When someone asks me what the most important thing they can do to land a job in the Environmental Science or Conservation field, I say volunteering. Every. Single. Time.
I like to scream it from the rooftops because I learned this the hard way (thinking my degree would be enough) and I don’t want you to have to do the same. I want you to get out there and save the world with your Captain Planet cape.
This will be you:
Yes, volunteering does require extra time and effort and has that whole lack of compensation thing. However, if you really want this career as much as I know you do, you’ll be happy to do it for these five magical reasons:
1. You figure out what you actually want to do.
This is so important. I’m jumping up and down right now telling you how important this is. You’ll only learn what you really love (or hate!) by trying different things.
Imagine spending four years studying clinical lab sciences only to find out after graduating that there’s one thing in life you can’t stand and it’s being in a lab all day. Crap.
Would you buy a pair of pants without trying them on? Maybe, if you’re one of those people that fits into every kind of pants. Most of us, though, have to try on
eighteen a few pairs of pants before we find that one pair that actually makes our butt look good.
Pick one or two different organizations that are doing things you’re interested in. Search locally with the help of good ol’ Google. Sign up to be a volunteer or reach out to ask if you can job shadow for a few days. You’ll quickly figure out where you belong!
2. You’ll get the experience you need to get hired.
Every job in this field requires some kind of experience. Volunteering or interning counts towards this!
Employers want to see that you’ve taken the initiative to get out there and get your hands dirty. It also shows them that you can do the type of work that they’re looking for, and you won’t require as much training. This puts you at the top of the list. Nailed it.
3. You’ll make valuable connections.
When you meet others that share your passion, it’s easy to connect. These people will be your friends forever.
What’s more: You’ll get your foot in the door at an organization that may one day have an opening for you, you’ll gain connections that could help connect you with a job elsewhere, and you’ll have people around that won’t mind talking to you about manatees (or whatever) for six hours straight. The list goes on. Genuine connections are really important in this field (and in life)! Get out there and make some friends!
4. You’ll help the organizations you love.
You want to get in this field because you love nature and wildlife, right? Now imagine how happy you would feel getting out there right now and making a difference for those species that you care about?
When I volunteered at a marine animal rehabilitation center, I would walk out the door every day covered in seal poop, with my arms only half functional from all of the floor scrubbing, and with unreasonable amounts of fish scales in my hair. Some Friday nights, I would come in at 11PM to put fish in a blender so I could tube feed pups. It was physically and emotionally difficult, yes, but it was also one of the best experiences of my life. I want that for you too!
Here’s one of the harbor seal pups we rehabilitated at the center:
5. It will make you a better person.
I know, this sounds really cheesy. But trust me when I tell you that volunteering will make your heart bigger! Kind of like what happened to the Grinch, but different.
You are contributing to something important and it just makes you feel good.
“The quality of your life will be determined by the quality of your contribution. When you work to improve the lives of others, your life improves automatically.” -Kurek Ashley
Did I convince you to start volunteering yet?
These are a few good places to start your search for volunteer positions:
Google works well for finding local opportunities too.
Try these google searches:
Your city + Environmental organizations
Your city + Wildlife conservation
Your city + Wildlife rescue
Have any questions? You can email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org