Tips of the bright green trade – how to maximise your career chances
By Stacey Aplin, PR Officer at Groundwork
Whether it’s a love for the great outdoors, a passion for the environment or a desire to design and build – the greenspace and landscape sectors can create the perfect role for anyone who doesn’t get fazed by working outside in all weathers, to people who bring creative and technical skills to the playing field – literally.
In our role as a community charity, Groundwork runs numerous horticulture and employment programmes that help people of all ages find work. Combining both practical, hands-on training and employability skills and opportunities to gain both experience and qualifications has been a proven recipe for success.
“My advice to the people I work with is to not be afraid of applying to local companies by sending out CVs or catching people on the phone. Personal contact is a good way of finding work in the garden or landscaping sector,” says Matt Sutcliffe, Groundwork’s Senior Employment Tutor. “I’d also suggest that they learn to drive if possible, as this is a big help when it comes to travelling around for jobs. It’s also important to look after yourself – eating right and getting enough sleep is vital for outdoor and physical work, as well as mental health and wellbeing.”
Alongside practical skills, having qualifications demonstrate a good understanding and knowledge of the sector, as well as proving dedication and commitment.
“Employers definitely like to see that any potential employee or apprentice has experience, but it’s good to have the qualifications to back this up that demonstrate practical competency, such as licences – commonly known as ‘tickets’ – to use power tools,” says Kat Davies, Groundwork’s Communities Project Officer.
“Qualifications show you have a good understanding, knowledge and competency regarding tasks and tools and experience demonstrates you can put this into practice,” Kat concludes.
The dos and don’ts
Before applying for a job there are some simple, yet effective, rules you can follow to maximise your chances of successfully securing an interview and gaining employment.
“Any well written CV for someone looking for employment should show a strong timeline that includes volunteering, experience and certificates that you have achieved so far as it helps to prove you are keen to succeed,” says Matt.
“Employers are looking for people who have good communication skills, and leadership or project management potential, as well as technical knowledge of how to use equipment and a driving licence. Specific training like first aid and health and safety are also really useful,” Matt concludes.
It is important that a completed job application form or CV reflects achievement and shows a strong balance of passion and skills.
“I always advise people to photocopy an application form before filling it in so they have a rough copy to draft their answers on,” says Alan Bull, Groundwork’s Employment Programmes Manager.
Application forms are often the first impression that a potential employer gets from a potential candidate, so it is important to get it right and to ensure your answers are specific to the job specification and requirements.
“Tailor your application to what the employer is looking for and give real life examples where possible to show experience. Don’t underestimate the additional comments box that most applications have as this is the perfect time to sell yourself – so use this box wisely.”
Alan also stresses the importance of following instructions carefully before putting pen to paper.
“Simple things like using the specified ink colour, writing in capitals and correctly signing and dating a completed application form show that you have read and understood what’s been asked. It is also important to complete every box. Even if you don’t have anything to say, make sure you write ‘n/a’ or ‘none’ to show that you haven’t rushed the form and missed a question.”
CVs are ultimately the ‘shop window’ and the perfect way to grab someone’s attentions so it is important that it is as engaging as possible, both with what’s written and by ensuring that the formatting looks clear, correct and easy to read.
”If a CV is too wordy an employer will get frustrated and may even disregard it,” says Alan. “The aim is to get an interview, so concentrate on experience and what makes you the right person for the job as you can elaborate further if you succeed in getting an interview.”
If you are offered an interview, preparation is the key to ensuring you maximise your chances of getting the job. First impressions are not something you can redo, so there are steps you can put into place to help you do the best you can. Aside from experience, employers are looking for the right personality to work for them.
“Always ask a friend or family member to do a mock interview with you, or there are some training providers that offer this,” says Alan.
“Punctuality is key, so don’t rely on what your sat-nav says or on the bus timetable. Do a rehearsal run a few days before to make sure you know exactly where to go to and how long it takes. Strong communication skills are also a key factor in hitting the right note in an interview.”
“Never just answer a question with a yes or no answer this can come across as uninterested and poor communication. Honesty and enthusiasm are always the best policy,” Alan concludes.
To find out more about Groundwork, please visit: www.groundwork.org.uk