In the boardroom of large public companies, where few women sit at the table, there’s a dysfunctional dynamic going on. The female directors say they are left out of strategic decision-making because those conversations often happen on the golf course and they don’t play golf.
After learning about this in the Harvard Business Review, I brought it up with a female CEO who wishes she had mastered golf and said she would advise new college graduates to learn the sport. I wonder though, will professional networking and back-door decision-making in the future even be done on the greens? Or will it be done some other place entirely that requires a different skill?
With work/life balance an increasing concern, how should today’s college graduates optimize their free time now to build the right networks, learn the right skills and lay the foundation to become successful leaders in the future?
Advice from high-level professionals varies greatly, and there’s acknowledgement that today’s formula might not be the recipe for tomorrow.
Most of today’s board members and CEOs began their careers when email and social networks didn’t exist. This 2013 crop of college graduates, an estimated 1.8 million people, enters the workforce with highly developed digital skills, multitasking abilities and an expectation of work/life balance. And, even with the hiring outlook still bleak, many prioritize the nature of the work over compensation when considering a job, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
One South Florida professional advises college graduates to master multiple languages and leave the country rather than spend that time learning to golf.
“Your 20s is the ideal time to raise your hand to take on a project in Portugal or enroll in a business program in Spain,” says Bonnie Crabtree, senior client partner and office managing director of Korn/Ferry International’s Miami office. Contacts in other parts of the world and a different perspective can become valuable in your later career, she says.
Crabtree says her firm recently researched the backgrounds of board members at the nation’s top public companies. “International experience really shows up in statistics.”
Sometimes knowing what you want to accomplish can shape your early career strategy. J. Preston Jones, interim dean of the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University, often networks on the golf course, playing alongside university presidents, community leaders and fundraisers. He advises graduates to identify the ultimate job they want and study where and how those who now hold those positions built strategic relationships.
“If the decision makers are playing golf or fishing or climbing the Himalayas, those are activities you should consider adding to your repertoire of things you become passionate about.” Doing activities you enjoy, outside the workplace with other professionals makes business fun, he says. “You are not only bonding but welding relationships.”
Using your 20s to position yourself as a leader can also pay off. Community, charity and political organizations are the lunch clubs and golf courses of tomorrow. Getting involved in Make A Wish, the Cuban American Bar Association or the University of Florida alumni group can put a college graduate or new associate in front of judges, senior vice presidents and business owners.