By Daniel Fuller
Volunteering to help out at industry events has a lot to offer and not just for the visitors to the event. I volunteered to help out on the Australian Garden Council’s Career Hub at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) where I was able to share information from my own experience and I learnt a lot from other volunteers who work in different areas of horticulture.
I spoke with dozens of people that were ready for a change of direction within horticulture or were thinking about taking on a career in horticulture. If you are thinking about changing direction or know someone who is thinking about working in our industry, here are five things I learnt about choosing a horticultural career.
1) Horticulture can be a dream job
We’ve been through so many lockdowns over the last few years in Australia and many people have an emotional need to connect with nature. The mental health benefits of plants are well documented and understood on a deeply emotional level. It’s not just the intellectual benefit, Horticulture is looking more attractive than ever.
If you’re already working in a plant-related job, you are the envy of many garden enthusiasts that are grinding away at a desk, even if the desk is at home in their study.
2) You don’t have to be unhappy to make a change
One question I asked people was “do you like your current job?” Many people looking for a change were unsatisfied in their current job, but there were also a lot of people who did enjoy their current job but were open to something even better.
There are so many awesome horticultural jobs in exciting areas like therapeutic horticulture, integrated pest management and green infrastructure for you to explore. Don’t worry, your boss will never know if you do a bit of research.
3) Follow your heart
Some people were beginning their careers and were interested in the different horticultural careers, but there were also people in the middle of their careers and even people who were close to retirement age that were interested in a change. I told them all the truth: it’s never too late.
Don’t let yourself experience the pain I saw in a few people’s faces who had wasted years in jobs they hated, and all wished they had taken the plunge into their dream horticultural role years before.
4) Ask for help and guidance
Volunteering on a stand where you are fielding questions from the public can be daunting but when I didn’t feel I had the answer, I was always close to somebody that did, whether they were on the Australian Garden Council stall with me, at the MEGT stall to the left of us, or at the Melbourne Polytechnic stall to the right. So, I was learning too and that is the beauty of this industry, you are constantly learning and feeling stimulated.
If you’re feeling uncertain about something, reach out to somebody who knows. As well as the above-mentioned organisations, industry bodies like the Australian Institute of Horticulture (AIH), International Plant Propagators Society (IPPS), Australian Institute of Landscape Design Managers (AILDM) and Landscaping Victoria, are all excellent resources and worthwhile horticultural career investments.
5) Networking is always a good idea
Volunteering and reaching out to industry leaders can advance your career by decades. I was able to meet a number of potential advertisers for my podcast that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I was also able to meet people I’ve been connected with on social media but have never see in the flesh, like legendary Australian entomologist and fellow Hort Journal Australia writer, Denis Crawford.
You can volunteer at an industry event, reach out on social media, or you can even do it the old-fashioned way and pick up the phone and call somebody. You never know who your next opportunity will come from, so get out there and talk to people.
These five lessons may seem simple, and you might feel like you already knew them all, but they’re lessons that we all have to learn and re-learn throughout our careers.
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