Podcast: Dr Nick Askew | Conservation Careers
Welcome to this special extended edition of the podcast. Today we’re turning the tables slightly and talking about, well us; Conservation Careers. We thought it would be a good end to the year and to the decade to look back at the journey of Conservation Careers over the past six years and also to look forwards to where we might be going next.
Leading the discussion is our Head of Engagement Kristi Foster and we’re exploring things like how to get a conservation job and how to start your own eco-enterprise. We also discuss the importance of finding your target job in order to secure a role which makes you happy, content and impactful and also talk about things like resolutions, reflecting on what you’ve done so far and where you want to go next.
So grab a minced pie and some mulled wine and enjoy this Christmas cracker of an episode. Sorry! Over to you Kristi.
You can listen and subscribe to the Conservation Careers Podcast on iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher using the following links, or search for ‘conservation careers’ and you’ll find us!
Discuss Dr Nick Askew Podcast
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KRISTI: My name’s Kristi Foster and I am Head of Engagement with Conservation Careers. So what that means is really just that my role is helping engage more people in what we’re doing at Conservation Careers, helping get the resources that we’re producing out to support more people as they look to grow their careers. I’ve been with Conservation Careers since spring of this year and I’m pretty excited to interview you!
NICK: I know! Yeah, you’re also the host of the podcast today. And actually, although you’ve been with Conservation Careers, well, almost full-time now since spring of this year, so it’s nearly a year, you’ve been with Conservation Careers since the start really, as you started off as a blogger for us. So it kind of feels like it’s come full-circle with you now being in-house as staff. But hey, this isn’t my show today, this is your show to host so I’m going to hand over to you as host, because we’re talking about the journey of Conservation Careers, where we’ve come from and where we’re going.
KRISTI: Nice, yeah. So we’ll shift over and put you in the hot seat. So I guess, let’s start at the beginning then, because we’re looking at that journey. Can you explain a little bit about, you know, how Conservation Careers started? I think a lot of people know what it looks like today but how did it get going, where did that initial idea come from?
NICK: Yeah, sure. It does feel like the hot seat too, actually (laughter). It’s funny being on the other side. More nervous than usual. Conservation Careers, well I guess the… to tell the story a little bit about where it came from maybe I can tell my career to date really briefly, and then you can kind of see where that came from. So I grew up as like a fisherman, really passionate about being outside, catching fish and before I knew it I was more interested in the birds and the wildlife that were kind of flying past me as I wasn’t catching many fish, or as much as I would like. And so I got much more engaged in the kind of natural world through sitting on riverbanks and lakes as a kind of teenager, I guess. I then went to Uni and studied biology focusing in on ecology, so the kind of ecological side of it all. And that then through things I did outside of my degree, I was Chairman of the Conservation Volunteer Group at Uni, so every weekend I’d go out and do practical manual work on local nature reserves, digging ponds, putting up fences, building nesting boxes for birds, whatever it might be, I was part of this group that went out. I then got networked into the local kind of conservation community, if you like. My best friend for four or five years at University was the manager of several national nature reserves and we lived together through that time. That led me in, all that networking and work I did outside on my degree led me into doing a PhD on barn owls and barn owl conservation, because we found shedloads of barn owls in the area where I was living, highest density in Europe and we wanted to know why is it so good, what’s unique about this population, how can we learn from this population and do more of this elsewhere to help the national population that was declining at the time. And then I got to the end of my PhD, the end yeah, my studies after eight years at University. I kind of left and I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I knew that academia wasn’t right for me, it’s right for a lot people but I knew there’s so many people in there that were much better than me, much more motivated and focused on the science and the research and the publishing of papers and the kind of the classic academic path. And all I knew is I wanted to do something different. And so I kind of left academia, I got a job as a consultant for a year, ecological consultant doing impact assessments and things like that. I enjoyed the fieldwork, didn’t really like the feeling that I was working for the man, that I was working for a big company, a corporation and it really, the bottom line was about making money and helping companies to work within the law, whether you like the law or not. That just didn’t quite work for me, although it’s a really interesting career path and I encourage people to look at it, and I can explore that, you know, another time. I then moved to another organisation, a charity. So I’d been in academia, worked for the business sector, the corporate sector for a year or two, I then jumped ship again into the charity sector where I stayed for about ten years and worked for BirdLife International. And it was while I was at BirdLife towards the end of those ten years that I kind of had this seed of Conservation Careers and where it came from. So briefly, what did I do at BirdLife? I did communications for a few years around press releases, news stories, I was also managing the website, email marketing, that side of stuff. Totally new stuff to me but stuff I was really interested in and passionate about, that conveying and communicating messages around conservation. I then upped ship and my wife and I, we moved out to the Pacific and worked for BirdLife Pacific out of Fiji and we lived there for two or three years. And while I was there, I did development and fundraising. What that means is basically I was helping to develop conservation projects on the ground across six or seven different Pacific countries, packaging them together as programmes of work, so multiple projects working on similar things like marine conservation, or preventing extinctions, or invasive alien species, big issue out in the Pacific. My job was to create these projects, to then craft them into proposals, sell them to donors and secure the money. So once the money came in, then handing to conservation staff they would then run and implement those projects. But up to that point, you know, I was kind of the middle in a web of people who wanted to do work and make sure they were getting the money that they needed to do their priorities. And at the end of that time, my wife and I decided it was time to move on from Fiji and come back to the UK. And I started to think, well what do I want to do next? You know, do I want to stay in the world I’m doing? Do I want to do something different? And so I started exploring different ideas that I had and we were looking at the same time to kind of backfill and recruit for my role at BirdLife and so we put an advertisement out, BirdLife Pacific Programme Development Manager, used all the kind of typical job boards at the time, you know, and we didn’t get many responses. And it was like, we had six applicants, of which, you know, two or three were pretty good. And it just felt to me like, wow, hang on. This was a really good job, I was really loving it, having a great life, doing lots of great work, having a good time. Why aren’t we getting more applicants? What’s wrong here? And I felt like what it was, was that there was some great kind of conservation job boards, and there still are, but they are very much in-country focused. So there’s like a UK one, there’s maybe an America one, so on and so forth. There wasn’t an international conservation job board. So to me that stuck out as a real, hang on. A vacant niche and an opportunity to try and do something around this international community of conservationists who want to work together and want to work across the globe. At the same time, the other side of it, part of the idea that kind of came to coalesce was that through my career, and you’ve probably felt this too Kristi, and I think anyone who’s a professional conservationist has also felt this, people have asked them time and again, how do I get a conservation job? How do I work in wildlife conservation? And it’s a really important question. There’s lots of people who want to do this sort of work that we and others do, and I felt there was no one providing good, honest, transparent, effective careers support and advice for people. And it’s so important, you know. The careers support for conservationists was totally lacking so I thought, well let’s do something around that. And that’s where the idea of Conservation Careers came from. Let’s start an international conservation job board but let’s go wider than that, let’s really help people in their careers and give kind of careers support and advice. So that’s where it came from.
KRISTI: That’s so cool. It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it, that when you were recruiting for the replacement for your role, that’s part of the idea, you know, that’s part of where Conservation Careers was born. I didn’t actually know that!
