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How to work with wildlife in 2024

How to find paid work in wildlife conservation? For so many of us, this is the million dollar question!

And if you’ve found this page, chances are you’re interested in finding the secret to make your passion your profession and getting paid to work with wildlife.

Speaking with countless ecologists about their journey through wildlife conservation, so many of them say they had no idea that what they do now was a job when they were starting out.

I thought it was just me!

Sure, it’s hard to find paid work in the environmental and natural resource management industries. Sure, 9 times out of 10 you need to overcome barriers like ❌imposter syndrome, ❌gate keeping and competition, ❌burnout, and ❌under resourcing just to start.

But let’s not get bogged down in this.

While these factors make things hard – it’s by no means impossible to land your dream job in the wildlife space – There are more and more ways to work with wildlife – both directly and indirectly.

The industry is growing and becoming better-known and better-resourced.

So, know that if you’re passionate and proactive, you’ve got what it takes🩷

You can make your passion your profession and live the wild life! 🌿✨Here are the 10 steps I would recommend taking as you start your career with wildlife –

1️⃣get clear on your dream job
2️⃣know your options
3️⃣build your confidence to overcome imposter syndrome
4️⃣write a kickass CV And cover letter
5️⃣gather your referees
6️⃣learn your flora and fauna
7️⃣build your qualifications, skills and experience
8️⃣nurture your network
9️⃣find an affiliation
🔟act as if✨

Which step will you take next? Let’s get into it…

How to work with wildlife in 2024 | #itsawildlife

1️⃣Find clarity

This is my number one tip for everyone at any stage of your story in any aspect of your life. From my experience, clarity has been the secret sauce to my success as a wildlife ecologist – and the strategy I have used to land dream job after dream job.

Without clarity, you are navigating your career journey without a map. After all, if you don’t know where you’re headed, how will you know which direction to take – or even, when you’ve arrived?

Getting clear and defining your dream job with wildlife is an exercise in self-reflection and awareness. I would start by creating space and sitting quietly with yourself. Thinking about what you want, what you don’t want, what you like, and what you don’t!

Try not to get caught up in what you feel is possible, or how things are going to happen. Instead, visualize what your ideal work with wildlife looks (and feels) like.

Next, I would take a deep dive into my journal – writing down as many details as possible. Take the time you need for this as it will create the foundation from which you develop your own career strategy and roadmap.

2️⃣Know your options

Do your research. Have a look at conservation and environmentally-focussed job boards, Facebook groups and blogs to understand what types of wildlife-related jobs are out there – as well as the required (and desired) qualifications, skills and experiences.

Try and find jobs that match your vision – and look at the types of organizations that offer this type of work.

3️⃣Confidence to combat imposter syndrome

When you’re deep in the trenches of job-searching – you can feel like you’ve literally tried everything, that nothing is working, that it’s never going to happen for you. Playing the waiting game can be extremely tough, disheartening and stressful – especially when these negative thoughts compound and impact our self-esteem.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling to say the least – but trust me when I say, we all go through this – many times in our careers (we just don’t like to publicize it!) so it can feel like you’re the only one.

Coupling this with imposter syndrome (somewhat irrational feelings of fear, inadequacy and self-doubt) can send things spiralling downhill to say the least – and which often lead to self-sabotage, severe anxiety and your self-confidence hitting rock bottom.

Staying positive about where you’re at, and focusing on where you’re headed is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do during this time (I don’t say this lightly, I absolutely realize how hard this is!). To do this, my top tips are this –

  • Nurture your sense of self confidence using affirmations and positive self-talk
  • Feel grateful and acknowledge what you have achieved to date
  • Take action and spend your time filling your knowledge gaps, building your skills and experience and expanding your network.

While it’s not a silver bullet solution – daily practice can

4️⃣Nail it on paper

As with most jobs, when it comes to the actual application, it is very important to present yourself in an impressive and professionally capable way on paper. That means writing a kickass CV and cover letter then nailing the interview.

Often, your cover letter and CV are the first impression you make with an employer when you’re going for a job. While, I firmly believe that your experience and your enthusiasm are much more important than any piece of paper, when it comes down to it, how your CV looks and reads is important because it ultimately determines whether your experience and enthusiasm is even considered at all.

Make it as simple as possible for your employer to say yes – focus on the format, highlighting all your relevant skills and experiences and demonstrating what you can bring to the table. If you’d like a hand DM or email us for a free wildlife CV template delivered to your inbox!

5️⃣Line up your ducks

This might sounds like overkill but do as much of the work as you can before you need to. For example, although I never provide referees before I’m shortlisted, it’s good to think about who you can reliably call on and get in touch with them about the idea.

Then, when you are requested for referees, think about people who know your passion and work ethic – and are your biggest advocates. It might sound silly, but check in with the people you list as referees to let them know to expect a call – what the jobs about and who it is with – and check they intend to give you a glowing report (and know how much a job like this means to you!)   

