Find new purpose by shadowing an appealing job

We all know that as baby boomers we sometimes find ourselves looking for purpose in our lives. A new career, perhaps? Well, boomer Silvana Clark of Renton, Washington, near Seattle, takes that search seriously! She and her husband are soon going to strike out in an RV and travel America, looking to learn everything they can about different kinds of work. That’s why she went through what she wrote about for BoomerCafé, Job Shadowing a Florist.

For the last several years, I’ve fantasized about starting a company called “Happy Flowers.” That’s right. I’d hire someone to make beautiful, colorful flower arrangements ONLY for happy occasions. New healthy baby? You get flowers. Happily married for 25 years? Flowers for you! Sickness or death in the family? Sorry, no flowers. I visualized myself delivering flowers in a bright red van, spreading happiness and cheer to everyone I met.

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Job shadower and writer Silvana Clark on the right.

Then reality set in as I job-shadowed employees at Cugini Florists in Renton, Washington. The owner, Bill Gaw, quickly shot a few holes in my “Happy Flowers” business plan. “So many people think working at a florist means poking pansies into a vase. There’s so much more involved.”

My first glimpse into reality started when Bill and Idelivered a beautiful bouquet of flowers to … you guessed it … a funeral home. Not exactly the target market for Happy Flowers. The delivery arrived on time, which is crucial for the job.

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Back at the shop, staff hauled awkward three-foot-long flower-filled boxes inside the building. Later, dozens of flowers needed to be carried to the large cooler where they’d remain fresh as a daisy (couldn’t help myself!) One employee told me, “I have carpal tunnel syndrome from the repetitive movement I do while arranging flowers.”

To my dismay, Bill suggested I put together an arrangement. Now I’m pretty fearless and think nothing of giving a keynote to 500 people. But arrange flowers so someone would actually buy them?

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Bill put me under the competent leadership of Barbara, a floral designer with more than 40 years’ experience. Would I be her biggest challenge? Barbara set out six red roses and Star Gazer lilies as the focal point of my creation. She handed me a sharp cutting tool to cut off the bottom inch of a rose. “Don’t hold it against your thumb,” she warned, as I held it against my thumb and almost sliced my skin instead of the rose. She gave instructions as I furiously tried to understand about creating a triangle, with the tallest rose in the back center and two smaller roses in front.

Should it really be this hard to put a few flowers in a vase? “The arrangement is so floppy and lopsided!” I wailed. The other staff politely averted their eyes.

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Then, with a few quick twists of Barbara’s skilled hands, the arrangement took shape. She handed me Baby’s Breath to fill in the gaps. Suddenly there it was! Barbara added a price tag and put the arrangement in the cooler, although I think it was more to humor me than to actually sell to a customer. At that point, I felt I had put in a full day’s work when Barbara informed me she usually creates 15-20 arrangements a day.

Maybe I’ll just hire Barbara to make arrangements I can deliver as I drive my red “Happy Flowers” van!

Visit Silvana Clark online.

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