NICK: Yeah, absolutely.
KRISTI: And it’s so true. When you look at conservationists, you know, especially people who’re starting out in their careers, they seem so overwhelmed by, how do I get a job? And yet you look at the flip side and the employers and sure, some are bombarded with lots of applications but there’s lots more out there that are struggling to find people, to fill their roles. So I think there’s sometimes a bit of a misperception there. But really neat that Conservation Careers can be filling that. So what is it, do you think, that makes conservation different from other sectors? You know, why was there that gap in conservation? Is that something unique to the sector?
NICK: I don’t know if it’s particularly unique, but what we see in the sector I think a couple of trends that are kind of colliding slightly. One is a trend that more and more people want to spend their careers doing something really impactful. Something that’s making a difference in the world. Less about making money, perhaps less about having a typical career, safe career path, more about living once and trying to kind of leave this world a bit better, whether it’s helping people or wildlife or, you know, or tackling other issues closer to heart. So, you know, whether that’s like a millennials thing or another thing, I’m not sure but that’s certainly a trend. More and more people want to do something impactful.
KRISTI: Yeah, absolutely.
NICK: And therefore more and more people want to work in things like wildlife conservation, you know. It’s increasingly popular, more people looking. The flipside of that is that there are more jobs available than ever before actually within wildlife conservation, you know, and therefore, you know, there are more opportunities for people to find employment. The trick, if you like, is – and part of the reason we set Conservation Careers up – is to kind of help people to find the right job for them, you know. Understand the full job market, everything that’s out there and to connect to the job that’s going to make them really happy, that they’re going to be really good at and therefore competitive at, and have a happy career and an impactful career doing something they really want. So I think that there are some kind of unique aspects around that, you know, the growth industry, the growth of interest in it, and also it’s not about necessarily earning money. I mean, you’re not going to get rich working in wildlife conservation, you’re doing it for the passion and the purpose. And I think there’s not many industries where you can kind of truly say that. There are some others of course, but I think conservation is probably one of the main ones for that.
KRISTI: Yeah, for sure. So I guess when people look at Conservation Careers now, you know, they see a big website, they see lots of resources. You might, if you just came across the website for the first time, think that it’s actually quite a big organisation that’s been around for a long time. But Conservation Careers was born about six years ago and I don’t know if people realise that it was essentially a one-man band for most of that time. So can you explain a little bit about how, you know, you grew from that initial idea you had and started building it towards what it is today?
NICK: Yeah, yeah. And it’s something that, you know, building a social enterprise or an eco-enterprise, as I think about it, is something that’s really close to my heart. And you probably, you know, if people listen to this, they’ve heard a few of the podcasts, you know, we do try and connect to people who are like building businesses for good. I see it as a new approach to doing, you know, good in the world and creating the impact that we want to see. The charity sector is doing some incredible work and you know, there’s some amazing charities out there. But I also feel that the charity model has its limits, you know. It’s limited by the amount of donations it can raise, and as someone said in an event I attended recently quite eloquently, that, you know, saving the world on your spare change just isn’t enough, you know. And I think that’s true, you know. So the charitable model is brilliant, we support charities and, you know, everyone should do so, but we need to find other ways of saving the wildlife which is having a tough time in the world. So social enterprise, eco-enterprise, businesses that put profit alongside purpose, you know, is a really exciting model. Because the more successful they can be, the more impact they can have. So I think that to me, that’s the context of things like Conservation Careers and other eco-enterprises that, you know, we know and we support and we want to see more of in the world. So taking that seed of idea back in Fiji thinking, you know, I want to do a job board that also has kind of careers advice, you know, six years ago now. Where do we take that from there to now? I think the first thing I did was I actually read a lot of books about entrepreneurship and about how to develop an idea and understand it and then turn that into something which can kind of create scalable change. So I read some books, I mean I’ve got them on the shelf next to me but I won’t kind of run through them but I spent a bit of time thinking and planning and doing research. I did a lot of keyword research on Google, trying to find this niche, trying to find a place where there were people, there’s clearly a need for this, they’re searching this thing on Google but there’s not many people serving those. And this is part of the reason why Conservation Careers, those two words actually popped out really clearly and reinforced what it was I was thinking about. There was a lot of people looking for it at the time, no one was optimised or were using those two words together. And interesting now, you see it all the time, you know. There’s been a huge growth the last few years actually of people providing more careers support for conservation, which I just see as a total win, it’s brilliant. That’s what we want more of in the sector. So developing from the idea, reading books, doing research, making sure that, you know, we had a good idea. It was then just about kind of crafting it and implementing it. An important book for me, and we might actually talk about our values I guess as a company a little bit later, one is to be agile. And I read a book called The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, LSU. And it’s a concept about doing things quickly, doing things rapidly, learning quickly, using facts and evidence so for me, the important thing was get something up there, let’s get a website really quickly, WordPress website can be installed in five, ten minutes and I learnt a lot of that through, you know, BirdLife and my background in comms. Let’s get something up, let’s start putting some things out there, and start to see how people respond to that and look at, you know. So we did a load of interviews, we put lots of jobs out there and then we’d look at the results of that. People are interested in this, this particular topic gets a lot of interest, you know. This less so. This is clearly a need within our kind of audience to kind of focus on. So kind of letting the audience tell us what they want through publishing informed content really helped us in the early days. And that’s about not spending years and years polishing the perfect site and doing whatever, it’s about actually in many ways being really quick and dirty, understanding from that and then iterating really quickly to learn, you know, what’s working and focusing on what creates the most value. So Lean Startup is something that, you know, the Agile movement is something that’s really kind of in the DNA of who we are and what we do. Conservation Careers, it wasn’t like a full-time venture. So once I got back to the UK from the Pacific I still continued working for BirdLife in marketing for a couple of years and I did, I think was three days a week at BirdLife and then I did, oh no it was four days a week at BirdLife and then one day a week with Conservation Careers for maybe six months, and then it became three days a week at BirdLife and two days Conservation Careers and so on and so forth. So over like two years I transitioned across and Conservation Careers was like a side gig, a side hustle at the beginning and then it became the main event after a couple of years. So I mean, some people just, you know, drop everything and start something new. That’s great. For me, I needed a little bit more security and I knew it was going to take a little bit of time to kind of take off. So that’s kind of how we did it. Another part of the early journey is worth just referencing also, is I got a year’s support and training from an organisation called 50th Generation. And they are like an incubator accelerator programme for social enterprises. So you know, a day a month, so 12 days every year we got some amazing training from entrepreneurs about how to understand the problem, how to create a solution, how to then scale that and so on and so forth. So without that, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to have grown as quickly and as focused–ly, if that’s a word, as we have.
KRISTI: Yeah. Isn’t that neat that we spend a lot of time working with people who are switching careers into conservation but actually, you know, what you did is a pretty good example of switching careers because you took a lot of the skills that you built up in your career working with charities, working with international conservation organisations in the past, then you went out and learned a bunch of new things, got training, did your research, and some trial and error. So it’s actually, it’s quite a nice example of what can be done if you want to switch careers.
