“Start from wherever you are and with whatever you’ve got.” – Jim Rohn

For every NFL football fan this is a wonderful time of year. The NFL season, when games really count, is just around the corner. No matter what happened last year, we can hope for a better result this season. It would seem the same is true for the front office staff, coaches and ownership of those NFL teams. But, for the actual players, specifically the veterans, this time is a time of anxiety, filled with pressure and related.

Why? It’s simple. Someone younger, faster and hungrier is trying to take their job. They used to be the younger one, the one trying to learn the system and prove themselves and their value…and they did it. Good for them. But, are they “resting on their laurels” at this point? Absolutely not. They can’t afford to. These veterans have spent this past offseason healing (because they need to), but they’ve also spent time working on their weaknesses and gaps in skill. They’ve been working with their “team” to help them prepare better, get more out of film sessions, and prove their value even more than ever on and off the field.

Besides working on their weaknesses, they’re also working on enhancing their strengths. These are the talents, abilities and capabilities they came into “the League” with – the very attributes that helped them get the job in the first place.

Is it really any different for us as PGA Professionals? No matter how much we want to think it is a yes, it is a no.

Do you know your strengths? If not, let me encourage you to spend $20 on yourself this fall. Take the Gallup StrengthsFinder profile assessment. In most cases, these strengths are not skills you have learned. They are more likely to be innate than they are learned.

Universities like Stanford, and George Fox in Newberg, OR (GFU), use StrengthsFinders with incoming freshmen (and they require it) as part of their “Idea Center” career advising program. Why? As a parent of a GFU student, the staff shared that it was so they could determine what was “right about our student” and so they could be more effective in advising our student in how to proceed on their education path and, more importantly, help them avoid taking the wrong path.

Application time (you had to know this was coming). Almost every person who takes the Gallup StrengthsFinder profile asks the same questions:

  1. What’s the right career for me?
  2. What should I consider doing now?
  3. What is my best fit?

Question #2 and #3 are going to be what we focus on. Naturally, these are complex questions that involve more than just strengths. Goals, interests and education also play key roles in career development. But strengths must be an important part of your career considerations, and the Gallup development basics (StrengthsFinder) are a great starting point (or midpoint if you’re mid-career or similar).

Kathie Sorenson (a former consultant with Gallup and author) and Steve Crabtree (Senior Editor and Research Analyst at Gallup) state, these “basics are a set of strengths-driven guidelines that help define the ground rules for personal (and professional) development. They offer insights that help us identify our most satisfying career goals and map our progress toward them.” Going further, they share one of the most common questions asked by What principles should guide career planning, and how can we develop an effective strengths-based career plan?

First, let’s review the Gallup development basics that can be applied to the career of a PGA professional.

1) Own your own development.

Nothing is more fruitless than “waiting to be discovered.” Your employer (the owner, the Board, etc.) is not likely to discover your strengths-based value without some help from you. Frankly, it is unrealistic to expect your employer to notice your strengths, consider your interests and your goals and “guide you to the perfect, most fulfilling and rewarding career experience” you’re looking for.

If you “own your own development,” you take charge of your career. Ownership requires you to be intentional and to take action upon the plan or process. Ownership is not delegated (this seems to be obvious, but maybe not). Ownership is active decision-making and follow-through, and it results in career and professional development.

2) You are successful because of who you are, not who you aren’t.

This is directly what the StrengthsFinder assessment is about. Let’s bring the analogy about the NFL athlete again here. There not many Bobby Wagner’s out there…that is, linebackers who can stop the run and cover the flat. That is why he’s still with the Seahawks. Just imagine if you applied your strengths with greater intentionality to your professional development, and were able to “envision how your strengths would play out” in career opportunities you have not tried or even considered.

Kathie Sorensen and Steve Crabtree said it better than I can. They wrote, “It can also be tempting to focus on your limitations. When you are faced with a difficult choice, using a process of elimination may help make it easier. So instead of beginning with what you do best, you rule out options for which you feel you lack the requisite experience, education, or contacts. This self-defeating process prevents individual growth, because it moves your career growth outside your sphere of influence.”

3) You cannot be successful alone.

Sorensen and Crabtree assert that, “Individuals who work alone can be limited by their talents and non-talents, as well as by their unique experiences and knowledge base.” In other words, they’re limited by their own perspective. Golf professionals (and anyone else) who seek, build and maintain partnerships with others that mutually add to both parties based on trust and accountability are stronger and more capable of creating success.

Why? Sorensen and Crabtree say it’s “because they can draw on a talent pool—not just their own resources, but also the talents, knowledge, skills and abilities of their partners.” It would seem this simple “network of partners and mentors value” correlates to true career development. According to Sorensen and Crabtree, these include:

Strengths insight. Mentors, coaches, and friends who know you well can lend you considerable insight about your talents and abilities. These people can serve as a mirror, allowing you to see your own strengths reflected in their view of you.  Sometimes you may need to guide their feedback. Try asking your mentors or coaches for their perception of your strengths: What should you do more of? Less of? What qualities do they most admire in you? 

Opportunities. Other people will know of opportunities within their own constituencies and circles of influence, including roles you may not have considered. Asking them about such opportunities is a great way to broaden your thinking about future roles. Explain what you are thinking about and ask for their insight and help.

Often, opportunities come through your extended network of relationships. The “law of threes,” as some have referred to it, promises to connect you with anyone within three steps. Let your network know that you are interested in connecting with a certain person or organization and, sooner than you think, someone will be able to provide you with the desired link.

Clearly, there are innumerable roles that “career partners” can and do play in your development process. The truly sad fact is that too many people, including PGA Professionals, practice “self-limiting” by being reluctant to ask them for assistance. How are you doing in the “asking for assistance” department? If you want to get better, I’m ready and willing to assist you in whatever way I can! (Try me.)


Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional/Player Development | Career Consultant
PGA Career Services | PGA of America
Serving PGA professionals, employers in the Pacific NW & Rocky Mountain PGA Sections
Email: Mkoch@pgahq.com Cell: 206/335-5260