We recently organised a green careers event in partnership with conservation-jobs.co.uk. Here is some of the advice our expert panel of speakers gave on how to get involved in conservation and animal welfare and carve a career in this highly competitive sector.
Sheila Samuels, Head of Personnel at Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
I joined the RSPB in 2001 from the NHS and have loved working here ever since, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t discover a new fact or learn about a fascinating new project. The organisation has set me some interesting HR challenges: How do you pay sheepdogs? How do you get a member of staff off a remote South Atlantic island when there is only one boat every 6 months? I have had opportunities to travel to interesting places such as Sierra Leone or Ghana, facilitating training or developing HR systems to support our International Partners.
Employers want to see candidates who are passionate, flexible, engaged, eager to develop, potentially geographically mobile with good leadership skills, so think about how you can demonstrate these skills on your application! For scientific roles, you’ll also need to get relevant qualifications. Also, get networking – both online through platforms, such as LinkedIn and face-to-face at relevant events, to connect with people currently working in the field. You may even find a mentor! Finally, be persistent!
Julian Smith, Director, The I Am Group and Life Long Animal Welfare Supporter
There are literally thousands of opportunities to get involved through a wide range of organisations on both a local, national and international level, including UK charities, INGOs, campaigning organisations, private sector companies, education institutions, governmental organisations and local projects. As a professional recruiter for charities and not-for-profits, my advice is to think carefully about where you might fit in to this diverse sector. Some questions you should be asking yourself include: What are your passions and ambitions? What are your current skills and what other skills might you need to develop? Where do you want to work (at home or abroad) and what are your salary expectations?
Finally, think long term, rather than purely about the next step and make a career plan with measurable goals to keep you on track and make your career a reality!
Fiona Cowan, Head of HR and Voluntary Development, The Mayhew Animal Home
Get some volunteering experience at your local animal shelter!
I’ve always been passionate about animal welfare and conservation and in 2010 took a 3 month career break to volunteer on a safari project in South Africa and work with lions. On my return I started volunteering at London Zoo and decided that I wanted to combine this passion with my day job in HR.
There are literally hundreds of ways to volunteer – from office roles such as HR, finance, marketing, fundraising and social media through to hands on work with animals, such as working in a cattery, making home visits or fostering animals. Not only is volunteering a great way to develop skills and thereby increasing your employability, it will also enable you to expand your networks, to find out about local paid opportunities, gain valuable direct experience which you can use to demonstrate to a potential employer your understanding and commitment to the work. It’s also a great opportunity to make new friends and have some fun! Finally, do take an interview for a volunteer role as seriously as you would for paid work – research the organisation, arrive early and demonstrate your passion!
Thomas Brzostowski, Development Manager, WWF-UK
Think about a career in fundraising with a conservation charity!
I’ve always been passionate about nature. I spent most of my childhood tracking animals in the woods and fishing in my local canal. I went on to study zoology at Royal Holloway University of London and soon after graduating was lucky enough to start working for The Born Free Foundation. After spending two fantastic years learning the ropes at this superb charity I was fortunate to begin my career with WWF. There are loads of ways to get involved in fundraising, from community events, through to working with companies and philanthropists. I’ve now been working at WWF for the past 2 ½ years, most recently within the Major Gifts Team – responsible for fundraising from major donors and trusts – and I’m loving every minute of it.
Damien Clarkson, Director, Social Chic
Social media has made a huge impact on mainstreaming conservation and animal welfare issues. Whether you join an existing campaign or set up a new one, the opportunities are limitless. I believe a key to tackling these challenges is by creating art. I am borrowing from Seth Godin, the web evangelist when I talk about art. I don’t necessarily mean by drawings or painting but through words, ideas and executing those ideas to create change and a better world. With creativity anything is possible! Use the free tools out there to start telling your story and creating change – facebook, youtube, wordpress and twitter – for starters!
Create your own movement! We created the social media campaign for the successful Veganuary Campaign, aimed at encouraging people to adopt a vegan diet for the month of January. By providing interesting content around health, environmental and animal rights issues we were able to engage different audiences along the way, without alienating meat eaters. Look out for Veganuary 2015 – it’s going to be huge!
Anne Brummer, CEO, Save Me Trust
Get involved with volunteering!
I’ve always been a passionate supporter of animals, since rescuing fox cubs as a child! After a career route which took me from working for a major airline to becoming an accountant, I’m now doing what I love! As the chief executive of Save Me Trust, a charity set up by Queen legend Brian May in 2009 to give British wild animals a voice, my role is to run the organisation. Our most recent campaign has been to stop the badger cull.
Volunteering is a great way to get involved in this sector, but make sure you understand the organisation’s needs and how you can really help. With limited resources, it takes time to train volunteers, so be upfront about your motivations, how can get involved and the commitment you are able to make. Finally, always follow your passion!
Join our next networking event for everyone interested in animals and conservation on 2 October. Find out more and book a ticket here.
This blog is brought to you by the I Am Group. We work with charities to provide networking and learning events and help charities and not-for-profit organisations recruit the best staff. You can find out more about us at www.iamenterprises.co.uk.