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My next step...

Joseph Fearn


As of my last blog post I was at a crossroads. My position had been eliminated due to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, I was actively seeking work in the green industry. Losing my position was a blow to my livelihood and my confidence. Being out of work is tough at any time but even more so during a pandemic, when many people are out of work and companies are hunkering down, not looking to add new employees. So, it is my good fortune to be again gainfully employed as Horticulturist Supervisor at Mississippi State University in Starkville, MS.

Losing my position was a blow to my livelihood and my confidence...

Feel like I have been called up to the Bigs
Mississippi State was one of several universities to contact me for an interview and I, being a fan of SEC sports, was very excited about that prospect. Throughout my career I had always sought to be part of a significant undertaking. While my previous positions weren't on a big stage, I approached them as if they were. Acting as if we were in the spotlight allowed my groundskeeping teams to perform at a high level even if our audience wasn’t large. Mississippi State is the big stage, nationally renowned as a leading university with an incredible campus landscape operation. Comparing my situation to sports, I am not the star on the team. I may not even be in the starting lineup, but see myself as a role player. I won't get the MVP trophy, but will get a championship ring when our team wins. That’s just fine with me. 


A role player on a big stage.

A successful job search but a delayed start
I lost my previous position July 28, 2020. I began my search for new employment immediately. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was very fortunate to have friends, colleagues and an existing network who assisted greatly in my job search. I was offered and accepted my position at MSU in mid-September and was scheduled to start October 1. Unfortunately, someone in my personal circle tested positive for COVID-19 and I had to quarantine for 14 days. In a strangely fortunate way, Coronavirus quarantine is not unusual and MSU was very accommodating. They simply pushed my start date to mid-October. The State of Missouri released me from quarantine and I happily headed south.


The scale of the MSU campus will take some getting used to.

Much to get used to
Entering a new position means there is much to acclimate and orient to. The biggest aspect is that now, as a Team Supervisor, I am no longer over the entire grounds operation. I view this as a benefit because of the wide range of team expertise to draw from. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to make decisions within my sphere but don’t miss having to make all the big decisions. I am having to relearn and adapt to new processes. In Springfield I had long ago settled into many processes and had all my preferred tools. I am confident I’ll take some of the same steps I have in the past, but reevaluating routine anew is useful. Perhaps the biggest adjustment is simply the size of the Mississippi State campus. I started my career on a large campus at George Mason University, but I haven't worked on anything this big in a while. My sense of scale is off and has caused some minor glitches with time/manpower estimation. Fortunately, this is temporary issue and is dwarfed by the endless opportunity the campus size presents. 

I’ll have plenty of opportunity to make decisions within my sphere but don’t miss having to make all the big decisions...

So many possibilities and opportunities to learn
When I looked into what MSU had to offer, even beyond the nuts and bolts of my job, I realized the great potential I have before me. Mississippi State University is a land-grant college. This means one focal point of its academics is agriculture, which MSU takes seriously. Some of the programs offered are multiple Agriculture degrees, Horticulture, Landscape Architecture and Landscape Contracting & Management. Within Forest Resources there is Conservation, Forestry and Sustainable Bioproducts. Another very intriguing school is the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. Of the many degrees offered in this area, none is more exciting to me than Golf & Sports Turf Management. This program is sanctioned by the PGA and was founded in 1985. Clearly there is an amazing opportunity to integrate our applied work within these schools/programs and learn from industry leaders.


Being able to ply my trade in the pursuit of excellence is a great opportunity.

So very fortunate
I am so happy to be resuming my career at Mississippi State University within Campus Landscape. I recognize very deeply how fortunate I am to have landed at such an organization in this role. There is a clear charge from this organization to strive to be the very best and I am so happy to feel that energy. This job offers me a new chapter in both my professional development and in the potential for new TurfNet blog content. To any of you still searching, have hope and faith. And of course, to the entire TurfNet family, stay safe and best wishes for the future.


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