NICK: Yeah, I totally agree. I think people looking at what they already have in their back catalogue, what are their kind of, you know, skills and experiences are, and then asking how can you apply that within a conservation context is a really powerful way of switching actually. So you know, we, without using names, we’re talking to someone who works in PR right now. You know, and this person would love to work in wildlife conservation and there’s approaches to that. One is to figure out the ideal job for you, to figure out what are the entry-level requirements for that job, build those requirements, make sure you’ve got them, fill any gaps and then go for it. And that might land you the dream job and get you exactly what you want. But it’s also resetting the button a little bit and kind of going back to the beginning. Another approach is asking yourself, from what I’ve already done in PR and marketing and communications and whatever it might be, is the feeling of career unhappiness that I’m feeling to do with the fact that I’m not perhaps working towards the greater good, something that I really believe in? And is it just the purpose that’s missing? So if I did PR rather than for Coca Cola, if I did it for WWF would that make me truly happy? And the answer might be ‘yes’ actually, it’s just about the purpose and the kind of aligning those things so, you know. And actually conservationists, more and more, the bigger organisations are looking to hire people from outside the sector mid-career and senior career in, you know. So if you’re hiring a communications manager, rather than hiring someone who’s come out of grad school with a biology degree and so on and so forth, just like I was, no background or experience in communications and was hired as a communications manager. Nowadays actually they want to hire someone from you know, Virgin or Google or whoever, someone who’s really good and professional skills and bring them in, you know, with their skills and grow the sector from within. So yeah, it’s a really good point.
KRISTI: Yeah, super interesting because I think there’s also that perception that if you do want to switch careers, you have to retrain completely. And maybe sometimes that’s the case, but certainly not always. So I guess, as an entrepreneur or an ecopreneur – maybe it’s a better word here – was there a time when you thought, you know, ok Conservation Careers is gonna take off? Or was it much more of a gradual process of just trying things and learning and hoping for the best?
NICK: The honest answer is gonna sound a little bit arrogant.
KRISTI: What, arrogant coming from Nick?
NICK: I felt confident from day one we were onto something, yeah. I did. And I think again, another value of ours, you know, so we’ve got open, agile, collaborative – the final one is optimistic. We’ve got four core values. And optimism is absolutely, you know, I think it’s part of who you are as an ecopreneur and you won’t go into something if you think it’s gonna fail, you know. You go in absolute feet first, optimistic, confident that you’re gonna go and I got a lot of confidence from that training I got from 50th Gen and others. And so I think spotting the niche, really understanding the sector, having spent a career working across all the main sectors and all the main employer types and understanding job types and understanding the struggles that people go through and to me, the stars just aligned perfectly and I could just see, this is actually, this is my purpose. This is what I want to do with the next, you know, phase of my life. So it felt right and yeah, there’s gonna be problems and challenges but that’s what it’s all about. If things go smoothly it’s a bit boring. So I felt like that’s all part of the fun and we’ll figure them out, you know. And kind of so far, we certainly have. So yeah, I don’t think there was necessarily a moment, I just felt from the beginning this is going in the right way. And actually, you know, quickly I could see that things were going as planned thankfully, so yeah. Right to be positive this time.
KRISTI: So before we start looking at what we’ve done with Conservation Careers and where we’re going, you know, there’s a lot of people in our audience that are probably thinking about starting their own business, or following this ecopreneur path. Just reflecting on what you’ve just said, is there any advice you’d give to those people?
NICK: I think do it, and don’t hang around. You know, if you’re excited about something, if you’ve got an idea, if you think there’s something missing in the world and you can deliver it, you’ve got a way of doing that then I would just give it a go. Don’t, you know, don’t procrastinate. And it doesn’t have to be this perfectly polished grand idea where you have a huge business plan and spend months and years refining it and yada yada. I would start, you know, baby steps, do something, find some time each week to work on your idea, whether it’s like one evening a week or if you can find a bit more time, brilliant. And just start kind of putting it out there and seeing how people respond. So talk to people about your idea, get some feedback, yeah. And also seek support. I mean there’s loads of support out there for people who are looking to get things like eco–businesses, social enterprises, whatever you want to call them, off the ground. There’s lots of support out there. 50th Gen was just one of many organisations that, you know, could have supported me but, you know, thankfully they did. And then from a kind of practical viewpoint, what steps would I encourage you to go through in terms of like refining your idea? I think reflecting on where we are now, what’s been important. One is like I think, really understand the audience. Who are you serving? Who are you trying to help? For us it’s people who want to work in wildlife conservation. A graduate, a jobseeker, a career-switcher, people like that. Really understand who are those people, what are the problems and pressures and issues and pains that they’re trying to deal with when, in our case, trying to get a job? You know, so understand them inside and out. Then innovate. Think well, how are you gonna solve those problems? You know, what potential solutions are there out there? And have fun, really brainstorm, go crazy, you know, don’t put borders or limits on yourself. Allow yourself to kind of come up with some kind of new, novel stuff. Because that’s where stuff happens, you know. Then start getting those ideas out and testing them. Build yourself your website, you know. Launch your social media profile. Do things quick and dirty. It doesn’t take much, you can launch a business for like £100, you really can. It’s dead easy. A website, a bit of hosting, you know, lots of free stuff out there, away you can go. And it doesn’t take much in terms of skills or knowledge, it’s all on YouTube. You can learn it. And then when you get your idea out there, then just watch the needles, you know. Set yourself some goals, you know. What is gonna be really important to determine success? Is it, I don’t know, website traffic? Is it number of subscribers? Is it number of paying members or customers or whatever it might be, you know? Just have some needles that you’re watching, and then just try and shift the needles, you know. Each month keep moving the next needle forwards that little bit further. And I think that’s where you get some scale and growth, yeah so. Yeah. That would be my approach.
KRISTI: Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s something that at Conservation Careers we’re always doing, is always looking for the next thing, always looking for the next improvement, always looking to learn, which is really neat.
NICK: You know, we do have our internal targets, right, you know. Which we share internally with each other. It’s things like, like I just said actually, it’s about you know, how many email subscribers are we getting? How many employers are we engaged with? Things like that. But the point of the goal really for me is not about necessarily hitting the goal. It’s just about giving us direction. So if we don’t hit the goal it’s fine, it’s not a downer, you know. I mean, often we do and we overachieve and we’re happy about that. But it’s just about having direction, because without that goal it’s like driving in a car without knowing where your end point is. That’s the purpose.
KRISTI: Yeah, yeah. And I guess, you know, you coming from a background working in conservation for many years, it’s neat because you knew going into building a business exactly, exactly what people were suffering from and struggling with. So it makes it a lot easier to understand how to help people now. But… so I guess, you know, you’ve achieved a lot of things in the last six years. Conservation Careers has come a long way. What are some highlights that stand out for you in that journey?
