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    | 4 min read

    The top 10 things to consider before switching to an outdoor career

    If you’re feeling confused about shifting careers to pursue a passion, you’re not alone.  It’s a multi-layered decision that requires careful planning and research.  I can say this with some conviction, because I made that difficult decision myself recently.  Two years ago, rather than accept a corporate job offer, I took a risk and committed to a Fine Gardening internship at The Garden Continuum (TGC).  In turn, TGC took a chance on me. 

    I guess you could say, the seeds of change had been planted long ago, but I was waiting for the right opportunity to sprout. The career path I had been on was rewarding both financially and professionally, but the more I reflected on the kind of life I wanted to live and the urge to be part of an industry that builds a better planet, the more it became evident that working with plants was a way forward.

    While I was confident I could keep up with the physical nature of the job, I had never worked as a gardener professionally.  After all, my degree is in communications, not horticulture.  I knew it would be a stretch, but I promised myself to set about the position with an open mind, curiosity and willingness to learn a new trade. Before making that promise, however, there were many layers to peel back and consider. 


    Nina learning to drive a cabover diesel truck

    Branching Out: 10 Key Considerations Before Cultivating a Career as a Gardener

    Here are 10 considerations that helped me solidify my choice when I was on the fence.

    1) Before taking the leap, it's crucial to dip your toes in the water: It's essential to gain firsthand experience of how you'll feel in your prospective position. Will it truly be a good fit for you? Can you handle the physical demands that come with the job? Is the potential disruption to your current lifestyle worthwhile for committing to this change? To gain valuable insights, consider engaging in activities like volunteering, job shadowing, and conversing with professionals already working in the industry. These hands-on opportunities provide invaluable exposure, enabling you to develop essential skills, grasp the nuances of plant care, and foster confidence in your abilities. Moreover, it's vital to acknowledge the "nature of nature" itself. Nature can be unforgiving—hot, freezing, sticky, buggy, and dirty. These are aspects that home gardeners may not fully grasp. Unlike being at home where you can retreat indoors if it gets too hot, at work, you must persevere until your break or the end of the workday.

    2) Passion for Plants and Nature: Evaluate your love of plants, gardening, and the outdoors. A genuine passion will be the driving force behind your success as a gardener and will fuel your motivation to adapt to different situations. That said, it’s important for prospective gardeners to make sure their passion isn’t misinterpreted as “liking” and maybe “knowing” enough about gardening to understand it fully. The truth is that your passion doesn't necessarily equate to comprehensive knowledge or expertise. The danger lies in the hubris of idealism, which can lead to a rude awakening. It's important not to conflate passion with the capacity or capability whether mentally, emotionally, or physically.

    3) Knowledge and Skills: While formal education is not always necessary, having a strong foundation in horticulture, botany, or related fields can provide valuable insights and enhance your career prospects. Acquiring knowledge of plant care, soil management, pest control, and landscaping techniques will be crucial, but you don’t have to know EVERYTHING. A basic understanding and a motivation to learn will make the journey easier and more fulfilling.

    4) Seasonal & Repetitive Nature of Work: Gardening work is highly influenced by seasons. Some parts of the year may be busier than others, and it's crucial to plan your finances accordingly. Consider how you will manage during off-peak seasons and explore options for diversifying your services or income streams. Working as a pro means doing the same task over and over… and over… for clients. When at home you mulch once, in the pro world you mulch for a month or more. Being aware of this going in will be essential to job satisfaction. 

    5) Networking and Building Relationships: Building a strong network within the gardening community can open doors to new opportunities, partnerships, and mentorship. Attend gardening events, join professional organizations, and connect with local gardeners to expand your knowledge and reach.

    6) Career Growth and Specialization: Evaluate your long-term goals and aspirations as a gardener. Determine whether you want to specialize in a particular area, such as landscape design, organic gardening, or urban farming. Continuous learning and professional development will be key to your growth in the field.

    7) Financial Considerations: Assess the financial implications of a career switch. Understand the potential income range for gardeners in your area and consider factors such as initial investment in tools and equipment, ongoing expenses, and the time it may take to establish yourself.

    8) Work-Life Balance: Reflect on your desired work-life balance. Gardening can involve long hours, especially during peak seasons. Consider whether this aligns with your personal priorities and commitments.

    9) How do you want to be remembered? Reflecting on this question sheds light on what matters most and oftentimes seals the deal. Interview your future self and ask, whether or not you want to be remembered as the person who slogged away at their desk doing something that didn’t align with their values or if you want to be remembered as the person who took a chance and pursued a passion. 

    10) Give yourself a timeline and make sure you have a backup plan.  For instance, if you’re transitioning from the corporate world to gardening and you find yourself at the bottom of a steep learning curve, allow yourself ample time to acquire the right skills before giving up.  If it doesn’t work out, you can rethink your goal and determine whether or not you should give yourself more time or turn to Plan B.   


    Celebrating achievements and recognizing efforts makes any job more worthwhile!

    From Dreaming to Digging: Embracing Your Career as a Gardener with Confidence and Passion"

    Two years later, I (Nina) am proud to say that I became a full-fledged gardener.  The learning experiences, mentorship and my renewed connection set the foundation for a life-long journey ahead.  If you’re thinking about a career transition, it’s important to remember there’s no way of ensuring victory or even guaranteeing you’ll like it, but not making the switch might leave you with some pretty big regrets later in life.

    The Garden Continuum is always looking for energetic, hard-working and driven professionals of all levels.  If  you’re considering a career shift and think gardening might be your next calling, check out the TGC careers page.

    If you are interested in regenerative gardening, please download our eBook: How Regenerative Gardening will help Fight Climate Change.

    How Regenerative Gardening Will Help Fight Climate Change Now