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Career Change - Teacher to Student to Business Owner

Linda Day caring for garden
Student Linda Day

After a 30-year career as a teacher and manager, 54-year-old Linda Day yearned for something completely different—something out of the office and into the great outdoors.

While such a career turnaround might have been unthinkable for others, Linda was more than up for the challenge. She took herself off to TAFE, did a Certificate III in Horticulture, earned a place as a finalist in the 2010 Victorian Training Awards, and then set about realising her dream.

“Since then, my business, Linda Day Garden Maintenance and Design, has grown like topsy,” said Linda, “and it all began when I found myself on the other side of the desk learning from some fabulous and inspirational teachers at Melbourne Polytechnic. I’d been in and out of uni many times but this was my first experience of TAFE. I found it an incredibly rich experience and enjoyed it a lot more. It was also very liberating to be a mature age student.”

As it turned out, Linda was a stand-out student, earning the encouragement of her teachers to enter for the Victorian Training Awards’ Vocational Student of the Year award. “Although I didn’t win, being a finalist was a very positive and rewarding experience,” said Linda. “I learned a lot, it was a great confidence booster and I got to mix with people who excelled in their fields.”

Now Linda is excelling in her own field—her business has grown to the point where she has a long list of loyal customers and new customers beating a path to her door thanks to word of mouth recommendations. She is also giving back to the industry as an energetic member with the Encouraging Women in Horticulture Australia organisation.

“The lovely thing about gardening is that it’s an optimistic line of work—working with nature, you get the opportunity to watch things grow and flourish. And I really appreciate that I don’t have the stress or long hours that I had previously.”

“While many people say I was very brave to make such a radical career change, I didn’t really see it that way and I’ve never regretted it. I was 54, I longed to do something more physically active and I liked the idea of working with people who loved their gardens while doing my own small bit to combat global warming. It was either now or never.”

Her advice to others who might feel stuck doing something that isn’t “them” is to take the plunge and follow their gut feeling. “Life is full of opportunities—new doors open and all sorts of unexpected things happen. Follow your interests and take a chance. It would be sad to look back and say, ‘I wish I’d done that’.”

And the good news for anyone thinking of following in Linda’s horticultural footsteps is that the Certificate III in Horticulture is one of the 30 tuition-free priority TAFE courses. For more information contact the TAFE and Training Line on 131 823.