NICK: The high points are always when we hear from people that we’ve helped in any way, shape or form, you know. I spent a happy hour or so recently just kind of looking across our testimonials. Particularly for our online course but also just for our services more generally, you know. People who we’ve helped to find jobs, people who have got interviews, people who, you know, have got two or three jobs on the trot now through… because we’ve helped supported them and, you know, we hear fairly regularly from our audience about, you know, how we’ve helped them. Those have always been, yeah, real highlights for me. There’s someone particularly I can think of called Rosie, I won’t mention their surname because, you know, I haven’t talked to them in advance but Rosie, she went through our online course, she was then putting an appli… and we helped her to identify the right job, her chosen niche – we can talk a bit about that if you want later about why a niche is important. She wanted to work in writing and actually communications within conservation. So we helped to connect her to some organisations that we know really well. She then went off and did some work experience with them. Off the back of that she got offered two jobs really rapidly within two really good organisations. Chose one and now she is doing some great work for them, you know. And it’s just, it’s those moments really that is what this is all about. This is, you know, conservation needs more people working in it, we help more people to find the right job for them and to thrive in their careers so that’s… those are the moments. And then from a personal perspective, other kind of highlights, going full-time was a really big step. Deciding that I’m gonna, you know, cut off any income from BirdLife and just, this is it now. I’m just gonna do this now, you know. When you have a family and a mortgage and all that kind of stuff, that felt like a real moment but it felt really exciting and I really sort of embraced that, that’s really good. There was another moment in the spring of this year when we brought on a member of staff called Kristi Foster, it was great to bring you on board. You were a blogger back in the day, did great writing and interviews with many different conservations around the globe, and I always said, and I said this to you this before so I’ll say it again, you know. If I could ever hire you, I would. You know, and we got to that point, you know, just under a year ago. So that was a real moment where now there’s two of us, you know, and who knows how many more there’s gonna be, you know, going forwards. And that’s helped to really drive any growth we’ve seen also this year. So there’s been a few moments, and I’m sure there’ll be many more coming, too.
KRISTI: Neat, neat. Yeah, that’s… I remember that moment. I think I have it in writing actually, and I remember reading it and thinking, well that’s a nice idea, to hire me. You know, thinking, this is something that’s highly unlikely to come to pass. And yet, here we are. So it’s funny how things come full circle and yeah, it’s been neat to see Conservation Careers you know, be born basically and be part of it as a volunteer at the beginning, which was a lot of fun, going out and interviewing people as a Conservation Careers Blogger. And then just yeah, being able to watch it grow. Because now I go out and I travel to different countries and people know about Conservation Careers, they’ve heard of it or they’re using it, which is pretty amazing in a short period of time, so really neat.
NICK: Yeah, that’s really nice actually, yeah. Yeah, and more and more I feel I bump into people, they’re like oh yes I know, or my friend got a job through it, and it’s like oh that’s lovely, that’s really lovely.
KRISTI: Yeah, yeah. So let’s come back to this idea of niche, because that’s really kind of central to what everything that we do, you know, whether it’s jobs, whether it’s helping people find internships, helping people find training, degrees, all of that stuff. It all comes back to this idea of finding your niche, right?
NICK: Yeah, absolutely yeah. I think it’s so important. You know, when… yeah. Six years ago, keep going back to that point, you know, wanting to do this thing, how are we gonna do it? The question we were trying to ask is, how do I get a conservation job? And Conservation Careers has just been crafted all around answering that question so that we can answer it holistically for anyone. It’s such a simple question to ask but a really difficult question to untangle and to answer. And so, you know, you, me and many other Conservation Careers bloggers, volunteers we’ve had over the years who are fantastic writers, have gone up and spoken to oh well over 450 conservationists now? I think around the globe, we asked them, just like you’re asking me now, you know, what’s it like to do your job? Careers, highs and lows? What advice would you give someone following in your footsteps? Yeah, what’s the best careers advice you’ve got? And we listened really carefully through all those, you know, 400+ interviews from right at the top, you know, Director General of WWF and ZSL and BirdLife and others, right down to graduates who have recently got a job. So we listened to the sector and we looked at careers paths, because they were totally missing. There’s no career path into conservation really, it was totally lacking and some people wanted to kind of get more structure in. And what came out from that and applying logic and structure and process to the outcome was the importance of finding your niche, you know. People ask questions like, do I need a Masters degree to work in conservation? Should I take this volunteering or this internship, you know? Should I, yeah, should I… do I need to go back to school? Whatever it might be, there’s loads of questions people ask and the answers comes down to really, it’s like well, it depends on what job it is you want to do essentially. And so what’s important really is for you to understand the right job for you. Because what does that job mean? It means a job that really matches who you are in terms of your skills, your passions, your interests, your talents. We’re all different, you and I are really different. We’re really good at different stuff. And therefore we match and suit different jobs, you know, entirely. And it’s the same, you know, across the sector more fully. The analogy I use, which I think is… it works for me anyway, hopefully it’ll work for other people, is if you imagine like the job hunt a bit like trying to get a gold medal at the Olympics, ok. If your goal is to get a gold medal and you see that as an analogy for getting a job, you know, how do you go about doing it? Next year in Tokyo it’s gonna be Olympics and I think there’s gonna be something like 50 events, something like that, give or take. One approach would be to say, right I’m gonna enter every event, all 50. Because I might get a gold medal at one of them, I’ve got 50 chances, right, it’s gonna give me a really good chance. Well actually, you’ll never get a gold medal if you take that approach to the Olympics because in every event there’s gonna people who have just specialised for that one event, that event matches their body, physique, their character, their background, yada yada, you know, and they’ve trained for years just for that one event. So you’re never gonna beat them. It’s far better in the Olympics and also in the job hunt to focus, to find your event. Find the thing that suits you down to the ground because when you find that, a) you’re gonna be really good at it; b) it’s gonna make you really happy; c) it’s gonna make you really competitive, and we know, you know, conservation is a really competitive field so when you’re putting in applications you need to stand our from the bunch. Yeah and d) it’s gonna make you really kind of impactful as well, you know. When you get your job and you secure it, you’re gonna fly. You’re gonna hit the ground running, you’re gonna wake up on a Monday morning and really look forward to that job, that’s what we want. There’s been one or two moments in my career when I’ve woken up on a Monday morning and thought, ugh. I do not want to be doing this job. And we don’t want that for people, we need people in conservation doing jobs that they’re really damn good at and they love doing. And so that really to me boils down to this idea of niche. And in answering the question, you know, how do you get a conservation job? Once you get your niche figured out, you’ve figured out this is the job for me, whether it’s science and research, or whether it’s environmental economics, or maybe it’s a conservation vet, or there’s loads. I mean the job market is enormous. We’ve listed, what 25,000 jobs in the last six years? Over 9,000 job titles, you know, so there really is a kind of niche for everyone. Once you’ve found that job then actually, the process then really falls into place. It’s quite step-by-step. You can then, we can teach you this, we lead you through a process of understanding what are the entry-level requirements for that job, what do you already have and therefore where are the gaps? You’ve got A, B and C but you haven’t got, you know, D and E, you know. Well let’s figure out therefore what are D and E, you know. Do you need to go off and do this volunteering? Can you do an online course to fill that particular skills gap? Do you need to go back to Uni, you know? What do employers want, what don’t you have, and so on and so forth? So it all comes down to niche, you know. And how do you find your niche? Well it’s a process of A) understanding the job market. As I say, there’s thousands of different job types out there. We recognise about 15 main job types, you know, and it’s not just about saving turtles on the beach or whatever it might be that people think about when they think of conservation, which is important but it’s just much broader than that. It’s a real professional industry, you know, employing lots of different specialisms within it. So understand the conservation job landscape, if you like. And the other side, really important, understand yourself. It’s about self-reflection. It’s about what do I love, what am I good at doing, you know. It’s all that sort of stuff. And that’s really fun to explore actually, because when you bring those two things together and it’s like dumf, there’s the job. I remember emailing you, oh it must be five, six years ago now, with a Venn diagram, three circles on it. Realising what you’re really good at and what you love, it was really clear from the writing and the interviews you were doing you like conservation, you like travel, you like communicating. It was three things, you know. So your ideal job is something within those three things. What job allows you to communicate conservation whilst travelling? Well, the one you do now does quite well.
