With only weeks left until the end of my horticulture course, my attention has been intermittently turning towards what’s next?
Strangely, I have been feeling fairly calm about the jobless vacuum lying before me. Possibly the building mound of assignments mixed in with my volunteer work experience has adequately occupied the ‘worrying’ part of my brain, crowding out the concerns of finding work. It has, however, been preying on my mind sufficiently enough to motivate me to do something about it, without causing me to meltdown with my head in my hands repeating ‘What have I done? What am I going to do? What has it all been for?’, which is reminiscent of the ending of my last career. Reflecting back on those bad, sad feelings and seeing how they have diminished to be replaced with the excitement and anticipation of beginning a career in something I love doing, makes me very happy.
I received my first knock-back from a gardener bursary scheme not so long ago. It was my very first application for a role requiring far more knowledge and experience than I had yet to gain. It was disappointing, but not unexpected. The process was very useful in making me focus on the type of things that were important to me and what to include in my job applications. It forced me to think about what I really wanted.
At one point, there was a fleeting opportunity of a seasonal job at Hampton Court, but I have college until the beginning of July and the seasonal staff had to start in May.
Just before the Easter holidays, a tutor brought a job to my attention. It was for a gardens internship in Oxfordshire. It sounded like an amazing opportunity and I genuinely thought I had no chance of success. Initially I dismissed the idea of applying. I live in Surrey for a start. But it sparked enough interest for me to fantasise ‘What if?’. The work involved would be in a renowned kitchen garden. Maybe I would apply afterall? Over the Easter holiday, I trawled the internet looking for the job advertisement. I could not find it anywhere. I concluded I was too late.
Then, by chance, sitting at my laptop on a rainy Sunday doing some coursework, whilst looking for a copy of a science assessment coversheet, I accidentally discovered the gardens internship advert PDF file tucked away on the college intranet. The application deadline was the next day. Without hesitation, I pulled up my CV and began work on a covering letter. After triple checking spelling and grammar, I pinged off the documents in an email. Moments later an automated email arrived warning me that they had been inundated with applications and if I heard nothing back, I had been unsuccessful. Who was I kidding? I wasn’t going to hear anything. I had an updated CV and a covering letter with which I was really pleased, so applying had not been a complete waste of time. I settled back down to my plant physiology homework.
At 5.10pm the next day I received a telephone call from a private number. I assumed it was somebody calling to tell me I may have had an accident that wasn’t my fault or that I deserved compensation for mis-sold payment protection insurance. Unusually for me, I suspiciously answered the phone. It was an impromptu telephone interview for the job! I came off the phone with my heart thumping. My mum asked if I was alright as I entered the kitchen looking very flushed. ‘You’re not going to believe who just called me’, I said.
I was told my CV would be passed to the head gardener for her consideration and would hear soon if I had been selected for an interview. I anxiously waited for the call and two days later I had to duck out of a propagation class to take it. It was good news.
I travelled up to Oxfordshire for an interview with the inspiring head gardener and was made to feel very welcome. My nerves were overcome by my bursting enthusiasm for why I wanted to work in horticulture and why I wanted to work there. I was treated to a tour of the gardens and learnt more about the internship role, what was expected of the successful applicant and what they could expect to experience.
After what felt like the longest May bank holiday weekend ever, I received a voicemail message. I was working at the time. Hampton Court had kindly allowed me to help out for a day with the finishing touches at Kew Palace kitchen garden. I saw a missed call on my phone from a private number. Having wiped my muddy hands on my jeans from where soil had found its way through the stitching of my sodden gloves and finding shelter in the van, I eagerly tapped into the message that had been left. I had to listen to it twice just to make sure I had heard it correctly over the noise of the driving rain hitting the van roof. The voice told me I was going to be sent a formal offer letter. I had got the job!
I am delighted and astonished to write that I will be starting my gardens internship in July. It is no garden variety job. I will be working all summer at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. My budding career begins.