Consider The Course a Reality Version of LinkedIn

by Renee Mancino on March 10, 2012

10988488952074404Golf is a sport like no other. Where else can you get a four to five hour introduction to a complete stranger and immediately bond over a common interest? I discovered a long time ago playing provides career opportunities and encourage random starter pairings because I always see the possibility for a business connection.

The golf course can be compared to LinkedIn without pretending to have done business with, or be friends with the person you are trying to invite into your professional network.

A few years ago I headed out to the course on a chilly Chicago fall morning and my twosome was paired up with a surly looking gentleman. Apparently he didn’t appreciate the intrusion so I refrained from friendly banter until the fifth hole and used the PGA tournament unfolding that day to break the ice.

You Never Know Who You Might Meet

Throughout the round our conversation turned to family, work and fine dining suggestions. Walking off the 18th green he offered a business card with a contact in the marketing department at Microsoft and assured me he would make the introduction via email.

The following summer Microsoft hosted an outing I was marketing for sponsorship. If I hadn’t initiated a conversation I can guarantee navigating through a company like Microsoft would be like walking through a labyrinth blindfolded.

Admittedly I am not a shy person and making conversation with strangers comes easy. For those who prefer to tee it up with players only in their social circles, reconsider how you view a round by adding business prospecting as a benefit. Talking about golf is the ultimate conversation buffer and by nature of being on the course it is safe to assume your partners share the same affinity for the sport. That’s the great thing about golf, no matter the skill level, knowledge and enthusiasm is universal.

Opportunity to make business connections can also happen at the practice center, stacked tee boxes, and in the clubhouse. The same approach applies to all scenarios…start the introduction with a golf topic before diving into personal questions.

Keep Awareness Antennae Tuned In

If you find yourself paired up with a random group, play your round with confidence from the onset and refrain from making excuses or apologizing for bad shots. The same goes for displaying over confidence and offering instruction unless asked. I also advise against initiating friendly betting games, over-imbibing and always play by the rules.

The golf course is a great indicator how a person will behave in business situations. Would you take an appointment with a financial advisor introduced at a social gathering if she apologized all evening for her shortcomings? How about scheduling an interview with a prospect for an HR director’s position once you discovered his fondness for racial jokes and drinking? Apologizing for bad shots translates to, “she lacks confidence and decisiveness”. Inappropriate jokes and obnoxious behavior translation, “This guy is a lawsuit waiting to happen”.

Talking about golf off the course is a great icebreaker at the office or social functions. Stand in a room for five minutes on a Monday after a big televised golf tournament and odds are golf will come up in conversation.

You Can Talk Golf Almost Anywhere

As a team member of the Women on Course organization my suggestion to guests attending events and not quite onboard with the golf lifestyle is to learn the basics of golf lingo and turn on the Golf Channel a few times a week. Showing an interest in the sport automatically gives you access to coworkers and professional contacts you may not bond with due to a lack of common interests.

In my opinion there is almost never a bad time to talk about golf. In 2011 I attended the PGA Merchandise Show scoping out potential sponsors and partners for Women on Course events. In the restroom I struck up a conversation with a woman about the show and playing golf. It turned out she was an exhibitor assigned to an area where few spectators venture.

I stopped by her booth on my way out and quickly realized her product fit perfectly with the WOC demographic. I left Orlando with a new sponsor and to this day we both chuckle when reminiscing about the introduction.

The restroom story may seem like a stretch considering I was at the PGA Merchandise Show and what else can you talk about besides golf. Believe me, I always find a way to work golf into a conversation with strangers and if they abhor the game, at least I provide an outlet to vent and then we can move on to new topics.

Renee Mancino

Renee Mancino, located in Chicago, IL, Inclusion and Diversity Consultant to the golf industry, Independent Contractor for the Women on Course Organization, Co-Owner of Chicago Outdoor Media, 20 year amateur golfer, and intent on proving breaking 80 was not a fluke.

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