NICK: And, you know, and no doubt there are more jobs out there too. So just understanding yourself and the job market and then off you go.
KRISTI: Yeah. You know, I bet there’s a lot of people that are gonna be listening that are relating to this. I wish I’d known some of these things when I started out in conservation because I’ve been there in that situation you described, you know, trying to enter every single Olympic event and I remember one year I put out about 50 applications. And we do that, because we think it’s normal in conservation, you know, it’s normal to put out a lot of applications, it’s normal to be rejected, it’s normal to not find a job. And actually like you say, there’s hundreds, there’s thousands of jobs out there that are just hidden. And the key really is, it’s figuring out what that niche is, what that ideal job for you is. And you can tell when you pick up someone’s application and read it whether they’ve really thought about that or not. Or whether they’re just firing an application out hoping for the best and convincing themselves that they’re interested in something that maybe is not quite right for them. So I think that’s really neat.
NICK: Absolutely yeah, and we hear a lot all the time, you know, yeah I’ve put in 100 applications this year and not got anywhere. And my heart goes out to them, of course, and it begs two questions really. Or maybe even three. One, are you really clear what job it is you’re going for or are you really, you know, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, firing out jobs to every job type just in case you get somewhere with it, and enter in every event therefore? So are you really clear and focused? Two, are you putting in really good applications, quality applications, are you really good at that? I mean, that is a skill and an art in itself, you know. Job hunting is a job, you know. And you and I spend a lot of time looking at CVs and giving feedback to people. And we see, you know, similar mistakes actually all the time and there’s ways of really standing out from the bunch when it comes to drafting a CV or resume or a cover letter and that sort of stuff. So really putting in good quality applications I think is the kind of the other side of it too. And I guess the final bit, the third bit that I’ve kind of alluded to is, you know, are you ready for your chosen job, you know? Are you perhaps over-reaching or have you, you know, really filled all the gaps and ticking all the boxes that the employer is looking for? And, you know, I’m not saying if an employer is looking for ten things that you need to have all ten things to kind of gold-star quality. You don’t, I mean Superman doesn’t exist, you know. There’s a compromise to be had in every application, so you know, I still encourage people to apply even if they’re not perfect, as long as they’re not stretching too much. But what you don’t want to be doing is like continuously over-reaching for jobs that you’re not quite ready for. Just make sure you feel you are really ready for it. If you get this job, you’re really good at it and then off you go.
KRISTI: Yeah. So I guess looking at that, you know, focusing on finding your niche, filling gaps, let’s maybe explore some of the things that Conservation Careers is doing around that. Because when I joined, you know, earlier this year obviously we had a job board, we had careers advice for people, you have your Kickstarter course, and a lot of other things. But we’ve also been developing some new stuff too, to support people. So yeah, I don’t know, in the last six, nine months or so, what are you excited about developing?
NICK: From the last six, nine months? I guess there’s a couple of things. So I mean you touched on what we’ve already done which is lovely, so you know, conservation jobs, so we are the biggest conservation job board on the internet. We list about 8,000 jobs per year and counting and I think that shows that it’s a really big sector. And we still, you know, still tip of the iceberg. So we want, you know, a much bigger job board again and to provide full access to, you know, the breadth of opportunities that are out there. Because it’s, you know, there’s more available than people realise. Yeah, so this last, yeah six or nine months, I think two big things jump out for me. The first thing is we have launched the Conservation Careers Academy. So that’s a kind of a membership area of our website where we provide access and support to people who are looking to work in wildlife conservation. So whether you are perhaps at University or you know, studying at some level at College and you’re planning ahead for your job hunt when you come out, you know, then we can support you through the Conservation Careers Academy. Also people who are currently in their job hunt and perhaps they’re struggling, they’re not getting interviews, they’re not getting, you know, offers of employment, you know, we can help jobseekers too. And then the other, I guess, the other type of person is these career-switchers, the people who are mid-career doing something perhaps unrelated to conservation but they’d love to work in wildlife conservation, we can support them too through the Academy. The Academy has a bunch of stuff in it, and I’m not looking at a screen or web page so let me do it off the top of my head. We give full access to all our jobs that are on the site, we give access to a community through a private Facebook group where people can ask questions and receive support from me, you and all the other, you know, x-hundred members that are in there as well. We also give access to our CV promotion service so employers kind of come to us looking to recruit staff we can promote them through our site and showcase them to employers as well. We also have a new area of our website which is the second strand that kind of stands when I look back, all about training. So as we’ve done for jobs over the last five, six years we now do for training programmes also. So I mean there’s, oh my gosh as we found out, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of amazing, you know, training programmes out there. Masters degrees, Bachelors degrees, online courses, workshops, ways for people to get good skills and new knowledge which they can apply into their career. So we’ve just launched, a few months ago now, a training area of the website listing all those. I think we’ve got nearly 1,500 training courses now related to conservation on the site. Free to access for anyone, for someone new you just need to log in and create a free account but away you go, you can have full access. And we actually launched a search for the top conservation training courses, you know, through that. So, and that’s live actually at the moment so we’re in December 2019 and we’re currently looking for people to check out the listings, if there’s any missing, let us know, we’ll bring that into the site. So we’re looking for good conservation training programmes, training programmes that people have been on and we’re also looking for reviews as well so we’re trying to kind of rate and rank the best ones out there by listening to the people who’ve been through those programmes. And I think we already have now about, what ten or eleven amazing programmes that we’ve managed to identify through our search and I’m hopeful that many more are about to come too. So this Academy, and also the training programmes have been two fairly big kind of expansions within the last, yeah six, nine months that I’m particularly proud of that we’ve worked on together.
KRISTI: Yeah, yeah. And I think that’s so neat, you know, not only to showcase what’s out there in terms of training options, because you know, there’s everything from a four-year degree through to a week-long course. And everything from free to paid. So there’s a lot more out there than people might be aware of. But also I think that having those reviews is super-valuable for people who are considering training. You know, anyone looking for… looking to invest their time and money in training wants to know what experience that their students have, so I think you know, I would find that really useful if I were looking for more training right now, and I think a lot of people will too. And yeah, I don’t know if you mentioned but if you review a course or a programme, or if you recommend one, we’re also giving away one of ten memberships to Conservation Careers Academy for a year, so a little extra incentive there.
