Was Becoming a Certified Grounds Manager Worth it?

    By Jared Rudy, CGM

    After becoming a Certified Grounds Manager (CGM) in 2012, one of the questions I answer numerous times every year is, “Was it worth it?” The first word out of my mouth is always, “Absolutely.” You not only learn who you are as a person and a leader, but it also sheds light on every facet of your grounds program.

    As I look back at becoming a CGM, it was one of the major true turning points in my career and life. Growing up I couldn’t get away from working outside, both sides of my family had a green thumb. My grandfathers loved working in the garden, one had a 50 acre farm and a huge vegetable garden, and my other grandfather had one of the best rose gardens I ever saw. Even more, my Dad taught me how to work with my hands from building houses to growing beautiful lawns. So, you could say my future would only have one path - the green industry. I grew up learning about farming and growing plants as soon as could walk, and my first paying job was at a local golf course as a greens keeper at the age of 16. That is where I gained firsthand experience about turf and mowing techniques. Next, I worked at a plant nursery and garden center selling trees and shrubs to the public while attending college (unfortunately, my future career wasn’t as obvious to me early in my life and I went to college for sports science). With the help of my manager and other knowledgeable nurserymen, I learned on the job about plants and landscaping. After graduating college and working six years at the nursery, I landed a job at Messiah College as the Sports Turf Crew Leader. I had no professional sports turf training, but I worked hard to learn about athletic fields and all the things that go along with sports fields. Following six years as the Sports Turf Crew Leader, I moved up into the Grounds Manager position at Messiah College. I was in charge of not just the athletic complex, but the whole campus. As I settled into my new role at Messiah, two plus years went by and I still felt like I didn’t get the respect from my peers that I saw other grounds managers receiving in the industry. Mainly because I wasn’t certified as a grounds manager and I didn’t have a degree in horticultural or a related field. I felt defeated. I wanted to be more than just an average manager, which I thought I was, but no one else did. I was a fairly new member of PGMS, but that didn’t stop me. I started asking questions to a couple of the CGMs to see if it was something I could do, exceed at, and benefit from. Two CGMs, Ed Harman and Kerry Weaver, took me under their wings and helped me see all the great benefits of being a CGM. I am so thankful to Ed and Kerry for being the catalyst to me becoming a CGM. For many of you that are at a crossroad of your career and/or you want to set yourself apart as a grounds manager in our industry, here are some of the main benefits of becoming the next CGM that I was told by CGMs, and that I found to be true:

    Respect of your peers—it was amazing how almost as soon as those three letters (CGM) were behind my name, I had people approach me and ask questions about my management system and how I organized my crew. People in the industry would walk over to me and introduce themselves to me because someone else was talking about me to them. My name was getting out there and nothing changed except I was now a Certified Grounds Manager.

    Industry voice—as I started meeting many new people in the green industry, word spread that I was maybe someone to talk to for magazine articles, quotes about products, and being a representative on committees for PGMS and other green industry advocates.

    Career goals—I am always trying to get better at my job, and like I tell my crew, everyday try to take a step forward to make yourself and/or your surroundings better. Setting career goals is a great way to do that and for me becoming a CGM was one of them.

    Monetary reasons—I was not able to benefit from this first hand, but many CGMs were able to get promoted and/or get raises when they became CGMs.

    Employment advancement—was probably the greatest value and benefit I got from becoming a Certified Grounds Manager. The year before I became a CGM I applied to upwards of 15 jobs and I didn’t get one interview. After I became certified, I had three interviews, and job offers after all three interviews.

    To pick up where I left off, I completed the two-part examination and became CGM #138. As I stated in the benefits above, my career and life changed overnight. I smiled from ear to ear for about 6 months, and then I started looking for a job I could really enjoy and a place that would be a step up from Messiah College. Finally, one grounds job became available in the Delmarva area and I was offered the position, but it was not a good fit. I was choosing the place I wanted to work, and not the other way around. This certification put me on a different playing field. I waited for several more months for something that interested me, and a job opened up in North Carolina. I was offered this job three times and we couldn’t come to terms that both sides were comfortable with so I turned that job down also. Then the Villanova University job opened up. I would love to work at Villanova! I thought it would be a very tough job to land, because I was at an NCAA Division III school and Villanova was an NCAA Division I university, there are many great Grounds Managers in the Tri-State area, and just for the great history and prestige of Villanova. But I still had to apply, if nothing else it would be a great learning experience. I got a phone interview, then an on-campus interview. During the interview I used my PowerPoint of my CGM as a selling point. They loved it! It showed the hiring committee how I ran my department at Messiah College and how I would manage and organize the grounds department at Villanova. I got an offer to Villanova University, and the rest is history.

    As I look back on becoming a CGM it was one of the best decisions of my life. So, was becoming a CGM worth it? “Absolutely!” I can’t even put into words how much it was worth it. If you’re on the fence about starting the process or if this is the first time you ever heard the title Certified Grounds Manager, reach out to me or one of the 168 other CGMs to see how it positively impacted their lives. For more information please visit:


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