedy ellis

Look at a student’s potential and not just the résumé. Be amazed by their achievements. In 20 years, they will come up to you and say, “Thank you” and “Remember me?” ?

You remember your first impressions. Now is your time to be the first impression.?

When they get a microphone or are put in your position, you will be the person they want to thank and resemble when it’s their turn to be the first impression. ?

Most of my interactions have been positive and have left me wanting to pursue this industry more.?

I’ve only had a few people brush me off, but had those been my first contacts, I would’ve never found my passion for this industry. Don’t be that person.?

Age means nothing. Treat everybody as a professional. If the student is being professional, you should too.?

Don’t just look at age and credentials. Look at their potential and where they might be in one, two or three decades.?

I have accomplished everything I have because of the kindness and encouragement from those who have supported me. My accomplishments wouldn’t exist without those people.?

DO NOT EVER be the person to dismiss someone for their age or lack of credentials. You can always get credentials, but you can’t teach passion.?

Don’t run irrigation on someone’s passion. See someone’s passion or potential. Grab onto them and don’t let them down. Take them under your wing. That student will be the new face of the industry. One day you can retire and say that the industry is in good hands.?

How many of you would be where you’re at today if your first impressions weren’t positive? How many of you would’ve had the confidence or support needed to get your education and/or your experience in the career you have today??

It took me SIX WEEKS to find the courage to reach out to the first person I ever spoke to in the industry. I thought I wasn’t worthy enough to ever get a response. They proved me wrong. But what if they didn’t respond at all??

More than a year later, I have the strongest professional connection with that person. This person has by far been one of my biggest supporters and has helped me to gain the confidence to accomplish as much as I have today.?

Because of my first few impressions, I have completely changed my academic and professional goals so I can continue to work with and for them.?

I will always be very grateful to those professionals and leaders in the industry. I look up to them and will be sure to give the same first impression when it’s my turn.

Kennedy Ellis is a freshman at Olivet College, where she studies sustainable agriculture and plays on the women’s golf team. She is planning on pursuing a career in turfgrass management. This is her first Golf Course Industry contribution.