NICK: Great plug, tick.
KRISTI: Yeah (laughter). And I think, coming back to the Conservation Careers Academy, something really neat there is the idea of community. People want to be part of a community of other people that are looking for work that might in a similar position, a place where they ask questions, they can network a little bit in a really informal way, maybe collaborate on some stuff. So that’s I think something that would be really neat to see grow over time.
NICK: Yeah, I’m really keen on that aspect too. I think it’s gonna be a really powerful resource, this idea of networking and supporting each other. We’ve seen that through our online courses and our face-to-face workshops that we run too. It’s the community of people that come together. How to support and share and encourage one another, and that does breed, it leads to success, you know. It’s a real positive thing.
KRISTI: Yeah. So you know, those are only a couple of the things that we’ve done so far but what I think is fun is that we’re always looking for the next step (laughter). So just last week we were talking about you know, the idea of creating a list of scholarships to help people who are looking for conservation training, who might want to find ways to fund it, so that’s something we’re gonna do in the new year pretty soon. We’ve also talked a little bit about how we might be able to help people find experiences, so internships, volunteering. Where did that idea come from?
NICK: Yeah, and we’re also expanding into the US too, we should probably just mention that briefly. So we’ve spent a lot of time… we’re as international as we can be, I’m down in the UK right now, you’re in Vancouver, Canada, we have members and employers from across the globe. But recognising that we still have quite a lot of people from the UK that come to us and, you know, and support our service so… and use us. And we’re looking to expand quite rapidly into the US. So we’ve been sharing hundreds of jobs from the US, we’ve just identified, what, nearly 300 amazing employers, conservation organisations based out in the US, so that’s been a bit of a focus. But you’re right, I mean looking forward as to where next? I think a big focus for us in 2020 is gonna be around experiences and conservation experiences. So things like volunteering and internships and ways for people to kind of go out and get practical experience of doing something which is gonna help them to explore the sector and to become more employable as a result. And that’s a huge, it’s a huge marketplace, it’s something lots of people are really interested in, lots of people come to us, you know, look for these experiences and ask our advice about which ones are right for them and whether they’re any good or not and let’s be clear, you know, the market is full of all types of shapes and sizes of organisations. So there’s some amazing organisations and training providers really, providing high-quality experiences, you know, that really do help people and take them forwards. There’s also the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people out there who are just trying to turn a quick buck, you know, and not necessarily providing the sort of experience that people thought they were gonna get when they get there, or maybe they’re just doing something for the sake of it, you know. Whether it’s, I don’t know, monitoring a reef somewhere that doesn’t necessarily need monitoring, that data has just, you know, been sat in a cupboard going dusty, you know, or whatever. So what we’d like to do really is to focus in on the experience sector, to do like we done for jobs and now for training, you know, to have one place where people can find as large a portion of the sector as we can possibly bring into one place as possible. So we’re talking hundreds, probably thousands, of conservation experiences we’d like to bring in to Conservation Careers, people can jump in, see what’s available where, find the right experience for them and then also layering on top of that, try and understand well, who are the best providers that are gonna provide best for my particular needs? Having understood my gaps and the niche of the jobs I’m looking for. So I’m really excited about experiences next year, conservation experiences. I think it’s gonna be a really useful thing for our audience and more so I’m quite happy to say, we’re not quite sure how we’re gonna do it yet, but I’m pretty sure we’re gonna have a go at slightly shaking things up and making things a little bit more, yeah transparent and accessible, let’s put it that way.
KRISTI: Yeah, I think that transparency is key in how we work and how we share experiences, because like you say it is… all it takes is one bad experience that someone’s had to ruin it potentially for them, but also for other people who are looking to go and volunteer or intern. When you hear these stories about an experience gone wrong, you know, because it wasn’t well-organised, because it didn’t turn out to be the way it was sold to someone, you know, we want to try and get away from that. And so yeah, being really transparent about what the experience offers, where your money goes if you’re paying something, what you can expect to get out of it, what other people have enjoyed or not about the experience so I think that’ll be a really cool resource for people.
NICK: Yeah, and I think it boils down to the kind of the job hunter as well, like you know, it’s a big commitment of time, often it’s a commitment of money as well. That doesn’t have to be actually, you can get some great experiences for nothing, in fact some internships pay and we have a list on our site for that. But you know, I think it’s such a travesty if someone does go off and commit time and money to something and come away feeling that that wasn’t well-spent in some way, shape or form. And that can actually derail a career, you know, for some people like ah, it didn’t work out, I did this thing and I went back to whatever it was I was doing before or some other option, you know. And they sort of lose their momentum through that. So we want to make sure that people find the right experience for them, you know, and it delivers for them what it is they wanted.
KRISTI: Yeah, exactly. So I guess we’re coming up to the end of 2019 here, almost into 2020. And something else exciting that we’re doing in the new year is looking to create Version 2 of the Kickstarter course, which is an online course we run. So I know that’s something that you’ve been working on for a while. What does that course do and what is Version 2 gonna look like?
NICK: Oh yeah. At the risk of sounding like a sales pitch, I’ll try not to make it a sales pitch. So the Kickstarter is something we’ve been running now for a couple of years with great success. So it really is a step-by-step process that leads people through really what we talked about, you know. How do you find the right job for you? Reflecting on yourself, the job market, having identified that target job, how do you then understand what the gaps are? How are you going to fill them, which experiences or training do you still require? Are you ready to be employable? How do you put in really great applications, you know, really high-quality CVs, cover letters, resumes, application forms that stand out from the bunch and get you to the interview? And then how do you prepare for an interview? How do you deliver a great interview and get a job offer at the end of that, how do you control your nerves, you know? How do you do all the sorts of stuff, that whole train of logic from I have an interest in conservation, I’d really like to explore this a bit more, I’d like to maybe switch in or get ready for or put in better jobs now right through to I’m getting applications now and I’ve been offered jobs. That’s what the Kickstarter does. It helps to speed up and clarify the conservation job process. Yeah, so you know, we started that last this is 2018 January, we did it with a face-to-face workshop here in the UK at Juniper Hall with 30 people. We did this with WildTeam UK who are kind of close partners and friends of ours, who deliver great project management training. We kind of tested it out on a four-day workshop, it went really well. We then turned that into an online course which we then open the doors of a few times a year, dependent upon you know, how ready we are to kind of support the participants through that process. So we only open it for like a week or so three times a year, people come and enrol and we support them through the kind of online learning. So we’ve done it now three times face-to-face, we have another workshop coming up in March where Kristi, you’re gonna come across and support and that’s a two-day workshop here in the UK at the end of March, I think it’s 28th and 29th off the top of my head near Shrewsbury in Shropshire on the Welsh border in a beautiful field study centre. We’ll do a face-to-face there but we’re also gonna run the online course as well again very early next year. I won’t say exactly when because I’m gonna keep that a secret for now but we’re planning to kind of launch the online course again very soon as well into the new year. So kind of watch your inboxes in case you’re interested in that.
