Nowadays graduating with a 1st class degree in science is just not good enough. You would think this addition to your CV would guarantee you interviews and even a dream job, but unfortunately this is not the case, in fact you’re lucky to get a response at all. Apparently without “experience” I was simply undesirable even though I had spent 6 months volunteering at Colchester Zoo as part of the Education Team, getting involved with the public in insect demonstrations and conservation involvement. This word ‘undesirable’ makes you sincerely regret spending your teens as a teenager and thinking doing well in your GCSEs and A Levels was enough. Having graduated myself into a society with few jobs or opportunities for young people, I felt lost to find a job in what I wanted, or even in what I did not.
After a year of travelling and putting off the inevitable visit to the job centre which simply became a necessity with the thousands of pounds of debt under my belt, I decided to take all the savings I had left and study a masters degree in Conservation Biology at University hoping that this would assure me a future. This soon changed to a part time degree as I was lucky to find a temporary part time job as a primary school Teaching Assistant. Therefore with the extra time on my hands, I decided to put it to good use by volunteering. This, however, proved no easier than searching for a job itself. I wrote to numerous organisations throughout London and Essex for information on any internship vacancies or volunteering opportunities. Unfortunately this gathered little feedback and I can only presume my letters were “lost”. So, onto Plan B. I had already had an interview for a position at The People’s Trust for Endangered Species for which I was unsuccessful, so when I saw that they had a Database Volunteer vacancy on their dormice project, I immediately applied. I was successful and I proceeded to work there one day a week. Now I have been there nearly a year and I have learnt a lot about conservation and working with the public, and received training in several specialist software programmes. But most importantly it showed me avenues into conservation-based jobs that I never before considered, and it feels good to know that my work may make a difference.
During this time I decided to visit my local country parks and simply ask if they wanted help. Luckily a nearby park in the Havering area was run by the Essex Wildlife Trust and they are always looking for volunteers. With my experience in education and knowledge of conservation I was promoted to an Education Volunteer, where my duties re to take small groups of children on guided walks for mini beast hunting, pond dipping, den building, deer feeding and also indoor craft activities. Working here inspired a passion for educating the public and children about conservation and once again proved invaluable in showing me even more future opportunities.
More recently I decided to also get involved with my local community by volunteering for Brentwood Borough Council at events such as the ‘Strawberry Fair’, aimed at promoting local produce. All of these voluntary positions have provided me with enjoyable and knowledgeable experiences, and great connections in the environmental and professional sectors. However as rewarding as volunteering is it does not pay the bills so I can only hope that when I have completed my masters, my new and improved CV will assure me a future in conservation. Otherwise it’s back to the job centre.