After working for four years, Installation Operations Manager John Bland reflects on his experience transitioning from college to the workforce



1. How would you advise a recent graduate to approach the job hunt in his or her twenties?

“Don’t sell yourself short. Apply for what you think you’re most qualified for, but know that this is a field where you have to earn respect from other employees (specifically field employees). Be prepared to go out there, roll up your sleeves and work with them. Earn their respect that way – regardless of your position.”


2. What aspect of transitioning from college to full-time work was most difficult for you?

“Learning how to deal with the general public and different problems that arise. But prioritizing my work and balancing duties in the office and in the field have been challenging as well.”


3. What does a typical day look like for you?

“There is no such thing as a typical day. Ideally, you’d like to spend half of your time in the field and half in the office, but some days you spend no time in the office and all your time in the field (and vice versa). Every day is different – there is always a challenge. As much as it stresses me out sometimes, somewhere deep down I enjoy it.”


4. Looking back at your 22-year-old self, what do you wish someone had told you?

“Don’t take work so seriously, have more fun. It’ll be there the next day. It’s just grass and plants. While there’s a science behind it, it’s not rocket science.”


5. Are there a few parts of your role you enjoy most?

“I enjoy seeing a job from start to finish, working with different contractors and vendors, interacting with customers, and helping the company grow.”


6. What about a more challenging part?

“The most challenging aspect of my role is making sure that everything works like clockwork and flows smoothly. Nothing ever happens the way you plan it, but you’ve got to be adaptive and figure out how to ensure there are no flaws in the system.”


7. Can you tell me one important lesson you’ve learned since entering the workforce?

“The customer is always right. You’ve got to listen to what they say and not just meet, but exceed their expectations with your final product.”


8. How would you describe the last four years of work in three words?

“Regret, stress, high blood pressure…joking! In all seriousness: challenging, adaptive and fun.”


9. Do you have a mentor or person who has influenced your career in horticulture?

“My professor at Auburn, Dr. Ponder. He knows so much about the industry and exactly how to guide you in the right direction. He won’t force you to do something, but he knows how to put you in contact with the right people. He knows everything about literally everything (related to horticulture).”


10. What is the most rewarding part about being in this industry?

“Being involved with a project from start to finish is very rewarding. Whether it’s a major overhaul of a big property or a new construction from the ground up, I enjoy the process and getting to make decisions that help steer it in the right direction.”


Want to learn more about John? Now you can.