KRISTI: Yeah, again something that I wish had been available, you know, when I started out in my career. Because it really just streamlines the whole process of figuring out what’s out there, what are the job markets like, what kind of role you’re best suited for and then how to get that, you know. Whereas a lot of us kind of just take off into our careers and hope for the best. To be able to streamline that in, you know, eight weeks or even two or four days is pretty incredible.
NICK: Yeah, absolutely. And it works as well, you know. We’ve seen so many people now go off and start securing great jobs as a result of that so yeah. We know it works and it’s yeah, it’s a really great thing, it’s a really great thing and I’m really excited. Actually one of the best parts of the year for me is when we run these workshops, and we do it face-to-face, we get, you know, 20 or 30 people into a really remote, beautiful place, great location. And we just sit down and we focus on their career paths, their career planning and when people arrive, they might be a bit worried or uncertain or disillusioned about their kind of conservation careers, if you like, you know, where they want to go and how they’re gonna get there. And then they leave really clear and fully primed to go off, you know, with confidence about what they need to do next, you know, and what their outlook looks like. It works and it’s really great fun as well, we have a lot of fun.
KRISTI: Yeah, amazing. I’m really looking forward to it in March.
NICK: It will be good, yeah.
KRISTI: So I guess coming back to, you know, what we talked about at the beginning, what you were describing about ecopreneurs. You’ve also started up recently something called the Ecopreneur Action Group. What’s that about and you know, where did that idea come from?
NICK: Yeah, I guess. Yeah, so that is… we touched on it earlier, you know. It’s really important, this social enterprise as a new way of creating impact on the world and whether it’s because of Conservation Careers I’m now aware that there are more people out there trying to do similar things as well. They’ve got an idea, they’ve got a business idea that if it scales, it’s gonna create, you know, great impact on the world. And I had this great experience with 50th Generation in my first year through their mentoring and coaching and support, you know. I want to see more of that just for environmentally focused social enterprises, you know. And so, yeah, so we recently started this group, I think there are seven or maybe even eight different early-stage, you know, start-up environmental eco-enterprises, I need to say that much more succinctly but you know what I’m saying. Yeah, and we’re kind of supporting each other basically. So I just, you know, all I’ve done is convened a group of people who are trying to do something through business for the good of the world and you’re in that, you know, with another joint enterprise as well that we’re working on together, along with a bunch of other amazing people and we’re just, you know, we touch base every couple of months, we share our challenges, we share the solutions that we can see to those challenges and we support each other through networking and all that sort of stuff. And it’s amazing the kind of the confidence and the knowledge and yeah, the kind of camaraderie that we can kind of, through that kind of create success. And for me I see that as stage 1 of a bigger thing. I’d like to see much more support, holistic support for people who want to kind of take their pseudo–idea and to scale it as an ecopreneur.
KRISTI: Yeah, because I think there’s just, there’s so many people out there who would do something, who are thinking about doing something, but it’s daunting. You know? And so being part of that community, recognising that there’s other people out there who have the same challenges, maybe similar goals and that you can learn together and support each other, I think that’s hugely valuable.
NICK: Yeah. And it’s interesting, again like, just reflecting back briefly again on the Conservation Careers journey. And actually without going into too many details, but in the very early days of launching Conservation Careers, I had let’s call them a competitor, try and close us down actually, quite aggressively. And I was quite taken aback by that, that kind in the business world, that it can be really cut-throat, you know. Someone comes along doing something similar to you, I think you’ve got two ways of viewing that. One is you see them as a competitor and you try and, you know, close them down as I kind of experienced, or you see them as a potential partner and a collaborator and as someone that you can work with. And coming up from the charity background, which I did, and have done, you know, someone else doing something that’s similar to you, they’re a partner. They should be a friend. You know, you’re on the same page, you’re trying to achieve something similar, let’s find a way of collaborating, working together and, you know, and kind of create more impact that way. So and that is another root of who we are, we’re collaborative at Conservation Careers, you know. So yeah, and it’s interesting within our kind of ecopreneur accelerator programme, if we can call it that, then there are people doing very similar things actually and kind of working across similar themes and so although we’re careful to obviously, you know, to support and not to compete with one another, I can see huge potential for collaborating and working together on similar themes so, yeah. Like experiences actually, conservation experiences. There are two or three people within our group that we can work together with on that idea, as there will be others out there too that we already know and are already friends and partners with so, yeah. That kind of collaborative thing is kind of important I think in the world that we work in.
KRISTI: Yeah. It’s kind of that, what’s it called, the abundance mentality. I think this is something you’ve talked about, you know. You see the kind of two extremes. On one side you’ve got people who think, ok we’ve got to compete for jobs. There’s hardly any jobs out there. And you might even be competing with your friends or your classmates, course–mates for jobs. Same in the business world, you know. You can see someone as a competitor whereas I guess, yeah, coming back to Conservation Careers values, when we look at collaboration it’s always recognising that actually there’s opportunity and need out there for everyone and it’s about how much more we can achieve through collaborating.
NICK: Yeah, absolutely. And what goes around comes around a bit as well, you know. The more you can help people, the more you can kind of share and support, the more that comes back to you. I mean, it’s not necessarily the purpose of doing it but time and again, you know, we’ve helped people and now there are people who’ve helped us too, you know. And it’s just, it’s about friendship basically, it’s about being, you know, a good company, a nice person, and so on and so forth. It really is that, yeah.
KRISTI: So I guess we’ve touched on two of four values. One was agile that we talked about at the beginning. One was, you know, obviously being collaborative. But we’ve also got open and optimistic. What does being open mean?
NICK: Being open is quite linked to optimistic I think as well. It means we’re open to ideas. And we’re open to other ways of doing things so, you know, internally if you and I, you know, are having a discussion and, you know, we’re throwing ideas out there, you know, we listen to them and, you know, we’re positive and encouraging around them, and you know, it’s… yeah we’re kind of open to the good idea dropping, even if you feel differently about stuff, you know, it’s about that. It’s also, to us it’s about being open as a company. I mean this podcast is a perfect example of that openness really. You know, we’re sharing the inner workings of who we are, what we do, where we come from and when we’re going, you know, all that sort of stuff. It’s about being transparent so you know, we’re… yeah, we don’t sort of, you know, we don’t hide stuff, we yeah, and we’re open to, you know, opportunities that kind of come our way. That kind of one word “open” encapsulates an awful lot about who awe are. And it’s also, it connects to transparency I think too as well, that openness. So transparency about the job hunt. And we talk about, you know, through the Kickstarter course and others that, you know, people might learn that conservation isn’t the right sector for them, you know. And for me, that’s really important, you know. We’re not here to sell conservation as this panacea, this ideal dream job that’s right for everyone. For many people it might not be, you know. And we want them to learn that as well, because really the bottom line is we want people to find the right career for them, you know. And that might be in conservation, it might be in something different. Find the right job for you, you know, and then kind of you know, connect to that role so it’s about, you know, it’s about that sort of stuff too. We’re not selling it as a great thing, but I hope it is a great thing for you and I hope it does fit you.
