Optimising your CV for a Career in Conservation

Many people are passionate about conversation; because of this, securing a position within the field can be tricky. There is often intense competition. Having a brilliant CV is the first step to securing that all important role, let’s take a look at how to make sure your CV is irresistible for a career in conservation.

What should go on your CV?

What you include in your CV should depend upon the role you are applying for. This is absolutely critical – you must tailor your CV to the specific opportunity. Having a generic CV is extremely unlikely to secure an interview for you.

Before you start writing your CV make sure you have a copy of the job description/person specification and job advert to hand. Assessors typically sift CVs by ticking off which of the role specific competencies each candidate demonstrates, and these are set out in the job description/person specification. Try to identify and highlight what they are, and then make sure that these are covered as much as possible in your CV. Take a look at some of the jobs currently being advertised on our online conservation job search page to get a feel for what sorts of things different roles look for.

For example, a job description might say something like, job responsibilities include:

  • Managing conversation awareness events such as talks, workshops and guided walks,
  • General administration
  • Monitoring biodiversity
  • Preparing conservation reports, plans, publicity materials and displays.

You need to show that you can do these things in your CV. With that in mind, there are a few elements that you will need to include:

  • Name and contact details:
    • Make your name the title of your CV rather than writing Curriculum Vitae on the top. Include phone number, address, email address and website if you have one.
    • Ensure your email is something sensible – joke emails might be funny with friends but they will really put off potential recruiters.
    • If you have a (relevant) website then do include a link – a website explaining more about you, giving examples of your work etc., can really set you apart. Similarly, if you are passionate about conservation and active on social media in relation to this, then feel free to share your twitter handle or LinkedIn page.
  • Work Experience:
    • This is possibly the most important element of your CV. Amongst a pile of similarly qualified candidates, evidence of work experience helps identify which ones bring something extra to the position.
    • If you don’t currently have relevant work experience, it is highly recommended that you get some – most of the people you are competing against will have some type of work experience. Volunteering is a great way of getting the experience you need for that all important first paid job in conservation.
    • Work experience should be presented succinctly but effectively – this means very briefly summarising what the work experience was and why it was relevant. Look back at the job requirements and tailor your description of the work experience to these requirements – you might even want to use the same words if that’s appropriate.
    • Your description of work experience ideally needs to highlight skills you have developed, and evidence of performance. You might want to summarise the (relevant) tasks and highlight any key successes that relate to the role, using facts and figures if you’ve got them. For example:
June 2017 – August 2017 Summer Internship with Forestry UK Core job activities:

Conducting soil sampling on a daily basis using a grid sampling technique. Using the results to update an Excel sheet and predict likely future fertilisation requirements.

Leading tree identification workshops for members of the public. This involved presenting information clearly and responding to their questions.

Key successes:

Writing the ‘Future of Alders in Warwickshire report’ which was delivered to the County Council and helped define their tree preservation strategy.

  • This example directly relates to the job competency above showing evidence of managing conservation awareness events, monitoring techniques and preparing conversation reports.
  • Qualifications
    • Make sure you list relevant qualifications – there is generally no need to include the specific subjects taken and marks achieved (although if there were specific modules that directly relate to the role you might want to note that “the qualification included x,y,z modules”).
    • Include any workshops or professional training you have attended. These can be a great way of increasing your portfolio of marketable skills – if you haven’t been to any, it might be an area worth investigating further. Bear in mind that there are a range of online course providers that can be a good and cheap way of increasing your knowledge – consider sites like www.coursera.com or www.edx.com
    • If you are a member of any professional bodies, make sure you include this. Being a member of a professional body demonstrates credibility and commitment, it’s also great for networking so it’s a recommended activity for job seekers.
    • Don’t list all of your GCSEs (or local equivalents) and grades (unless you’ve been asked to) – this takes up space and is unlikely to secure you an interview.
  • Extra-curricular activities
    • This can be an optional area where you can share more evidence of your suitability for the role – again, check the job description and make sure the examples you share are directly relevant.
    • Highlight any transferable skills you have developed as a result of participation in events, clubs or societies,

How should you present your CV?

Your CV needs to look neat and professional. There are a few rules that can help you achieve this:

  • Use black type on white paper only
  • Use a classic font like Ariel or Times Roman, in a size 11 or 12. Small fonts make it hard for assessors to read, big fonts waste space.
  • Check your CV for spelling and grammar – and ideally get someone else to check it to.
  • Avoid long paragraphs with little white space – bullet points and short sentences are most effective.
  • Limit your CV to two pages. Make sure these are numbered and that your name is in the footer – this means that a page of your CV is less likely to get lost or mixed up.

What next?

Always send a covering letter in with your CV and, again, tailor this to the specific role. If you are not successful, it is always worth sending the recruiter an email expressing your disappointment and reiterating your interest in potentially working with them. You never know what positions might become available in the future. You can also start preparing yourself for potential interviews or psychometric tests well in advance – the best prepared candidate tend to perform the best.

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