Top tips on how to gain the right internship for you

If you’re looking for an internship or work placement in conservation to gain some valuable experience, Conservation Careers Blogger Erin Williams has some top tips just for you…

Flickr / Flazingo

Flickr / Flazingo

  1. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself

Many people have a favourite species that they wish to work with and so when looking for experience they are unwilling to look at other amazing opportunities out there. If you want to work with a popular species then you really have to do your research in to what you will be doing on the internship. Many placements involving popular animals do not allow hands on contact and so you may end up cleaning up after people and animals, or just analysing data on a computer, instead of being out in the field gaining useful skills. Of course there is a small amount of this in the majority of placements but, especially if the placement is unpaid or you are paying to complete the programme, you have to make sure it really is worth your time.

  1. Get connected

The saying “it’s not what you know but who you know” really does ring true in many areas in conservation. Making contacts is crucial to giving yourself a foot in the door. Make a list of all your friends and family and ask them if they know anyone who may be in the conservation field. It is quite likely that they will and you can use this to your advantage. If you are interested in a certain area learn who is influential in that field and if possible, send them emails asking about their research to create a link between you. These links will be useful as you can ask if they know of any placements in the field and  if they do, you can mention their name after applying. Using online media such as twitter, facebook and Linkedin enable you to stay connected with people you have already met and connect with new individuals which helps you to network.

  1. Tailor your CV

When applying for a role, ensure that your CV is specific to the specifications indicated on the application form. Your CV is a list of things that you have achieved and so displaying these in a way which clearly corresponds to the job role is a huge advantage. These specific tweaks to your application makes the reader see that you have taken an interest in the role that you are applying for and makes you stand out against individuals that have sent a generalised CV to everyone. Showing that you have the skills that the job requires gives you a better chance as the recruiter can clearly see you have everything they have requested.

  1. Pick up the phone

It is so easy to just send an email and hope for a reply but picking up the phone is a way to stand out from the crowd and be memorable to your possible future employers. Although it may seem daunting, a phone call can often provide information that you wouldn’t receive from an email and may also get you onto the shortlist if you can show them how enthusiastic you are. Internships are not always advertised and so if you can tell the company what you can do for them, they may be willing to create an internship for you. Doing this by phone is more likely to be successful then an email.

  1.  Take chances

Don’t be afraid to apply to  a placements even if you think you have no chance of getting it . If they do not gain enough applicants they may still look at your application. It is always better to apply to the unlikely and push the boundaries than not bother to apply at all. Volunteer work is a brilliant opportunity to allow you to meet other people with the same interests that may be useful to you in your future career. Volunteering with your local wildlife trusts or on weeklong project at home or in a foreign country enables important skills to be gained. Volunteering can often be done alongside your university studies or career and so displays to potential employers how dedicated you are.

  1. Stay positive

Everyone always tells you to be positive but at the time when you haven’t gotten a placement that you wanted it can be hard to stay optimistic. Being positive and bouncing back from the rejection is critical and can often be an invaluable experience. After you failed to gain a internship make sure that you ask them why, could you have done anything better? What gave the applicants that got the job the edge over you? Learning from your mistakes allows you to improve you application for the next placement giving you a better chance at the next placement opportunity. You mustn’t forget that tens and sometimes hundreds of applications maybe required before you will are successful.

About the author

possible pictureErin Williams is an undergraduate studying Zoology at the University of Leeds and about to embark on her work placement year commencing in South Africa. Once graduated she hopes to complete a Masters degree in Conservation and be able to work alongside endangered species in the field. She is an enthusiastic blogger with her own blog ( also enjoys wildlife photography.

Careers Advice, Top Tips