Community resilience

Is it enough in the midst of Covid-19 to tell those job hunting in the conservation sector to be resilient?

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I have been job hunting for a while, since my job due to start in May got cancelled due to the uncertainty of funding for my employer in the light of the pandemic. I get interviews and good feedback so I must be doing something right but no job yet. But it is a lonely journey. I reflect that with a PhD, experience in the field and some specialist skills like bird ringing and tagging I am in a fortunate position. What must it be like to be straight out of university, hunting for internships, unable to support yourself due to the lack of casual work available? How many young conservationists from poorer backgrounds, backgrounds where going into conservation isn't the norm will be lost to conservation? What is it like to have experience in conservation but have your funding dry up due to a lack of tourists? Funding is tight everywhere but is enough being done to nurture the conservation passion and dreams of those who are job searching in conservation? What can we do? and by we I don't mean me. I am happy to help, to share my wisdom, to teach but applying for jobs and preparing for interviews is a time consuming exercise and I don't have the mental strength and positivity for another solo attempt at anything. I mean what can WE do to protect the skills, creativity and passion of the next generation drying up in this drought. Yes they might have to wait to get paid employment in conservation, sadly that is nothing new, but with even volunteering difficult to access it is harder than ever to keep momentum. Are we doing everything we can? (the answer might be yes but I am hoping it isn't)

Eliza Helen Kelsey Leat

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Go to the profile of Thirza Loffeld
Thirza Loffeld 17 days ago

Hi Eliza, many thanks for sharing your thoughts and challenges with us. Much of what you describe has been on my mind as well and this question also came up in our weekly discussions with members in the last few months. Building on our community, how about if we initiate a brain-storm with those of us who feel passionate about this topic? Lucy Tallents is currently developing a space for our community that would allow such a brainstorm session (the opening of this space is planned at the end of this month). Could this suggestion be a first step in tackling this issue collectively? Look forward to reading your thoughts. 

Go to the profile of Eliza Helen Kelsey Leat

It could be a first step but definitely raising the profile of the issue is needed. Conservation clearly isn't the only sector effected by covid-19 but the challenges we face in the biodiversity crisis haven't paused. I think that community is needed more than ever because it is very lonely if you aren't already in a conservation job, where do you find your community? Volunteering is very restricted and I haven't seen any initiatives to try and change that or find new ways of working. Is it that those working in conservation are already at capacity? worried about their own jobs? I am not sure that solutions are the most important thing right now, letting people who are passionate about conservation but can't get a job and feel they can't contribute know that we see and know there is an issue would be a start.

Go to the profile of Adam Barlow
Adam Barlow 13 days ago

Hi Eliza, sorry to hear of your struggles but very glad you shared it as I think it will really help people in the same circumstances feel not alone - and you may be contributing to building momentum behind the community getting together to help come up with solutions to this problem. My own thoughts on this are that the fundamental problem in why conservation is not working very well at the moment is that the effort is too small and slow to respond to the need. So the fact that there are many thousands more conservationists out there who are unable to lend their passion, skills, and time to conservation is fundamentally the biggest underlying problem that is preventing the sector from being effective at reversing biodiversity loss. So what about the solution? I think the first thing we can do is look bluntly at the reality, in which there are very few conservation jobs relative to the number of people that need them. Even those lucky enough with conservation jobs have relatively low pay and job security compared to other sectors such as health and education. I do not think conservation orgs in general have it as a priority, or a feasible option, to create more jobs themselves due to the funding constraints they operate under. Our approach is to help conservationists build heir skills so that they are either more likely to get a conservation job or can be more effective in their current/future conservation jobs - but that does not really affect the job market itself. So a job seeker is left with 2, not mutually exclusive options: 1) continue with the job search, or 2) start up something on their own or with a small group of colleagues. Option 1 leads to a bit more security and less stress (if you are successful), but I am a big fan of option 2 as that is how we created our own organisation and it is not a difficult as you may think. For each options I would suggest looking at identifying the barriers that are stopping you get to where you want to go. Then you can use the barriers that are inside your control to make a road map of how you can get to where you want to go. I also think conservation careers has a great course to help job seekers better prepare and attack the existing jobs market in case that was useful to you.