And then of course, get yourself organized AF! Collate any information you need to provide before you’re asked for them, check your emails regularly and reply in a timely manner. Do yourself a favour and don’t be scrambling at the last minute or skimp on the details.

6️⃣Learn to identify your flora and fauna

Learning to identify the plants and animals around me with clarity and ease has been such a crucial step in my journey as an ecologist for 3 main reasons:

  1. It became the way I satisfied my fascination with understanding the natural world around me;
  2. It created a deeper connection to, and more intimate knowledge of, the natural world;
  3. Just trying, and showing up with what I see now as an entry-level knowledge of the plants and animals around me, gave me social recognition as a competent ecologist

So, try not to be discouraged by the daunting challenge presented by biodiversity! Consistency is key, and like most things, if you start local and build slowly from there, before you know it, you’ll likely surprise yourself with what you truly can achieve with a little persistence!

7️⃣Self-development: build your skills, experience and qualifications

Generic advice but I feel this is very important. After all, you never stop learning right!? Especially when you’re deep the world of waiting on job applications, the best way to move through this uncomfortable period is by taking action, building your skills and ticking off experiences from your bucket list! This will also help you stay positive and confident, the value of which I cannot overstate!

Firstly, to study or not to study? Some jobs with wildlife require a qualification or a certificate – others don’t. Unfortunately (in my opinion), most jobs will ask for a BSc in a related field, even if (again, in my opinion) it isn’t truly necessary – especially compared with 3 years of equivalent work experience! But in most cases, completing your degree (if you can) will benefit you when applying for jobs in this field.

As for other skills and experiences, there are so many opportunities out there it can be hard to know which ones to take. I would start by thinking back to your dream job (see step 1). Look at job adverts for that position or similar and make a list of the required and desired skills that come up most frequently. That should be your start point.

And if you’re stuck for inspiration, some experiences that I feel are exceptionally valuable for roles in wildlife biology and field ecology (I am writing from an Australian perspective) are completing an internship with a conservation organization, spend time living in a remote location (this could be on a biodiversity survey) and join your local bushfire brigade as a volunteer (I always wish I’d done this!)

8️⃣Nurture your network
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – How many times have you heard that? And again, speaking from my own experiences (as a field ecologist in Australia), the wildlife conservation community feels tight-knit with only half a degree of separation at times!

So, remember this in the way you conduct yourself, especially early on – and make a good impression – after all, why not use this to your advantage!?

Networking can definitely feel awkward at times – especially for us animal folks who’d rather be in nature with wildlife than sitting round a conference dinner table but I think persisting through the discomfort will pay massive dividends down the track.

People are nosy – they want to know who you are and what you’ve done! So, try to lean in where you can and start chatting.

If you’re brand new to this, here are 6 places to start “just networking then” –

  • Social media – reach out to accounts that work in roles or organizations you’re interested in. And if you need a start point, you can always DM us on Instagram or TikTok @itisawildlife
  • If you’re studying, speak to other students as well as your lecturers and professors.
  • If you’re volunteering, speak to people and get to know your supervisors
  • Read scientific papers and contact the authors to say thank you or ask questions
  • Join up for local enthusiast groups (such as field naturalists, BirdLife branches, “friends” groups of natural spaces and other nature-focused societies and organizations).
  • Attend a conference and get chatting (especially if you enjoy someone’s talk or poster!)

You never know who will be the one to offer you or recommend you for your dream job!

9️⃣Affiliate yourself

I love this tip as an extension of your network – play the long game. If you are still finishing the degree or building the skills required of your dream job, get another interim job with that company to get your foot in the door. For example, if your dream is to be a wildlife ecologist but you haven’t finished your BSc and you see an opening with the organization in administration, apply for the role in reception! Or sign up for an internship if you have capacity to take a pay cut for a few months.

In short, think about the pathway that is left to travel between where you’re at and your dream job with wildlife – and think of any steps you could take to get you closer. You may be surprised with what you come up with!

🔟Act as if

This is my all-time favourite tip, second only to tip #1 about getting clear. I have used this time and time again to land dream job after dream job (yes, I feel like your preferences change faster than you think they will haha!)

The essence is this – put yourself in the shoes of your future self when you already have your dream job with wildlife and how your life will be different. From there, try and think about (or even implement) as many aspects of your future life now.

For example, if your dream job involves getting up at 5 am to take bird tours, then start getting up at that time and going bird watching several days a week. Think about your commute (and map the route), think about what you’ll wear to work (and make a Pinterest board or even buy a shirt or boots), think about the gear you’ll need (binoculars, head torch, hiking boots) and make a wish list.

Think outside the box and have fun with it – that is the key, I like to play a bit of a game with myself to see how much I can do today!

So, which will be your next step?✨

Thank you for reading to the end! If you are looking to work with wildlife and feel unclear on your next steps, reach out on email or Instagram and we can have a conversation (free, of course!) about how you can turn your dream job into a reality!

If you’re still keen for more tips, another post you might find helpful is 8 things you can do today to step into your dream job in wildlife conservation– so be sure to check that out as well!


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