For context, this post came about when we were writing 10 steps towards your career in wildlife conservation and realised how many little things you could do today to turn your dream job into a reality.
And I want to start by noting this list is by no means exhaustive. We speak a bit about this in defining your dream career but the basic premise is to think about how your life would be if you were working your dream job and take steps today that get you towards that. With this in mind, these are ideas we had of 8 things you can do today to step into your dream job in wildlife conservation.
- Learn your flora and fauna
Now we already mentioned this in 10 steps towards your career in wildlife conservation but honestly, there’s nothing more impressive than showing up as a volunteer on a survey with a good idea of the flora and fauna that occur there – and even better if you know how to identify a few of them already…
So, where do you start when learn your flora and fauna? Well, we have a full blog post dedicated to this but some top tips would be:
- Start with local plants and animals that you experience regularly
- Join a local wildlife group to surround yourself with like-minded enthusiasts
- Buy a pair of binoculars. Start with visible and well-resourced taxa like birds
2. Stay fit and healthy
Especially in field ecology, being physically fit and capable is often listed as a requirement of both volunteer and paid work. Feeling strong, fit and flexible will also help you to feel confident and competent when participating in these experiences.
So why not head out for a run or hit the gym on the regular. Get yourself ahead of the game, and release some endorphins – you’ll feel good too!
3. Read scientific papers (and contact the authors)
We mentioned this briefly in 10 steps towards your career in wildlife conservation but I wanted to highlight this one because there’s nothing stopping you from pursuing the very latest research in fields that interest you.
And you don’t need a work or university affiliation – check out Google Scholar and Research Gate. If you can’t get access to a paper you’d like to read – why not contact the author?
Your interest (and your name) will be noted.
4. Develop transferable skills
You don’t need to wait until you have a job to learn skills you need for it. Find the time now to clue yourself up on desirable or required skills – such as communication, mapping, leadership and project management. There are free online courses and Youtube tutorials on all these things and more so get your Google on!
AND, if you ant to go above and beyond – 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. So, why not cut to the chase and get some of those qualifications now?
5. Ask for references
Written references can be very valuable for you – not just as a massive confidence boost but also when they are required by volunteer and work placements.
I would start asking around for written references before you need them. Any one who you have been working or volunteering for, for over 6 months is a good candidate to start with,
I would also ask your supervisor on any one-off, live-in, longer-term wildlife conservation volunteer placement you complete. Why not? That way, you can create a bit of a portfolio for yourself, a bit like testimonials for other services.
And who knows, these people might also offer to be a reference for jobs you go for in the future – win!
6. Hold another job (as close as possible)
While it isn’t always possible to step straight into your dream job, try looking for a role that is “one or two steps away”. What I mean by this is ultimately take aligned action.
Take an internship if it comes up.
Take an entry level position within the industry.
Take a paid position in hospitality or reception or whatever for a consistent period of time (6 months or more is ideal) – pay the bills and have some fun doing it. It is so important to demonstrate reliability as a “longer-term” employee, and if you ever get down about it, always remember to acknowledge all the transferable skills you can gain from it.
Try to remember that experience is valuable, however it comes.
7. Be a citizen scientist
There’s no reason why you need to wait for your perfect job to come along in order to get out in the bush and live that dream. You can take steps today that put you in the habit of working as an ecologist, and also help the environment.
For example, take a hike and pay attention to the plants and animals along the way – you never know what you might spot – and it could be of scientific significance. Photograph the invertebrates, the plants as you walk and upload them to iNaturalist to be identified by experts.
Want to be paid as a research assistant? You can complete and submit citizen science surveys or submit natural history data you collect in so many ways now. For example, you could do a weekly (or even daily) bird survey somewhere in your local area and submit the data on the BirdLife’s BirdData application.
Put all your passions and efforts to good use as you build your field skills and experience.
8. Put your passions to use
Chances are you also have skills and passions outside of wildlife conservation. And building on these can help you think outside the box and ultimately carve yourself out a niche and add value to your application.
For example, if you are a photographer, videographer, SCUBA diver, writer, illustrator, collector, tour guide, wildlife educator, the list goes on – why not think about how you can start creating examples of ways you can integrate your skills and passions with wildlife conservation.
Could you start a social media account to share your photos, create a website, write a blog, start a small business.
If organisation, advocacy or communication is your thing – then identify a niche, or a gap that needs filling and go for gold. And heck, if you start something that gets people talking AND is good for the planet then maybe one day soon you’ll be CEO-ing your own successful wildlife conservation organisation and employing passionate people just like yourself.
Just think about it, most of the organistions you might like to work for began as small “lets just see how this goes” start-ups by passionate people just like you. So never let starting put you off creating something truly amazing.
Organisations are often crying out for people with skills in administration, legal knowledge, IT support and so much more, especially in remote areas so if you can demonstrate this as well you will add extra value to your application.
If you have handy skills like trade certifications in electricals, plumbing, carpentry, mechanics and so much more this is a great way to get your foot in the door, especially in the more practical fields of land management.
Handy, capable, level-headed people are the best people to be employing for remote, practical field-based jobs – so demonstrate this and you’ll hear back straight away! “Hello, would you like to stay forever?”
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