Monday, February 27, 2012

One Week at a Garden Center

It has now been one week since I began working at a plant nursery, and my body is tired.  Tired, and happy.  My job involves a lot of manual labor, moving heavy objects and carrying countless bags of soil, but the weather has been pleasant so far and the work is fun in its own way.  My days are filled with activities that might seem terrible to other people but I find them interesting and enjoyable - at least for now.  Planting a flower bed, learning to drive a forklift, sucking up fountain sludge with a high powered shopvac, drilling holes in ceramic pots, converting a boombox and speakers to a planter display, etc.  And above all, I have been learning a lot about plants by observing and asking questions.

It seems that my decision to pursue this job was a very good one, it's only too bad that I didn't start working with plants earlier in life.  I remind myself, however, that it is a waste of time and a hindrance to progress to dwell on the past, and also that my current passion will help me advance quickly.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Getting a Job at a Garden Nursery

Yesterday I began my first day at The Great Outdoors, a fantastic locally-owned nursery in Austin.   I took this job to learn about more about growing, selling, and installing plants, and to add to my resumé as a landscape architect. There is no doubt that this job will involve tough manual labor out in the sun and rain, but working with plants is something that I've wanted to do for a long time. I actually attempted to get a nursery job last year, but missed the hiring season due to my own ignorance. This year I was much smarter about it, and for anyone attempting to get a job at a nursery I would offer these points of advice:

  1.  Craft a decent resumé. This should be a no-brainer for any job-seeker, but I feel I should mention it because these jobs can be more competitive than you might think. I used a resumé template with green font that came with MS Word for Mac to create a very snazzy looking resumé.  (The green font looks more professional than it sounds.)

  2. Know the hiring season. Selling plants is a season-driven business, and employees are typically hired in groups before the growing season begins. In Austin this hiring season is mid-January to mid-February.

  3. Know your local plants. Nurseries and garden centers like to see that you have some very basic knowledge of plants, and that you are somewhat familiar with the species commonly sold in your area. I was asked multiple times about this stuff, and studied up to make myself a more competitive applicant. Some universal questions you should know the answers to include:

      • what are the primary soil nutrients that plants need?
      • what is the difference between an annual and a perennial?
      • what are some plant species you commonly find in gardens in your area?
      • what are common pests in your area?
      • what can you add to soil to adjust pH balance? - etc.

  4. Follow up! After you've turned in your application with an attached resumé, wait about a week and then call to follow up. Say something to the effect of, "Hi, I applied to XYZ Nursery last week and am just following up. Is there a convenient time I might come by and introduce myself to the hiring manager and offer a written resumé?" Note that this means you'll be giving them your resumé twice, which is good.

  5. Arrive early.  If you're offered an interview, plan to get there at least thirty minutes early to ensure that you don't get held up by traffic.  Sounds like another no-brainer, but consider this - I arrived at my interview early.  Of the two other people that were supposed to interview with me, one didn't show up and the other was 10 minutes late.  Guess who got offered a job.

  6. Talk about what you can do for them.  Although you might have your own motives for working at a nursery or garden center, understand and convey during your interview that you are there to make the company money.  The nursery is not a school to teach you about plants or to let you frolic amongst the roses all day.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Huge News!

I haven't been keeping up with this blog much in the past few months, primarily because I have been going through a time of great transition, risk, and uncertainty.  I originally began posting as a way to document my road to becoming an architect, but with the recent situation I feared that I would not succeed in my attempt and therefore had no business writing a blog about it.  Sure, the blog might still serve purpose as a source of "what not to do," but that would not be fun to write.  Yesterday I received notification that I was accepted to the Master of Landscape Architecture program at Texas A&M University, and now feel that I can (and should) resume my postings.

This news marks the beginning of a new chapter in my life, a point at which I have turned off the well-traveled road and found myself walking deeper into a mysterious wood; Nothing is certain except the I knowledge that I am just where I need to be. Stay tuned and I will explain how a guy with an atypical background and relatively low undergraduate GPA succeeded in being accepted to one of the top-ranked landscape architecture programs in the country.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost