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10 steps to land your dream job in wildlife conservation

It’s here. It’s finally here. The blog post you have been waiting for (drumroll)… how to get YOUR dream job in wildlife conservation. AND we have put it into 10 easy steps.

10 steps towards your career in wildlife conservation | #itsawildlife

So, if you’re looking to work as a field ecologist, a zoologist, a marine biologist or similar, you can sit back, relax, make a cup of tea and sigh a deep breath of relief. Let this guide be your bible… and as you go through the steps, know that “you’ve got this”.

Although frustrating for sure, searching for your dream job can also be exciting. Of all the advice we provide, probably the most important (but hardest to actually follow) is to try and enjoy the process, remaining confident in your assets: that is, your skills, your experience and your passion.

So without further ado, let’s jump straight into the 10 steps you can take towards your career in wildlife conservation:

  1. Get clear on your dream job
  2. To study or not to study
  3. Volunteer
  4. Expand your skills
  5. Build your experience
  6. Live in a remote location
  7. Look for an internship
  8. Learn your flora and fauna
  9. Join the local volunteer fire brigade
  10. Networking

Just a quick note that we do have more in-depth posts on some of these steps individually so if you would like more information make sure you check that out.

10 steps towards your career in wildlife conservation | #itsawildlife
  1. Get clear on your dream job.

Although this may not feel like the most logical first step towards receiving your dream job in wildlife conservation, take it from someone who learnt the hard way – it is absolutely crucial in helping you get specific and attract the opportunity that is perfect for you.

Now we already have a full guide on how to do exactly this so check that out as well. But in summary, defining your dream job basically involves taking some time for yourself to think about what you ACTUALLY want as well as steps you could take TODAY to get you there.

2. To study or not to study

Not to repeat myself, but we already have a blog post on whether or not you need a degree to work in wildlife conservation as well as how to know if you’re ready to start studying.

If you still have questions – please get in contact with us!

3. Volunteer

Volunteering is honestly one of the most rewarding things you can do – that’s certainly been my experience.

The people you will meet…

The wildlife you will work with…

The skills and training you will receive…

The places you will travel to…

The good you will do for wildlife research and conservation…

 – these are just some of the things that make wildlife conservation volunteering one of the best ways to spend your time.

The ins and outs of how to find your volunteer placements? We wrote a full blog post about that so make sure you check it out.

4. Expand your skills

Many jobs ask for a first aid certificate, a four-wheel drive training, a venomous snake handling course, a heavy rigid driving license, a bird banding license, the list goes on.

Why not cut to the chase and get some of those qualifications now – so that when they come up as “desirables” or “requirements on the advertisement for your dream job, you can say

“Yep, I have that”

“Tick that box”

“Sure – that’s me”

It’s a massive confidence boost to know you have what they’re looking for…

And a huge relief for your future employer.

5. Build your experience

There’s nothing better (for you AND your CV) than shopping around. And this can be very easily done, at no cost to you with volunteer experiences.

Try to build your experience working with lots of different taxa across lots of different ecosystems. Try volunteer work with different organisations in different regions.

Try not to “pigeon hole” yourself early on.

Your diversity is your strength – and you never know when opportunities for paid work will arise for you along the way!

6. Live in a remote location

And I don’t mean move your life to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere (although all power to you if this is your calling). I mean sign up for a live-in, one-off, longer-term volunteer placement in a remote location. Especially, in field ecology, this will give you a massive advantage when applying for paid work – and will also give you an incredible experience in beautiful landscapes.

Australian Wildlife Conservancy and other remote-based not-for-profit conservation organisations offer amazing biodiversity survey opportunities in remote north-west, central and north-east Australia if you’re looking for a starting point.

7. Look for an internship

Again, we have a blog post dedicated to internship placements and how to find YOUR internship in wildlife conservation so make sure you check that out. 

Basically, an internship is your golden ticket towards a paid position in wildlife conservation. So they’re well worth looking into.

8. Learn your flora and fauna

It might sound a bit cliché but there is nothing more impressive than a volunteer who comes out on survey and knows all their plants and animals.

And take the pressure off yourself – at a minimum, having a look at the species list for an area is a great starting point. If you’re not provided with one during the application process then ask! That’s impressive in itself.

I have been offered jobs on the spot whilst volunteering on biodiversity surveys, simply because I knew the names of the local plants and animals.

So trust me – this shit works.

For more information on how to actually learn your flora and fauna, surprise surprise, we have another blog post to help you with this.

9. Join the local volunteer fire brigade

Now this one might seem a bit off-beat. But take it from someone who knows (and you can thank me later), fire experience can be crucial in getting your foot in the door for a dream job as a field ecologist or research scientist in wildlife conservation.

The easiest way to get free fire experience when you aren’t associated with an organisation? Your local fire brigade. That’s right. So jump on the website, ring around and look at what you need to sign up.

10. Networking

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”

How many times have you heard that?

And, especially in close-knit communities like that of wildlife conservation, it certainly seems to be the case. So why not use that to your advantage?

SO, how do you “just network then” if you are just starting out?

Don’t worry, I got ya! Here are 5 simple suggestions to get you started:

  • Speak to other people at your volunteer placements. Why not? Especially your supervisors. Learn about how they got to where they are. Any ideas you can take on?
  • If you’re studying – same goes, speak to your lecturers and professors. See if they have volunteer opportunities coming up, or ask about their journey.
  • Read scientific papers you’re interested in and reach out to the authors. Even if you are saying “I really enjoyed your paper” or “your work is interesting, do you have any upcoming volunteer opportunities?” – your name is attached to that and your bravery should not go unnoticed.
  • Join a local wildlife enthusiast group. The “field nats”, a local wetland preservation group, your local Birdlife branch – these are some great opportunities to get out and about
  • Attend a conference. Why not? Go all out. If you have found a field that is interesting to you, there is NO better way to immerse yourself in that than a conference. Take every opportunity to be brave, introduce yourself to speakers and ask about ways to get involved in their labs or upcoming projects.
10 steps towards your career in wildlife conservation | #itsawildlife

So that was a long post – and thank you for staying with us to the end of it!

If you want more, check out 8 things you can do today to step into your dream job in wildlife conservation as well!

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