This is no garden variety job – the beginnings of a budding career?

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.

Daffodils enjoying the rain at Hampton Court

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.

Working at Kew Palace before the rain arrived

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.

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9 thoughts on “This is no garden variety job – the beginnings of a budding career?

    • Thank you Kate for your support. I can’t believe how quickly time has whizzed by. It only feels like yesterday I was working on th 13th floor of an office block in east London. I realise I’ve been very fortunate in my work experience and the people I have met in the past year.

    • It’s kind of you to take the time to read it. I’ve just been looking at your photos from the Malvern Spring Gardens at http://vergettegardens.wordpress.com/. Great concept of basing the design on the painting “The Equatorial Jungle” by Henri Rousseauand. It really is a lush, green feast for the eyes. Thanks for listing the shade loving plants. I’m always trying to work on my plant i.d. You’ve got one of my new favourites – Polygonatum x hybridum .

  1. HURRAY!!!!!! You do write well sis. I knew how the story turned out, but I was still really tense as you built up to the climax and have a little tear in my eye thinking how much you’ve achieved in under a year. This time last year you were miserable and still had two months to go before you decided to do this course… and now look at you. My friends are queuing up in anticipation of a trip over summer to Oxfordshire and a tour of said gardens. Perhaps also a spot of lunch?

  2. By the way – I planted loads of summer bulbs last week and moved a shrub under your advisement. I have decided that given how hot, sweaty and achy I was afterwards that it must count as an extreme sport. BULBING. You heard it here first!

  3. Hi Kate. I have just been devouring your blog. It is so inspiring – thank you. I am in a bit of a similar position as you were in the beginning and your story has given me a little bit of hope! I am starting my RHS Level 2 shortly – am very excited. Look forward to hearing more about Le Manoir!

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