From Office Manager to Landscape Designer: How I Changed My Career and How You Can Too!
Landscape design is my second career. My first involved a (fairly useless) psychology degree, some grad school, and 10 or so years in administrative and management positions. . . all of which left me kinda depressed and wanting more out of my life's work. So, about 4 years ago, I decided to make a change, and I gravitated toward horticulture.
The wonderful thing about landscape design (and many other areas of horticulture) is that it isn't actually that expensive or time consuming to launch a new career, and you can even start your own business. Keep reading to learn how I made my career change, and for my top recommendations for anyone who might be considering a career in horticulture!
Consider Master Gardener Training
The Master Gardener program gave me a great overview of horticulture, and it introduced me to a group of people that shared my love of nature and the outdoors. Although I joined because I wanted to go to the next level in my hobby, it helped me discover that I wanted to invest more time and money in pursing horticulture on a career level.
I completed Penn State's Master Gardener program, but different universities across the US have their own programs. Penn State's program required that I interview and be voted in, after which I attended a weekly class from October until March, and completed about 50 volunteer hours. Each class covered a different aspect of horticulture, and by the time I finished the coursework I felt like I had a much better understanding of the field.
See What Your Local Community College Offers
After I finished training with the Master Gardeners, I decided to take an evening class at a local community college. That evening class eventually turned into a full credit load, and then an associates degree in landscape design.
Community college was an excellent way to pursue training and a degree without investing a ton of money or having to uproot myself!
Alternatively, you could look at what local career and technology centers have to offer, or see if you can find colleges offering online courses. Or, you could consider the DIY Landscape Design School, an affordable program I developed to help homeowners create their own, customized landscape designs.
Work for Someone Else
While earning my degree, I wanted to gain real world experience, so I sought out a landscape maintenance company and worked for them until I graduated. The practical experience I gained on the job complimented what I studied in my classes, and helped tremendously as I transitioned my career.
Look into landscape design companies, landscape maintenance services, landscape contractors, nurseries, and greenhouses for on the job skill development and training. Just be prepared to work really, really hard!
Network Your Butt Off
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to network! Developing relationships with other students, professionals, small business owners (if you want to go that route), and other passionate gardeners can make a big impact on your career.
Honestly, the majority of my jobs came from my network of family, friends, fellow students, my horticulture professor, and a professional network I joined called WBN. In my experience, people are likely to hire you if they trust you, or if you're recommended by someone they trust. And trust? Happens through relationship.
As a side note, if you are in introvert (like me!) then you might find this video about networking for introverts really helpful.
Bonus Tip! Do Something. Anything!
My final tip: just do it. I spent years in a career I hated because I was afraid to take a chance and take action. Don't be like me!
I'm not saying quit your job, or change your major, or do anything drastic. In my case, I kept my full time job while I pursued my new career. And, I kept my garden maintenance job while I was starting my own landscape design company. I just did things step by step, little action by little action, and in the end they all added up to a new career!
Are you thinking about a landscape design career or something else in horticulture? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you see, please share, tweet, +1. . . you get the idea!
Want to learn more about creating your own, custom landscape design? Click here to learn more about the DIY Landscape Design School!