KRISTI: Yeah. So I guess that last value is optimism. What does that look like heading into the new year?
NICK: Oh, well it’s the end of a decade, isn’t it, now.
KRISTI: I guess so.
NICK: Yeah, we had the noughties. I don’t even know what the tens were, but at least we’re into a decade we can talk about now, it’s the twenties. Just honestly, optimism is so important. And I think, you know, I’m incredibly hopeful about where we’re going, and the sort of things we’re gonna be working through. We’re in, you know, a year on from where we were, we’re in such a strong position now of all the changes that we’ve made and the changes we’re gonna implement. So I’m incredibly optimistic about the experiences we’re gonna work on, the relaunch of our course and a whole bundle of other ideas. I mean together we have a whole bundle of stuff we want to work on and there’s only two of us right now so, you know, for us the challenge is, you know, and actually you know, people often ask like what’s the best part of my job and what’s the worst part of my job. And the answer is the same, it’s freedom, you know. Freedom to do, you know, what I want in the morning and to spend my time on what I want is a fantastic thing, and if I want to spend time with my family, brilliant that’s what I do. Or with, you know, the job, that’s great, you know. I’m lucky that I enjoy both. But also the freedom is also daunting that you can work on anything. There are so many ideas. And as an ecopreneur, if you can put it that way, the ideas are what excites me and what gets me going in the morning so it’s very easy to get, and you’ve seen this a thousand times, to get really carried away with an idea and to try and do too much and to spread yourself too thin and I think I’ve learnt in the last six years to really try and take all the ideas and then distil and prioritise down to the ones we really want to, and put other ones just on the back burner for now. So, you know, I know we’re working on experiences, that’s what we’re both excited about and I can see great impact through that. There’s a whole load of other stuff that, you know, as the conveyor belt of ideas kind of drops down, the next idea is gonna come along and, you know, who knows, who knows, you know, one, two, five years from now where we’ll be.
KRISTI: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s really neat. I was gonna use that conveyor belt analogy also because I think we spend a lot of time with more ideas than we could possibly do at once. But having those ideas there in the background, always thinking about them and just waiting for the right moment is really exciting. To have more that we want to do than we can actually do.
NICK: Yeah. And I think, you know, probably as we kind of come to the end of the podcast and, you know, to the decade as well, it is a time to kind of reflect a little bit, you know, I do this thing called an annual diary, an annual journal and I encourage our listeners to do so as well. Just sit down, you know, with a piece of paper or, you know, find a nice book that you want to keep hold of, you know, for many years to come, you know, and write down, you know, what did you do in the last year? Where did you travel? And just do bullet points are absolutely fine, you know. Just super quick, it takes me, you know, half an hour or so every year but it’s really, really helped me, you know. Where did you travel, you know? What were the best bits of last year? What were the worst bits of last year? What kind of books and music and films did you read and listen to and enjoy? Because it just helps you to remember, you know, in years to come that was the year when this, that and the other thing happened. The music connects you back to that. And then, you know, health, wealth and happiness are things that I kind of touch on too, so you know, how is my health, what does the bank balance look like, you know, and the happiness-wise, you know, how happy am I in my career and in my job, you know, out of ten and why? You know, and that career happiness thing has been really important to me in the last ten, fifteen years and it is what encouraged me to move from one job to another, it encouraged me to start Conservation Careers and just that annual reflection, just once a year, bullet point, annual diary, all that then coalesces into what are my resolutions for next year? You know, it all comes together in like, what do I want to do more of next year? Or what do I want to do less of next year? You know, and I think now is a really good time in the year, if you’re listening to this at the end of December or beginning of January, spend half an hour, write an annual diary, think about the resolutions and think about, you know, where things might be going career-wise, how you’re going to kind of, you know, keep things getting better. If you’re happy, brilliant. How are you gonna be happier? You know, if you’re not happy, what changes do you need to make?
KRISTI: I think that reflection bit is really key because when you hear the word “resolutions”, it’s almost like this forced thing. Oh my God, I have to write a resolution, I have to stick to it. Whereas if you just look back and reflect with no pressure at all, it actually falls into place quite easily, you know. You see the whole picture of what you’ve done, what you’ve enjoyed, what you haven’t enjoyed, what’s gone well, what hasn’t. I think it’s a lot easier to pick out ok, actually I just want to do more of that thing.
NICK: Yeah, that’s it.
KRISTI: Yeah. I started doing one the other day and there were just such simple things like I want to do more writing. Or, you know, I want to do more reading. It doesn’t have to be a big earth-shattering goal. It can be something quite simple.
NICK: Yeah, absolutely, yeah, yeah. But just taking that moment to reflect, you know. And it’s the same with your, you know, when you do your self-reflection for the job hunt as well. Just realise I think also that this is just like a snapshot or a moment in time, in a year from now you’re gonna feel different, you know. And you might have different skills and experiences, and things might change and that’s the agile side of stuff, you need to sort of move and pivot but having a plan at the beginning of the day, whether that’s a plan for the next year and your resolution or whether that’s a plan for your career and where you want to go, you know, is always gonna help you, it’s always gonna guide you and it’s just like the goals that we have internally, it’s just about giving you a little bit of direction and yeah, that’s it. It helps me a lot and hopefully it will help others too.
KRISTI: We’d love to hear about your goals for anyone listening, so you have an opportunity to share that a little later in the month as we wrap up the year, we’ll be sharing on social media and I also wanted to give a shout out to a new special person who has just joined the team very recently as our Social Media Officer. That’s Christina and she has been with us for maybe a month, a month and a half now or so. And I think that’s super exciting because she’s able to share a lot more of the resources, a lot more jobs, all that kind of stuff, on social media. So you’ll be hearing more about what we’re doing and get to meet and know her a little bit, so thanks Christina!
NICK: Yeah, she’s been doing some great work. So if you’ve noticed that things have got, I don’t know, a lot more polished, a lot more exciting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, it’s down to Christina, thank you so much.
KRISTI: And Nick, you already… I was leaving a question for you for the end which was, what’s your favourite and least favourite part of your job, but you already answered it!
NICK: Yeah, I know. Freedom. I know, freedom!
KRISTI: Yeah, freedom.
NICK: (laughter) It’s a blessing and a curse, yeah, yeah. Well look Kristi, it’s been really nice. It’s been a bit weird sitting on the other side of the table but it’s been really fun as always kind of talking these things through. I hope people who have listened to this have kind of enjoyed hearing a little bit about the inner workings of Conservation Careers and our journey and hopefully they’re as excited as we are about where things are going as well.
KRISTI: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to next year so, thanks Nick. Thanks for being in the hot seat. And looking forward to hearing some resolutions and ideas for next year.
NICK: Ok well I hope you enjoyed that everyone, if you did then please do hit that ‘subscribe’ button to get notified when new episodes are live and also give us a rating as it really helps us to get in front of more people. If you enjoy the interviews we’ve collated the best advice from over 400 professional conservationists into a free e-book, which you can download from the bottom of our website. And finally, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for the podcast, please tweet them to @ConserveCareers, we’d love to hear from you. Ok, till next time guys, this is Nick signing out.