In my 48 years, I never discovered my ultimate joy until I started gardening as a hobby 6 years ago. Getting soil under your nails, feeling the damp soil on your hands and doing all the fertilising and digging, I’d never imagine a grown man enjoy playing with dirt, especially since it’s a major bonding activity with my daughter Mia.
But Gardening has taught me a lot in life, and also when it comes to running a business. In fact, the lessons learnt can also be extended to our Job Search Strategy. Here are some things I’ve discovered.
1. To get huge fruits, you have to water your plants daily.
One of the basic things you need to do is to keep your plants well hydrated. In the scorching heat of the Singapore sun, water dries up quickly and you need to keep the soil moist. Seedlings or ‘baby plants’ especially, need to be watered twice a day, once in the morning when I wake up, and once in the evening. This ensures the leaves get the water they need to do their job. Young plants need a lot of water. Regular watering is all about discipline and making it a habit.
Likewise, if you are in a job-search mode, you need to keep up your daily activities. Connect with your networks to look for leads, go on Linkedin to see if any interesting roles come up, follow up with job-leads already in your pipeline, etc. Like a baby plant, your jobsearch needs a lot of water during the early stages until the root system is fully developed to absorb on their own. Keep the cadence up and don’t slip.
2. The most important part of the plant isn’t the leaves – it’s the root system.
Yes, leaves do their photosynthesis thing to make food, so it’s really important.
But did you know that I could tear off every leaf on the plant and it will simply grow back, as long as the root system is intact?
In fact, there is an interesting stage of growth where seedlings sprout a shoot, mysteriously seem to stop growing for a week, then suddenly experiences a growth spurt as it races for the sky.
This moment of supposed outward ‘inactivity’ is because the plant is furiously growing their root system deep and wide to tap more water and also to physically support the growth of the plant. (Horticulturists call this primary and secondary root growth phase due to auxin stimulation by the plant hormone, Indole-acetic Acid…ok, enough flexing, Adrian)
In other words, the plant cannot grow if the roots aren’t deep.
Similarly, if you are in job-hunting mode, you need have deep roots – you need to know your fundamentals. What your skills are, where your skills are needed, which parts of your industry is growing and which are shrinking, etc.
You must have a strong grasp of the fundamentals of your industry (the market demand) and what special skills of yours (the supply) it needs, because even if you do land your dream job, without a good understanding of both (robust root system), your career will just topple over and struggle to survive like a plant after a heavy downpour.
Keep growing your roots deeper via networking or deep-skilling – like the tree that is planted deep and will not be moved.
3. You can’t force a plant to grow faster, even you try.
One rookie mistake is to try to expedite a plant’s growth by adding more fertilizers. In fact, adding too much at a go will result in ‘fertilizer-burn’ and could kill the plant.
Some things will happen on their own timetable, no matter how many resources we throw at it.
A Mentor once advised me, “It takes one woman 9 months to give birth to a baby, but it doesn’t mean 9 women will take 1 month to do so. Some things just have to take their natural course”
When you are job-hunting, there is always a sense of urgency, of impatience, especially when things don’t seem to go fast enough.
“Why is the Headhunter taking so long to revert?” “When will the next interview be?” “How much longer before I get an offer letter?”
So we call, chase, follow up and sometimes, harass the HR Manager, but all that achieves is pissing them off.
Realise that once the seed is sown, there are things that go on behind the scene that you can’t control, so beside reasonable follow up, rushing things won’t help.
Sometimes it’s simply not hiring season yet, or maybe the right role hasn’t opened up for now, or perhaps, the hiring manager is waiting to get budgetary approval for your improved salary. Trust in your activities and be patient.
4. Oops, I think I broke my plant!
Late last year, I planted a Persimmon seed to see if it would grow in Singapore’s climate and it did! I was elated at the thought of having persimmons to eat, maybe 6 years from now. (Yeah…that long!!)
After about 4 months, the plant grew to about a 50 cm tall and as I was transferring it to a larger pot, the worst possible thing happened – I broke the top part off!!
Now, the tip is where growth comes from and I was shattered, thinking my months were wasted. However, I did not abandon it but kept watering it, shading it from the sun.
And after 4 long weeks, a new bud near the tip appeared…and out came a new shoot! This new shoot continued growing and today, the plant is almost a meter tall.
What is most interesting is that if you look at the plant, you can’t notice the ‘damage’ anymore. What’s more impressive, is that this new shoot seems stronger than the old one! I’m so glad I didn’t give up.
In our careers, we do experience setbacks and road-bumps. My dad once told me, “It’s not how you fall that matters, it’s how you pick yourself up and move forward.”
So what if you get rejected after that intense interview with the CEO? So what if the headhunter tells you you’re under/overqualified? Or if the hiring manager doesn’t even want to return your emails?
Be resilient like the plant – because the root system was strong and had lots of sunlight, it found a way to channel all its energy and resources into a new bud and took an alternate path to growth.
Don’t give up, don’t give in, keep pressing on! Don’t let a roadblock stop your journey!
5. Share the Spoils
When you plant your seeds, you never quite know how many of them will germinate. Usually, an 80% rate is considered a successful batch. However, being the FOMO/Kiasu farmer that I am, I usually germinate twice what I need. As a result, I usually get more seedlings than what I need for my garden.
Instead of throwing them away, I usually give them away to friends who are fellow Urban Agriculturists. And sometimes, in return, they send their extra sprouts my way – Win-Win!
Occasionally, when I get a good harvest of crop, I do share them with my neighbours too.
In your job-search process, you may encounter leads that might be too junior or too senior for you, or for a role you don’t want to undertake. Don’t waste those leads! Pass them on to others in your network!
You’ll be doing both your contact, as well as the headhunter, huge favours!
Don’t be selfish – share the spoils!!
So you see, besides being a great therapeutic outlet for stress-relief, Urban Agriculture (as I’d like to call it) has many lessons to teach about life, careers, and relationships.
Why don’t you try your hand at it? Start small and you’d be surprised how easy and fun it is!