10 Things you can do for your conservation career right now!
So you want a career in conservation? Great! Whether you are an accountant who has just decided that maybe conservation is your thing, or you have just finished a degree in Conservation Management, you have come to the right place. You have to start somewhere, and here are some things you will be able to do no matter your level of experience.
1. Remember your passion and where it came from
The first step of the journey is finding the motivation to make that first step! So… why do you want to work in conservation? Were you the kid that exasperated their parents by wandering home covered in mud with a bucket of frogspawn and a pet caterpillar? Did you spend some time on field work and enjoyed it so much that you have to do it again? Do you read up on environmental policies and itch to get involved? Whatever your motivation, focus on it – remember how much it matters to you and why. Go back to it whenever you are feeling discouraged or fed up. You want to make a difference because of something within you. You need that to have the determination to keep going.
2. Practice what you want to preach
This may seem obvious and probably does not need to be stated, but if your passion lies in conservation, prove it! If you are concerned about the effects of intensive agriculture, cut down your meat and dairy consumption. Climate change is worrying you? Reduce your carbon footprint where possible. Can you see the effects of declining biodiversity? Plant flowers, make a bird feeder, set up a bat box. Apart from anything else, making conservation more prominent in your way of thinking improves your motivation, makes you consider more current issues and increases the likelihood of getting involved with like-minded people.
3. Gear your CV towards conservation
So, you’re all ready and raring to go with the motivation and actions of a conservation ambassador! Now you need to let other people know about it. Websites like ‘LinkedIn’ are brilliant for this. Make a profile that clearly shows where your interest lies and where you want to go. Upload a brilliant CV that shows your most relevant skills in conservation. There are other great blogs on this site that go into more detail about how to do this.
Get others to look through your CV too. Having the advice of somebody already working in conservation is invaluable. However, don’t underestimate advice from external friends. They will be able to tell you if your CV clearly shows your motivation, and can help with formatting and spelling errors. We all know it; typos cause applications to go straight into the bin. The more people who you force to read your CV, the better!
4. Talk to people
The importance of networking cannot be overstated. Conservationists are of the opinion that the more people who get involved with conservation, the better. Use this! Email local conservation groups and see how you can get involved. You don’t have to start big; go along to a conservation event, volunteer at a nature reserve one day, go along to a public environmental talk. The more people you meet, the more people you will be introduced to, the more opportunities you will hear about and the more likely you will ultimately be to get that job in conservation.
5. Create an online presence
Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Conservation-Careers. WordPress. YouTube. There are so many websites that allow you to connect with people. That may be informing your friends about the amazing sandwich you had for lunch, or telling the twittersphere that you don’t like ‘One Direction’. It is so easy to reach so many people. Tweet about conservation and follow conservation pages on Twitter. Post interesting wildlife articles on Facebook. Keep updating your LinkedIn profile and get involved in LinkedIn discussions. Keep up to date with jobs posted online. Write or record a blog or vlog. If an employer is interested in you and happens to google you, it would be great to have all of these mediums showing that you care.
6. Build up experience
Networking and being active online will hopefully lead to good contacts and opportunities for building up experience, but you can also do this by yourself. Contact your local nature reserve and ask about volunteering, apply for internships, join relevant educational groups. Do you have any friends in the field of conservation already? Use them! Also think about the job you are in right now and try to hone and highlight any transferable skills. This is a win-win tactic as your colleagues will see you becoming more adept within the work place and it creates CV fodder for you!
7. Use your free time wisely
Use weekends and holidays to your advantage. We’ve already mentioned volunteering locally, but nowadays there is a whole scope of things you can do all over the world. Volunteering holidays are fun and also allow you to add a new aspect to your CV. However, from a conservation point of view, it is important to research whether certain groups advertising ‘ecotourism’ are actually eco-friendly. Long term, you could consider trying to get a voluntary field assistant position. Many of these are subsidised so that although you won’t make money, it won’t cost you anything either. Free evening time can be spent on beneficial things too, like starting a blog on current issues and the areas of conservation you’re interested in.
If you do an hour of reading around your chosen subject a day, you will become a world expert on the matter in 7 years! Now I am not necessarily suggesting that you do this, but that is an amazing fact. If you devote some of your time to keeping up to date with conservation issues and research, you will have proof in the opportune moments that you are invested in your topic, and you will be remembered for it. When you truly have knowledge and insight on a matter, the pressure is off. You will have the confidence and awareness already that employers are looking for.
An obvious point, but you don’t get any of the jobs you don’t apply for. Don’t put it off, new jobs are being advertised every day, and deadlines for applications are passing every day. Start now. Good job sites include:
10. Don’t give up!
Whether you have just decided that a career in conservation is for you, or you’ve been trying to break in for years, getting where you want to go can seem like a mission. It is easy to get discouraged, but conservation is being acknowledged more and more as a global priority and job availability in this area will only grow. You have only failed at getting where you want to go when you stop trying!
About the author
Keturah Smithson studied a BSc in Zoology at the University of Leicester. A love of animals, nature and being in amongst it all inspired her to aim for a career in Conservation Science. She is currently a Research Assistant in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, and is looking forward to travelling the world, seeing all kinds of ecosystems and aiding in the field of conservation science.