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.

No comments: