How to work for Save the Rhino – Interview with Aron White, Michael Hearn Intern 2014

Last year we spoke to Rory Harding, the eighth Michael Hearn Intern at Save the Rhino, a one year fixed contract, paid internship based in London. We revisit this amazing position with this year’s successful intern – Aron White. He beat off 298 other applications to get the job, so we’re keen to share his secrets for career success…

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What’s your job title?

I’m the current Michael Hearn Intern at Save the Rhino International. It’s a one-year paid position, which gives a recent graduate the opportunity to work in a small fundraising charity. The post is named after Michael Hearn, a dedicated rhino conservationist who died in 2005 aged 32.

Why do you work in conservation?

Wildlife and its conservation has always been a major passion of mine: I remember fretting about deforestation in the Amazon aged about five. After spending much of my time at university changing my mind several times a year, I decided in my third year that I wouldn’t really be happy doing anything else.

What are the main activities in your work?

My main responsibilities are threefold: managing the Save the Rhino London Marathon team; supporting applications and reports to charitable trusts and foundations; and office admin and support, including the charity’s merchandise and membership schemes. The role is extremely varied, and is providing me with a wealth of invaluable experience that will be useful in a wide range of possible future roles. The Michael Hearn Intern also spends a month after the marathon working with the Save the Rhino Trust in Namibia, one of the field programmes the charity supports.

What does Save the Rhino do?

Save the Rhino is a UK-based charity that raises funds to support around 18 long-term rhino conservation programmes in Africa and Asia. We also fund demand reduction programmes in Vietnam, which is a major demand centre for the illegal trade in rhino horn. The charity raises funds in a variety of ways, including events such as the London Marathon, RideLondon-Surrey 100 and our annual fundraising dinner, applications to charitable trusts and foundations, corporate sponsorship, donations, membership and merchandise sales.

How can people work for Save the Rhino?

Save the Rhino is a small charity, with only seven members of staff. Any vacancies are advertised on the website and on social media. We also often have volunteers helping in the office or at our events. If you’d like to volunteer, you can contact [email protected]

What’s the best part of the job?

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I love the variety of my job, as I’m often doing a completely different thing every day of the week. I particularly enjoy working with the London Marathon team, as I get to manage an amazing group of dedicated supporters who together are raising a huge amount for rhino conservation – it’s great to be working with something so positive every day, as life in conservation can sometimes feel like day after day of bad news. I’m also massively looking forward to heading to Namibia and seeing the effects our work has on the ground.

What’s the worst part of the job?

Naturally, my admin work isn’t always the most exciting, but it’s helped me develop essential office and IT skills. Save the Rhino runs a very tight ship when it comes to spending and budgeting, so I’ve been learning all about how best to put fundraising in practice.

What have been the key steps in your conservation career?

Having studied Chinese at university, I don’t have the most conventional background for conservation. However, conservation, and fundraising in particular, requires all kinds of skills that you can’t necessarily learn in a lab. I studied the growth of birdwatching societies in China and their potential for conservation in my final-year dissertation, thereby customising my studies to make them as relevant as possible to conservation. I then took a year out after university and volunteered at the MammalMAP project in South Africa, and then at the Society for Wildlife and Nature and TRAFFIC in Taipei, Taiwan. With this volunteering experience, I was able to demonstrate my dedication to conservation when I applied to Save the Rhino.

What advice would you give to someone wishing to follow in your footsteps?

Firstly, don’t assume that you need a PhD in conservation biology to get anywhere in conservation. The sector needs lots of different people with different skills – think about what you can do to contribute to the cause, and make the most of that. Also, volunteer as much as possible. Obviously, not everyone can afford to work for free in London, myself included, but I made the most of opportunities while travelling to get as much experience as I could.

What’s your favourite song?

I’m very tempted to go for something by Björk, but a single song would have to be Joanna Newsom’s Emily. Sheer genius.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGoNCvoZuYA]

We’ll keep an eye open and will be sharing the next Save the Rhino Michael Hearn Intern – watch this space. In the meantime, it’s well worth reading the feedback from last year’s recruitment process here.

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