Meet Mark. He changed his career in his late 40s through volunteering, and now works his dream job as a successful gardener for a stately home in Yorkshire, UK. This is his story of how he “turned a crap situation into a brilliant one”, and his top tips for how volunteering can help change your career.
When Mark was made redundant from his middle-management marketing job five years ago, he thought his world had come to an end.
“It felt catastrophic,” he told me. “But after I’d come round a bit, I wanted to use the situation as an opportunity, rather than see it only as a disaster.”
After an initial period volunteering in marketing roles to keep his skills fresh on his enforced career-break, Mark thought more deeply about what he really liked doing. Marketing didn’t make the list.
Despite some green fingers and a home that comes complete with chickens, beehives, and a well-stocked veggie patch, Mark had no formal experience or qualifications in anything horticultural.
Mark tells me. “I knew I had the passion for gardening, and some informal experience. But I had to work out how I was going to get more commercial gardening experience and training to allow me to make gardening my new career.”
“Volunteering seemed like the best way to go about making the change, and I did some odd gardening jobs for friends and neighbours too.”
Mark volunteered part-time at Nostell Priory, an 18th century stately home in Yorkshire set in 300 acres of parkland.
He says: “It was a bit of an eye-opener at first – the resources were more limited than I was used to, and it made me wonder if some big corporates couldn’t learn something about being a bit more creative in how they achieve their aims.”
Mark’s hard work as a volunteer gardener came to fruition about a year later, when he was the successful candidate for a vacancy as a paid full-time gardener.
“This job feels like something I can believe in,” he says. “I have responsibility for my own area of garden here and my own ten-year-plan for it, so it’s a different kind of responsibility from the corporate office environment.”
Hi, I'm Julie, a York (UK)-based travel blogger and comfort-zone pusher. Join me as I bring you pics and musings from my mildly adventurous travels around the globe. My mission is to hear you say, "I"m so glad I did it!" instead of, "I wish I could, BUT ..."
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